Nassau Guardian Stories

Administrator: VAT meeting 'dispensed of negativity'

September 03, 2014

Family Island administrators have voiced their support of the government's recent value-added tax (VAT) education initiatives, claiming that a recent conference and educational seminar has largely "dispensed of the negativity" surrounding the tax.
During an interview with Guardian Business, Eleuthera Administrator Charles King commended the Ministry of Finance for its recent administrator seminar and stated that, while he had not yet created a specific education program, he remained confident that the island would be prepared for VAT at the start of January with the assistance of Ministry of Finance personnel.
"It was enlightening, really. [Administrators] received a better understanding as to what exactly the VAT is all about...It dispensed of the negativity [surrounding] VAT," said King.
King claimed that he had received numerous inquiries regarding the tax, adding that several local grocery stores, fuel stations and hotels were among the few businesses that met the government's $100,000 VAT registration threshold.
"[People] are very concerned about it. They want to know what's happening. As a result of the inquiries that we've been receiving...we intend to set up a program to educate businesses so that people are prepared... If we all work together, we'll get it done," stated King.
South Eleuthera Administrator Margaret Symonette encouraged all local businesses to become VAT registrants, despite the relatively small number of businesses required to register with the government.
The Ministry of Finance recently released a series of industry-specific VAT guidelines on its VAT website to supplement the general VAT guide. VAT will be implemented at a rate of 7.5 percent effective January 1, 2015.
South Abaco Senior Deputy Administrator Lavon Harris-Smith similarly felt that the presentations successfully broke down the tax's projected impact and benefits to administrators.
"Hopefully [Ministry of Finance officials] will be able to come into the Family Island districts and put on similar presentations," he said.
Harris-Smith admitted that the tax was initially met with resistance from the local community, but felt that it was necessary to Family Island development.
"In the Family Islands, the costs of goods and services are already astoundingly high, so the reaction [to VAT] is not good. With the help of the administrators we'll be able to make the people understand the reasons why this tax had to come about," he said.
"It is something that is necessary. We are badly in need of roads and upgrades in utilities," said Harris-Smith, indicating that more workshops and town meetings between administrators and ministry officials would be scheduled ahead of the tax's implementation to prepare the area's residents.

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Bahamas receives tourism grant

September 03, 2014

The Bahamas is one of three priority cruise destinations invited by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., (RCL) to receive a matching grant to participate in the Sustainable Destination Alliance for the Americas (SDAA) initiative.
RCL collaborated with mutual partners at Sustainable Travel International, Organization of American States (OAS) and Caribbean Tourism Organization to create the SDAA, which is an initiative that aims to greatly enhance how tourism is managed at a destination level and improve its future prospects and ability to compete by embedding sustainability into destination strategies and day-to-day management and marketing.
Director General of Tourism Joy Jibrilu, who will attend the OAS 22nd Inter-American Congress of Ministers and High-Level Authorities of Tourism in Barbados this month, said sustainable development is something of which The Bahamas is cognizant because the country is a small island developing state.
She explained that one of the important features of the initiative is the attention it will be giving to the port in Nassau: "The port is where the majority of the approximately 5 million tourists arrive, and so whatever we can do to improve, grow and ultimately sustain the port in an environmentally-responsible way, will benefit everyone including the visitors, cruise lines and Bahamians."
The Bahamas' participation in the initiative is important because tourism alone provides an estimated 60 percent of the gross domestic product and employs about half the Bahamian work force.

