Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The most likely result of the 2012 general election, is that either the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) or the Free National Movement (FNM) will win and form the next government of The Bahamas... ...and the other major party will be the official opposition

The reaction of the election loser

thenassauguardian editorial

There are two ‘unconventional’ scenarios that could result in the next general election if the third party – the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) – wins a few seats.  There could be a minority government if no party wins a majority, but one is able to convince the governor general that it could govern.  The other option is a coalition government could result.  We say unconventional because those types of governments do not occur frequently in The Bahamas.

The most likely scenario, though, is that either the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) or the Free National Movement (FNM) will win and form the government, and the other major party will be the official opposition.

It will be interesting to witness the reaction of the leader of the losing major party.  Perry Christie appears determined to be prime minister again to prove he is good enough to serve multiple terms, just as Sir Lynden Pindling and Hubert Ingraham have.

If the PLP loses the election, with the FNM winning 20 seats and it securing a close number like 18 seats, it is unclear if the 68-year-old Christie would go anywhere.  Such a majority is unstable.  As we have seen this parliamentary term with the resignation of Malcolm Adderley from the House of Assembly and Kenyatta Gibson crossing over from the PLP to the FNM, margins of one are unlikely to lead to longevity for a government.

Consequently, Christie is likely to fight on and attempt to negotiate his way to the fall of the Ingraham government, or to his own majority by luring away marginal FNMs.

If the PLP loses decisively and the FNM secures a strong majority, Christie would have been twice defeated and by an increased margin.  No PLP could force him to leave, but the party elite would pressure him to go.  Whether he would go or not is up to Christie.  He has appointed a ring of protectors (stalwarts) to ensure he cannot be beaten in a leadership race.

Ingraham is a more complicated character.  If he loses 20 seats to 18 seats, he too might make an attempt to lure several PLPs to secure a major.  If such an effort is unsuccessful, he would likely leave.  If the FNM is beaten soundly by the PLP, we think he would go graciously and quickly.

The difference in this regard is that Ingraham appears to be more content with his legacy.  He defeated Sir Lynden; he won back-to-back terms; he won reelection after his party lost an election.  Politically, there is not much else for him to do.

The reaction of the losing leader will be significant for the losing party.  If a party loses and is able to transition quickly to new energetic younger leadership, the eyes of the country would be on the new leader of the opposition.  He or she would have a fair chance at being the next prime minister if the time in opposition is used to demonstrate that the party has a new, bold vision for the country.

However, if the losing leader fights a divisive battle to stay after being rejected in his mid to late 60s, the party and leader might miss the message the electorate conveyed and suffer a worse fate the next time around.

We won’t have to speculate on the future for too much longer.  Voting time is near.

Feb 28, 2012

thenassauguardian editorial

Monday, February 27, 2012

On February 27, 2002 — exactly 10 years ago today — Bahamians went to the polls in the country’s first referendum... ...A decade after that vote, The Bahamas is still behind many in the so-called civilized world in some respects... ...By voting "no" Bahamians ensured that the country remained in the archaic position of having discriminatory language in its Constitution

A cause for change

Bahamas should revisit issues in failed 2002 referendum

By Candia Dames
Guardian News Editor

There’s an interesting saying in the tropical Southeastern Asian country of Burma: A woman can be equal to a man in all ways, but she must first die and come back as a man. In the 21st century, it would appear that this very saying could be applied right here in The Bahamas.

On February 27, 2002 — exactly 10 years ago today — Bahamians went to the polls in the country’s first referendum.

They were asked by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham to vote to change the Constitution to eradicate language that made men superior to women.

But in results that Ingraham later admitted "shocked and shamed" him, an overwhelming majority of the voters — women included — voted against the historic change. It was an interesting outcome indeed for a people who have for a long time prided themselves on being among the most progressive in the Western Hemisphere, at least as far as civil liberties are concerned.

A decade after that vote, The Bahamas is still behind many in the so-called civilized world in some respects. By voting "no" Bahamians ensured that the country remained in the archaic position of having discriminatory language in its Constitution.

The results also appeared contradictory to the fact that The Bahamas’ record on the treatment of women and the role of women in society has been a commendable one.

The prime minister’s commitment to improving equality of the sexes was a plank in his campaign platform in 1997.

Ingraham noted in 2002 that for far too long, the Constitution has held double standards; a state of affairs that for too many years deprived the children of Bahamian women, married to foreign nationals, of citizenship; and denied the foreign-born spouses of Bahamian women the right to be registered as Bahamians, a right granted by the Constitution to the spouses of Bahamian men.

There is a classic example of a family negatively impacted by that constitutional provision. The late Dr. Mary Ritchie, a Bahamian woman, married a Trinidadian and they moved to The Bahamas before independence in 1973. The couple’s children who were born before independence automatically became Bahamians. But their children born after 1973 had to obtain work permits to be legally employed there.

Timothy Donaldson, a former Bahamian senator and the country’s former ambassador to the United States, said he has always been "incensed and ashamed" by the constitutional language in this regard. Donaldson was an advisor to the Pindling government during the constitutional negotiations in London.

"To me it’s just not right," Donaldson said. He explained that the thinking of then Prime Minister Pindling was that the provision would ensure that Haitians would not eventually take over The Bahamas which at the time had a population of only about 220,000 and today has a population of well over 300,000.

The country has long been burdened by an ongoing influx of Haitians who come to the country in rickety sea crafts, fleeing the unstable political regime in their poverty-stricken nation.

The Haitian presence in The Bahamas has continued to expand over the decades.

Between 1970 and 2010 births to Haitian mothers in The Bahamas nearly doubled, jumping from 7.2 percent to 13.7 percent, according to a new report released by The Department of Statistics.

"Pindling said ‘These Haitians produce like rats’," Donaldson said. "He said they’re going to produce all those children and at some point in time, the Haitians will outnumber Bahamians. But when you make a law geared at just one particular group of people, it’s certainly not a good policy."

The inequality clause is an entrenched provision of the Constitution. These provisions deal with the fundamental rights and freedoms of people as citizens, establishment and powers of Parliament, the cabinet and judiciary. Entrenched provisions can only be changed by 3/4 vote in Parliament, which happened in 2002, and a majority vote by the people in a referendum, which did not happen. To add provisions to the Bahamian Constitution also requires a referendum. The 2002 referendum sought to both change provisions and add clauses to the Constitution which was written in 1972.

Parliamentary exchange

The inequality issue, undoubtedly the most contentious, was not the only question posed to the Bahamian electorate in the referendum: Initially, the following questions were crafted by legislators.

1 - Do you approve of a Teaching Service Commission?

2 - Do you approve of an Independent Parliamentary Commissioner?

3 - Do you approve of the creation of an Independent Boundaries Commission?

4 - Do you approve amending the Constitution to increase the normal retirement age of judges from 67 to 72 for the Supreme Court, and up to 75 for the Court of Appeal justices? and,

5 - Do you approve amending The Constitution to permit the foreign spouse of a Bahamian citizen to reside and work in The Bahamas for the first five years of marriage, and thereafter entitled to citizenship?

6 - Do you agree that all forms of discrimination against women, their children and spouses should be removed from the Constitution and that no person should be discriminated against on the grounds of gender?

Ingraham made the announcement in the House of Assembly on December 6, 2001, informing members that it was the government’s intention to have the referendum on the same day as the next general election so that The Bahamas could "kill two birds with one stone".

"Election time is the time when you are likely to get the maximum number of persons to participate in the process," he said, "and so it is our intent to hold a referendum on the same day as the election."

On December 6, 2001, Ingraham drew attention to the discrimination question and gave it an early highlight as the key issue in the upcoming referendum.

"The one dealing with discrimination against women is fundamental and we propose to move that and as I understand it, there is consensus in the House in support of that particular amendment," Ingraham said. He told Parliament that he had in hand letters from the leader of the opposition, Perry Christie, and the only third party member in the House at the time, Dr. Bernard Nottage, that registered their support.

By the afternoon of December 20, 38 of the 40 members of the House voted on a sweeping amendment to the Constitution to abolish discrimination against women, their children and spouses.

"At last, 28 years following our independence, we are acting to remove from the supreme law of our land constitutionally-mandated discriminatory provisions against 50 percent of the population of The Bahamas," the prime minister said. "This is heavy stuff."

On January 16, members of the House of Assembly — with the exception of Dr. Nottage — approved the package of constitutional bills. Before his vote, Christie had this to say:

“We are headed for general elections. Those of us in the opposition have a view of what is fair.  If we regard the process [of the referendum] as unfair, then this is what will happen.  We will criticize and go to the country on the basis that this is an illegitimate course of action being advocated and you should not participate or you should vote no.”

A failed process

A month of public debates on the approaching referendum gave way to Referendum Day. What appeared to be a valiant and noble effort by the government to bring The Bahamas in compliance with international conventions that it endorsed, turned into a national debacle.

On all five questions, the majority of voters voted no

• Creation of an independent election boundaries commission.

Valid "Yes" 30,903

Valid "No" Votes: 57,291

• Creation of an Independent Parliamentary Commissioner.

