Monday, April 29, 2013

Months after the failed January 28, 2013 gaming referendum, gambling continues to be one of the most divisive ...and unnecessarily distracting issues in The Bahamas

A bad gamble

Gaming Bill resurrects calls for end to discrimination

Guardian News Editor

The government of Prime Minister Perry Christie had another bad week last week.

In fact, it seems the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration has been tying itself into one strangling knot after another.

Leading up to the first anniversary of its May 7 victory, it is finding itself increasingly on the defensive and has been making the kinds of moves that awaken public angst and weaken the confidence of citizens in their government.

An increasingly hostile and confusing tone on work permits, a highly publicized immigration blunder at Atlantis resort and the junior national security minister’s suggestion that the Americans are fueling our crime problem by sending us criminal deportees were all matters that caught our attention last week.

But it was public reaction to The Nassau Guardian’s revelation on the proposed Gaming Act 2013, and an announcement that web shop layoffs could come as early as this week, that showed most clearly that the government has a lot of work to do to stem what seems to be rising anti-PLP sentiment.

Months after the failed January 28 referendum, gambling continues to be one of the most divisive and unnecessarily distracting issues in The Bahamas.

In the lead up to that referendum, there was great confusion about the process.

In the weeks and months since, there remains great confusion on the way forward for the web shop sector.

By far, the matter that is dominating national discussion is that proposed act on gambling.

As we reported, it would permit holders of casino licenses in The Bahamas to facilitate online and mobile gambling.

With a deal sealed with Las Vegas’ Cantor Gaming, Atlantis is set to offer its guests mobile gaming as of this week.

Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, who has responsibility for gaming, said yesterday this will be offered during a “test period” and the property would have to apply for the relevant license to continue mobile gaming and eventually introduce online gaming.

The failed gambling referendum notwithstanding, many people are insulted by the discriminatory bill that would allow Atlantis, Baha Mar and the holders of other casino licenses in The Bahamas to do legally what is being denied Bahamian business people.

The bill has been in the works since shortly after the Christie administration came to office last year.

It was developed outside any considerations connected to the gambling referendum, and the government worked closely with industry stakeholders in its development.

The outrage over the government’s ongoing discriminatory approach to the gambling issue is most understandable when added to the fact that the new bill excludes permanent residents and work permit holders from the class of people not permitted to gamble legally.

The bill speaks only to the prohibition of Bahamian citizens.

Under existing legislation, permanent residents and work permit holders are also prohibited from gambling.

For Bahamians, the move could not be more insulting.

Another provision of the new bill would allow people outside The Bahamas to gamble via the website of a local gaming license holder.

But those people must be in jurisdictions that allow online gambling.

Wilchcombe said there will be tight controls to guard against Bahamians gambling from other jurisdictions.


While Bahamians ought to be concerned over the matter, any hysteria and anger toward the investors who have long been pushing for these industry reforms are misdirected, in my view.

As good and valued investors, Atlantis and Baha Mar deserve to have legislation passed for the protection and improvement of the gaming sector and the tourism industry.

The decision to block Bahamians from gambling in local casinos is not the investors’ decision.

The casino operators in fact have said more than once that they would welcome Bahamians gambling in casinos.

The decision to keep Bahamians from gambling in casinos is the government’s continuation of a controversial and discriminatory decades-old policy.

Wilchcombe said yesterday the policy has served us well and it would need to be carefully examined before any changes are made because there are serious social and economic considerations.

“We have always restricted Bahamians from participating in the gaming activity at our casinos and it was in fact the best compromise for a tourism destination and a country that has a strong opposition from Bahamians participating, particularly the church,” he said, referring to the initial decision on casino gambling several decades ago.

“Way back then, it was a happy compromise and I think that it has proven to be beneficial for the country and it has not hurt The Bahamas.

“We have been able to build an economy without income tax, etc. and it’s really because of our progressive tourism industry, one which included gaming.”

Wilchcombe also rightly pointed to the need and desire for the gaming aspect of tourism to be more competitive — thus the need for the Gaming Bill.

Anyone who takes offense to this bill ought to take that up with their government — not the holders of casino licenses who have for years been working with the government (the former administration included) to effect these necessary reforms for a more competitive gaming industry.

In a paper outlining recommendations for reforms, casino licensees note that in recent years, casino gaming has expanded worldwide.

To stay competitive, the largest jurisdictions have been forced to update their regulations to accommodate shifting consumer tastes, technology and potential sources of new tax revenues, the document points out.

It adds that Nevada, Macau, Singapore, New Jersey and the U.S. Gulf Coast states have structured their laws to reflect recent developments.

Casino operators are hoping the reforms outlined in the Gaming Bill would drive gaming revenues and create a sustainable competitive advantage.

They made 14 recommendations to the government in a document titled “Guide to modernization of casino regulations in The Bahamas”.

One of the recommendations calls for segmented VIP gaming suites and salons. It would allow enclosed gaming rooms to be located anywhere on the resort campus of a licensed casino.

Other recommendations include credit card payments for chips and duty free exemption for gaming equipment and interactive/mobile gaming.

The licensees also proposed the impostion of an entry level for permanent residents and work permit holders.

The document notes that in Singapore, residents must buy a daily pass for US$100 or yearly pass for US$2,000 for casino entry, limiting access to those with financial means.

Wilchcombe said without critical reforms, the gaming sector would lose ground.


A separate but very closely related issue involves the web shop industry, which is reportedly suffering under a threat of raids.

Bahamian citizens must continue to demand an end to discrimination on gaming.

Had the referendum passed on January 28, one assumes the government would have been well on its way in structuring a properly regulated web shop sector.

But Bahamian citizens would still have been barred from casino gambling.

The absence of that question from the ballot is one reason some people gave for voting against the regularization and taxation of web shops and the establishment of a national lottery.

It is also the reason some people gave for staying away from the polls altogether.  Voter turnout in fact was less than 50 percent.

Prime Minister Perry Christie has promised that while the casino question was not on the January 28 ballot, it would be a question on the ballot of a promised constitutional referendum if the Constitutional Commission recommends that it be addressed.

It would be unfortunate if the discriminatory nature of the bill derails the industry’s push toward modernization and reform.

But the failed referendum should not be taken as a true reflection of the views of the electorate on gambling.

Had the government taken its time and addressed gambling for Bahamians in its totality and in a clear process where adequate information was provided, it might have avoided anger and confusion over this very necessary step it is taking for casino owners.

Bahamian businessespeople who have for years been operating web shops now feel like second-class citizens, as do Bahamians who are being told about the provision that would provide for work permit holders and permanent residents to take part in an industry they have been told to keep out.

Wilchcombe has said the Cabinet will review the bill tomorrow.

Perhaps it would also examine why so many people have reacted so strongly against it.

