Nassau Guardian Stories
November 10, 2014
In what the company is referring to as "a repositioning" in response to "numerous requests for overnight cruises to Bimini", Resorts World Bimini (RWB) - which lost about $30 million in the first half of 2014 - has canceled the Bimini SuperFast Port Everglades route after less than one month of operation.
SuperFast announced the schedule change last week, revealing that the ship will revert to offering four overnight cruises to Bimini from Port Miami.
Meanwhile, RWB issued a press release on the so-called repositioning.
"Following numerous requests for overnight cruises to Bimini, Resorts World Bimini has announced the repositioning of Bimini SuperFast to
operate two-night cruises from Port Miami on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, departing at 5 p.m. and returning at noon two days later. Additionally, the company will offer a one-night weekend cruise on Saturdays, departing Port Miami at 5 p.m., returning at noon on Sundays. The new schedule begins Thursday, November 13, 2014."
Bimini SuperFast began offering trips from Port Everglades on October 14. However, average passenger numbers quickly dropped.
Resorts World Bimini is owned by Genting Malaysia; the company completed the first phase of its port facility in September after a series of challenges, including resistance from environmental groups over the port's dredging. Genting purchased 6.6 additional hectares of land for nearly $25 million in September for further expansion of RWB.
RWB is currently scheduled to open a 305-room hotel on Bimini in January, but the market has expressed doubts that the resort will turn a profit in the first half of the year.
A report by CIMB Group, the largest Asia Pacific-based investment bank, has projected that the controversial resort will not turn a profit until Q3 2015.
Genting Malaysia's second quarterly report filed in August 2014 indicated that RWB operated at a loss of over $16.1 million in Q2 2014, a slight increase from the previous quarter. The resort has operated at a loss since it opened in 2013, due to what Genting has categorized as continued "operational challenges as a result of the infrastructure and hotel capacity constraints".
Despite RWB's continued operating loss, the Genting report suggested that RWB's numbers would grow following the completion of its controversial deep-water jetty. However, the cancelation of the Bimini SuperFast service casts a questioning light on that assumption.
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November 10, 2014
As The College of The Bahamas (COB) continues its transition to university status, the focus on international partnerships becomes ever more clear, as was highlighted by recent talks with Ambassador of Ireland to The Bahamas Dr. Ray Bassett.
Bassett met with new COB President Dr. Rodney Smith, Secretary to the College of The Bahamas Council Michael Stevenson and others at COB to discuss cooperation between COB and tertiary institutions in Ireland.
"It was a very good meeting," Bassett told Guardian Business. "My hope is to build some strong bilateral connections. Both The Bahamas and Ireland evolved out of the old British Empire and therefore inherited many similar institutions and practices, including the use of Common Law. Therefore it is a natural linkup."
Bassett noted that all universities are trying to increase their international connections, and pointed out that with COB set to become the University of The Bahamas next year, seeking and securing international partners would become the norm.
"I have been in contact with a number of universities in Ireland, and several have indicated a desire to link up with the COB," he said. "We are providing names and email addresses for the follow-up."
"It is likely that institutions will want to put their cooperation on a firm legal basis by signing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) which would outline their future cooperation," he added.
Bassett also told Guardian Business that he was working to interest Bahamian students in studying in Ireland.
"Many Bahamian students in the past studied in London," he noted. "The U.K. has become more restrictive in its student policy towards countries outside the EU. Ireland is seeking to attract some of those students as an alternative."
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November 10, 2014
Ascot Grand Bahama condo-tel developer Steve Bell said the project, which had been kept secret until last month, is now one year in the gestation phase. He described the project as being built not on dreams but on "solid, conservative financials and with perfect timing". Speaking at a Rotary meeting in Grand Bahama, Bell acknowledged that while there have been a number of people with negative responses to the project, the interest from the industry was "immediate" and "overwhelming".
The developer was enthusiastic about the prospects for Ascot, Grand Bahama.
"The progress to date has been monumental. It took a year of research, refinement, meetings and planning, but within hours of the project going public, investors started calling, and we have already shelved one while determining the absolute best deal for the project and whether we require any more assistance than what is already here on the island," Bell said.
He also reported that pre-construction sales are set to begin "in the coming months" and have generated "overwhelming immediate interest".
Bell lives on Grand Bahama, and told the meeting he had been reluctant to take on a project in his home, admitting to a certain skepticism. Still, he said, his views have clearly changed.
"It is very clear to me, based on more than 25 years' experience, that this island is not just the soundest investment in The Bahamas but, with the assistance of the Port Authority, it is also the most attractive for business," Bell said.
Bell unveiled Ascot, Grand Bahama, in September. He called it simply "a beachfront residential-resort development", but the artwork and other plans describe an 18-acre spread sporting about 300 resort-residences within walking distance to Port Lucaya. Bell is partnered with world-renowned chef Tim Tibbits, of the AAA 4 Diamond-ranked Flying Fish in Freeport.
Who's behind the scenes
Bell sought to answer some of the questions about who was involved in the project and how it evolved; questions he said were only natural.
"It started from Harry Rahming, a local businessman, suggesting that maybe I should consider this project and tenaciously pushed me until I broke down, did a thorough analysis and decided to commit time and money. Landowner Suzanne Mandt-Raunch, who loves the island, agreed that it is now time to collaborate on something significant for what was her home for so long," Bell reported.
Lawyers Terence Gape, Tara Dorsette and Adam Cafferata are involved in various aspects of the project, as is accountant Maitland Cates and construction professional Wolfgang Geiger.
"Then, of course, comes even more overwhelming support from people that most people know but may never had connected to a project like this," Bell said. "Tony Hanna, AKA 'Tony Macaroni', ensures that all people that come to the island to inspect the site and project get true Bahamian cuisine and hospitality. Lyndah Wells assists with photography of all participants and both her and Mark Da Cunha gathered images for use in proposals."
Project Director Kevin Hubbard is also involved. Hubbard did construction at the Lucayan Plaza Beach Resort and Emerald Bay Resort in the Exumas.
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November 10, 2014
Given the scramble around the region and here at home to spur growth, Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell said Bahamians are spending far too much time talking about immigration; rather, they should be focused on "stubbornly high" unemployment, disenfranchised young people and crime.