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Bahamas downgraded

September 03, 2014

International credit ratings agency Moody's Investors Service yesterday downgraded The Bahamas' sovereign credit rating yet again, citing massive debt and soft economic growth as the main factors behind the move.
The downgrade could make it more expensive for the country to borrow and add to the already daunting amount of money spent on just servicing government debt.
However, the Ministry of Finance stressed yesterday that the country's credit rating remains at an investment grade level.
Though the downgrade of the country's issuer and senior unsecured ratings to Baa2 from Baa1 was definitely bad news, Moody's changed the country's economic outlook to stable from negative - an expression of confidence in the Christie administration's fiscal consolidation plan, coupled with a prediction that a recovering U.S. economy will bolster GDP growth in The Bahamas.
However, the rapidly rising level of government debt was the main thrust behind the downgrade, the second from this particular agency since December 2012.
"The government's debt-to-GDP ratio has increased from 31.7 percent in 2007 to 59.0 percent in 2013, and Moody's expects it to peak in 2015. At this level, it is almost 20 percentage points above the median for Baa-rated sovereigns (39.5 percent in 2013)," Moody's said.
"Concurrently, as the debt stock increased, the interest burden on government debt has risen during the same time period. Interest payments now represent over 14 percent of government revenues, compared to 9.3 percent in 2007 and above the current Baa-median of 8.3 percent."
The next biggest reason for the downgrade would be the economy, Moody's said.
The agency pointed to the economy's lackluster performance since the 2008/09 fiscal year.
The Bahamas has had an average of 1.1 percent growth since that year through 2013, Moody's noted.
"The economy's underperformance has negatively affected government revenues, and it has also led to higher current and capital expenditures by the government in order to support the economy," said Moody's.
That government support has led to gargantuan deficits that are "more than double the median of similarly rated peers".
However, Moody's believes that the government's plan to arrest this trend beginning in 2015 by cutting spending and implementing the controversial value-added tax regime, seems doable.
"Key elements of the fiscal stabilization plan include expenditure controls that seek to increase the efficiency of public spending," Moody's said.
"In addition, government intends to introduce a 7.5 percent valued-added tax in 2015.
"Nonetheless, even with an effective implementation of fiscal reforms, The Bahamas' debt and interest burdens will remain at levels significantly weaker than most Baa-rating peers over the next two years at least, and over the medium term as well."
The fiscal consolidation plan, Moody's said, should coincide with economic recovery in the U.S. and lead to somewhat stronger GDP growth of two to 2.5 percent in 2015.
Moody's said the country's credit rating could move upward if debt levels fall to those that are closer to our similarly rated peers and by dumping "contingent liabilities stemming from loss-making public sector corporations".
However, the credit rating could continue to fall if the economy underperforms and complicates the fiscal consolidation process.
Increased public spending will also put the credit rating at risk, Moody's said.
Increased debt incurred by public corporations that require government intervention would also result in a loss of creditworthiness, Moody's said.
The Ministry of Finance released a statement in response to the downgrade last night, highlighting the upgraded economic outlook, claiming it was "premised on the strength of a very credible fiscal reform plan and a stronger forecast for economic growth".
"The ratings agency rightly expresses confidence that the current program of reforms to boost revenues and to control expenditure and increase the efficiency of spending will yield positive results," the ministry said.
"These reforms are indeed expected to have the intended outcome of reducing the deficit and supporting a 'gradual reduction' in the government's debt burden over the coming years.
"As Moody's expectations underscore, on this course of action the Bahamian economy should strengthen, despite worries to the contrary in some quarters about the merits of the fiscal plan. The government of The Bahamas must persevere with these reforms."