April 29, 2013


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Domestic Violence in The Bahamas... ...The Bahamas is among countries that have a very high level of lethal violence against women... ...reluctance on the part of law enforcement authorities to intervene in domestic disputes

Violence Against Women A Widespread Problem, Says Us

VIOLENCE against women continues to be a “serious, widespread problem” in the Bahamas, a newly released 2012 human rights report from the US Embassy allegeges.
In August of last year, the police reported that 464 domestic violence cases were registered in 2011, representing the highest recorded in the previous three years. One third of the 1,285 interventions conducted by the Bahamas Crisis Centre (BCC) in 2011 related to domestic violence, and the centre experienced similar trends during the year.
The country’s record with regard to its treatment of women has been documented by other organisations as well.
The Bahamas is listed by The Small Arms Survey – an independent research project located at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland – as being among countries that have a very high level of lethal violence against women – six women per 100,000 of the female population.
According to The Small Arms Survey, firearms play a major role in these deaths.
“Many women report having been threatened with a firearm before they fall victim to a (murder). Firearms in the home similarly represent an increased risk to women as they are more likely to be used to threaten and inflict harm on family members than to protect the home from intruders.”
In July, the police commissioner reported that many of the murders that took place were related to domestic violence, and another official indicated that 45 per cent of all homicides over the last 20 years could be attributed to domestic violence.
Ten women were killed during 2012, compared with 16 in 2011.
According to the report, women’s rights groups cited some reluctance on the part of law enforcement authorities to intervene in domestic disputes.
The BCC worked with police by providing them with a counsellor referral service to utilise when encountering rape victims.
“In June, a minister of state called for the BCC to change its policy of requiring those in need of counselling to come to the centre rather than dispatching volunteers to people’s homes. The BCC director pointed out that none of the centre’s staff are paid and reiterated that police should be the first point of contact for domestic disputes,” the report said.
The report pointed out that while rape is illegal, the law does not protect against spousal rape, except if the couple is separating, in the process of divorce, or if there is a restraining order in place.
The maximum penalty for an initial rape conviction is seven years; the maximum for subsequent rape convictions is life imprisonment.
The report points out however, that in practice, the maximum conviction was 14 years. Survivors reported 97 rapes during the year compared with 107 in 2011 – when authorities initiated only 40 prosecutions for rape.
Authorities declined to provide more recent figures.
April 25, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) says it expects to find crude oil in The Bahamas

BPC Expects To Strike Oil

By Jones Bahamas:

Efforts to find oil off Cuba may have failed, but the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) – the only explorer searching for oil off the Atlantic archipelago – says it expects to find crude oil in The Bahamas.

BPC CEO Simon Potter recently noted that a seismic study by his company showed that the Great Bahama Bank may have oil at shallower water depths, making it easier to drill, and a layer of salt keeping the crude in place.

BPC is currently looking for a partner to raise at least $100 million to drill the country’s first exploration well in about 27 years.

It holds five licences covering more than 4 billion barrels of potential oil resources and is seeking three more with Statoil ASA.

Last month, the Christie administration gave BPC the green light to explore for oil.

Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett said the government wants to first see if there is oil in The Bahamas before proceeding with a voter referendum.

“Let’s go and bake the cake, let’s establish commercial reserves,” Mr. Potter said. Should a discovery be made, “there’ll be a much more positive issue to be managing.”

Mr. Potter has already noted that oil extraction could help The Bahamas reduce its mounting debt.

Government borrowings rose to 53 percent of gross domestic product last year from 32 percent in 2007, according to a December report by Moody’s Investors Service.

However, environmentalists are leery about drilling for oil, noting that it could destroy The Bahamas’ precious natural resources.

22 April, 2013

The Bahama Journal

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is in crisis... ...The dysfunctional state of the corporation is having harmful effects on The Bahamas... ...And now BEC’s debt burden could hurt the country’s credit rating

BEC and the government’s debt position

The Nassau Guardian Editorial

The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) is in crisis. It has a quarter of a billion dollars in debt the government has to back, it may lose $50 million this year and it is unable to provide enough power to keep the lights on in the high-demand summer season.

Successive political administrations have made all kinds of decisions over the last decade that have brought BEC to its knees. The dysfunctional state of the corporation is now increasingly having harmful effects on The Bahamas.

The high cost of power produced by BEC serves as a large across-the-board tax on Bahamians, increasing the cost of goods and services. The summer blackouts inconvenience businesses and homeowners. And now BEC’s debt burden could hurt the country’s credit rating.

Moody’s is warning the government that rising debt held by public sector corporations such as BEC could hurt the country’s rating going forward. According to its latest credit opinion, The Bahamas retains its negative outlook due to the difficulty in achieving fiscal consolidation necessary to stabilize debt and increase revenue in the short term. A failure to reverse the recent trend of rising debt will place downward pressure on the country’s future rating, the report added, particularly with the “crystallization” of liabilities held by BEC.

The Bahamas’ bond rating was downgraded to Baa1 from A3 last December.

The government says it has 60 energy proposals before it and it is in the process of reviewing those proposals. One of those proposals is from SGI Global Holdings Ltd. It is represented by attorney John Bostwick and thinks a power barge concept makes far more sense than any of the other energy proposals before the government.

Executives from the firm have drafted a proposal arguing it could slash the average cost of electricity from $0.40 per kilowatt-hour to $0.28 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in the first year if allowed to enter the marketplace. In year seven, the international firm says it could reduce the cost of electricity to $0.25 per kWh.

At some point, the government has to make a decision on the “major change” it will create in the local energy sector. The status quo is a barrier to economic growth, an annoyance to the public and it harms the Bahamian credit position.

If private firms are able to enter the market and assist the government by providing energy at lower rates than BEC, why not quickly move to allow private firms to assist?

We are at the end of the first year of this Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) term. It went by quickly. Despite all the talk thus far about BEC and energy, under the PLP BEC continues to spiral. A paradigm shift is needed in the Bahamian energy sector.

If the PLP waits too long to decide on this change The Bahamas will be further harmed, more money will be wasted and the change desired may not take effect until after the next general election, as energy plants take time to set up.

We hope the Cabinet understands that success in bringing down the cost of power is as much a priority now as our crime and unemployment problems.

April 20, 2013


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fred Mitchell on What it means to be Bahamian... ...Bahamian identity ...and the public policy carried out by the Department of Immigration