Mitchell told Guardian Business that talk about immigration "raids" and "roundups" serve no constructive purpose.
"That is a distraction - by elements for whatever reason - to try and stop the policy," he said. "When you look at the policy, it is totally innocuous. There is nothing that you can argue against that says if you are not a Bahamian national you need to have a passport and a residency stamp to be in The Bahamas. Now what is the issue with that?"
Elaborating with told Guardian Business on a point he made at the graduating ceremony for immigration officers in Grand Bahama, Mitchell suggested that, while illegal immigration is a part of the panoply of challenges facing The Bahamas, too much of the national debate is devoted to it.
In fact, Mitchell pointed out that the Department of Immigration has a budget of less than $18 million at its disposal from the government.
"The size of our economy is $8 billion. That amount is just about 0.23 of a percent of our total GDP. If you divide the percent in the hours of the day, we should only spend three minutes a day talking about immigration," he said at the ceremony.
As for addressing the challenges facing the Department of Immigration with a budget of that size, he said:"It's monitoring and enforcement; that's what you can do... You have what you have."
"The big issue is the economy," Mitchell insisted. "We can do all things - well, most things - if we can grow this economy. We're fighting tooth and nail to make sure we grow the economy. If you grow the economy, you have the revenue base and the resources to do [what you need to do]."
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November 10, 2014
After a 15 month-wait and several rounds of rigorous government-mandated testing, Caribbean Pavement Solutions (CPS) is looking to officially bring its "revolutionary" RejuvaSeal to airports and roadways across the nation.
"The introduction of RejuvaSeal to the local market will usher in a new era for preventative maintenance of roads and airport," said the company's managing director, Dr. Allen Albury.
An American corporation with headquarters in Texas and China, RejuvaSeal manufactures its eponymous asphalt rejuvenator which is used to revitalize, seal and protect asphalt-paved airport runways and roadways in a number of jurisdictions.
RejuvaSeal is the linchpin of two proposals submitted by Caribbean Pavement Solutions to the government in July 2013.
The company, a subsidiary of Bahamas Striping, proposes to use RejuvaSeal at 10 airports, in addition to installing perimeter fencing and lighting for $10 million.
The second proposal seeks to have the company apply RejuvaSeal to roads in 10 Family Islands, in addition to road striping, installing cat eyes (reflective road studs used as safety lights), producing road signage and establishing a road education program, all for another $10 million.
RejuvaSeal has been used for over 40 years on various types of asphalt paving and by the U.S. Air Force, said Albury.
Still, the product required Civil Aviation and Ministry of Works approval for use on government projects. Caribbean Pavement Solutions invested around $125,000 in research and development with these various tests.
"We've been in various discussions at various levels of government over the past several months," said Albury. "With respect to the airport and roadways projects, they have received favorable preliminary approvals. The test results would actually solidify those proposed projects and move them forward."
CPS conducted a series of tests on various pavements types, such as asphalt and sand seal pavements to gauge RejuvaSeal's performance under local conditions.
"The main testing area for the government was the Rock Sound Airport," said Atario Mitchell, president of Bahamas Striping Group of Companies. "The company also carried out private demonstrations for local business owners, in addition to a RejuvaSeal application in West End, Grand Bahama."
At the Rock Sound Airport, the company tested the RejuvaSeal in three different application rates - light, medium and heavy. The goal was to determine how the sand seal surface would react to the different levels and what application would be best for the area, Mitchell explained.
The company also took core samples which tested for RejuvaSeal's level of penetration. Samples were sent to an independent U.S. lab for testing.
"The core sample confirms that the RejuvaSeal does what it's supposed to do, that is, to penetrate the pavement. We had an 80 percent penetration ratio when compared to asphalt."
Other sealers on the market simply coat a pavement. Thus, they tend to lay-over the top of pavements and eventually flake or peel off. RejuvaSeal is said to be the complete opposite.
"What RejuvaSeal does is actually penetrates the asphalt pavement and restores the coal tar binder in the asphalt and literally reverses the aging process," said Mitchell, who believes the product is also ideal for private projects such as gated communities, shopping plazas, parking lots and the like.
Two final tests, friction and permeability testing, took place last week. Approximately,150 feet of RejuvaSeal was applied at the Rock Sound Airport and on another 100-foot stretch of sand sealed road in Eleuthera.
"The whole idea is to determine when we put this material down on a road surface, runway, or taxiway, does it alter the friction capacity of any type of motorized vehicle whether it is an airplane or car," Mitchell explained. "Does it reduce the friction level and create more of a slippery service, or does it maintain the friction capacity that it typically would have?"
Test results are expected within two weeks. Based on RejuvaSeal's performance in similar jurisdictions, the company anticipates favorable results.
"This would allow for the extension of the life of the asphalt pavement prior to its complete rehabilitation," said Mitchell.
RejuvaSeal Corporate puts it this way: for every $1 spent on its pavement preservation product, it's $10 to $15 saved.
"When you look at the amount of money spent on road works in The Bahamas I would say this has the potential to save the government millions," said Mitchell.
If the government green lights its two proposals, Caribbean Pavement Solutions has plans to construct a RejuvaSeal and cold patch manufacturing plant in Grand Bahama in 2015.
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November 10, 2014
Tourism officials are anticipating an increase in airlift to The Bahamas from Europe, thanks to many promising discussions with travel partners at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London.
The Ministry of Tourism is currently working on reintroducing direct charter flights from Italy to Grand Bahama and bringing back direct flights from Germany. Visitors from both those countries are up six percent.
Ministry of Tourism Director of Europe Anthony Stuart said senior tourism officials had progressive meetings with tour operators and airlines from the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany during the four-day trade show.
"We are looking at partnering with them to get direct service out of those areas, and where we can't get direct service, we are discussing getting services via Miami, New York, Atlanta and all the major gateways to make travel from Europe to The Bahamas more convenient."
If successful, those two flights will add to the European airlift that is already on-stream and on the way.
British Airways continues to offer direct flights into Nassau and, thanks to Delta Airlines, many more Europeans will have a convenient way of getting to the islands of The Bahamas next year.