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Murder accused shot dead

September 03, 2014

A night of multiple shootings on New Providence left several in hospital and a man on bail for murder dead early Tuesday morning, as gunmen reportedly sought out a man who police believed was the killer of an alleged gang leader.
The series of shootings came less than two weeks after a similar spate of incidents on the capital.
Shot dead in Ridgeland Park East yesterday, was a man who was charged with the murder of alleged gang leader Julian "Heads" Collie last August.
Although the shooting occurred around 12:30 a.m. the victim's body was not discovered until hours later, when employees of a pre-school went to open the school.
Relatives on the scene identified the victim as Rolando Smith, 38.
Superintendent Paul Rolle, head of the Central Detective Unit, said several men were sitting on a wall in front of Smith's house when a group of men in a gray Honda Inspire drove up to them and began shooting.
Officers, who responded to reports of the shooting, found a man who had been shot to the leg.
He was transported to hospital and was listed in serious condition.
However, Smith was found around 8 a.m. by the employees of the Royal Heritage Early Childhood Centre, next to his home.
He was lying face-down on the ground in the school yard next to the swings when The Nassau Guardian arrived on scene.
"During the shooting incident, the four individuals ran in different directions," Rolle said.
"I do not believe that they knew this young man (Smith) was, in fact, injured."
Rolle said police believe the men responsible for Smith's murder shot two other men in separate incidents on Brougham and Hay Street.
Smith was the intended target in those shootings, according to Rolle.
"We believe that these may very well be related, and our investigation will help us to confirm that," Rolle said.
"The deceased here, we believe was the target for those other shooting incidents."
Rolle did not confirm Smith's identity, but said the victim was charged last year with Collie's murder.
Collie, 34, of Price Street, was chased and shot by gunmen outside a home in Millars Heights on April 17, 2013.
Smith appeared in court on August 21 last year with a colostomy bag after being shot eight times shortly before his court appearance.
When he was escorted into court, associates of Collie shouted numerous threats at him.
It is unclear when Smith got bail.
At the scene, Anita King, Smith's mother, claimed her son was falsely accused.
She screamed as Smith's body was placed in the hearse.
"Let me see him," she screamed.
"My God. My sweet Jesus. Why has thou forsaken me? My child."
King turned to reporters and said her son was a loving, kind-hearted man, who struggled to look after his children.
"This is the second time they shot him," she said.
"The government needs to do something about all these murders. Hang the buggers. Hang them."
Through tears, King said no one was ever arrested for Smith's attempted murder last year.
"No one said anything," she said. "They've come back and shoot him up again. He was sitting on the wall and he didn't do anyone anything."
A woman, who lives in the area, said she was woken up by the sound of gunshots early yesterday morning.
She said she counted 16 rounds before hearing a car speed away.
"I felt terrified. Just terrified and shocked," she told The Guardian.
"Randomly, sometimes I will hear gunshots. But this scared me because it happened right outside my bedroom window."

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Minister suggests new Gaming Bill should quash discrimination concerns