Urgent Reform Needed For Immigration Crisis

EVER since I read the Sir Lynden O. Pindling Distinguished Lecture of 2003 by then Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service Fred Mitchell – “What it means to be Bahamian” – I have wanted to confront Mr Mitchell on the remarkable inconsistency between what he articulated as his personal views on Bahamian identity and the public policy carried out by the Department of Immigration.
In his presentation, Mr Mitchell refreshingly articulated what in Bahamian terms would be considered very liberal views on immigration and what I consider a conscious opinion on Bahamian identity. And yet, the policy of the Government of the Bahamas, regardless of its political administration, has never lived up to such an ideal.
In fact, public policy has shown blatant indifference towards the human cost of the immigration crisis and the flawed process that many have had to endure.
Speaking at an immigration forum hosted by the Bahamas National Youth Council (BNYC) in collaboration with The College of the Bahamas’ School of Social Sciences and the School of Communication and Creative Arts, a Bahamian man described his 30-year battle to claim citizenship for his daughter.
She is a woman in her 30s with three children and the Department of Immigration has yet to fully process her application. Her mother is a Jamaican and she was born to her parents out of wedlock. To some misguided Bahamians that is a national shame. An immigration officer told the Bahamian man after he complained about his daughter’s documents being lost for the umpteenth time over the past 30 years that he should not have been with a Jamaican woman.
The Bahamian man rattled off the names of practically every minister responsible for immigration since independence, claiming no reprieve under any of them. He flew from Grand Bahama specifically for the forum and an opportunity to plead his case with the current minister in a public setting.
Can we as Bahamians stop to think, just for a moment, to empathise with someone like this Bahamian man? For more than 30 years he has had to suffer the inconvenience of the process and the indignity of not being able to call his own daughter, who was born and raised on native soil, a Bahamian.
And now, his three grandchildren have to endure further dishonour.
Yes, they are eligible to apply for Jamaican citizenship by virtue of their mother’s ancestry, so they are not stateless, but the Bahamas is their home and they have every right to want their country to formally recognize them as one of their own. They should not have to wait 30 years, and endure the stink attitude of an immigration officer to do so.
Why is it that instead of being shamed into action over this man’s 30 year battle, an immigration officer would offer him such a presumptuous and disrespectful comment like the one made? What kind of environment have we fostered to allow such an attitude to be considered acceptable?
Immigration consultants paint an extremely disheartening picture of the conduct of some civil servants at immigration, claiming a “culture of slackness, prejudice and a general don’t care attitude” is pervasive.
“There is a woman who doesn’t deal with anyone who is not upper class. If you are not white and don’t have no money, she is not making an appointment for you, off the bat,” said an immigration consultant.
Applicants from non-Commonwealth countries, “(immigration officers) don’t feel obligated to them”. The law does not say to treat them differently; “but the people, they feel a certain bias and they would not push it”.
“Sometimes they will carry a person through the ropes when they don’t need it. A lot of Haitians don’t know their fathers. Immigration knows that, but because they know it will cause them a while to get that information, they say hey, let’s send them for that stuff,” said the consultant.
Applicants must respond in 90 days to certain requests, such as notifications for an interview with an immigration officer. One applicant claimed the letters are deliberately sent out at the last minute, so applicants miss the 90-day time period, thereby delaying the process even further. If a single item is missing from an application, such as a photo or police record, that application might sit lingering, because no one is willing to make a simple call. “They are going to write a letter knowing that the postal service takes forever.”
Amongst the workers, there is allegedly a general distrust of certain governments, such as Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. “We know their governments are willing to help them get in another country,” said an immigration officer. On the other hand, it is believed that other countries “wouldn’t lie”, or that “they don’t like to give up their citizens”, so they are trusted more.
“If a Jamaican student wants to apply, Jamaica will mean to take three, four months just to hold them up, because Jamaica doesn’t like to give up their citizens,” the civil servant said. The distrust is compounded by the illegal trade in counterfeit documents, pedaled by immigrants themselves and Bahamians.
Where it is possible for an officer to see six to seven individuals in a day, some workers might see only three people in a week. “What they do with the rest of their time, listen to the radio, talk on the phone, maybe look at a file once or twice.”
“They could really make your life hell. There are people there who get off on putting your life through hell. They feel they are doing well for the Bahamas when it is actually creating more problems. You have some good set who will try, but it is not enough,” said an immigration consultant.
There is an urgent need for standards and transparency in the naturalization process. The system is flawed: it is too arbitrary and the bureaucracy is too corrupt.
It is amazing that individual employees have the power to bring their personal isms to the job and implement their own personal policies to undermine the process so incredibly, when not even the minister has the power to shape the government’s official policies according to his own personal convictions.
Mr Mitchell delivered the keynote address at COB’s immigration forum. He prefaced his presentation by stating clearly that he was speaking about public policy; that his personal views could be found in his 2003 lecture. Interestingly, in 2003, Mr Mitchell prefaced his speech by saying he was speaking personally in the context of an academic setting and that his views should not be interpreted as public policy.
Should we not judge our political leaders according to their personal convictions and then expect them to carry those positions forward in public policy? I wanted to put the question to Mr Mitchell ever since I read his 2003 address. I finally had my chance, not to practice gotcha journalism; to the contrary, some of his 2003 views are extremely informative, and I wish only that they could be reflected in public policy today. Some of the problems we experience could be resolved if we could address the challenges that arise from the legal definition of who is a Bahamian.
Mr Mitchell argued in his 2003 address, the legal definition of a Bahamian created under the newly formed constitution of 1973 “made it harder not easier to deal with the question of who belongs to The Bahamas”.
It seems no one at the time realised how messy the legal definition was and “the absolute public policy nightmare that the definition created”.
The law sets up a tiered system that establishes different claims to citizenship according to gender, marital status, place of birth and ancestry. And as stated, the government’s policies are further complicated by the individual biases of immigration officers, who allegedly invent their own criteria to establish an individual’s right or claim to citizenship.
The post-independence legal definition established a split “from the qualifying legal concept before Independence but also from what was considered Bahamian in the social and cultural sense and in our common understanding both prior to and after independence.”
Notwithstanding the technicalities of law, as a Bahamian woman, regardless of my marital status or where my child is born, I have an expectation within my social consciousness that my child will be Bahamian, because socially and culturally Bahamians apply a different standard and have different expectations of who is a Bahamian. But the reality is, depending on my circumstance, there may be no automatic legal right to citizenship for my child, or even a valid claim.
There are also examples of immigrants who are accepted in the society to the extent that they are excelling in school, receiving national honours, paying taxes and have functional careers, established businesses and communities; in other words, for social and cultural purposes they are Bahamian, but in the absence of a standardized and transparent system, according to someone’s arbitrary position, they can be dismissed as illegals and refused legal status.
Immigrants are functioning in society in spite of the system, not because the system empowers them to do so. Not that they should be empowered in any special way, but they should not be discriminated against arbitrarily.
At the COB forum, Natacha Jn-Simon discovered for the first time that her Certificate of Identification (CIF) did not entitle her to work in the Bahamas. She is a born and raised, not-yet-Bahamian College of the Bahamas student. Since she applied for citizenship on her 18th birthday, Natacha is now on the indefinite wait-and-see track that has kept some Bahamians in limbo for decades. In the meantime, if she now wishes to work, her employer has to pay for an annual work permit to hire her legally.
“I was surprised. It shows the stupidity of the laws. What is really a disturbance is that you can sit in a classroom for 12 years with people, but because you don’t have a (Bahamian) passport you don’t have the same rights as them,” said Natacha the C R Walker High School graduate, who is now a freshman at COB.
The irony is that many of the leaders who in essence cemented this problem, those who created the current restrictive and culturally contradictive legal definition of who is a Bahamian, were first generation Bahamians themselves, having at least one foreign parent. Some of them would not have met the standards for automatic citizenship.
Mr Mitchell made an important statement in 2003 that holds currency today and should be our guiding objective: “I would argue here that we must try as we move forward to ensure that the legal definition of who is a Bahamian comes as close as possible to the social or cultural definition of who is a Bahamian. My argument is that this is in the best interest of our country as we move forward in this century. It is in my view in the best interests of the sovereignty and independence of this country to be inclusive in our legal definition as Bahamians, not exclusive.”
He said birth and ancestry should be considered for Bahamian citizenship, but not necessarily in tandem.
“They can be separate legal bases for the claim of citizenship. In other words, you ought to get to Bahamian citizenship either by birth or by ancestry, whether married or not and whether through the male or female lines,” stated Mr Mitchell.
So what happened to those views? Where is the public policy to reflect them?
Mr Mitchell stands by his 2003 view. He even agrees, “You are supposed to bring your individual consciousness to government policy”. However, he said the government is a body corporate, and “a work in progress” at that. As an agent of that body (when in government), he and all other public officials represent government policy.
*That position hardly seems acceptable, albeit true. As the minister, his personal views are not irrelevant, but they do not change the fact that his actions are constrained by the official policies he is charged to carry out. However, he could still be a vocal advocate for his positions. We need more champions at the level of national leadership speaking to these issues.
Unfortunately, there is not enough like-minded conviction amongst the true power brokers of government to move the process forward in a progressive way. Indeed, the vast majority of Bahamians have far more conservative views on immigration – some of them motivated by a misplaced fear of certain foreign nationals taking over the country.
In one vein they rail about the Bahamas being so small, and its vulnerability to population inflows, and in another they lament the Bahamas being so under-populated that it desperately needs controlled migration for economic development. But it seems controlled migration is only okay for certain immigrants.
Mr Mitchell has asked to appear before the Constitutional Commission. When he appears, he is undecided about whether he will speak to his previous positions. Either way, however, he said he plans to urge the commission to make recommendations to expand rights instead of contracting them.
“The constitution is not meant to contract rights. If you cannot expand those rights then leave the constitution where it is. The principle of the constitution is to amplify rights and to protect people’s rights. If you can’t, then leave it as is,” said Mr Mitchell at the COB forum.
There is no doubt in my mind the legal definition of citizenship should be amended. If I was born in the Bahamas, come of age in the Bahamas, and seek to contribute in a positive way to the development of the society, my claim to citizenship should be a birthright, not some arbitrary decision. It is simply the fair thing to do.
We should move away from our present exclusive position in which people of dual heritage are forced to choose, or where one’s heritage alone is not sufficient to embrace someone as Bahamian.
We are far from having a national consensus on these points. If a constitutional referendum were to be held today it would fail miserably, because Bahamians are stubbornly unwilling to do away with the outmoded and discriminatory standards of determining who is a Bahamian.
And Bahamians are unwilling to formally accept immigrants or the children of immigrants amongst their ranks, regardless of their ancestral connections or birthplace, even though they are in many cases already active members of our communities. Bahamians will use the labour of immigrants to build the country – in education, in the uniformed divisions, in business – but they will not accept them as Bahamian.
It cannot be denied the current process we have to determine who is a Bahamian is unfair; it is not standardized and it is not transparent. The conflict between the laws in place and the social and cultural norms create unnecessary and harmful social tensions. And we need to do better.
• Follow Noelle Nicolls on Twitter @noelle_elleon.
April 15, 2013