"Through their Atlanta hub, Delta is planning to put on a non-stop flight into Nassau, which would give connections from 18 different points in Europe, so that adds a whole new dimension to the way that we generate traffic from Europe," explained Senior Director of Airlift Tyrone Sawyer.
The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism has renewed its focus on the U.K./European market, which has remained consistent over the past few years, but, according to the director, the numbers need to be higher.
"We expect to finish the year with about 75,000 to 80,000 visitors for Europe, very similar to last year's numbers. I'd like us to cross the 100,000 visitor threshold from this market, and we can do it because we have a product that Europeans love and many new things coming on-stream," said Stuart.
WTM wrapped up in London this Thursday. Senior tourism officials dubbed the event a successful one.
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November 10, 2014
The first Long Island Bahamas Business Outlook (BBO) is set for November 12 at the Community Centre in Clarence Town.
The Counsellors Ltd. chief and Founder of the BBO Joan Albury cited her own "deep roots" in Long Island and said that "to finally return to the island where so many of my antecedents hail from is an honor and part of an overall push that I hope would thrust Long Island's economic fortunate to the forefront".
Adrian Gibson, a presenter who is also a native Long Islander, was exuberant about the BBO coming to Long Island, pointing out that he had literally pleaded with Albury in the past to consider Long Island as a stop for the event. He noted that he was elated that Long Island was finally having an opportunity to showcase itself and to make the case for any economic and social incentives and assistance that it needs. Gibson -- a businessman, educator, attorney-at-law and newspaper columnist -- referred to the BBO as being a vehicle that could lead to "the economic boost that Long Island greatly needs. It is the hope of the organizers of the BBO that it would stimulate economic growth on that island".
Long Island joins a list of islands which have been participants in the business forum. The BBO has over the years become the premier business conference in The Bahamas, having been held in New Providence for more than two decades and, subsequently, in Grand Bahama, Abaco, the Exumas, Andros and Eleuthera.
"The Bahamas Business Outlook has always featured a diverse cadre of speakers, of movers and shakers in The Bahamas and/or in their specific sphere of Bahamian life. These persons can collectively be seen as true nation builders," Albury said.
The first annual Long Island Business Outlook seeks to encapsulate much of what has been done at past business outlooks and will feature presentations by a wide array speakers. It will be held Wednesday, November 12, 2014, and will take the format of a one-day forum where the theme will be "Charting the course for growth".
This outlook will cover a number of pressing issues and feature speakers such as Captain Tellis Bethel, deputy commodore of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force; Cheryl de Goicoechea, president of the Long Island Chamber of Commerce; Ian Knowles, chief councillor of local government; Adrian Gibson, businessman and attorney-at-law; Edison Sumner, co-chair of the VAT Education Task Force and CEO of The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation; Lynn Gape, deputy executive director of the Bahamas National Trust; Philip Beneby, assistant general manager of Family Island/Business Development, Water and Sewerage Corporation; Dr. Pearl McMillan, director of public health; and William and Britta Trubridge, representatives of The Caribbean Yoga Retreats.
Long Island faces a sluggish economy, lack of government initiatives and incentives, high unemployment and what appears to be a lack of a long-term development plan for that island. The Long Island Business Outlook will be one of the first such outlets for taking an intimate look at some of these disquieting concerns.
For further information or to register, interested persons may contact Margaret Albury, The Counsellors Ltd at 242-322-1000; Cheryl de Goicoechea, Long Island Chamber of Commerce at 242-338-0103 and Dawn Simmons, Ministry of Tourism at 464-2308. Registration for Long Island Business Outlook is also available at www.tclevents.com.
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November 09, 2014
President and founder of Bahamas Faith Ministries International (BMFI) Dr. Myles Munroe, his wife Ruth and seven others were killed in a plane crash in Freeport, Grand Bahama, on Sunday afternoon.
Authorities said the plane took off from Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) at 4:07 and crashed while making an approach for landing at Grand Bahama International Airport at 5:10 p.m.
Munroe's associate pastor Richard Pinder was also killed in the crash, according to officials at BFMI.
Munroe, 60, and others were traveling to Grand Bahama where he was set to host a Global Leadership forum in Freeport.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, "a full scale investigation will commence tomorrow morning at daylight, which will include the Department of Civil Aviation Aircraft Accident Investigation Prevention Unit."
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November 07, 2014
Baha Mar yesterday laid off 190 employees from the Crystal Palace, which it plans to turn into a training facility.
"Baha Mar has ensured that it has discharged all contractual obligations toward the affected workers," the company said in a statement released shortly after workers received their termination letters.
As they trickled out of the hotel, some of the laid-off employees had tears in their eyes.
Some told The Nassau Guardian that they had worked at the property for more than 20 years.
Executives of the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) were on property not long after learning of the redundancies.
Union President Nicole Martin said they received a notice about the layoffs yesterday morning.
"For the union, this is a big issue," she said.
"We don't have a concern about what they want to do with this facility, but there is a heads of agreement that we have had plenty issues with in the past.
"...It says they are to maintain the level of employment and add to that number. They are also supposed to redeploy workers who are currently Crystal Palace employees... These workers should be redeployed."
Martin added, "In my opinion, this (the termination exercise) is very avoidable, and we are going to at this point call on our members everywhere to help us, because this is not going to go down like the 140; I'm sorry."
Martin was referring to the 140 workers Baha Mar terminated from the Crystal Palace (Wyndham Nassau Resort) early last year, saying that decreased business volume was the driving factor.
Union officials met yesterday with Prime Minister Perry Christie to discuss the latest job losses.
Martin did not say specifically what she meant by calling on other members "to help us".
She said only, "The union has other members and we can call on them for assistance at any time."
The union president also highlighted the likely impact of the job losses.
"Imagine people who are working finding it very difficult to make ends meet, so if I am working and I am finding it difficult, imagine if I no longer have a job," Martin said.
"We're not only talking about  people, but we're talking about  families and in those families a minimum of two people, so there's a serious ripple effect at a time when this resort, and the company that owns it is expanding.
"How do you expand and put people out of work?"
One of the laid off workers, Kayla Green, who worked at the hotel for 16 years in the engineering department, said resort officials locked the entrance to the hotel before they handed out letters.
Green, a union shop steward, said, "I reflected on the 140 who they made redundant [last year]. Nothing surprises me with this company. I just thought they would have done it a little bit different.