Valid "Yes" 30,418

Valid "No" Votes: 57,815

• Gender discriminating language will be removed from the constitution and if children born to Bahamian mothers and foreign fathers will have Bahamian citizenship.

Valid "Yes" 29,906

Valid "No" Votes: 58,055

• The retirement age of judges will change from 60 to 65 years of age and 68 to 72 for appellate court judges.

Valid "Yes" 25,018

Valid "No" Votes: 60,838

• The creation of a commission to monitor the standards of teachers nationally.

Valid "Yes" 32,892

Valid "No" Votes: 55,627

For the opposition, the resounding no votes amounted to a great victory.  The Progressive Liberal Party celebrated the win as if it were celebrating election victory.

“The clear and unmistakable signal that the Bahamian people telegraphed yesterday is that they do not want any government messing with “their things” unless they, the people, are fully included in the process of constitutional reform from start to finish — and that the process of constitutional reform must never be rushed,” Christie said the morning after the vote.

The day after, Prime Minister Ingraham — who had called the referendum his last major agenda as leader of the country —  stunned many Bahamians when he said he was “ashamed” that Bahamians rejected his proposed amendments to the Constitution.  He also told reporters that he was “mistaken” when he declared that the party that won the referendum would win the general election.

“I have no regrets whatsoever,” he said.  “People are perfectly entitled to accept or reject any proposition put to them and they rejected this proposition.  I accept that this is their entitlement.  I move on.  I am ashamed, but I accept it.  That is the will of the people.”

When he returned as prime minister in 2007, I asked Ingraham at his first press conference after his re-election whether he was minded to re-visit the 2002 referendum questions.

Ingraham said there will be no more referenda under his watch.

But the prime minister has been known to change his mind.

In 2010, he advised that if re-elected his administration would hold a referendum so Bahamians could decide whether they want gambling legalized.

Whatever government is elected this year ought to take another look at the discriminatory questions in our Constitution.

Perhaps in a less politically charged atmosphere, we could finally succeed in making the necessary changes.

Feb 27, 2012


Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Bahamas Lottery says: It's time to legalise lottery betting in The Bahamas

ONE would have to be a hermit in a cave not to be aware of the fact that wagering on the numbers is a national pastime. It's widely available throughout almost all parts of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

Tickets for the lotteries in the USA are also widely available. I understand that a wager on the numbers can be made online. Anyway I suspect that most of the readers of this column probably know more about the subject than I do.

The question that therefore arises is why have not these activities been legalized with the result that they would make a contribution to the revenue. There is no doubt that the revenue is needed. There is also no doubt that the majority of Bahamians find these activities acceptable. There should also be little doubt that the authorities tolerate these activities because they take place in the open and are not stopped. We should also remember that throughout history governments have failed whenever they have tried to legislate morality.

Conventional wisdom informs us that should any government move to legalize the numbers or lottery business there would be an outcry from most churches. Notwithstanding the fact that their members participate in these activities. The solution maybe to put the question to a referendum so as to avoid it being a political football. It is really a social issue. We should also remember that a law which is ignored by most citizens and which the authorities, over an extended period of time, have chosen to ignore as well, has no moral authority. Possibly it may not have any legal authority because I suspect it is illegal to only selectively enforce any law.

The time has come to legalize these activities. The people have spoken with their wagers. If that is not a case of the people putting their money where their mouth is, I don't know what is.

February 24, 2012


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Youth unemployment, which is pegged at 34 percent in The Bahamas, is especially a cause for concern if only because many of the young people have not yet had the opportunity to join the labor force... and as such, are being denied access to gainful employment... which is considered by many social scientists as the traditional route to the process of social integration

Youth unemployment

thenassauguardian editorial

The most recent Labour Force Survey, which was released by the Department of Statistics, contained some insightful but at the same time alarming information on the current state of unemployment in The Bahamas.

Apart from the distressingly high unemployment rate of nearly 16 percent overall and the continuing challenges to the Grand Bahamian economy, with an unemployment rate of 21.2 percent, the data on youth unemployment is perhaps the most disturbing.

Youth unemployment, which is pegged at 34 percent, is especially a cause for concern if only because many of the young people have not yet had the opportunity to join the labor force and as such, are being denied access to gainful employment which is considered by many social scientists as the traditional route to the process of social integration.

High youth unemployment is not peculiar to The Bahamas; indeed it is now recognized as a global phenomenon which is adversely impacting both developed and developing economies. Several studies on the subject have suggested that prolonged periods of unemployment among young people tend to lead to a reduction in self-esteem, diminished levels of well-being and a sense of isolation from peer groups.

Over time, youth unemployment could become problematic to the larger society since young people without the means to provide for their basic needs may not only engage in anti-social behavior, they may withdraw entirely from the labor force and by so doing, further reduce the future developmental potential of the economy.

The marginalization and social exclusion of the youth, according to some studies, are even more pronounced during a recession in that young workers are usually the first to be laid off or downsized when firms begin cost-cutting exercises. And those who remain in the labor force are disproportionately represented in the'informal'sector where they have no formal contract of employment, no guarantee of regular work and in some instances, little or no rights under labor laws. The more educated among the youth are often forced to'trade down'or accept employment far below their qualifications, and for the most part, that group is underemployed and often becomes resentful of the society or the environment in which they find themselves.

Many countries, both developing and developed have attempted to address the problem in a variety of ways including providing direct incentives to labor intensive sectors and/or establishing schemes to promote self-employment.

Both initiatives, although useful, are not the solution in isolation and ought to be part of a more comprehensive youth employment strategy which has at the centerpiece, sustained macro-economic growth for the entire economy.

To be sure, the self-employment initiative pre-supposes a widespread possession of the entrepreneurial spirit and acumen which clearly is not present in everyone, nor is it something that can be taught. It has to be recognized that the future growth and development of any society is dependent on the efficiency with which it employs its factors of production: land, capital, labor and entrepreneurial know-how. Of all the factors, it is labor that has to be continuously introduced, engaged, trained and developed at an early stage in order to be most productive.

In other words, we have to regard our youth as an asset that has to be fully integrated into the productive process and good public policy demands that young people be given priority. According to the United Nations, instead of seeing them as tomorrow's leaders, we ought to regard them as today's partners.

Feb 25, 2012

thenassauguardian editorial

Friday, February 24, 2012

...when the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) talk about projects stalled for review by the Free National Movement (FNM) government, the voter has to carefully examine the facts to find out exactly why they did not go ahead... ...They will soon learn that none of them was delayed or cancelled by the FNM

PLP's projects had to be completed by FNM

tribune242 editorial

THE PLP are singing their old refrain again to lull voters back to sleep.

If it's not crime increasing because police officers have been removed from the school yard, and Urban Renewal PLP-style has been revamped, then it's the collapsing economy. Apparently, the Bahamas' economy has gone into recession, not because international banks have collapsed and poor old Greece can't meet its debts, threatening to drag an already nervous world down with it, but because the FNM government, on being returned to government in 2007, made the Bahamas' recession worse "by stopping, reviewing, and cancelling PLP projects".

On the flip-side of that coin is the question: Why didn't the PLP give these projects the green light to go ahead before being turned out of office? According to their logic, the Bahamas would have had a booming economy if their projects had gone ahead. So what went wrong? Why did they drag their feet when they neared the finish line? If all of these projects had been buzzing ahead when the FNM became the government, then Bahamians would have been working. But, no, for some reason, there were contracts that just needed a signature to get them started. It was left to the FNM on coming to office to complete the paper work, put the shovel in the ground, and move them on.

The investments that did not go ahead had nothing to do with any FNM "stop, review and cancel" programme, but rather with the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008, leaving many investors strapped for cash. Several of these investments bit the dust because of this - the GINN project in Freeport eventually being one of them. The Ritz Carlton hotel for Rose Island was another stalled investment that never got off the drawing board. As was Royal Island near Spanish Wells, a Marriott Hotel and the Rockford Lighthouse Point project in Eleuthera. All this because investment cash had dried up -- nothing to do with the Ingraham government.

Apparently, the Urgo Hotels continue discussions with a view to moving forward in Eleuthera.
We recall the night many years ago when the late Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling stood on a platform in Freeport and laughed at Hubert Ingraham's humble beginnings, dismissing him as merely a "delivery boy".

Immediately, The Tribune picked up the slight and turned it into a triumph. Aha! we chortled. That is just what the Bahamas has been waiting for -- a delivery boy. And we predicted that this was one delivery boy who would deliver. And, by Jove, he did. Even now, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has had to deliver many of the investment plans that were left unsigned on prime minister Perry Christie's desk when he was voted from office.

In a statement in the House shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Ingraham said the Christie government had claimed it had brought $20 billion of direct foreign investment into the country during its five years in office.

"We have looked for it," said Mr Ingraham, "but cannot find it."

He said his government found a number of Heads of Agreement completed for a number of projects by the Christie government, but it was the FNM that had to table several of them in the House. Mr Ingraham said that with the exception of the Phase III expansion of Kerzner International and a billion dollars in land sales to international persons (GINN, Kerzner and the Abaco Club), the FNM was unable to find the billions the PLP claimed it brought in.