September 03, 2014

Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe suggested yesterday that the amendments made to the Gaming Bill should quash concerns over discrimination against Bahamians.
Wilchcombe was asked outside the Churchill Building whether the government planned to allow Bahamians to gamble in casinos and foreigners to participate in web shops.
"The casino owners have raised that concern," said Wilchcombe, in reference to Bahamians gambling in casinos.
"But how do you stop them in real terms? At the end of the day it is their dollars. They can do what they want to do."
When pressed on the matter, Wilchcombe said, "I think we have made steps toward getting to the point where we won't have to be talking about discrimination again."
Asked what that meant, the tourism minister added, "That is a gradual step."
In July, The Nassau Guardian obtained a copy of a draft of the Gaming Bill.
Under that bill, web shops would be permitted to legally engage in cash betting transactions with domestic players only.
The 'domestic player' refers to anyone who is ordinarily resident in The Bahamas, is the holder of a permanent residence certificate, is a work permit holder of the spouse of any of these people.
The bill was criticized as "discriminatory" after it was revealed that the government did not plan to lift the current ban on Bahamians gambling in casinos.
Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson has said Bahamians who want to gamble in The Bahamas should not be discriminated against.
Marco City MP Greg Moss and MICAL MP V. Alfred Gray have also said they do not support foreigners being able to do something in The Bahamas that Bahamians cannot do.
Former Gaming Board Chairman Dr. Andre Rollins, Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells and Mount Moriah MP Arnold Forbes also said they have concerns about a bill that discriminates against Bahamians.
Wilchcombe said the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) planned to hold a parliamentary caucus meeting last night to discuss the amendments in the Gaming Bill, including the "discriminatory" issue.
"At the end of the day, we are a democracy and colleagues have a right to say how they feel about things," he said.
"I think we have done a pretty good job.
"Certain matters we are seeking to do, you have to appreciate there is process of gradualism that is important as we move forward.
"We have to think about all the consequences and all the issues related to what we intend to do."
Wilchcombe said the government will table the amended Gaming Bill in the House of Assembly and have a first reading today.
He said it would be "improper" to reveal what amendments have been made to the bill before it is discussed and tabled.
The first draft of the bill was tabled last November, but was never debated.
The Gaming Bill has been impacted by various issues, including doubt over whether banks would accept proceeds from regulated web shops.
In June, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson flew to Paris to meet with representatives of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at the prime minister's request, to discuss the government's plans.
Asked whether the government achieved international approval, Wilchcombe said, "Yes. All done. We feel very good.
"We feel that the consultation, the work that was done, the experts we brought in, the travel that was done by the attorney general to the various jurisdictions and speaking with the financial organizations in the global community has done us tremendously well, and we are very proud of it."
As it relates to the tax rate to be imposed on web shops and how many will be provided licenses, Wilchcombe said they settled on those matters, but that will be subject to change once the government reviews the industry after regularization.
"We are doing something brand new and we are not going to put ourselves in a closet or hole where we can't get out," he said.
"You have to ensure that there is flexibility.
"You have to ensure that we can come back and revisit, because a part of our demands will be, of course, the audits.
"And you can only audit their books once they have become regularized.
"So that will determine upon the market and how the market can stand."
He did not reveal what the government has proposed as the tax rate.
Debate on the bill is expected to begin next Wednesday.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has said web shops will be taxed and regulated retroactive to July 1, 2014.

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Burrows questions religious agenda amid LGBT criticisms

September 03, 2014

Equal rights advocate Terneille Burrows yesterday questioned the agenda of some religious leaders for speaking out against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and remaining quiet on more "significant" issues such as child abuse.
She said the silence of some in the religious community on issues, specifically ones related to men of the cloth who are convicted of sexual crimes, "discredits them".
Burrows' comments came on the Guardian Radio talk show "Let's Talk Live" on 96.9 FM with host Carlton Smith.
She was responding to Bahamas Faith Ministries International President Dr. Myles Munroe, who recently criticized the LGBT community.
In his statement, titled
"Homosexuality - Phobia or Principle", Munroe said he has watched with horror over the years as people have
"hijacked" and "raped" the meaning of the civil rights movement in an effort to fight for the rights of the LGBT community.
"I think the attempt to equate the historical civil rights movement with the demands for the right to dignify, glorify and accept as normal the practice of a lifestyle that could render the human race, for which they sacrificed, extinct is illogical, dishonest, and is the abuse of the blood and imprisonment of many," Munroe said.
"It's a hijacking of the gains paid for by the blood of honorable men and women for an unnatural, human-destroying behavior."
Burrows, also known as TaDa, publicly disclosed in a letter to the editor that was published in The Nassau Guardian on Tuesday that she is a member of the LGBT community.
During the show, she suggested that Christian leaders are not focused on real matters of national concern.
Burrows added that members of the cloth should be particularly concerned about religious leaders who inflict harm on others.
"Yet the priority is to call out a community of not law breaking citizens as opposed to cleaning up their own doorstep and saying, 'Look we've seen over the past decades a few men of the cloth who... have been convicted of sexual assault against minors. We in no way condone this. We in no way turn our backs and say this never happened. We believe that this issue should be a national priority and we come on board with the cause to help sensitize people.'"
Burrows said religious leaders have a greater responsibility to speak out against such crimes because of their circle of influence.
"It causes us to question them because they say 'this whole gay agenda thing', which I don't know what that is," she said.
"But I would like to know what the religious community's agenda is because if you're not policing those that come from among you and present themselves as leaders and protectors and counselors of those children left in your care, if you just allow that to be brushed away, and target this, then perhaps [you are using the LGBT issues] as a distraction."
In addition to Munroe, Burrows said religious leaders such as Bahamas Christian Council President Dr. Ranford Patterson and Pastors Mario Moxey and Lyall Bethel have continously spoken out on certain national issues but have failed to carry the banner with regard to violence against children.
During the show, Burrows also suggested that members of the LGBT community ought to have protections under the law.