Thursday, April 18, 2013

We want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth concerning the disposition of the people’s money at the National Insurance Board (NIB)

Come Clean on NIB

The Bahama Journal Editorial

That matter concerning who did what, who decided who should get what and that matter which concerns money in the care of the National Insurance Board is one that should be decided now.

The Hon. Shane Gibson is himself clear enough in his mind as to what should be done. Like us he seems to be on the side of those Bahamians who know that whatever is to be done should be executed now rather than later. As one news report suggests: – “…National Insurance Minister Shane Gibson said he is already satisfied [in his mind] “what course of action we should take” based on the findings of the audit into the National Insurance Board.

Decisions made by NIB board members “based on the information (they) had when they were first appointed, seem to be justified…it went way beyond where we thought it would go and so we don’t want to make any rushed judgment or decision; we want to think about it carefully.

But I can guarantee you one thing, at the end of the day – it will be made public and it’s just a matter of when…” Just a matter of when is not good enough. Whatever is to be done should be done now. We need to know all that the Minister and whomever else already knows the whodunit questions and the corresponding answers.

In his statement of the obvious, Minister Gibson says that, “…As soon as we make a decision based on the recommendations of the AG’s Office, then one of two things will happen:- “He will either return to work or he won’t return to work.” We all must wait to hear, see and understand what the Attorney-General’s Office has to say on the matter concerning the stewardship of the people’s money.

The time is now for demanding that the Hon. Shane Gibson show and tell the Bahamian people all that he knows concerning whatever it is that has come to light in the aftermath of that forensic audit into the affairs of the National Insurance Board ordered and/or sanctioned by his colleagues in the Cabinet. And let it be known that we shall have none of that good old fudge that some among us are prepared to feast on when there is information in hand that might hurt this or that favored character of ours’.

The chips – as they say – should be allowed to fly where ever they may. Very many other right-thinking Bahamians want to know about what really did go down at National Insurance to cause all the furor and innuendo that now engulf a number of current and former employees of that star-crossed government owned entity.

Not only do we want to know what happened, we want to know if anyone is going to be charged with any wrong-doing. And most of all, we take this opportunity to let this administration know that the Bahamian people want them to come clean and let the chips fall where they may. And lest there be some other mistake concerning the extent of the people’s justified anger about what they have heard concerning the National Insurance issue, these people are also angry because things are tough for them. They are therefore in no mood to turn a blind eye on this scandal.

The hurt for many continues, so too does the gravy train hum for some others who are mired in games now being played out in other sectors of this or that state-owned entity. Enough remains enough! In addition, as we look in on scandal’s NIB face, we are reminded of the fact that this nation now reels not only at the hammer blows inflicted by a world-economy over which it has little to no real control, but that the so-called man in the street now cowers in the cold shadow of poverty on the hoof.

An ever expectant people now demand transparency, accountability and responsibility from all who lead and all who would lead. But above all else, the Bahamian people demand action, results and transparency from those elected to serve them. In addition, they are now demanding the same from all those nameless, faceless bureaucrats who work with, for and under the command of politicians. We too need to know whether the National Insurance Fund has been pillaged and somehow or the other been diverted from their proper use.

Put simply:-We want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth concerning the disposition of the people’s money.

April 17, 2013

Jones Bahamas

Monday, April 15, 2013 we have a progressive consumer protection environment in The Bahamas

Consumer protection in The Bahamas

Consider This...


An educated consumer is our best customer. – Sy Syms

In the 1980s, in an effort to educate TV viewers, clothier Sy Syms frequently reminded his audience that, “An educated consumer is our best customer.”  He was a pioneer in consumer education and empowerment and persons like consumer advocate Ralph Nader were also well known for protecting the average consumer.

This week, we would like to Consider This... do we have a progressive consumer protection environment in The Bahamas?

Consumer protection laws

Consumer protection is often provided by laws and organizations that are designed to ensure consumers’ rights and to foster fair trade competition and the free flow of truthful information in the marketplace.

Consumer protection laws are designed to prevent businesses from engaging in fraudulent or unfair practices that would enable them to gain an unfair advantage over competitors or to mislead consumers.  Governments often use consumer protection laws to regulate businesses from such practices or to protect the rights of consumers.  For example, the United Kingdom has several statutes to protect consumers in specific areas of consumer credit and contract terms.  The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, along with individual state consumer affairs agencies, are responsible for consumer protection.  Germany has a federal Cabinet minister who is responsible for consumer rights and protection.  In India, the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 governs consumer protection.  The Bahamas Parliament passed a Consumer Protection Act of 2006 which is intended to provide consumers who are disadvantaged by exorbitant prices, substandard products and the unscrupulous practices of merchants and service providers with a forum to have their complaints addressed on a timely basis by a consumer protection commission.  The law requires merchants and service providers to be more accountable and ensures that in their dealings with consumers, value is exchanged for goods and services provided.

The Bahamian experience

Today there are many areas where consumer protection can be greatly enhanced in The Bahamas.  For example, in the area of commercial banking, we are familiar with the practice of some banks overcharging their customers for various “services” of which consumers are unaware until they are referred to the fine print in the bank mandates – a document that 99.9 percent of consumers fail to read or understand when opening bank accounts.  In some circumstances, when called out, commercial banks have had to reverse such charges.  Unless the vigilant consumer closely scrutinizes his bank statement, he could end up paying excessive charges that are neither substantiated nor justified.