Negotiations for a proposed development of a PGA Village in Cat Island was also in suspension when the PLP left office. The negotiations were completed by the FNM shortly after its return to office.

We understand that expectations were high that the project would move forward notwithstanding the economic downturn because its principals were very well funded. Mr Ingraham even attended a ground breaking ceremony in Cat Island. While planning and design work continues and some preliminary work commenced on the layout of the golf course, the project has not moved forward as expected.

And so when the PLP talk about projects stalled for review by the FNM government, the voter has to carefully examine the facts to find out exactly why they did not go ahead. They will soon learn that none of them was delayed or cancelled by the FNM.

February 24, 2012

tribune242 editorial

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In a country like The Bahamas that is lax in enforcing its laws against illegal immigration, it is easy to see how this issue has spiraled out of control... ...In addition to enforcing its laws regarding deportation, the government must also implement more stern penalties to discourage Bahamians from hiring illegal immigrants

The immigration fiasco pt. 2

By By Arinthia S. Komolafe

The Latin phrase “Vox Populi, vox dei” when translated to English means that “the voice of the people is the voice of God”.  This phrase is commonly attributed to voting and was most notably used by Sir Lynden Pindling after conceding the Progressive Liberal Party’s defeat of the 1992 general election. Today, the same holds true; however, Bahamians ought to realize that their voices carry power not only during election time every five years, but at all times.  We must continue to discuss and encourage dialogue on matters of national interest in an attempt to influence and shape policy decisions.  Issues such as crime, education, healthcare, the diversification of our economy and immigration certainly stand out among others.

In my previous article, we explored the possible implementation of an amnesty program.  The merits of an amnesty program provide an incentive for undocumented immigrants to regularize their status, obtain temporary residence/work status or face immediate deportation in accordance with applicable Bahamian laws.  Further, once it is determined which individuals arrived in the country after a particular date, the government must make haste to deport such individuals back to their home countries immediately.  The primary obligation of any government is to protect its citizens and foster an environment in which its people can prosper.  It is imperative, therefore, for the government to make every effort to ascertain the number of illegal immigrants in the country, the skill-set of these individuals and how best they can contribute to the society.

Immigration, policy and the economy

An effective immigration policy in The Bahamas would be tied into the government’s education, investment and economic policies.  It is widely known that while Haitians are not the only demographic of individuals who constitute the illegal immigration population in The Bahamas, they make up the vast majority.  It is estimated that approximately 66 percent of Haitians in the Republic of Haiti work in the agriculture sector.  They are particularly engaged in subsistence farming, which contributes to about one third of Haiti’s gross domestic product.  During a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2010, former United States President Bill Clinton expressed his regret of having oversight of trade policies that caused the demise of Haiti’s rice farming during his term in office.  In what he termed a “devil’s bargain”, the U.S. forced Haiti to reduce tariffs on imported subsidized U.S. rice.  The demise of rice farming in Haiti has been attributed to the aforesaid policy and arguably hindered Haiti’s ability to become self-sufficient.  There is no doubt that this policy has also had a direct and negative impact on The Bahamas and other developing countries within the region that are not self-sufficient today.  Indirectly, it can be argued that this policy also contributed to the increased migration of Haitian nationals to The Bahamas in search of economic security.

Bahamians understanding the fragility of the cyclical tourism and financial services industries have been advocating for years that the government provide more incentives for the development of the agricultural sector in an attempt to expand the industry and diversify our economy.  An expansion of the agricultural sector can provide thousands of jobs and move us toward self-sufficiency and some form of food security.  However, the widely held perception is that Bahamians are unlikely to engage in agriculture on a grand scale.  While that may or may not be true, what is clear is that we can utilize the skills of Haitian migrants present in the country to develop the agriculture industry.  If two out of three Haitians are engaged in farming, it follows then that this expertise should be in The Bahamas.  A thriving agriculture industry can reduce our balance of trade deficit by reducing food imports and creating greater opportunities for exports.

Granting temporary work permits under a properly planned amnesty program for illegal immigrants can to a great extent ease the burden these individuals place on the public purse.  This no doubt currently drains our resources in areas such as education and healthcare without a substantial contribution to the Bahamian economy.  It is well-known that immigrants remit most of their funds to their home countries to assist their families back at home.  As a result, very little of what is made by the immigrant worker is spent within the Bahamian economy.  The implementation of a value-added or sales tax would assist in an immigrant worker’s contribution to government revenue in addition to work permit fees and national insurance contributions.

Added resources

It would be an understatement to remark that Bahamian employers play a major role in the illegal immigration problem that exists in the country today.  Driven by the need to pay reduced wages to maximize profits and minimize expenses, many are inclined to hire an immigrant lacking the necessary documentation to engage in gainful occupation.  Economic immigrants usually weigh the cost of traveling to a country and being able to find work against being apprehended by the authorities. In a country like The Bahamas that is lax in enforcing its laws against illegal immigration, it is easy to see how this issue has spiraled out of control.  In addition to enforcing its laws regarding deportation, the government must also implement more stern penalties to discourage Bahamians from hiring illegal immigrants.  In France for example, the law prohibits the entry or irregular stay of an illegal immigrant.  If a French citizen is found guilty of harboring such individuals, they can face up to five years in prison and be fined €30,000.  The low-tolerance French government has also gone as far as implementing quotas to combat smugglers who profit financially from moving immigrants into, through and out of France.

The government must strengthen its patrols to minimize the entry of illegal immigrants to our shores.  More of the annual budget should be dedicated to providing the necessary resources to aid the Royal Bahamas Defence Force in its attempt to eradicate illegal activities on the perimeters of our borders.

Many have suggested that bases on our southern islands collectively known as MICAL can help to mitigate some of the problems we currently face in this regard.  The problem of illegal immigration is not unique to The Bahamas.  Hence, we must keep discussions on this issue going and learn from the mistakes and successes of other nations.  We need not reinvent the wheel but must conduct detailed research with a view to implementing a robust immigration policy.


Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law.  Comments can be directed at: arinthia.komolafe@komolafelaw.com

Feb 23, 2012

The immigration fiasco pt. 1


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fred Mitchell's Blood libel paints the Bahamian political scene and the 2012 general election in The Bahamas Red

An outrageous and bizarre statement

thenassauguardian editorial

Last week Leader of Government Business in the Senate Dion Foulkes disclosed in the Senate a secret cable from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau appearing on the WikiLeaks website.

The cable included allegations from a public officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs alleging that then Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell was involved in a scheme to sell visas to Chinese nationals.

Foulkes tabled the cable after being asked to do so by Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate Allyson Maynard-Gibson.

Following the disclosure and tabling of the cable, Mitchell, the shadow minister of foreign affairs for the official opposition, described Foulkes’ actions as a new low in Bahamian politics.

Bahamians can judge for themselves what they think of Foulkes’ decision to disclose the cable.  We have observed Bahamian politics for many years.  We were also the original publisher of the WikiLeaks cables in The Bahamas.  Our series of stories reporting on these cables can be found on The Nassau Guardian’s website.

Given what we have observed over many years and as well as our decision to publish the WikiLeaks cables, we do not believe that their disclosure in the political arena is in itself problematic in terms of matters of policy and governance.  We would abhor the use of the cables to attack the personal lives of political figures.

What we do believe is a low point and way beyond the pale is comments made by Mitchell in response to Foulkes’ disclosure.  We reported those comments in detail in last Friday’s paper.

Mitchell stated: “I am now before the Bahamian people with clear eyes and I want them to see the whites of my eyes.  What Dion Foulkes has done is a blood libel from which there can be no coming back.”

Mitchell continued: “This blood libel by you [Dion Foulkes] has now set enmity between me and your house.  I take it personally and will deal with you accordingly.  There will be no retreat and no surrender.  You can take that to the bank.”

Mitchell’s comments are not only a low point.  They are bizarre.  They have no place in political discourse.  They have violent connotations.

The term “blood libel” has a particular and terrible history.  It refers to the obscene accusation that a particular group murders others in order to use their blood for various rituals.  Often, the alleged victims are children.

What exactly does Mitchell mean when he says there will be enmity between his house and that of Foulkes?  Is Mitchell threatening violence?  Might this be a matter for the Royal Bahamas Police Force to investigate?

Mitchell should retract various elements of his remarks.  He should apologize to Foulkes.  Failure to do either of these will result in Mitchell doing permanent damage to his credibility.

The opposition must distance itself from Mitchell’s dangerous remarks.  The leader of the opposition should warn Mitchell that there is no place in our politics for talk of “blood libel” and “enmity between me and your house”.

Feb 21, 2012

thenassauguardian editorial

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

In The Bahamas, it seems, if the police have "strong reasons" to believe you are guilty of trespassing, or noise pollution, or vagrancy, you are sure to be placed under arrest... ...But if you perpetrate an illegal scheme that has immense diplomatic and national security consequences for the entire country, well that's OK


Tribune News Editor

THE big story last week was obviously the back-and-forth claims of visa fraud between the two major parties.

First, FNM Senator Dion Foulkes told of a Foreign Affairs officer who claimed her former boss, Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell, tried to pressure staff into granting entry visas to 30 ineligible Chinese nationals. Denying the claims, Mr Mitchell produced a police report showing his accuser was herself suspected of issuing visas in return for cash.