"I expected it, I saw the signs, but I thought they would have done it in a more humane way."
She said she loved working at Crystal Palace.
Green said while she has no children, she has a lot of expenses.
She said she already had two interviews and hopes Baha Mar will re-employ her.
Baha Mar said Crystal Palace will be closed to paying guests as previously planned.
Thousands of hotel, food and beverage, security and other personnel will be trained there in advance of Baha Mar's opening scheduled for late spring 2015, the company said.
Baha Mar said approximately 100 Crystal Palace employees have already been invited to accept positions at the Melia Nassau Beach Hotel and Baha Mar.
More than 350 new casino employees have been in training classes at the Crystal Palace since July 2014, and will complement the existing casino staff, it added.
The Crystal Palace site will serve as a live setting to train more than 800 graduates of the Leadership Development Institute and 600 pre-selected high school and college students to the highest luxury service standards to prepare for new jobs at Baha Mar, the company said.
"All Baha Mar employees are being held to the highest standards of performance and service that will distinguish Baha Mar as a global destination resort.
"We offered extensive additional training to all Crystal Palace employees to educate them to the luxury service standards that will be key to the new Baha Mar brand and image.
"We are further investing in training literally thousands of future employees at the Crystal Palace facility, and we encourage all current and potential Baha Mar employees to strive for growth and professional development."
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November 07, 2014
Immigration officers picked up more than 40 people suspected of residing illegally on New Providence yesterday.
The officers visited several businesses and residences.
They stopped at a construction site on Nassau Street, where they picked up one of the workers.
The man did not object when he was escorted onto an immigration bus.
In a complex on Bay Street, opposite Junkanoo Beach, officers searched rooms on the lower floors, where they believed several illegal immigrants were hiding.
During the search, a resident tipped off the officers that the people they were searching for were hiding on the top floors.
There, officers found six women and a man who were unable to provide proper documents.
Officers also stopped traffic on West Bay Street and asked the occupants of numerous vehicles to present proof of their statuses.
One woman, who was unable to do so, was asked to exit her vehicle before she was taken into custody.
A woman inside the bus could be heard singing "Ride Out Your Storm".
When immigration officers visited Arawak Cay, they picked up a man, who claimed he had a valid work permit.
However, the permit he presented to officers appeared to be expired.
Several people at Twin Brothers Restaurant were also picked up in front of numerous patrons, including tourists.
At a Chinese restaurant on Wulff Road, a man was arrested as he served customers.
The exercise, which began before 7 a.m., wrapped up shortly after noon.
Outside the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, a woman claimed she had valid document for a friend, who was picked up earlier in the day.
Several other people called to officials behind the main gate to allow them to present documents for their friends and relatives.
Commander Kirkland Neely, officer in charge of the Immigration Enforcement Unit, said yesterday's exercise was based on complaints and tips from residents and business owners.
Neely confirmed the majority of people picked up were Haitians.
He said officers also picked up several Jamaicans, Nigerians, Hondurans and Colombians.
"The public would call in every day on my cell," Neely said.
"Sometimes I get a hundred calls a day on my cell, saying that we need to check this place or that place, [as] we see some illegals here or we see some new faces there, so we have to act."
Neely said it is possible that some people detained yesterday will be released.
Asked whether strong criticisms of his department's handling of children during the roundups over the weekend has somewhat deterred its efforts, Neely said, "The public reaction does not deter me from my job. I have a job to do."
Unlike Saturday, no children were picked up during yesterday's exercise.
Yesterday's roundups were the second major exercise since the government introduced its new policy on Saturday, The Nassau Guardian understands.
The new policy requires all non-Bahamians to have passports of their nationalities and evidence that they have permission to live and work in The Bahamas.
The policy also states that the Department of Immigration will not accept first-time applications for residence or work permits from those who have no legal status in The Bahamas.
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November 07, 2014
Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell has drawn attention to immigration abuses perpetrated in The
Bahamas by some people from "the developed world", who he said "get a pass" while Bahamians focus on "people from the south".
Mitchell called it problematic that the work permit process is at times being abused in professional arenas.
In order to alleviate the challenges the Department of Immigration faces in addressing those abuses among other matters, Mitchell said he wants to triple the size of the department within about three years.
"What is happening is that you have complaints - coming from Exuma, Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Abaco - of people from the developed world masquerading as tourists, but [who] are engaging in fishing, taking people out as guides in recreational fishing,acting as property managers, doing real estate and actually acting as majordomos for individuals without getting the proper permission to be in The Bahamas," Mitchell said.
"That is a vexing problem to residents in these areas - particularly among the professions - who say that clearly Bahamians can [provide the services in question]."
"It's a more difficult issue to spot because the country's attention is always toward the people from the south, and the people from other areas get a pass."
Work permit enforcement
There are two agencies that have a responsibility for the work permit process.
Firstly, the Department of Labour must certify that a qualified Bahamian is not available for the job required by the prospective employer.
That certification is then carried to the Department of Immigration, where a decision is made whether - and for how long - to grant a work permit.
At one time, Mitchell pointed out, the policy had been to not grant more than three work permits in respect of the same person.
Also, the department may require as a condition of granting the permit that the employer hire an understudy.
"[These are] great measures, but are not effective unless there is enforcement of [them]," Mitchell said.
"When I talk about lack of resources, part of the enforcement mechanism requires manpower and it also requires technology and there have been limitations in that way, which we're trying to resolve now.
"One of the things that's happening is that we're looking at bringing in a manpower assessment team because I want to increase the size of the Department of Immigration threefold - to about 600 individuals - within about three years."
"It is about monitoring and enforcement," he added. "We have two mechanisms that we presently employ: one is when the work permit comes up for renewal, we review the performance of the conditions from the previous year.
"Secondly, employees on various jobs write the department and report on what they see happening. In both cases, we ask the companies to account."
Mitchell also urged new officers to approach their duties with integrity.
He said immigration is no longer a "simple Bahamianization proposition," but that "it is still Bahamians first."
Grand Bahama "staging point"
"In today's environment, security is paramount for the state and our international partners need to know that we have best practices in security arrangements. Part of this is who belongs to The Bahamas and who has the right to live here," Mitchell told immigration recruits in Grand Bahama on Thursday.