Then there is the famous “float”.  Notwithstanding the introduction of an automatic check clearing system, it is commonplace for commercial banks to hastily withdraw funds from customers’ accounts, while simultaneously placing a “hold” on deposited funds for several days.  The consequence is that this practice puts the customer’s account into overdraft, resulting in bank charges of as much as $25 for having “insufficient funds” on the account because the deposited funds were still “on hold”.  Unfortunately there is absolutely no one to whom the consumer can turn for relief from this practice, not even the Central Bank.

Then there are well-known cases where many consumers have experienced enormous encounters with essential service providers, especially in the areas of telephony and electricity.  Since our telephone company, BaTelCo, was “given away” by an incompetent government on the ill-conceived advice of equally incompetent advisors, the delivery of quality service by that public corporation has drastically deteriorated.  Prior to that ill-fated sale of one of our most precious national assets, BaTelCo was managed by Bahamians and, while there were intermittent complaints about the delivery of quality of service, the experience of the “new and unimproved” BTC is now nothing short of cataclysmic.  It is virtually impossible to complete a cellular call without that call dropping off the network.  And never before in the history of telephony in The Bahamas have landline consumers experienced such difficulty in placing simple local calls or obtaining timely service when experiencing problems.  To whom can the consumer turn for protection?  The theoretical answer is URCA, but the practical answer is “not a soul”.  There is no penalty, no protection and no compensation.

In the past two years, in the wake of the historically worst-managed capital project in the life of our Commonwealth, namely the New Providence Road Improvement Project, we have repeatedly experienced electrical blackouts, ostensibly from road workers who accidently and inadvertently cut power lines while trenching our roads.  This has resulted in thousands of man-hours in lost productivity in a myriad of businesses and incalculable inconvenience to individuals and households.  From whom can consumers so affected seek redress for the lost hours of work, the damage to appliances and the general disruption of life resulting from such “accidents”?  In truth and in fact, the answer is “no one”.  There is no consumer protection.

Cable TV and Internet service might not quite qualify as essential services, although some might argue to the contrary, but we are all familiar with the repeated disruptions that many consumers experience from Cable Bahamas.  Again, it is very difficult to expect any real satisfaction for such disruptions from the agency that is supposed to protect consumers from abuses by the cable company. URCA, which does little to compensate consumers from telephone company abuses, performs an equally deplorable job in protecting cable TV and Internet consumers from poor service.

Then we have regulated products such as food and fuel.  There are certain foods that are price-controlled at our food stores.  The real question that an educated consumer should ask is whether the Price Control Commission methodically monitors foods that are subjected to price control.  It is extremely rare that we hear of food stores being sanctioned for pricing breaches by the Price Control Commission.  Is this because the food stores are virtually compliant or have they been able to circumvent the price control regime?  It is not an exceptional experience for consumers to observe vastly different prices on various food items.  Is this also the case with respect to price-controlled items?

The price of fuel is also regulated and importers and end-service providers are allowed to earn pre-determined margins.  Who monitors the pricing behavior of service providers to ensure that the consumer is not being gouged at the fuel pump?  We do not frequently, if ever, hear of any violations of the established margins by fuel merchants or of any penalties imposed for attendant breaches.

Finally, the Bahamian consumer needs protection relative to local food production and distribution.  In the absence of any sanitary and phytosanitary standards relative to the production of food, plants and vegetables, the all-important question of food safety will remain elusive at best and questionable at worst.  One of the benefits of the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) is that such standards must be established.  However, until those standards relative to food, plant and vegetable production, harvesting and distribution are implemented and enforced, consumers will never know just how safe the food is that they are consuming.


It is vitally important for all Bahamians to be educated and vigilant about our rights as consumers and to whom we can turn for abuses or violations to be redressed.  Until we become educated consumers, we will not be good customers.  Instead, we will indeterminately wander and wallow in the quagmire of ignorance and abuse.  We must no longer put up with things we should not even tolerate for a moment.  We must become empowered to not only stop those abuses for ourselves but end them for each and every Bahamian consumer.


• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services.  He served 15 years in Parliament.  Please send your comments to:

April 15, 2013


Friday, April 12, 2013

The Coalition to Save Clifton (CSC) has called on the government to reject any application by Peter Nygard for a grant or lease of Crown land in the Clifton Bay area

Call For Rejection Of Applications By Nygard

Tribune News Editor

THE original crusaders for the preservation of Clifton have called on the government to reject any application by Peter Nygard for a grant or lease of Crown land in the area.
Asserting its independence from newly launched groups said to be supporting either Mr Nygard or his rival Louis Bacon, the Coalition to Save Clifton (CSC), which fought successfully to save the area from private development by foreigners between 1998 and 2002, called for the sea park promised by Prime Minister Perry Christie to become a reality.
Coalition president Rev CB Moss, who led the group since its inception, focused particularly on “newly created land” resulting from alterations of the coastline at Simms Point.
He claimed work was undertaken there without permits, and believes Mr Nygard has now applied to officially take ownership of the new land.
“The Coalition has written the prime minister informing him of its very strong opposition to any such approval, and requested a meeting at the earliest opportunity,” Rev Moss said yesterday.
The CSC supported its claims with a signed 2010 letter in which a top Ministry of the Environment official asserted that Simms Point has “expanded significantly” over several years.
The letter rejected an application for a lease for this new land by Mr Nygard’s lawyer, declared that no future applications for construction on the accreted land would be granted and asked Mr Nygard to restore the original coastline.
Yesterday, Rev Moss said the CSC is calling on the government to immediately implement the following:
• Officially reject the application from Mr Peter Nygard for a grant, lease, or any other form of occupancy of the created land
• Have the affected area (land and sea bed) restored to its former state
• Establish the promised sea park
He said: “As Prime Minister Christie is repeatedly on public record saying that his government puts Bahamians first, there is little reason to doubt that he will accede to the Coalition’s request and reject this application – rejection which is clearly in the very best interest of the Bahamian people.
Rev Moss noted that for the past several weeks, there has been a great deal of media coverage concerning the Clifton Heritage National Park and the degradation of the bay surrounding Clifton point, where the park is located.
“The saga of Clifton burst upon the national news scene 14 years ago when a foreign developer proposed to build an upscale gated residential community on the Clifton site, to be called Clifton Cay,” he said.
“As the Clifton land was settled by three separate civilizations – the Lucayans, the Loyalists and the African slaves, the site was considered priceless to Bahamians.”
It was at this point that the CSC was formed for the purpose of fighting any attempt to develop the site.
“Following four years of a very brutal battle the coalition, with the help of a number of persons both local and international, was successful in stopping the proposed development,” Rev Moss said.
It was first proposed by the coalition that Clifton point and the surrounding bay be transformed into a national land and sea park. This recommendation was accepted by the new government and in 2004, the land park was formally established by an Act of Parliament under a statutory body known as the Clifton Heritage Authority.
“While this was a great first step, the fight for Clifton cannot be considered over until the sea park is established,” he said.
Rev Moss said the coalition recently became aware that the viability of the sea park was threatened by several factors, the most urgent being land and marine works being undertaken in the area.
He claimed the work has created a serious environmental and ecological problem around the proposed sea park area.
According to Rev Moss, these facts were revealed by the newly created Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay (CPCB).
Thanking this group for its work, he nevertheless added: “Here let me clearly state that despite the similarity in names, the newly formed organisation has no affiliation with our coalition.”
For its part, the CPCB warned the Prime Minister that it will launch Judicial Review proceedings in the Supreme Court if the government fails to respond by today to its concerns over construction activity at Nygard Cay, its attorney warning: “The rule of law is at stake.”
Fred Smith, QC, the Callenders & Co attorney and partner, said Mr Christie has until 4pm to state what he was doing about construction activity.
Meanwhile, Keod Smith, an early member of the CSC, along with other newly formed groups Re-Negotiate.Org and Saving Clifton, lashed out at board members of the Clifton Heritage Foundation, claiming they are involved in the CPCB.
They also accused the board members of petitioning the government through the CPCB to reject any applications by Mr Nygard, and claimed Louis Bacon is involved in the group.
Representatives of Mr Nygard did not respond to requests for comment before press time last night.
In August 2010, responding to the Ministry of the Environment’s communications, an unsigned letter attributed to Mr Nygard asserted that all structures in the Simms Point/Nygard Cay area “were built exactly where they were placed with a clear understanding by all parties concerned at the time.”
Nevertheless, the letter agreed to remove all structures that encroached on accreted land without approval.
“With regards to the reinstatement of the coastline, I will put forth for your consideration the fact that it would be more environmentally friendly to leave the shoreline as is and let nature take its course. As you can see from the pictures, the beach has naturally shifted over the 20 years from north to south side,” the letter said.
April 11, 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Majority Rule Day ...and Randol Fawkes Labour Day