There was nothing particularly new in any of this - the claims against Mr Mitchell were published online months ago by Wikileaks, while the visa-for-cash investigation made headlines in 2005.

What the public should sit up and take notice of, however, are recommendations in the police report released by Mr Mitchell.

The targets of the investigation were suspected of selling entry visas to Haitian nationals at $1,500 a pop.

No one knows how many documents were illegally issued, but the racket is said to have involved a fleet of boats that ferried passports, some of which turned out to be forgeries, to and from Haiti. The scam was also thought to have made use of aircraft implicated in drug and human trafficking operations.

In the end, investigators decided there were "strong reasons to conclude" that certain employees were involved in "corrupt and unethical practices" at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Their recommendations? Safeguards should be put in place, staff should be periodically rotated, and those thought to be involved should be transferred or reassigned.


A group of civil servants are thought to have enriched themselves by helping untold numbers of illegal immigrants enter the country, some bearing fake passports, on flights operated by known drug and human smugglers, and the police believe they should remain on the public payroll?

In the Bahamas, it seems, if the police have "strong reasons" to believe you are guilty of trespassing, or noise pollution, or vagrancy, you are sure to be placed under arrest. But if you perpetrate an illegal scheme that has immense diplomatic and national security consequences for the entire country, well that's OK.

It is hard to imagine a plausible justification for this. The police might say they found insufficient evidence to charge anyone. But in that case, they have to explain why they recommended anyone be transferred or reassigned in the first place.

And since when does a lack of conclusive evidence stop investigating officers in their tracks? Surely strong suspicions should be followed up with warrant requests, arrests, raids, interrogations, and so on.

What's more, according to the report this was an undercover investigation. Are we to believe the police's mole saw enough to have "strong suspicions" about a number of employees, but did not come across a single shred of hard evidence?

The report claims an undercover agent saw a ministry official and a Haitian man suspected of being a passport mule "in the stairway exchanging documents for what appeared to be cash. He returned in the evening to the Ministry at the back door and collected the processed documents."
Shortly thereafter, the report says, the man was seen "distributing the passports to Haitian nationals who were waiting in the parking lot at Market Street."

Surely this is enough circumstantial evidence to make a few arrests.

Critics of the PLP will conclude from all this that the investigation, which took place during the Christie administration, was never intended to have any real teeth.

Indeed, it reeks of a "commissioned" report, requested by the government for future use in just such a mud-slinging contest as the one that took place last week.

But we should pause before condemning the PLP alone.

What about the Ministry of Education staff who were caught red-handed stealing classroom supplies and furniture just last year?

They were all arrested and removed from their jobs, but formal charges were never filed, and a few months later they were back at the ministry in different positions.

Some of them, according to well placed sources, were even appointed to the team managing an $11.8 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Talk about letting the hand into the cookie jar.

There are also long-standing allegations of kickback schemes that permeate the entire ministry. These too have been the subject of investigations, but the most that ever came of it was a few forced early retirements. Full benefits, of course.

And then there is the Ministry of Housing scandal. It is claimed that thousands of dollars in bogus fees were added to the cost of houses under the last PLP government, leading to a multi-million dollar payout to the perpetrators.

The Christie government said it caused an investigation to be launched, but of course found no wrongdoing. And as the FNM's first term back in office draws to a close, the Attorney General's Office has yet to bring anyone before the courts - despite the fact that police recommended at least six people be charged as far back as 2008.

This would all be laughable if it weren't so tragic. In these two cases, let us not forget, the victims are school children and low-income families.

The reasons behind the reluctance of politicians to punish public service corruption are clear.
Whichever party is in charge at a given time is interested in keeping hold of power, and doesn't want any major scandals on their watch, no matter who is responsible.

The public service is also a huge source of support for both major parties, and huge shake-ups that end with people going to jail will probably mess with established voting trends.

But what about the police? Calculations based on image and reputation are all fine and good for politicians, but have no place in law enforcement, right?

Wrong, according to the visa scandal investigators, who wrote in their report that: "At this stage, whether something can be done or not in terms of a criminal investigation and prosecution cannot supersede the need to prevent further damage to the image and reputation of the Ministry..."

And here I was thinking the police's job was to bust law breakers and let the chips fall where they may.

What do you think?

* Email pnunez@tribunemedia.net with your comments, or visit www.tribune242/insight to join in the online conversation.

February 20, 2012


Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Bahamas and the illegal immigration debate: ...as a matter of urgency, The Bahamian government must ascertain the number of undocumented immigrants that exist in The Islands...

The immigration fiasco pt. 1

By Arinthia S. Komolafe

Many Bahamians were offended and outraged by the remarks made by President Michel Martelly of the Republic of Haiti during his recent visit to The Bahamas.  During his time here, Martelly paid courtesy calls on the governor general, the prime minister, the leader of the opposition and individuals of Haitian heritage, albeit not in that order.

Martelly’s visit came as a shock to the majority of Bahamians who had been unaware of his impending visit to The Bahamas.  Our prime minister indicated during a press conference held on February 11, 2012, four days after Martelly’s initial arrival that The Bahamas government had not invited Martelly, but rather he had been notified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday February 4, 2012, a non-working day, that Martelly intended to stop in The Bahamas en route to Mexico.  It was later confirmed that very day that Martelly would remain a day and a night in The Bahamas.  In fact, the president arrived in The Bahamas on the evening of February 7 and departed on February 8, 2012.

It seems fair to say that The Bahamas government erred by not officially informing the Bahamian people that Martelly would make an official visit to The Bahamas.  The president had left Haiti to visit Venezuela and Panama where he was expected to remain two days each in both countries from February 3 to February 7.  Martelly traveled to Venezuela to attend the 11th Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) and to Panama to discuss matters pertaining to Haitians living in Panama and the delivery of visas to Haitians by the Panamanian government.  It is reported that on short notice, Martelly decided to extend his travels to include the countries of The Bahamas and Curacao.

It is reported that the Haitian government issued a statement through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs informing the Haitian people of Martelly’s adjusted itinerary.  The question remains that if in fact our government had been aware of Martelly’s visit from Saturday February 4, why wasn’t the Bahamian public notified?  It is apparent that thousands of individuals of Haitian descent in The Bahamas had been duly informed as evidenced by the attendance at the Church of God’s auditorium.

During Martelly’s recent visit to Curacao, he was greeted at the airport by the prime minister of Curacao, Gerrit Schotte, and other dignitaries.  Subsequently the Haitian diplomatic envoy and Curacao dignitaries attended a meeting with persons of Haitian origin on the specific request of Martelly.  It is worth noting that nationals of Curacao were also present at the aforementioned gathering.  The national anthems of both countries were sung and Martelly made remarks in English when addressing the people of Curacao and in Creole when addressing the people of Haitian descent.  The actions of the Curacao government evidence an intention to unify relations between both countries as opposed to divide.  In light of the events that unfolded this week, it can be argued that the actions of The Bahamas government speak otherwise.  Bahamians would have been equally interested to hear the remarks of Martelly.

The normal course of protocol for an official visit from a head of state would have been to receive a formal written request from the Haitian Embassy in The Bahamas addressed to the chief of protocol suggesting dates for the visit, names of individuals with whom the head of state would like to meet and the purpose of the visit (i.e., the specific topics to be discussed).

The protocol department within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) would have determined availability and arranged the official itinerary of Martelly.  As mentioned, the details of President Martelly’s visit were confirmed on Saturday, February 4, 2012.  Martelly arrived in The Bahamas on Tuesday, February 7, 2012.  The Bahamas MOFA had the entire working days of the 6th and 7th to inform the Bahamian people of Martelly’s visit and his proposed itinerary, just as the Haitian MOFA did in Haiti.  Protocol and diplomacy appear to have escaped The Bahamas government on this matter which appears to have conducted protocol in reverse.

The reaction

The overwhelming consensus among Bahamians is that our prime minister’s response to the matter was unacceptable to say the least.  What is clear is that our prime minister appears to be out of touch with the concerns of his people.  Moreover, the silence of most members of Parliament on this issue leaves little to be desired in the face of the public discussion that has taken place on this matter.

The recent visit has sparked the age old conversation on illegal immigration in our country, particularly among Haitian nationals.  Haiti is a country that has been plagued by socio-economic and political instability.  The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the United States of America have primarily carried the burden of housing Haitian nationals in search of political asylum or refugee status.  There is no doubt that CARICOM members would welcome trade opportunities with Haiti that will be mutually beneficial for our nations.  A healthy and prosperous Haiti is in the best interest of all; The Bahamas included.

Nevertheless, the matter of illegal immigration in our country must be addressed by the government.  It is wrong for Bahamians and parliamentarians to gloss over this issue of illegal immigration and allege that Bahamians are discriminative, racist and prejudiced in an attempt to silence Bahamians on this matter.  Bahamians are generally welcoming people and recognize the contributions that foreigners make to build this country.  However, this fact cannot be confused with the importance of enforcing Bahamian laws on illegal immigration.  It is worth noting that other countries such as Jamaica and Barbados are also faced with the same challenges.