"Grand Bahama has peculiar problems. It has now become a staging area for people from South America and the Far East and Africa to enter the United States using safe houses here.
"Special operations are conducted by the department in this city to put a stop to this. So there will be operations of a covert nature to catch these criminals," he said.
The minister said the laws would be toughened and regulations made stricter.
"If you want a safer Bahamas, that is part of the larger price that we have to pay," he said.
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November 07, 2014
Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins will learn his fate with the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) within two weeks, according to PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts.
In a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian, Roberts said he expects a disciplinary committee to file its report with the PLP's National General Council (NGC) before its next general meeting.
That meeting is set for November 20, Roberts noted.
The committee was appointed to determine whether Rollins should face any consequences for verbal attacks on the party's leadership in the House of Assembly.
Rollins appeared before the committee on three occasions.
In the House of Assembly, Rollins said the country needs new leadership. He also said he is tired of hearing Prime Minister Perry Christie quote scripture.
He said while Christie "waxes eloquently with his words", those words must live up to actions.
Despite being asked by the NGC to apologize to Christie in the House of Assembly, Rollins has refused to.
During a Fort Charlotte constituency meeting last month, dozens of constituents expressed displeasure with the MP's performance in the House and in his constituency.
Roberts said he advised the branch executives to await the committee's decision before taking their concerns to the public.
"Their position has not changed, no sir, not to my knowledge," he said. "I am in touch with them from time to time."
Attorney Valentine Grimes heads the disciplinary committee.
Other members include Charles Carter, Errington Isaacs, Aaron Sargeant, Robin Lynes, Barbara Pierre, Michelle Reckley and Tom Basden.
Asked whether there is still tension within the PLP over Rollins' comments, Roberts said more people than the media are aware have expressed their displeasure about Rollins' comments.
"There are some people expressing themselves, more than has come to your attention, I can assure you of that," Roberts said.
Several PLP MPs and Senator Keith Bell have publicly expressed concerns over Rollins' verbal attack on Christie.
While South Beach MP Cleola Hamilton inferred Rollins was a "turncoat" in the House, Bell said Rollins only got his seat because of the PLP.
The PLP has approached former Attorney General Alfred Sears about running on the party's ticket again in Fort Charlotte.
While Sears has said he is "ready to serve", he said he would not do anything to "injure an incumbent member of Parliament" representing the party.
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November 07, 2014
A recently released research study on perceptions of Haitians and people of Haitian descent living in The Bahamas blames the media, government policies and everyday constructions of Bahamian identity for perpetuating anti-Haitian sentiment, xenophobia, marginalization and discrimination towards Haitians in The Bahamas.
It concludes that legislation and social constructions have sought to control the Haitian community and prevent members of that community from being fully recognized or integrated into mainstream Bahamian society.
Charmane Perry's article "Invasion from the South: Social Construction of the Haitian 'Other' in The Bahamas" was published in October in the International Journal of Bahamian Studies Volume 20, the research journal of The College of The Bahamas.
Perry is a doctoral student in the Department of Africology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, whose research interest is in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora.
She concludes that the media have played a significant role in the expansion and institutionalization of xenophobia, negative attitudes, hatred, and ignorance due to their representation of Haitians in The Bahamas.
"Bahamians fear the presence of the Haitian community in The Bahamas and believe they are a threat to the cultural and national sovereignty of The Bahamas," Perry writes.
"Yet, these fears are rooted in ideas emanating from the state and are exacerbated by ignorance and the way that Haitians have been portrayed in the media.
"In addition, the perception of Haitians as a cultural and national threat is a product of racial constructions of identity rooted in colonialism.
"Thus, their representation and difference must also take into consideration the ways in which coloniality complicates the perception of Haitians in The Bahamas."
Perry traces the root of anti-Haitian sentiment to colonialism, positing that after the Progressive Liberal Party took over the reins of governance in the 1960s the party shifted its anti-racist rhetoric against the United Bahamian Party to anti-Haitian sentiments.
In evaluating the factors that have contributed to what has been described as "a denial of human rights" for Haitians and people of Haitian ancestry residing in The Bahamas, the researcher also concludes that in the post-independence era, the pursuit of the policy of "The Bahamas for Bahamians" came at the expense of other groups.
She refers specifically to the citizenship and naturalization policies which were legislated under which being born in The Bahamas after 1973 to non-Bahamian parents is not an automatic guarantee of Bahamian citizenship.
"...As such, the state has been able to use its power to control and marginalize this community through legislative sanctions," Perry writes.
"Citizenship, along with work permits and permanent residency, are tactics by which the Bahamian state can control the Haitian community in The Bahamas.
"It is within this framework that children of Haitian descent have been legally excluded from the full rights of citizenship in the land of their birth."
She also asserts that, because race and division of labor are structurally related, Haitians who have already been historically racialized and demonized as inferior are considered non-human, performing the most menial jobs, which in the lens of coloniality, is a natural justification for their domination and exploitation.
The research also makes another compelling argument - that Bahamians have constructed elements of their identity in opposition to the historical, political, social, economic, and cultural perceptions of Haiti and the Haitian community.
"Bahamians were never British because they were colonial subjects which meant they were not human," Perry writes.
"Their racial identity was constructed during colonialism and persisted through coloniality. The lack of a clear, cohesive identity adds to the perceived cultural threat that the Haitian community is believed to be imposing on The Bahamas,"
In 2010, Perry conducted research in New Providence, sifting through newspaper clippings and conducting comparative analysis of articles from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000. She also completed archival research on documents from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
The publication of her research came ahead of the enforcement of new procedures that took effect on November 1 which require all non-Bahamians who live in The Bahamas to have passports of the country of their nationalities.
Under the procedures, people born in The Bahamas will get a particular residence permit which will allow them to work and live here until their status is decided.
The complete research can be read here: http://journals.sfu.ca/cob/index.php/files .
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November 07, 2014
A $600,000 drug bust in Coral Harbour last week has led police to Lyford Cay in search of a suspect "affiliated with the area", according to Chief Superintendent Samuel Butler, head of the Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU).
While Butler provided limited details, he said, "We are doing some follow-up inquiries.