Majority Rule To Become National Holiday- Labour Day named in Sir Randol’s honour

By Korvell Pyfrom
The Bahama Journal

The Christie administration has introduced legislation aimed at making Majority Rule a national holiday and renaming Labour Day in honour of the late Sir Randol Fawkes.

In the House of Assembly Wednesday, Prime Minister Perry Christie said that Majority Rule is in a class by itself and it outshines its competitors for the most singular place of honour in Bahamian history.

“Majority Rule belongs to all of us,” Mr. Christie said.

“It belongs to all Bahamians, not just black Bahamians and certainly not just to PLPs. It is perhaps understandable that in the years following 1967 there was a tendency by the PLP, both as the government and as a party, to claim exclusive proprietorship of Majority Rule and of January 10. In the context of the times that was understandable and there really is no need to apologise for it.”

Majority Rule was established on January 10, 1967. It followed the victory of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in that year’s General Elections ushering in a Bahamian government.

“The Bill that is before us now will give effect to what has long been the prayerful aspiration of many people in our society that the attainment of Majority Rule be accorded a special place of commemoration in the national calendar, and that each year we pause, in context of a national holiday, to give thanksgiving for the heroic struggles of those fearless men and women who from one generation the next carried, and then handed off, the baton of freedom until the relay was won on that glorious night 46-years ago.”

Labour Minister Shane Gibson also introduced a Bill aimed at renaming Labour Day in honour of the man considered the Father of the Labour Movement in The Bahamas, Sir Randol Fawkes.

“The award if this singular distinction on this outstanding pioneer in the trade union movement is not only deserving but most fitting because it comes at a time when we are about to celebrate 40-years of Independence in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, 51-years after the first official Labour Day was celebrated in The Bahamas, and 71-years after the Riot of Burma Road,” Mr. Gibson said.

Both Bills are expected to receive unanimous support.

April 11, 2013

Jones Bahamas

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

...the relationship between The Bahamas’ first Prime Minister, Lynden Oscar Pindling and notorious swindler Robert Vesco

Wikileaks: Revealed - Secret Cables That Uncovered Concerns Over Pindling Link To Notorious Swindler


Tribune News Editor

AS BAHAMIANS basked in the optimistic aura of newly-won independence, US diplomats were already showing concern about a number of worrying trends developing in the fledgling island nation.

Prominent among these, according to a new round of embassy cables released by Wikileaks, were the relationship between the country’s first Prime Minister and notorious swindler Robert Vesco, as well as claims that early PLP leaders propped up local businessmen as fronts for their own interests.

In 1973, the man labelled “the undisputed king of the fugitive financiers,” was wanted in the United States on a number of fraud allegations and was implicated, as part of the Watergate scandal, of funnelling money to disgraced US president Richard Nixon in a bid to evade justice.

Of particular interest to US Embassy staff was a Miami Herald story on August 5, 1973, linking Vesco’s firms in the Bahamas with the purchase of a $450,000 home by Prime Minister Pindling.

According to one cable, the deal involved the sale of Pindling’s previous home and an office “at inflated prices” to firms controlled by a well-known local businessman closely connected to the PLP.

The businessman, according to embassy staff, had risen in a matter of months “from a nobody to owner of several local firms.”

All of the businessman’s acquisitions were financed through Vesco’s Commonwealth Bank, the cable noted.

“According to unconfirmed reports,” the document said, the businessman “was actually fronting for Pindling and other politicians when he bought several businesses.”

The cable added: “Figuring prominently in the sale of Pindling’s home and office building is Colombus Trust and Co, Ltd, a Vesco-controlled company.”

Another cable noted that in replying to questions posed by FNM MP Cleophas Adderley, Pindling said Vesco’s business activities are being conducted “within the confines of the law.”

“Mr Pindling made no comment on whether he thought these activities were detrimental to the country’s reputation. Questions about possible conflict of interest by the PM or his ministers were not answered.

When the subject of the possible extradition of Vesco was raised with Pindling at a press conference in July, another cable notes, “the Prime Minister replied that extradition was a judicial and not a political matter, and that Vesco was being treated as an investor until such time as he was thought otherwise.

“Mr Pindling said he knew Vesco socially. He said Vesco was . . . merely one of a long string of US investors active here. ‘I have no reason to view him in a separate light.’ Unquote.”

Other cables described a Bahamas working its way to independence as already beset by problems resulting from questionable banking practices.

One April cable, entitled: “Banking and corporate activities in the Bahamas damaging to US interests” said the United States is facing a series of “separate but related problems involving the use of Bahamian banks and corporations for illegal and/or questionable activities which are damaging to American interests”.

It mentions banks engaged in “questionable financing or in some cases clearly illegal activities.”

The cable said: “In most cases the persons involved have been Americans. Although the banks’ precarious financial condition has become evident, GOBI (Bahamas government) banking authorities have failed to move in good time to conserve assets because of political payoffs.”

“The second problem is the use of Bahamian banks and shell corporations for illegal stock manipulation and as a means of avoiding US and other stock regulations.

“The most notable example of this is Robert Vesco’s activities and that of IOS before him. Bahamian monetary authorities have declined to cooperate with the SEC and complained that its efforts to conserve the assets of Vesco’s firm constitute interference in Bahamian internal affairs. Again, there is evidence of local political payoffs.”

In an ominous preview of the damaging allegations that would come nearly a decade later, when the Bahamas was accused of being “a nation for sale” to South American drug lords, the cable noted that “one probe of the bank secrecy problem relates to reports the consulate general has received from IRS agents that narcotics traffickers in the US are depositing their profits in Bahamian accounts. Efforts to investigate this have been thwarted by local bank secrecy laws.”

The cable concludes: “Taken together, the problems outlined above are sufficiently damaging to a variety of American interests that the Consulate General believes they merit a systematic study by interested Washington agencies to see what measures may be available to us to protect these interests. It is proposed that a working group be formed by State, Justice, Treasury and the SEC and/or representatives of the Organised Crime Task Force to look into this matter.”

April 09, 2013

Tribune 242

Monday, April 8, 2013

Rodney Moncur’s Army of One

A misguided crusade

What war is Rodney Moncur’s army of one fighting?