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Coroner's Court to hear infant death case

September 03, 2014

Police have forwarded the file on the death of a four-month-old boy who burned to death as fire ravaged a two-bedroom house in Elizabeth Estates last Tuesday to the Coroner's Court.
After a review of the file, Coroner Jeanine Weech will set a date for an inquest into the infant's death.
The purpose of an inquest is to determine the cause and manner of death.
An inquest does not determine criminal or civil liability.
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
On the scene, police suggested that the infant and his six-year-old brother were home alone at the time the fire started around 10 p.m.
Two male relatives were arrested in relation to the death.
The mother was at work at the time of the blaze, according to police.
Superintendent Paul Rolle, head of the Central Detective Unit, said yesterday that the men were released on Sunday.
Investigators said the child was found lying on a bed at the back of the house, located at the intersection of St. Vincent Avenue and Malaysia Road.
A resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he and his brother broke down the front door of the home after realizing it was on fire.
After rescuing the six-year-old boy, he said they attempted to find the infant, but could not get to the back room because of the blaze.
Superintendent Stephen Dean said on the scene that if it was found that the children were left home alone intentionally charges would be brought against those responsible.

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Alleged gang member acquitted of murder

September 03, 2014

The alleged leader of the Border Boys gang was yesterday acquitted of murder.
After deliberating for over an hour, jurors acquitted Tony Smith of the February 8, 2012 shooting death of his cousin, Tristan Bartlett.
Smith's co-accused, Leroy Smith, was cleared of the murder charge on Friday after Senior Justice Jon Isaacs upheld a no case submission made by his lawyer, Michael Kemp.
A witness, whose identity was sealed by a court order, claimed that he saw Smith and Leroy Smith get into Bartlett's Honda Accord. The witness claimed he heard gunshots and saw both men flee the car.
The witness said he saw Tony Smith running toward him with a gun in his hand.
Another witness, Prince Young, claimed that he overheard Smith bragging about killing Bartlett about a week after his death.
For his part, Smith denied any gang affiliation. In fact, he said he came to Bartlett's aid by getting Jean Charles to drive him to the hospital.
Smith said he took Bartlett's girlfriend to the hospital in his car.
During cross-examination by Darnell Dorsette, Smith denied that he returned to the scene and feigned concern about Bartlett after committing the crime.
Smith said he stopped at the shooting site after he left his girlfriend's house because a crowd had assembled.
Smith said that the prosecution's witnesses had lied on him. He said that Young lied out of self-preservation as he had also been arrested as a suspect in Bartlett's death. Young admitted that he was arrested in connection with the murder when cross-examined by Smith's lawyer, Murrio Ducille.

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DPM asks UN for help in climate change fight