"Our investigation did lead us to Lyford Cay, and we want to question someone who may be involved in that incident."
Asked whether the suspect is a resident of the gated community, Butler declined to comment.
"We can say that we are furthering our investigation," he said.
"We will follow where the investigation leads us, and if we need to make an arrest, we will make an arrest."
Butler said three men were arrested on a boat in the Coral Harbour area, while a fourth man was arrested on Cowpen Road.
One of the men was later released "pending further investigation", according to Butler.
Three men were charged in connection with the bust and were remanded to prison on Wednesday.
Kirk Cameo Moss, 32, of Cowpen Road; Jarius Bowleg, 46, of Stapledon Gardens, and Shelton Christopher Bodie, 43, of Kennedy Subdivision, face a charge of drug possession with intent to supply.
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November 07, 2014
According to The Free Dictionary, "The rule of law requires the government to exercise its power in accordance with well-established and clearly-written rules, regulations and legal principles". Said another way, the government has the responsibility to enforce the laws of the country. If laws are not enforced, this is the blueprint for anarchy. Sophocles said, "There is no greater evil than anarchy".
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell announced weeks ago that the government was going to aggressively enforce the country's immigration laws. This announcement was not taken seriously by the illegal immigrants in the country and for good reason. For decades, they have known that our immigration laws were lax and, for the most part, went unchecked, save for a couple of futile raids that made the news headlines several times per year.
On Saturday past, there was an exercise by the immigration department that signaled the commencement of the renewed exercise to ensure that our immigration laws are followed. Initial reports suggest that quite a few lawbreakers have already been captured and are set to return to their native homeland.
The Bahamas government has many mandates and none is more important than to enforce the laws of the country. We are viewed as being a lawless society, and sadly this is entrenched in the minds of illegal immigrants and legal residents alike. This phenomenon is also spreading internationally.
I must commend Mitchell and the government for finally starting the process of dealing with this long-standing issue that successive governments have deliberately failed to address. I think a lot of people are sitting at home today and are feeling a renewed sense of national pride.
The minister said that all illegal immigrants are being targeted, and I believe this is the right way and the only way that this should be done. Whether you are Chinese, Jamaican, American, Haitian, Philippine or African, it does not matter because if you are in contravention of the laws of The Bahamas, then you must be subjected to the penalties therein.
In addition to the government taking a renewed approach to enforce its immigration laws, I also ask it to take a holistic approach when dealing with this matter. There are companies that break the law and hire illegal immigrants knowing full well that they don't qualify to work in The Bahamas. Moreover, there are land-owners who aided in the building of shantytowns and profited handsomely from the collection of rent knowing full well that they too were in contravention of the law.
There have also been government agencies complicit with providing resources to these areas where no lawful permit existed. These infractions need to be investigated and the law allowed to take its course.
Furthermore, I am hopeful that this gallant move by Mitchell will not lose steam, but will gain momentum and be ongoing for years to come and would be adopted by all other government agencies that are miserably lacking in their pursuit to maintain the rule of law.
I don't consider this exercise a mean-spirited one as some in the media are suggesting, but I side with the minister when he said that this exercise is geared towards strengthening the national security of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. We need to know who is in our country, as this enables us to better fight crime, better plan health care, better plan for educational spending and a whole list of other critical national programs germane to our country's success.
Dealing with this issue will not be an easy task, and there will be irrational cries from persons who will try to create the perception that The Bahamas is a barbaric and uncompassionate society. Nothing can be further from the truth. But the time has come for the country to act and act formidably. We must operate within the confinements of the law until it changes, and we must also be humane.
Again, I applaud Mitchell and the government for their action because they have taken a step in the right direction. They are receiving flak from the illegal immigrant community and they must also be very unpopular among some of society's elite, whom Mitchell said in an earlier interview were the landowners of the shantytowns, a seemingly profitable business. But most Bahamians are just hopeful that this new course of action by the immigration department will summon the conscience of other agencies that need to follow suit and maintain the rule of law.
- Dehavilland Moss
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November 07, 2014
Employee theft is rampant in The Bahamas. It is not uncommon for individuals to seek employment at certain businesses just to facilitate theft and corruption. Consequently, it annoys and disturbs me when local cashiers demand identification and telephone numbers when I produce my credit card for payment of goods and services (however miniscule).
However, when I shop in Florida, identification is not required or requested. We live in a corrupt society with too many criminally-minded individuals in sensitive positions.
With such information, a crooked clerk/cashier/waiter/manager can fraudulently use your card and severely damage your credit. My question is, are Bahamian merchants allowed to record your personal information? Who in authority is protecting the consumer?
- Bradley Armbrister
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November 07, 2014
On January 1, 2015, value-added tax (VAT) is scheduled to begin in The Bahamas. The country is awaiting its impact. The cost of living will certainly go up. We don't know by how much, but the difference in the cost of goods and services will be noticeable.
The government is bringing the tax on-stream to close its large reoccurring deficit. The Bahamas needs more revenue to avoid further downgrades by the international ratings agencies.
The country, though, is not booming. Real GDP grew by 0.7 percent last year and unemployment is around 14 percent. There is hope that Baha Mar's opening in 2015 will fuel job creation and economic growth, but it is unclear by how much.
In this context, the government wants to implement National Health Insurance (NHI) to give "health coverage" to all Bahamians. During the last Perry Christie-led administration (2002-2007) it was estimated that NHI would cost $235 million.
Dr. Delon Brennen, chair of the government's steering committee on NHI, told The Nassau Guardian in March that initial findings suggest the cost of implementing NHI has increased significantly since it was first proposed. Then, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) planned to fund the scheme via a payroll tax. The law, though passed in Parliament, never came into effect. The current scheduled implementation date for NHI is January 2016.
Now another member of the government's steering committee is giving further details on NHI's cost.
"That's going to be a big figure. About 10 years ago, you were looking at $235 million. Well, I believe you can double that and add something to it. That's at least $500 million it will cost the government to get a national health plan going, something to work effectively," said John Pinder, president of the Bahamas Public Service Union (BPSU), in an interview with this newspaper.
Kenwood Kerr, CEO of Providence Advisors, spoke of his concerns over the scheme, given the other new taxes recently passed and ahead of the implementation of VAT, which will come at a rate of 7.5 percent.