Guardian Broadcast Editor

Last week, three people died in a horrifying accident on Mayaguana, Bahamas Electricity Corporation workers tussled with police, armed hooligans invaded homes practically unchecked and we learned that the country’s gross domestic product didn’t grow as much as was forecasted last year.

But don’t let any of that, or growing allegations of police brutality, distract you from the carnival-barking sideshow brought to you courtesy of Rodney Moncur over the past several days.

As major developments unfolded throughout the country, Moncur became the cause de jour for many Bahamians on social media after he was charged with committing an indecent act for posting photos of Jamie Smith’s dead body on his Facebook page.

Smith was one of two men who died in police custody within hours of each other at separate locations on New Providence in February.

Moncur’s Facebook page is fashioned somewhat like a news blog.

Despite the fact that it is replete with inaccurate information, many Bahamians swallow it hook, line and sinker and spread his posts as genuine articles.

Moncur perhaps tested the patience of police when a photo of him standing next to Smith’s corpse as it lay on a preparation table at a local mortuary was published on his Facebook page several weeks ago.

However, over the holiday weekend, another photo of Smith’s corpse appeared on Moncur’s Facebook page.

This one, that showed Smith vivisection and other autopsy scars as his tongue lolled inside his open jaw, was particularly disturbing.

Smith’s family members, who have denied Moncur’s assertion that he is related to them, asked Moncur to take the pictures down.

He did not.

That picture, and another that showed the bruised buttocks of another man who claimed police beat him, apparently ticked off the police enough for them to arrest Moncur.

After his release that same day, Moncur wrote about it in great detail on his Facebook page.

He was arrested again and charged days later.

Other than once again directing attention to himself, it is unclear what Moncur was attempting to do by posting pictures of Smith’s body, as the Coroner’s Court is scheduled to hear the matter this month.

Moncur’s arraignment, his failure to make bail on Thursday and his posting bail on Friday, all made headline news.

Not so much because anything Moncur did was particularly noble, but because his shenanigans often generate public discourse, and a lot of it.

That Moncur, who subscribes to no journalistic standard, would use pictures of a dead man against the wishes of his family to aggrandize himself should come as no surprise.

This is the man who claims that women who use birth control are not true Christians. This is the man who describes himself as the ‘secret leader’ of Haitians in The Bahamas (whatever that means).

This is the man who listed eight fruit trees and a dictionary as assets on his declaration form when he was a candidate in the 2012 general election.

And his bizarre behavior has been consistent only in the frequency with which he has changed positions since the Pindling era.

What surprised me was that the police would waste their time charging Moncur.

And it was equally surprising to see how enthralled people became with his ordeal.

More than 3,000 people followed the Facebook page ‘Free Rodney Moncur’, with some misguided folks comparing him to Nelson Mandela.

Many told me that Moncur’s arrest represents some bold power grab on the part of Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade in his master plan to abolish our freedom of expression.

I’m unconvinced.

However, Greenslade himself didn’t help matters by speaking about how important it was to make sure people don’t abuse their social media privileges.

And with the number of armed robberies and home invasions on the rise here in New Providence, many also rightly questioned the Police Force’s priorities.

Moncur has promised not to relent in the face of the charge.

Knowing him, this certainly won’t be the last we hear from him on this and many other issues.

April 08, 2013


Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay Debates the Issues surrounding the Clifton Heritage Site

Clifton Coalition Debate Issues


MEMBERS of the newly formed Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay took to the airwaves to share their agenda and clarify some of the “thorny issues” surrounding the heritage site.
They described the threats to Clifton Bay as “extraordinarily catastrophic” and emphasised that the passage of an Environmental Protection and Freedom of Information Act were essential to protecting the marine heritage of the area, and the Bahamas as a whole.
The two Bahamian attorneys, Fred Smith and Romauld Ferreira, are both noted for their strong contributions to environmental consultation and advocacy – Mr Smith for more than 35 years and Mr Ferreira for more than 20.
Mr Smith’s environmental work includes the formation of environmental lobbies on several islands, including the Grand Bahama, Bimini, Abaco.
He also mounted ground-breaking litigation on environmental issues, in particular “Save Guana Cay”, starting at the Supreme Court all the way to the Privy Council on behalf of grass roots organisations.
In the most recent battle, Abaco Cares and Responsible Development For Abaco stopped the use of the toxic Bunker C fuel at the new Wilson City power plant erected by Bahamas Electricity Corporation in Abaco.
Mr Ferreira, who is an ecologist as well, has been heavily involved with environmental research and the preparation of environmental impact assessments.
Speaking on a Love97 FM radio show, Mr Smith called for unity among Bahamians and, as a political priority for the Coalition, the passage of environmental legislation.
“The environment has been a priority item both for the FNM and the PLP in their election manifestos. It’s time to push for an Environmental Protection Act. It is one of the priorities of the Coalition. A second priority is to push for the establishment of a marine park,” Smith said.
“The Coalition will promote positive steps towards marrying the land and sea in one park which can be enjoyed for future generations by so many Bahamians who live in New Providence and, of course, the millions of guests that come to visit us.”
The Freeport attorney went on to explain the unique natural resources that are to be found in Clifton Bay and its environs.
“At the start of Clifton Bay is what Stuart Cove, one of our members, described as a seven-mile reef. It’s one of the most beautiful barrier reefs that the Bahamas has and the Coalition is devoted to saving that reef and other areas of Clifton Bay for the many opportunities they present for eco-tourism.”
As expected from recent media articles on the subject, the issue of Nygard Cay/Simms Point came to the fore.
“There is also the issue of the Nygard Cay/Simms Point area, which I know has been very controversial of late,” Smith said.
He noted that there have been claims of reclamation of land without permits.
Mr Smith admitted that he is not sure whether or not permits exist, but said either way, there are concerns that the structures recently built in the area may affect the seabed and the flow of sand into the rest of Clifton Bay.
He added: “Importantly, the Coalition is also promoting a Freedom of Information Act. Throughout the civilised world… a FOI goes hand-in-hand with environmental protection. The one without the other often disadvantages any grass-roots organisations or environmental NGOs that wish to take issue with development or the programmes that are potentially negatively affecting the environment.”
Smith also identified oil spills in Clifton Bay and on Clifton Cay as an area of great concern for the Coalition.
“Of particular importance to many who run the Coalition is the oil situation. I myself have dived there a few times recently and the oil leakage through the ground directly into the water at Clifton Bay is extraordinarily catastrophic. I just don’t know how Nassauvians have put with the extent of the oil pollution. It’s everywhere. It’s floating on the top of the sea.
“There are the brown particulates that are used to try to soak it up. There are soap and suds everywhere. It’s an eyesore, as well as a hazardous toxic waste situation and this, of course, is also happening in Freeport.”
Show host Wendell Jones challenged the Coalition’s focus on Clifton Bay.
“I hear you emphasising Clifton, but… there have been many other areas of the Bahamas other than Clifton that have been disturbed, but your committee really is focusing on Clifton Bay,” he said.
But Mr Ferreira called the area “a microcosm of the unique environments” of the Bahamas and the developmental pressures weighing on them.
“Clifton Bay is very special because it has all of the unique ecosystems that make the Bahamas. It has diverse development and use challenges.
“So, at Clifton, you not only have the 7-mile reef; on the other side you have the Tongue of the Ocean, you have the recreational tourism activities, you have industrial activities, you have residential homes, you have the historic site.
“Then you have the development pressure that’s being applied against a backdrop of little or no regulations. And so, here you have a microcosm of what challenges the entire country.
“Because, if we are successful in dealing with the issues at Clifton Bay it has very helpful ramifications and wider implications which are tremendous for the rest of the Bahamas.”
April 05, 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Perry Christie’s lack of transparency on certain issues is as murky and as dense as an oil slick... ...When did he become a consultant to Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC)? ...How much was he paid? ...How often did they consult with him?