September 03, 2014

Underscoring the country's vulnerability to climate change and its increasing poverty levels, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis called on the United Nations to enhance its support to The Bahamas.
Davis was speaking on Monday at the United Nations Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Samoa.
"We have been a part of [the] Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) for the more than 20 years of its existence," he told delegates.
"For the 20 years, we have shared visions, ideals and challenges. For 20 years, we have set forth our needs. And for 20 years, we have been denied funding because of our per capita income.
"Mr. President, the UN system could stand to enhance its support to SIDS like The Bahamas, strengthening its institutions where necessary and providing more focused and additional services to SIDS."
The Bahamas is considered to be one of the richest countries in the Caribbean community when ranked by gross national income per capita, which stood at $20,600 as of 2012, according to the World Bank.
But Davis said the country's per capita income does not accurately reflect the reality in The Bahamas.
"We co-exist in a world where assistance is predicated on the basis of per capita income as the sole indicator of need," he said.
"Our per capita income is distorted, and does not properly reflect the economic realities of our citizens and remote island communities, where poverty is the rule and not the exception."
Davis noted that more than 12 percent of the Bahamian population is living below the poverty line.
According to statistics released earlier this year, 43,000 people were living in poverty in The Bahamas at the time of a survey conducted in the first half of 2013. That figure represents an increase of 3.5 percent over the 9.3 percent who lived in poverty when the 2001 survey was conducted.
As it relates to climate change, Davis noted during the conference that The Bahamas is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change and its impacts.
"In fact, a World Bank report indicates that The Bahamas is one of the island states most vulnerable to sea level rise, as approximately 80 percent of our landmass is within 1.5 meters of sea level," he said. "Climate change is not simply about changing our way of life; it is primarily about saving lives."
He added: "Funding for the development or refurbishment of essential infrastructure to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change is a necessity and challenge. If we truly believe that the polluter pays, the developed world must partner with The Bahamas to enhance our resilience."
Davis called for a post-2015 development agenda that recognizes the special needs of SIDS, as well as climate change and disaster risk reduction.

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A proud but disgusted Bahamian

September 03, 2014

Dear Editor,
I do not usually write to the newspapers but I feel compelled to do so this time. A week ago, I went on a seven-day Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Getaway. This cruise stopped in St. Maarten, St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Nassau.
We were a group of 28 family members and friends. The cruise was most enjoyable, and on several occasions while we were aboard the ship, fellow guests told us how lucky we were to live in The Bahamas.
Both St. Maarten and St. Thomas were interesting stops. We found a very organized taxi system in both places and there was a very large shopping area on both islands. The tourist areas were clean and attractive, especially on St. Thomas. It is small wonder that St. Thomas is the most visited port in the Caribbean. It is certainly prepared and ready to receive large numbers of tourists!
I do not know if I can say the same for my beloved Bahamas. The first inkling that there might be a problem was when we received two safety warnings about Nassau in the daily brochure. I understand from some members of my group that there was also a sign on deck six, Guest Services, about safety and the danger of taking valuables ashore.
The safety notices warned the passengers that Nassau was a high crime area and that they should take every precaution to be safe. By the way, we did not receive any such warnings about the other two islands.
When I set foot on the Bahamian shore, I was most embarrassed and ashamed when I saw the condition of the port and its surroundings. I was greeted by weeds along the entire pathway to the shore and everything seemed to be in a state of disrepair. I do not know how we can claim it is better in The Bahamas. This was in stark contrast to the cleanliness, orderliness and picturesque scenes that we saw when we arrived in St. Thomas, the previous stop.
While I can understand that the Festival Place is being renovated, I must ask why we allowed it to get into such a deplorable condition in the first place. The port should be properly maintained all year round.
I am told that over 3 million tourists come to The Bahamas each year by ship. If this is the first thing that they see on disembarking, then they might not want to come back to The Bahamas. I can tell you that it is not a pretty sight for passengers stepping off the ship, if they dare to do so after the safety warnings about Nassau!
The only saving grace about the Nassau port was the calypso music provided by a small combo and the performance by a Junkanoo group. Thank God for Atlantis, which offered four different tours. The majority of the tourists who disembarked went on the organized Atlantis tours.
I was further chagrined when, as I was waiting for my ride to go home, I saw a surrey pass by. The poor, skinny horse, which had obviously seen better days, struggled to pull the surrey with the driver and the two passengers along the street.
The driver gave him a good lash with his whip and the horse moved a little faster, clearly afraid of feeling the sting of the whip a second time. I daresay that if we were in many other countries, we would be prosecuted for cruelty to animals.
If we truly want to make it better in The Bahamas, then let us clean up our streets and our neighborhoods; complete the modernization of Bay Street, especially the eastern section of this main roadway (it is an eyesore), and let us bring crime under control. Let us make this a safe place to live and a safe place to visit. Let us show appreciation for the wonderful beauty which the Lord has endowed us with and let us demonstrate pride in our country in all our actions!
I hope the authorities are listening. If we are not careful, we could lose a substantial portion of the tourism market. And this would have dire consequences for thousands of our people.
I remain a proud but disgusted Bahamian.
- Rhonda Chipman-Johnson