Many CARICOM countries already find it difficult to meet budget requirements with their limited resources and constrained revenue sources.  Many have shared in the burdens of Haiti’s socio-economic and political instability through increased illegal immigration.  Many have also provided aid and assistance to the government of Haiti over the years.

The Haitian presence

In The Bahamas, there is a gray area that is expanding and will continue to have a vast impact upon our socio-economic position if we do not address the matter with expediency.  There are so-called ‘shantytowns’ existing all over New Providence and throughout the Family Islands that successive governments have failed to clean up.  Allegedly illegal immigrants of Haitian descent occupy Bahamian land free of charge, their children attend Bahamian public schools and they also utilize healthcare services.  Bahamian taxpayers’ funds make it possible for government-run entities to function.  In this sense, Bahamians believe they have every right to speak on the matter of illegal immigration and the effects it has upon Bahamian society.

Separate and apart from migrants that came here illegally, there are a group of dispossessed individuals who are aware of the fact that they have a constitutional right and are being overlooked.  These individuals were born in The Bahamas and in most cases educated here.  We must do our best to regularize such individuals.  As long as the constitution provides the means, the constitutional right of this group of individuals should be honored without delay.  What The Bahamas government must be careful not to do is to impose upon the Bahamian people the extreme liberal policy that Martelly is suggesting regarding our constitution in light of our very own economic position.  To grant individuals born in The Bahamas to non-Bahamians citizenship upon birth will most certainly open the floodgates for increased migration to The Bahamas.  Such a policy could negatively impact the preservation of the indigenous Bahamian population, who like the remainder of the Caribbean generally have a lower birth rate than Haitians.  For instance, The Bahamas has a population of approximately 350,000; Barbados, 280,000; Jamaica, 2.8 million; Dominica, 72,000 and Curacao, 142,000.  All of these countries, who together house a growing population of Haitians descendants, have not jointly accumulated the total population of Haiti, which is estimated to be 9.7 million.

More importantly and as a matter of urgency, The Bahamas government must ascertain the number of undocumented immigrants that exist in the country.  The Netherland Antilles launched an immigration amnesty program called the “Brooks Tower Accord” that provided for undocumented aliens in the Netherland Antilles to register themselves, receive temporary permits and therefore legalize their status.  The registration lasted for six weeks from November 3 – December 15, 2009.  The agreement covered three categories.  Immigrants who arrived before December 31, 2001 fell in Category I were able to apply for a permit on their own merit.  Immigrants who arrived between January 1, 2002 to January 1 2006, fell in Category II and required their employers to apply on their behalf.  Finally, immigrants who arrived after January 1, 2006 were not guaranteed regularization and would more than likely have to leave the country or be repatriated.  Whereas there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing the illegal immigration problem, our leaders should explore programs of this nature in formulating a solution and a strategy to the way forward.

Bahamians must continue to discuss this matter in the attempt to move our leaders to make significant progress on illegal immigration.  We have elected successive governments to protect our borders, among other things, and they have been found wanting on the issue of illegal immigration. One thing is certain, we must continue to monitor the socio-economic and political position of Haiti to provide assistance where necessary.


•Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law.  Comments can be directed at: arinthia.komolafe@komolafelaw.com

Feb 16, 2012

The immigration fiasco pt. 2


Friday, February 17, 2012

Wikileaks and Bahamian Politics: ...former Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell is accused of being ‘complicit in visa fraud’ and ‘pressuring’ staff at the ministry to issue visas to ‘ineligible’ Chinese applicants during his term in office... according to a secret U.S. Embassy cable tabled in the Senate

Mitchell accused of corruption

By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter

A senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs official accused former Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell of being ‘complicit in visa fraud’ and ‘pressuring’ staff at the ministry to issue visas to ‘ineligible’ Chinese applicants during his term in office, according to a secret U.S. Embassy cable tabled in the Senate yesterday.

Bahamian Consular Affairs Chief Dorothea Lafleur also told an Embassy official that Mitchell was ‘likely receiving financial kickbacks for the visas that were issued’, though she said she had no hard proof of this, the cable said.  Leader of Government Business in the Senate Dion Foulkes tabled the cable, which was written on April 24, 2007, and published on the Internet by the whistleblower organization, WikiLeaks.

According to the cable, the U.S. Embassy’s consular chief met with Lafleur on April 12 at Lafleur’s invitation.

The cable said, “[Lafleur] accused Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell of complicity in pressuring consular officers to issue visas to patently ineligible applicants.

“She further alleged that Mitchell was involved in a fraudulent visa scam to bring in a large group of Chinese nationals.  According to Lafleur, Mitchell attempted to pressure consular officers to issue the visas and, when unsuccessful, attempted to bypass Bahamian consular law and division leadership.”

After Foulkes tabled the cable in the Senate, Mitchell released a statement, dismissing the allegations as fabrication from a disgruntled employee.

He said the fabrication is now being used in the government’s election smear campaign.  The former minister also told The Nassau Guardian he plans to sue Lafleur over the comments attributed to her in the cable.

He said the Free National Movement made similar claims back in 2007, which were unsupported after a police investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing in the ministry during his five years as minister.

The cable said Lafleur told the Embassy official that Mitchell directly ordered her to issue visas to 30 Chinese nationals whose applications were sponsored by then Member of Parliament Sidney Stubbs.

Lafleur said she refused to issue the visas and after pressure from Mitchell she asked for further documentation on the applicants, according to the cable.

“She was informed by Mitchell and Stubbs that they all were high-level managers at large, multinational Chinese companies in China and were coming to The Bahamas at the invitation of Stubbs for business related travel,” the cable said.

According to the cable, after a week-long review, the Chinese Embassy told Lafleur that there was no record of any of the companies listed by Mitchell “with the exception of one company which they characterized as a small ‘mom and pop operation’ in China”.

“Lafleur again refused to issue the visas,” the cable added.

The document also said: “Lafleur claims that as a result of her refusals, Mitchell appointed another official above her in the Consular Affairs Office, who would have the authority to issue over Lafleur’s denials.

“This unlawful appointment provoked the entire consular division to go on strike.”

The Embassy official noted in the cable that the strike was widely reported in the news, but it was attributed to administrative issues in the consular division.

“Mitchell was forced to remove his appointee from the oversight position to end the strike,” the cable said.

“He then tried to get the Chinese visas approved by assigning issuing power to the Bahamian Embassy in Beijing, staffed by an ambassador.  That idea was squashed when the permanent secretary asked Consular Affairs about the idea, and was told that the ambassador had no consular training and that the UK Embassy in Beijing was more qualified by virtue of language and cultural familiarity to issue visas on behalf of The Bahamas.”

The cable said Lafleur also stated that Mitchell had sent another Bahamian to China to promote travel (and visas) to The Bahamas, but that person lacked diplomatic status there and had been removed from the country as a visa overstay.

“Asked why Mitchell would be personally interested in facilitating fraudulent visa issuance to Chinese nationals, Lafleur alleged that Mitchell received a portion of whatever fee the Chinese nationals paid for the visa,” the cable said.

“While lacking hard proof, Lafleur cited the lack of support for the visas from the Chinese Embassy and the involvement of the notorious Sidney Stubbs.”

The cable said Lafleur also expressed relief that Mitchell would not be returning as Foreign Minister.

“Citing internal sources, and noting that Mitchell had already completely cleaned out his office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Lafleur said that regardless of which party wins the election, Minister Mitchell would not be returning.

“Lafleur noted that she favored the governing PLP in the upcoming election, as long as the PLP does not reappoint Mitchell as foreign minister.”

The cable said Lafleur's bribery allegation adds credence to allegations that have long been circulating in The Bahamas regarding Mitchell, and which are being used by the opposition (FNM) to discredit Mitchell, who faces a tight race against a formidable opposition candidate for his  parliamentary seat, the 2007 cable said.

“The allegation also fits with a number of events that took place and suspicions that have been suggested by Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacts,” it added.

“For example, a staff walkout did take place within recent months that was poorly understood and explained in the media.  Newspaper reports have, however, hit around the edges of this scandal, and Mitchell is squarely in the cross hairs of the Free National Movement and its anti-corruption ‘It is About Trust’ election theme.

“In fact, FNM leader [Hubert] Ingraham has privately pledged to devote whatever resources it takes to defeat Mitchell.  The fact that Mitchell now also appears to be a target of his own senior staff — even staff that supports his party's re-election — adds more credibility to the view that Mitchell may not keep his Foreign Affairs portfolio even if he and the PLP are able to win re-election.”

But in his statement yesterday, Mitchell said, “There is not one scintilla of evidence to suggest any malfeasance by me in public office.  In fact, the record shows that with regard to both passport issuance and visa issuance I never issued any visa or passport to anyone or caused such an issuance. [The allegations] were discredited by a thorough police investigation, a management audit by the Public Service Commission and by the auditor general.”

During her contribution in the Senate yesterday, Leader of Opposition Business Allyson Maynard-Gibson said Foulkes’ comments were based on ‘Wikileaks gossip’.

She said there was an investigation into the allegations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before the PLP was voted out of office in May 2007 and added that “no irregularities were found”.