Perry Christie’s oil slick

Front Porch


Referring to their twin island-nation’s oil wealth, some Trinidadians and Tobagonians liked to brag, “oil don’t spoil”.  It may not spoil in the ground.  But the potential to spoil rotten, some politicians, public officials and others is legend.

Speaking ahead of the gambling referendum in January, Bahamas Faith Ministries International President Dr. Myles Munroe sounded this dire warning: “Any government pressured by a small lobby group such as the gaming bosses will inevitably produce corruption.  And if this referendum goes through we will never have a pure government again.” further reported: “He [Dr. Munroe] also stated that the motivation of the referendum of the governing authority seems to be the surrender to the powers with money.  In other words he said that the government cannot rightly govern because they will owe allegiance to the few and not to the citizenry or the people of The Bahamas.”

The pastor’s warning is noteworthy.  The nature and role of leadership have been central themes of Dr. Munroe’s ministry.  The quality of leadership at various levels of society will be pivotal in the debate on oil exploration.

For its part, the Bahamas Christian Council has gotten off to a poor start.  The council’s economic committee chairman Rev. Patrick Paul specified the type of arrangement he thought best to distribute the proceeds of oil wealth, calling a supposed arrangement “categorically unjust, injurious and unfair to the democracy of our nation”.

God bless Paul.  But, he seems like a potential groom planning for a joint bank account and mortgage with a woman whom he hasn’t even asked to marry him.  The reverend has gotten things in the wrong order.

A prior question is whether there should be drilling in the first place, which is what then Opposition Leader Perry Christie solemnly promised the Bahamian people his government would ask in a referendum.  He has spectacularly reneged on his promise.

Calculated flip-flop

Christie’s latest calculated flip-flop clarifies the quality of political leadership the country needs in considering oil exploration.  Good governance and good leadership on this issue will require leaders of great prudence and profound judgement.

Christie has exhibited a stunning lack of prudence and extremely poor judgement on the matter of oil exploration.  With the disclosure of his work for Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC), Christie, seemingly caught off guard, listed some of his duties as a consultant for the company.

“If there is an issue they need advice on, whether or not they need someone to speak to the issue of environmental impact [studies], the issue of whether or not in my judgment a matter is worthy for the government to approve, whether or not an application is ready, whether or not they should employ and who go on the board of directors, whatever views they ask of the firm regards it as necessary, they would consult me on it.  Those are the services I provide,” he said.

This is more than the work of an attorney.  His duties appear political and operational.  He would be considered a lobbyist in some jurisdictions.  Further, what did he mean by, “whether or not in my judgment a matter is worthy for the government to approve”?

If there are clear guidelines, it is not up to anyone’s judgment, including Christie’s, as to whether a matter “is worthy for the government to approve”.  Such murkiness is worrisome in what should be a highly regulated field.  Is Christie also following this approach as prime minister?

During last year’s general election campaign, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham noted: “When Mr. Christie agreed to become a consultant for the company [BPC] it would have been with the full knowledge and intention of using his position, past and present, and his access to government agencies, whether as government or as former government, to influence a decision by the Bahamian government with respect to any application by that company.”

Stringent guidelines

In quite a number of democracies there are stringent guidelines to limit the revolving door and conflicts of interest of politicians and public officials moving in and out of government, potentially using their public positions to benefit private clients.  One key measure includes a waiting period before one can work as a consultant or lobbyist for various clients.

Christie’s revolving door seems like a turbocharged merry-go-round: Between 2002 and 2007, his government issued certain licences to BPC.  Out of office he became a consultant to BPC.  Now back in office, his government has issued an exploration license to BPC, while delaying his promise to hold a referendum on oil drilling.

Christie’s lack of transparency on certain issues is as murky and as dense as an oil slick.  When did he become a consultant to BPC?  How much was he paid?  How often did they consult with him?

In addition to the prime minister, neither Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis, whose law firm represented BPC, nor Senator Jerome Gomez have been transparent or forthcoming with their compensation terms and arrangements with BPC.

By his own admission, Christie was a general consultant to a corporation wanting to drill for oil in The Bahamas while he was in Parliament, while he held the position of leader of the opposition, and while he fully expected to again become prime minister.

Further, did Christie express that he expected to be paid handsomely for his advice?  And, how handsomely was he paid.  The Bahamian people have a need to know?

Essentially, Christie advised his clients on how to go about achieving their ultimate objective – which is to drill for oil in The Bahamas.  And it was not just legal advice, it was advice on environmental issues, preparation for government approval, who to employ, who to put on the board of directors, and a catchall “whatever views they ask of the firm”.

In light of all of this, we are expected to believe that the prime minister has an open mind on whether or not there should be oil drilling in The Bahamas?

Christie’s clients were not some ordinary citizens requiring legal counsel who may have had sometime in the future a matter before the government of The Bahamas.  These were a corporation whose sole purpose for being in the country is to drill for oil.  Even if he did not become prime minister, as leader of the opposition, Christie knew that at some point he would have to address this issue in Parliament.

Christie himself must have recognized the position he was in when he and his government decided not to proceed with the promised referendum but to give the company the right to drill anyway.

Why on such a momentous national issue and stunning flip-flop did he not make the statement himself but left it to his minister for the environment?  Christie continues to abuse our trust.  And, he is more interested in putting the needs of foreigners first, instead of the Bahamian people.

By his own actions and admission, the prime minister has demonstrated that he and his government cannot be trusted on the momentous question of oil drilling.  His revolving door and flip-flopping constitute an oil slick that grows bigger and continues to spread.,

April 04, 2013


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rodney Moncur arrested... ...released...

Rodney Moncur Tells Of Arrest


Tribune Staff Reporter

RODNEY Moncur, human rights activist, says he is relieved to have not been a victim of police brutality – which he believes is common – after his arrest over the weekend.

Speaking with The Tribune yesterday, the former DNA hopeful said he was terrified of his well being after a senior Cyber Intelligence Unit officer took him into custody from his office at Market Street on Saturday morning.

According to Mr Moncur, authorities authorised his arrest after autopsy photographs of Jamie Smith, a man who died in police custody last month, and the buttocks of another man who claimed to have been beaten by police were posted on his Facebook page. The photos have since been removed, although Mr Moncur claimed to have no knowledge of how they were taken down.

Mr Moncur added that police accused him of “terrorising the nation and libelling the Royal Bahamas Police Force.” Police also believe that he broke into the Princess Margaret Hospital’s morgue sometime this month to take the pictures, Mr Moncur said.

“Every time that I was left alone in that room,” Mr Moncur said, “I prayed because just prior to him taking me in custody I was able to alert friends and colleagues that I was being taken.

“They held me for five hours and I did not eat. They offered me food and water but I did not take it because I was scared they would poison me.

“But I believe that somebody is being wicked. I wholelheartedly deny breaking into the morgue and I am too old to be breaking into PMH.”

Mr Mocur told The Tribune that had Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade asked him to remove the photos he would have. He insisted that his arrest was unwarranted.

When contacted, Assistant Commissioner of Police Leon Bethel, said he was not able to speak on the matter after being posted at the CARIFTA games all weekend.

April 02, 2013

Tribune 242