"I'm looking at, essentially, how [National Health Insurance] will be paid for," he said.
Kerr cited other fundamental issues related to NHI, such as cost, effectiveness, access and administration.
"The other issue that businesses and other individuals will look at is the cost to them individually," he said.
"And that, however you look at it, equates to a tax. My position is, against a compendium of other newly-imposed taxes, another tax is being put on us in terms of National Health Insurance and it's the proverbial last straw that may break the camel's back, so to speak."
Kerr is right. Christie, who is the minister of finance, should know the pressures Bahamians are under. Many can't pay their electricity bills. Many can't pay their mortgages. This lack of capacity has caused serious problems for the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and our commercial banks.
Where will Bahamians find the money to fund the prime minister's NHI dream? Christie has an altruistic objective: He wants all Bahamians to have health insurance. The problem is we can't afford the scheme he is proposing.
Christie should pull back from this NHI dream, considering that he is already taking from our pockets via VAT the little we have. Bahamians have no more to give to the state.
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November 07, 2014
Once, during an interview with artist Stan Burnside, he told me how he and his late brother, Jackson Burnside, would often lament the fact that their country failed to acknowledge the "incredible gift" of Junkanoo and use it to its economic advantage.
A founding member of the One Family Junkanoo group, Burnside said: "In Junkanoo, you have an incredible opportunity, and I can't overstate that. [It is] an incredible gift. Tourism was just given this gift in their war to create and sustain the attraction called The Bahamas, and the gift is just sitting there, and they won't shoot it. They won't use it. You know? They're in the war, getting weapons from everywhere and the weapons are not as powerful as this gift right here, and they're just leaving it there, sitting. And for some reason they seem to be afraid [to use it]."
A few months later, newspaper pages erupted with the findings of a study by Dr. Nicolette Bethel, head of the department of psychology, sociology and social work at The College of The Bahamas. Titled "The Economic Impact of Junkanoo in The Bahamas", Bethel's four-year study (it began in January 2009 and ended in May 2013) reveals that Junkanoo each year operates at an astonishing loss.
The bad news
According to the report, Junkanoo expenses - that is the cost of food, materials and overheads - amount to somewhere in the region of $8 million to $10 million per year. In addition to that staggering figure, Bethel believes there is at least another $10 million being lost in unpaid labor.
"There is one element to Junkanoo that we overlook tremendously, and that is that it is a result of hours and hours of unpaid labor. People are working in the shacks, but they're not paid for that work. Now if you want to make it an industry, they should be able to be paid. So that represents some $10 [million] to $11 million dollars, annually, in labor," she said in an interview.
To calculate the figure, Bethel and her students visited a Junkanoo shack over an eight-week period. They used an average of $10 per hour - a rate higher than minimum wage "because Junkanoo is a labor-intensive activity, so it shouldn't be minimum wage", but lower than the average national hourly wage of $13.50 because of the Junkanooers' young ages and earning potential. The team observed Junkanooers spending an average of 20 hours per week, over 17 weeks - the length of time that Bethel believes most Junkanoo shacks take to prepare for the parades.
With an idea of the tradition's monetary losses, Bethel sought to uncover its gains - an endeavor easier said than done. The only measurable source of revenue from Junkanoo is ticket sales, which fluctuate, along with sponsorship.
"The Junkanoo groups have sponsors. Other sources might be exchanges in kind... They do a number of things that one would associate more with a volunteer group, those kinds of fundraising activities, rather than taking a business-like approach. That's the gap. Everything is done very much from the voluntary model as opposed to a business approach, saying 'These are our costs. These are what we have to cover. These are what we're going to create as revenue streams'. That doesn't seem to happen," she explained.
Tallying up the only numbers she had - those of the ticket sales - Bethel found the number that Junkanoo groups stand to make, on average, each year. Four-hundred thousand dollars is what's currently being pulled in each year by ticket sales to cover about $20 million in costs.
The better news
Bethel believes the situation is fixable, not least because the tradition has managed to survive against all odds, apparently out of Junkanooers' sheer love for the rush. Still, she's recommended several action plans to prepare for the days when love may not be enough.
Marketing Junkanoo and making it more accessible to tourists is at the fore.
"There's almost a hands-off, non-involvement from the Ministry of Tourism. Junkanoo is never promoted to tourists. Junkanoo is used in the promotion of The Bahamas, but Junkanoo itself is not promoted to tourists." she said.
Officials have told her that the main reason for this is "that nobody is traveling on Christmas day, so the Boxing Day parade isn't going to be sellable to tourists". Countering that, she argues in her report that there is a spike right after Boxing Day in tourist arrivals. This, she believes, could be beneficial to the New Year's Day parade.
"Junkanoo has 76 percent occupancy, by our calculations," she said. "That means that 24 percent of the tickets don't get sold. These are available for the tourist population. And even if you don't want Bahamians to pay more than $45 or $50 a head, you could charge tourists $100 a head because they don't have the opportunity to see it more than once, and they will pay."
Bethel thinks a chat about the current local ticket prices is worth having, too. Current prices for Junkanoo tickets have been capped off by the government at $45 in a move she believes to have been unwise. In her research, the professor found that one third of the people she interviewed, who were largely from a young, financially-dependent, student demographic, were willing to pay up to $50 for a Junkanoo ticket.
"If there's a third of the population out there who's willing to pay more, capping the tickets at less than they're willing to pay does not make economic sense. So that's the first thing. The ticket prices are currently too low, and that's a Cabinet decision," she said.
She also mentioned the lowest available price of a ticket for the Boxing Day or New Year's Day parade - $5. This is half the price of the lowest available ticket price for a Junior Junkanoo parade.
Another starting point for additional revenue is the Junkanoo practices. Bethel believes practices should be ticketed events, citing the fact that vendors who sell refreshments at the practices stand to make substantial sums of money - she knows of one such vendor who has made up to $10,000 over two nights - while the Junkanoo groups do not gather any revenue. This method of making quick money has been touted by the Bahamas National Festival Commission as the reason why so many Bahamians stand to benefit from the Bahamas Carnival; few know that the opportunity already exists in the Junkanoo community.