Foulkes tabled the document not long after Maynard-Gibson asked him to.

Feb 16, 2012


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Who will win the 2012 general election? ...Based on a review of the candidates and the reconstituted constituencies, as of today, we believe that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) will win 13 seats... the Free National Movement (FNM) will win 13 seats... the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) will win two seats... and 10 seats are toss ups

Who will win the next general election?

By Philip C. Galanis

(Author’s note: The general content of this column was presented by the author in an address to the Rotary Club of West Nassau at Graycliff Restaurant on Thursday, February 9, 2012.)


This week, as we rapidly approach the general election, we would like to Consider This...who will win the next general election?

Our comments are framed in the context of where we presently stand and our election forecasts will be amended before the general election, much like the frequently updated hurricane predictions we get each year.

For now, however, we believe that the elections are the PLP’s to lose.  There are easily verifiable facts that support the premise that the PLP should win.  They include:

1. The unsubstantiated claims by the FNM that, during its term in office, the PLP had its hands in the cookie jar.  To date, not one iota of credible evidence has been presented by anyone to support that claim.  A reasonable observer could therefore draw the conclusion that either there is no evidence to support this claim or that the accusations could affect other persons the government does not want to implicate.  These assertions suggest an advantage for the PLP because it seems to imply that the leader of the FNM is desperately reverting to innuendos and speculation left over from the 2007 campaign that he knows he still cannot – or will not – substantiate.

2. The PLP is fielding impressive candidates.  With few exceptions, the PLP candidates are untainted and scandal-free, so to paint the entire party with a scandalous brush no longer applies.

3. We should not lose sight of the fact that the FNM also has several persons who are not running again.  Can it be that Hubert Ingraham believes that the FNM cannot withstand the scrutiny and standard of integrity to which he is holding the PLP?  If there is a debate on scandals, there are some in the FNM who would be found wanting and we submit that Ingraham prefers not opening that Pandora’s box.

4. Ingraham’s autocratic and bellicose leadership style has grown tiresome.  He is a one-man band, whose approach is: his way or the highway.  Bahamians are tired of that leadership style, especially young Bahamians who are fast becoming the deciding factors in any general election.

5. The FNM has not introduced any major new projects since assuming office and has completed projects that were conceived, or started, by the PLP.

6. The rise of the national debt to a record $4.2 billion, an increase of $1.2 billion, or 40 percent, in five years.  The consequences of this are enormous and far-reaching, with the burden of debt stretching generationally.

7. Crime is at an all-time high with murder records in four of the last five years, topped by 127 murders in 2011 and 14 so far for 2012.

8. According to the Department of Statistics November Labour Force and Household Income Survey, the country’s unemployment rate is 15.9 percent.  New Providence’s unemployment rate of 15.1 percent and Grand Bahama’s 21.2 percent are abysmal.  Even more disconcerting is that youth unemployment has increased to a staggering 34 percent.

9. Home foreclosures are at record levels.  Even the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation has witnessed unprecedented foreclosures.

10. Thousands of Bahamians cannot afford to keep their electricity connected because they just don’t have the money to do so, sometimes having to choose feeding their families in the dark instead of going hungry with the lights on.  And some families can’t afford either.

11. Special interest groups seem to be the chosen few who are benefiting since the Great Recession started in 2008.  The vast majority of Bahamians have not been so fortunate.  To paraphrase Dickens, these are the best of times for the few and the worst of times for the many.

12. There has been a record number of business closures during the last five years.

13. Individuals and businesses have tremendous difficulty in accessing urgently needed capital for start-up or expansion purposes.

14. The abominably executed roadworks have put hundreds of Bahamians out of business and many workers on the streets.

15. Too many foreigners have been the beneficiaries of the FNM government, at the cost of many unemployed Bahamians who are capable and willing to work.  Foreigners have benefited from the enormous increase in the national debt which Bahamians will have to repay for generations to come.

16. Illegal immigration is out of control with the government bereft of any plans for its containment.

17. The Grand Bahama economy is comatose with no relief in sight for the neglected residents of that island.

18. The misery index has skyrocketed and the rapidly expanding numbers of impoverished Bahamians have lost any hope of maintaining their expected standard of living.  The Bahamian middle-class is rapidly vanishing.

Registered voters

A record number of 154,391 voters registered as of February 3, 2012 compared to 150,684 in 2007.  We predict that a record number of persons will vote in 2012.  As we witnessed in 1967, 1992, 2002 and 2007, Bahamians have a history of voting governments out of office instead of voting for a party to become the government.  Bahamians have registered in such large numbers because they are discouraged, disillusioned and disappointed and want the government to know it by sending a definitive message via their ballots.

The DNA factor

The DNA will mount an impressive challenge to the established parties and in some cases will be spoilers by determining the outcome for candidates who would not likely win unless there are three candidates.

If the DNA wins several seats, we could end up with a coalition government, which last occurred when there were 38 seats in Parliament.

Predictions for the elections

Based on a review of the candidates and the reconstituted constituencies, as of today, we believe that the PLP will win 13 seats, the FNM will win 13 seats, the DNA will win two seats, and 10 seats are toss ups.

Closing the deal

If the PLP is going to win, it must do several things:

1. This election must not be fought on the PLP’s 2002 – 2007 record.  This is Ingraham’s game plan and the PLP must not allow him to frame the debate along these lines.

2. The PLP must contest this election by fighting on three premises:

a) The state of the Bahamian economy.  The PLP should ask the voter: “Are you better off today than you were in May 2007?”  We believe the honest reply will be a resounding no!

b) The PLP must clearly articulate its vision for the future.  Voters have grown weary of hearing about the accomplishments of the past and want to hear about future plans for the nation and for the people.  The PLP must make this a campaign about ideas and vision and not about leadership and personalities.

c) The PLP must showcase the impressive talent of its team and richness of its ideas.  Above all, the PLP must convince the Bahamian people that they will not allow any single individual to dictate the course of policy formulation as the great debate regarding the development of a modern Bahamas continues.


As the election approaches, we will refine our predictions and be more definitive about those toss up seats.

•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: pgalanis@gmail.com

Feb 13, 2012


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bahamians of Haitian descent did not see anything wrong with Haitian President Michel Martelly’s message to Haitian-Bahamians and Haitians on his recent visit to The Bahamas

Young Haitian-Bahamians weigh in on Martelly controversy

By Krystel Rolle
Guardian Staff Reporter

Two Bahamians of Haitian descent have weighed in on the raging debate over Haitian President Michel Martelly’s recent controversial statements, saying that his comments were “blown out of proportion” and “misunderstood”.

During an interview on the Star 106.5 FM radio program ‘Jeffrey’ on Monday evening, Manishka Desinor, 26, who was naturalized three years ago, and Allie Lafleur, 28, who was naturalized recently, said they did not see anything wrong with Martelly’s message to Haitian-Bahamians and Haitians last Tuesday.

As previously reported by The Nassau Guardian, in a meeting with over 6,000 Haitians and Haitian-Bahamians at the Church of God Auditorium on Joe Farrington Road, Martelly urged them to align themselves with the political party that will best serve their interests.

“I told them to organize themselves and identify in the upcoming elections who is on their side. That way they can become a force. By being [unified] in the elections they might have people taking care of them. . .this is the democratic way,” the Haitian president said.

His comments sparked outrage among some Bahamians.

But Desinor and Lafleur do not see why his comments caused such a ruckus.

“I don’t think [Bahamians] should be upset about that,” Lafleur said.

“It’s just a comment he’s making to the people. He’s not telling you who to vote for. I can understand if he’s telling you to vote for the PLP or the DNA, then yeah, you could be offended. But he isn’t saying go ahead and vote for [any party]. He’s telling you to vote for the party of your choice.”

Desinor agreed.

“I don’t think he meant to cause any harm or make Bahamians feel like he’s butting into our affairs,” she said, adding that the media misinterpreted Martelly’s statements.

But some members of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) did see it that way.

In fact, DNA leader Branville McCartney called for Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham’s resignation, suggesting that the prime minister invited Martelly for political gain.

Ingraham has since refuted that claim.

PLP leader Perry Christie also took issue with Martelly’s statements, suggesting that the Haitian president was out of order.

But Lafleur said he thinks the PLP and the DNA are using the issue for political gain.

Desinor said she doesn’t know anyone in the Haitian community who intends to follow Martelly’s advice to form a voting bloc.

In fact, she said she is considering voting for an independent candidate.

Desinor became eligible to vote about three years ago when her application for citizenship was granted, a process that she said took three years.

Lafleur said he was naturalized 10 years after he applied.

Even though both Desinor and Lafleur’s parents are Haitians who illegally migrated to The Bahamas, the pair who were born in The Bahamas said they are just as much Bahamian as those born to Bahamian parents.

“I don’t consider myself a Haitian. I think of myself as a Bahamian,” Desinor said.

They both claimed that they have been discriminated against because of their parents’ nationality.

Desinor said that when she was growing up she felt “terrible and out of place; like I didn’t belong.”

While they don’t agree that people who were born here to Haitian parents are stateless, they admitted that it is frustrating not having Bahamian status upon birth.

“It’s stressful at times, knowing that you want to do things and you can not.  At 18 your life is at a standstill. You can’t do anything until your citizenship is approved,” Desinor said.

Feb 15, 2012


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The facts of Haitian President Michel Martelly visit to The Bahamas have been twisted out of all proportion... not only by the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) leader - Bran McCartney... but by Opposition leader Perry Christie and his Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) colleagues

The Haitian president not invited - just passing through

tribune242 editorial

DNA LEADER Bran McCartney has called for the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, accusing him of committing treason for allowing Haitian President Michel Martelly not only to overnight in the Bahamas, but to meet with his nationals while here.

"We are calling for the immediate resignation of Hubert Alexander Ingraham," DNA leader Bran McCartney told the press. "He has shamelessly disgraced our nation, his authority and this nation's ideals. He has insulted our people and his post as CEO of the Bahamas. He should indeed bow his head and be cast out, as it is clear he has denounced his citizenship in order to put another country's interest before his own."

What a fiery young man Mr McCartney has turned out to be. The more he talks, the more he confirms our opinion that we are dealing with a political novice who needs much more time to mature. At this critical stage of our country's development, this is not the type of ill-informed leadership that is needed. It almost sounds as though we have a budding dictator on our hands.

The facts of the Martelly visit have been twisted out of all proportion, not only by Mr McCartney, but by Opposition leader Perry Christie and his colleagues.

To listen to them, one would have thought that Mr Ingraham had given President Martelly a script from which to read. Mr Ingraham did not invite the president to Nassau. He did not tell him that before he could talk to his own people he had to first submit a script of what he intended to say to the Bahamas government, and if he dared misstep he would be kicked out of the country. This certainly is not the procedure expected of a democratic country.

Mr McCartney also condemned Mr Christie for being "too quiet on this issue of national importance". We would have expected Mr Christie, a seasoned politician, to have continued his silence on the matter knowing the protocol of such visits. But not Mr Christie, he could not be seen by his supporters as being weak and so was goaded on to make himself look foolish. After all, it was Mr Christie and his party that seemed to take more of a personal interest in the President's presence than did Mr Ingraham and his government.

For example, no FNM politicians attended the Joe Farrington Road meeting when President Martelly addressed his people. However, there certainly were PLP politicians present that night, among them MP Alfred Sears, former PLP attorney general, and Dr Andre Rollins, PLP candidate for Fort Charlotte. And so, until he could read the news the next day, neither Mr Ingraham, nor any of his cabinet, knew what the Haitian president had said to the estimated 7,000 persons crowded around him that night.

Mr Ingraham officially met the president in his office the next morning -- before he had had an opportunity to be briefed on what had taken place the evening before. However, Mr Christie later in the day not only knew what had been said -- to which he now so strongly objects -- but entertained Mr Martelly at his home with several of his PLP colleagues around him. If Mr Christie, or any of his colleagues, had disagreed with anything that had been said the night before, it was there and then that they should have had a discussion and cleared the air. But no, Mr Christie had to jump on the political bandwagon and condemn the visit. Did he really believe in what he was saying from a public platform, or was it only after being accused of being "too quiet" that he spoke up?

President Martelly neither asked, nor did he need permission to visit the Bahamas.
Contrary to Mr McCartney's statement, the Bahamas government did not invite Mr Martelly to the Bahamas. The President's government notified Foreign Affairs that Mr Martelly would be passing through the Bahamas on his way to Mexico. While here, he wanted to meet with the Prime Minister and the Governor General. These meetings took place.

Mr Ingraham said that Mr Martelly needed no permission to meet with his people.
He pointed out that the PLP went to London to meet with "Bahamian students in connection with the election that is coming up to encourage them to support the PLP because they have overseas voting. They went to Jamaica to do the same thing. They went to Miami, Atlanta and, I believe, New York, etc. Do you think they asked President Barack Obama whether they could come and do that? Of course not. Did they ask Prime Minister Cameron of Great Britain? No, they didn't. Why should the Haitian or the Jamaican or anybody else need to ask us permission to do so? We are a free country. We are a democracy. And just as we are able to go to other people's country and meet with our nationals at any time of our choosing, why shouldn't they have the same right to do so in The Bahamas?"

However, Mr Ingraham did give Mr McCartney some sound advice.

"One of the things that young politicians and old politicians ought to do," he said, "is to establish themselves as credible persons; that you take steps to verify things before you make pronouncements. You don't go and shoot your mouth off and make statements that are untrue and that can easily be verified in advance. Carelessness is not a good thing for a young politician, or indeed an old politician. I caution Mr McCartney not to continue telling lies."

February 13, 2012

tribune242 editorial

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Bahamian government must be dedicated to ongoing funding of education at all levels... ...Further, a corresponding factor is the need for our leaders to actively pursue the diversification of our economy... ...The lack of diversity within our economic model and the depressed economic environment in The Bahamas does not favor young and up-and-coming professionals, entrepreneurs and investors...

Where do we go from here? Pt. 2

By Arinthia S. Komolafe:

A major obstacle that youth and our emerging leaders face is the lack of adequate education and/or opportunities to pursue higher education.  During 2009-2010, a major topic of discussion was subsidies provided to learning institutions.  The government announced that it was decreasing its subsidy to independent schools by 20 percent.  Many were outraged by this move; not least the parents themselves who were already faced with rising education costs and would consequently rethink their desire to privately educate their children.  In some cases many were forced to enroll their children in the public school system.

Proponents of the subsidy argue that parents who choose to send their children to private school are paying double, as their taxpaying dollars are already used to fund public schools.  At the same time, they take additional funds out of their pockets to educate their children privately.  It is worth noting, however, that those opposed to such subsidies believe this reduces the amount of funds available to public schools who ultimately suffer among other things the plight of underpaid educators, understaffed schools, inadequate infrastructure or reduced supplies.

The government’s reasoning for subsidy reduction was that certain independent schools received higher subsidies in comparison to public schools.  However, this argument was perceived by some as skewed, as the government itself operates approximately 160 institutions and is responsible for operating expenses, wages and other costs.

Nevertheless, the most alarming revelation was the statement that all but three of the independent schools were in contravention of the education (grants in aid) regulations by not submitting the requisite returns of income and expenditure.  It is necessary to ascertain upon which basis the government decides the level of subsidy it disburses – bearing in mind that independent schools also receive grants from private donors and/or the denominations that they are affiliated with.

Although there is a strong case for maintaining these subsidies, increased accountability should be demanded from recipients of tax-payers’ funds.  It was recently stated that many of the independent schools have become compliant.  However, the public has not been advised of how many of the independent schools remain non-compliant.  Ironically, it’s difficult to imagine that the government would aggressively ensure compliance with these regulations, when the government itself appears to be acting ultra vires of the same by exceeding the limits apportioned to various classes of schools. It is therefore incumbent upon the government to make the necessary amendments to adjust for the increases and/or new recipients of grants.

Nevertheless, subsidies provided to independent schools, (which generally produce better national results compared to the public system) can provide a good foundation in primary and secondary education to afford more Bahamians an opportunity to pursue tertiary level education.  Statistics reveal that only 20 percent of The Bahamian labor force attain a university degree.  It should also be noted that these statistics include expatriates, therefore decreasing the ultimate rate for Bahamians. The statistics are not unconnected to the lack of opportunities to obtain higher education in a broad range of fields locally.  The inability to receive diverse higher education outside of a few concentrated areas in The Bahamas has led several Bahamian students to pursue education abroad.  In 2010, the government questioned the wisdom of maintaining current subsidies of approximately $4 million for 197 Bahamian students attending University of the West Indies (UWI).  The real question should have been the potential downside of removing the aforesaid subsidies.  Removal of subsidies of this nature at this time will decrease the opportunities for Bahamians to become qualified in fields such as medicine at a reduced cost until such time as they can do so locally.  It is sad to say that in 21st century Bahamas, Bahamians are still not able to qualify as doctors and engineers locally. Until such time as The College of The Bahamas has been converted to a university and provides science and technological services, the discussion should remain a moot point.

Debt and education

Flowing from this inability of Bahamians to be educated locally is the burden of debt acquired in pursuance of tertiary education abroad and hence the student debt loan crisis.  The government Guaranteed Loan Fund Program (GGLFP) was suspended by the current administration in 2009 at a time when many parents cannot afford tertiary education for their children in the absence of awarded scholarships.  As a result, persons unable to take advantage of the GGLFP are often left with no option but to obtain consumer loans from banks and other financial institutions where rates tend to be unfavorable.  Some aspiring students who cannot obtain loans are forced to depend on their parents who in turn resort to remortgaging their homes in order to give their offspring a chance to achieve the Bahamian Dream.

This week, Bloomberg reported a significant increase in student loan debts over the past three to four years.  The report was compiled from a survey of about 860 bankruptcy lawyers under the umbrella of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys in the United States.  It was reported that student loan debt (both federal and private) in the United States is approaching $1 trillion and surpassed credit card debt for the first time in 2010.