A key point Bethel hopes to highlight is the need for groups to set aside their differences and take the Junkanoo reins out of the government's hands.
"The Junkanoo community, over the last 20 years, is waiting for the government to take the lead in providing these solutions. That's where they make their mistake. It's not the government's job to do that," she said.
She added: "The difficulty that's happening right now is that the generation of leaders who forced the government to take note and invest in Junkanoo are dying. The people coming behind them never had to fend for themselves, so there is a learned helplessness in the community that has to be conquered."
Bethel has emphasized the need for the Junkanoo groups to operate "as a cooperative" for the benefit of the tradition itself. A lack of trust among groups, and even among separate shacks within the same group, has proved to be one of the most difficult hurdles to revitalizing what has been called a dying breed in recent years.
With the professor's study confirming what many had already suspected - that the tradition is indeed at risk - Bethel hopes it will also serve as a wake-up call to preserve a national treasure. Echoing Burnside's sentiments, she said: "In Junkanoo, people are making music and dancing and carrying costumes all the same time. This is unique... What we have failed to do is recognize the uniqueness and make the most of it."
Perhaps, in so doing, the country might preserve what Burnside has called the "fragility of Junkanoo".
"Junkanoo is something that we should treasure," he said, in that earlier interview. "We should try to never do anything that will put it at risk. I feel that we shouldn't take for granted that the Junkanoo artists are always going to come to Bay Street and produce what they produce."
"The Economic Impact of Junkanoo in The Bahamas" has been published in Volume 20(1) of the International Journal of Bahamian Studies and is available online through The College of The Bahamas.
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November 07, 2014
The Minnis retrospective exhibition, titled "Creation's Grace", at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas is a fantastic walk through Bahamian visual and musical culture. It is a glimpse of what we are and where we came from and what we love. It showed, too, this family's cross-generational gift for capturing culture that is not adulterated by the recolonization of the Bahamian psyche.
In one space, a lifetime of exposure to art and the Minnis family can make a lasting impression on the Bahamian psyche. They have invested beyond millions in Bahamian culture, but the importance of that investment is quickly eroding. Yes, time moves ahead at a winged-chariot pace, but the damage that our un-remembering of the past is doing is simply criminal. What is fabulous about the exhibition - including the impressionistic realism of the watercolors of Harbour Island beauty, the comic fun-poking at political icons and the musical rendition of island life - is the capturing of the Over the Hill area. It showed it, not in a romanticized fashion, nor did it render it empty of life and value, as we are so tempted to do today; it presented rather as being alive, relevant and vibrant. It may have been blighted by its problems, but it created some of the most significant artists and Bahamians. Unlike those who claim themselves to be the most important figures in the country's history, it showed true people.
Over the Hill was not a world lost to possibility, as we so often render it today, nor was it a space empty of worth and easily bought for a dime. It was a community that thrived on its own self-awareness and consciousness. This self-awareness has mostly died today because it has been encouraged to die. Its replacement is a plastic feel-good copy of what we render as Bahamian.
The Minnis retrospective is an honest and invaluable journey through more than 40 years of national development. It shows the reality of young, unwed-motherhood with children in tow but also the pride in house and home, since vanished and replaced by a pride in car and clothes. It provides social commentary, both critical and comic, but also encourages us to strive to be our best. It is timeless in Eddie Minnis' depiction of the social problems of young Bahamian males: "He either in Fox Hill or..." holds cultural poignancy decades later.
The exhibition is timely, too, as its opening coincided with Edmond Moxey's death. Like Eddie Minnis, Moxey was a cultural icon, a man who perhaps saw beyond his time. The exhibition speaks to a need to remember that we have a culture of great worth. There are talented artists who capture our lives as they are, not for the pleasure of some outside gaze or vision of what The Bahamas should be as it develops into a painted copy of itself, sanitized and safe. Some of the artwork captures buildings, many of which were left to rot or be eaten by the worms of under-development, later turned into car parks and roads for progress to pass through on route to resorts, walled away from prying local eyes. How ironic that a man like Moxey, who was so much before his time, who celebrated the simplicity and realness of Bahamian identity and culture, who was destroyed by the power that devalued blackness but unrealistically elevated it to fragility and museum fossilization, should be mourned and heralded as a hero at the same time that the Minnis' cultural impact was being celebrated. Much like Moxey, Eddie Minnis lent a serious voice to black Bahamian life, to political critique and to encouraging Bahamian arts and culture. The Minnis family lends voice to the hidden culture exceptionally well, capturing multiple gazes of different real Bahamases that we who live here become blind to.
The exhibition pulled away the veiled covering that repeats that we are nothing but a cultureless backwater. This idea is far too prevalent in the 21st century young Bahamian psyche. The Minnis family shows how much we painted,drew and wrote, and that we could criticize the follies of old-time leadership through comedy. Simultaneously, the exhibition is a fabulous and poignant statement of the loss of culture that carnivalizes or cannibalizes us into tourist-imaged rap-steadiness.
The slice of culture that hangs on the walls of the national gallery is only the beginning of what we can hope will become a revival of true Bahamian culture. Yes, there is true culture. It is not the plasticized stuff that we trot out with whenever we want to perform who we are for the tourist gaze. The real culture spans a history of life in Long Cay, where one of the oldest churches in the country stands as a beacon to a pre-civilization that was almost destroyed by the change in power and that bears witness to the problem of falling from government's grace. Perhaps, better it fall from grace than be devoured by the greedy jowls of mass-developed tourism that seeks only to Happy Meal us all, and fit us into a cultureless world of tin can music and performed authenticity.
The exhibition offers color, texture, depth, music, voice, pain and pleasure of a people alive in themselves. How can we reinvigorate that life energy that was perhaps not so fast to sell itself to the savior promising trinkets as Columbus' men once did? We may sell ourselves for the $100 today, but tomorrow holds some serious bad belly after the ball. Eddie Minnis criticizes these problems with his music and his cartoons. How can we revalidate what the Minnis retrospective shows as being so much a part of our being?
The exhibition is a fabulous sliver of Bahamian life. Why can we not celebrate this culture and continue to present ourselves as we are and not as we think people want to see us? We must commend the years of dedication and incredible cultural wealth the Minnis family artists have endowed the country with.
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