In The Bahamas, it is estimated that some 5,000 applicants have benefited from the GGLFP since its inception in 2001.  At its debut, the program had nearly exhausted its $100 million statutory budget in less than two years, placing the sustainability of the fund at risk.  It is estimated that approximately $70 million of funds were in default before suspension of the program.  It was further stated at that time that the continuance of the program depended upon the defaulters repaying their outstanding debts.

The importance of planning for our children’s future via investments in educational funds and college funds cannot be overemphasized.  The program was plagued by multiple challenges that seemed to disadvantage the recipient of these loans.  The rate of interest, which had originally been subsidized at 50 percent by the government, was exorbitant and on the same level as that of mortgage loans.

It is worth noting that the subsidy has been reinstated in certain circumstances.  The payment terms were unfavorable and required recipients to pay large monthly payments in a short period of time, at times not taking into consideration other payment obligations of the recipient like additional student loans or car loans.  The lending institutions driven by profits, failed to take into consideration the proposed monthly payments in comparison to the earning capacity of the recipient.  As a result, the high monthly payments provided more of a burden for the recipient and/or guarantor who was accustomed to paying low interest payments that were presumably based upon their credit risk at the time the loan was approved.

The overall management of these student loans including the payment schedules, terms of payment, notification of past due payments and structuring of payments by financial institutions leaves much to be desired.  It could be argued that the poor management and minimal attention paid to this program by these institutions is because payment from the government is guaranteed in the event of defaults.  How much attention is given to the management of this program and other student loan programs to ensure that the interests of the students/borrowers are protected?

Huge monthly payments have in many cases exhausted a recipient’s debt-service ratio and have prevented many young professionals from qualifying for mortgage loans or funding for their entrepreneurial pursuits.  Consequently, many individuals are delayed from moving toward ownership in the Bahamian economy.  The extent of the challenges faced by young and up-and-coming professionals will more than likely be further exposed once the proposed credit bureau is fully implemented and operational.

Govt decision questionable

The Obama administration is proposing an overhaul of the student loan program in America by removing the current subsidies to private lending institutions.  The proposed term to forgive loans will be reduced from 25 to 20 years and the proposed monthly payments will be capped at 10 percent of the recipient’s discretionary income, representing a reduction from 15 percent.  Further, students with multiple loans will be given the option to consolidate and take advantage of lower interest rates.

A similar approach ought to be considered for existing defaulters and future reinstatement of the program in The Bahamas.  The government’s decision to suspend the program indefinitely and not address the student loan debt crisis is a flawed one.  This decision does not send a good message on government’s commitment to higher education of the youth in The Bahamas.  Further, the lending institutions must be engaged to re-evaluate their requirements and terms for student loans.  A universal amnesty period should be looked at for all outstanding recipients to pay a one-off minimal amount and restructure their loans, extend payment terms and effectively reduce monthly payments.

The government must be dedicated to ongoing funding of education at all levels.  Further, a corresponding factor is the need for our leaders to actively pursue the diversification of our economy.  The lack of diversity within our economic model and the depressed economic environment in The Bahamas does not favor young and up-and-coming professionals, entrepreneurs and investors.  These realities make the Bahamian Dream seem so unreachable, unattainable and at best a mirage.  A brain drain is certain to be a surety in our future, unless we place more emphasis upon education.  The question as to where we go from here is one that only the government and our leaders can answer through their policies, decisions and actions.

•Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law.  Comments can be directed at: arinthia.komolafe@Komolafelaw.com

Feb 09, 2012


Where do we go from here? pt. 1

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Haitian President Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly's visit to The Bahamas and the politics of Bahamian Politicians in regards to it

By Dennis Dames:

The recent visit by the president of Haiti, Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly to The Bahamas - has created the perfect non-issue for political parties that are grasping at straws. The Haitian President advised Bahamian voters of Haitian descent to simply vote for the party and candidates that best suit their interests – in the upcoming general election. It’s something that we all should do; it’s the essence of politics and elections in a democracy in my view.

So what’s the uproar all about? Well, they are looking for votes by hook or crook. So, one easy way to do it is to stir up the emotion of the Bahamian electorate on the illegal immigration issue; where unregulated Haitians are at the heart. Offering substantive suggestions on how we could deal effectively with our illegal immigration challenges are lacking on the part of political parties in The Bahamas; especially the opposition lot. Their prime perspective is to send all illegals home forthwith; nothing more – nothing less. It’s an impractical and unworkable solution laced with man’s inhumanity to man – in my opinion.

The fringe political party, Democratic National Alliance (DNA) and its politically crazy leader – Branville McCartney went to town with all kinds of nonsense regarding the Haitian President’s words to his people and Bahamian-Haitian voters. He said that the president’s remarks were a direct attack on Bahamian democracy and all Bahamians. McCartney further stated that “Sweet Micky” should respect the sovereignty of our democracy. What did Mr. Martelly do or say that we missed which instigated such empty sentiments by the leader of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA)?

Bradley Roberts, Chairman of the official opposition - Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) said that he thought that it was an insult to the Bahamian people that a foreigner would come to The Bahamas to instruct Bahamian citizens to vote one way or the other. When did president Martelly do this Mr. Roberts?

Others have said that the president of Haiti’s visit was ill-timed because of a general election being around the corner in The Bahamas.

The bottom-line is this: opposition parties in The Bahamas feel and know deep inside their hearts that Bahamian voters of Haitian descent will support the governing Free National Movement (FNM) in the greatest numbers in the approaching general election; because Haitian-Bahamians believe that the FNM is the political vehicle in The Bahamas that has their best interest at heart.

The other parties are strong on their anti-foreign and immigrant messages. Everyone with eyes to see, and ears to hear knows this. Do not blame Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly for the hate and divisions within the Bahamian society caused by Bahamian politicians who simply do not like outsiders.

The time has come for the Bahamian people to realize the enormous benefits of trade and cooperation with our neighbor to the south – Haiti. President Martelly spoke about creating jobs for his people so that they do not have to leave Haiti looking for the same; and he encouraged his compatriots in The Bahamas to return home to help build their poor nation.

The main purpose of the Haitian president’s visit to The Bahamas according to news reports was to promote Haiti as a nation ripe for investments and full of opportunities. He encouraged his people to unite with him to turn things around in Haiti for the durable better.

President Martelly brought hope to his people in The Bahamas, and Bahamians should see the wisdom and benefits of a Haiti on the move with increasing economic benefits to The Bahamas and its people.

This is something to rejoice about, and Bahamians should welcome a new era of success and prosperity with Haiti and its people.

Caribbean Blog International

Michael Telairin, Coordinator of the United Haitian Bahamian Association of The Bahamas says that Haitian President Michel Martelly’s visit to The Bahamas this week was positive, but his message was misunderstood... ...Martelly said that those Haitian-Bahamians who have the opportunity to vote in The Bahamas' upcoming general election, should support the party who has their interest at heart ...and these comments are articulated by every politician and religious leader ...so it should not have such a negative reaction

Haitian-Bahamian group says Martelly was misunderstood

By Royston Jones Jr
Guardian Staff Reporter

United Haitian Bahamian Association of The Bahamas Coordinator, Michael Telairin, said yesterday Haitian President Michel Martelly’s visit to The Bahamas this week was positive, but his message was misunderstood.

Telairin also said Martelly’s timing was “unfortunate due to the political climate” which has escalated the negative reaction to his message to members of the Haitian community here.

Telairin is a Bahamian citizen, whose parents are of Haitian descent.

Martelly spoke to thousands of Haitians and Haitian-Bahamians on Tuesday night at the Church of God on Joe Farrington Road.

He urged them to form a voting bloc in The Bahamas and align themselves with the political party that will best serve their interests.

“I told them to organize themselves and identify in the upcoming election who is on their side. That way they can become a force. By being [unified] in the elections they might have people taking care of them. . .this is the democratic way,” said Martelly on Wednesday.

However, the Haitian Embassy said yesterday that some of Martelly’s comments were misunderstood, claiming “he did not intend to interfere in any way with the internal politics of The Bahamas”.

The statement noted that the primary purpose of the president’s visit was to discuss business and investment opportunities in Haiti to improve the lives of Haitians so they do not have to migrate to other countries.

“The Embassy of Haiti wants to highlight the importance of making inroads towards improving relations between the two countries through mutual and respectful cooperation,” the statement said.

Telairin reiterated that Martelly’s message was taken out of context and insisted that message was very informative and needed.

“[The president’s message and] visit really wasn’t to stir up any commotion,” Telairin said.

Radio talk shows were flooded with calls from angry Bahamians yesterday, claiming that Martelly’s comments would encourage newly regularized Bahamians to vote for the Free National Movement.

“The negative opinions that Bahamians have been expressing on many radio talk shows are not called for,” Telairin said.

“He (Martelly) said that those who have the opportunity to vote, should vote for the party who has their interest at heart and these comments are articulated by every politician and religious leader so it should not have such a negative reaction.

“His position right now is to get the people to understand that he is for them and his address and tour during his time here was to reinforce that message.”

Telairin added, “What he was also telling [Haitians and Haitian-Bahamians] in attendance...is that they have to understand they should not expect all the laws in The Bahamas to be to their advantage and he said to continue to respect the law of the land.”

Martelly arrived in The Bahamas Tuesday night and left on Wednesday.

Feb 10, 2012