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An end to the worship of political leaders

September 03, 2014

Dear Editor,
Kindly grant me a small space in your column to voice my support for Dr. Hubert Minnis as leader of the Free National Movement.
I am tired of hearing the rumors that men past their prime are seeking leadership, just as Minnis is working on the consensus-building so badly needed in our country. Many have been unfair to Doc. They complain about his lack of verbal gymnastics. They bemoan his considered, metered approach to national issues; his call for transparency and accountability in government.
After 41 years of divisive, egotistical leaders, I welcome the Minnis Method of nation-building. Most of our problems we face in The Bahamas are a direct result of worshiping leaders in a god-like fashion, afraid to buck the status quo.
Despite his detractors in and out of the party, Minnis gives me hope that building consensus will be a priority for him when he becomes prime minister.
When I read his plans for the "new Bahamas" I am optimistic that together, we can follow his lead and put this nation back on track.
- M. Thompson

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Educating our children

September 03, 2014

Proud parents could be seen taking their children to campuses on Monday, as schools opened across the country. Many flooded social media with pictures of their youngsters in their uniforms on the way to classes.
It is admirable that so many ensured their children were properly dressed and equipped with the hardware necessary for learning. Bags, pens and pencils, and shirts and pants, however, are not enough to ensure children leave school prepared for the job market and to be reasonable citizens in our society.
Our students have performed poorly in national exams for years. Sadly, the poor results are no longer even surprising to us. On average, students continue to earn Ds and Es in English language and mathematics in the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) examinations, respectively, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Education last month.
For children to succeed, parents, guardians and family members must take active roles in their education. Parents must set standards of acceptable behavior so their children know there is an aspiration for them greater than mediocrity and failure.
Too many parents send their children to school and hope the school teaches them something. These parents don't know the names of the people teaching their children; they don't know what their children are studying; they don't know the names of their children's friends.
There is a consequence to such indifference. We see it when young men are arraigned before our courts. We see it when young women are waiting on bus stops frustrated with five children for five different men.
We hope those parents who have not spent the time with their children will make the effort from this school year on to get involved. Along with setting high standards for achievement and behavior, ask questions about what your child is learning; encourage him or her to study; go to Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings; meet your child's teachers; help with homework.
When children know parents care and have standards that they ensure are met, those children do better. Neglectful parents help create the next generation of deviants.
The center of education is the home. School exists to help us in this effort, but parents must be of the mindset that they are the head teachers of their offspring. You, the parent, must lead the way to ensure that your child becomes a self-motivated and productive member of our society.

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The Bahamian constitution is, in itself, a contradiction

September 03, 2014

Article 15 of The Bahamas constitution establishes the right of Bahamians to choose whatever religion or religious faith they so desire, and Article 26 establishes freedom of religion as an inherent Bahamian right, such that no Bahamian should be discriminated against on the basis of religion.
But, the constitution itself, in its preamble, discriminates on the basis of religion.
Given that this preamble is being used now by many Bahamians for their arguments in defense of Christian principles as the foundation for a continued and justifiable inequality between Bahamian women and men, it too should be examined more closely.
Ironically, the same preamble also makes a point that the labor of Bahamians ought not to be exploited, nor their lives frustrated by deprivation. Why aren't the people who are fighting to uphold Christian values also fighting to save their brothers and sisters from exploitation and deprivation? Must one not wonder?
The constitution doesn't specifically name Christianity as the national religion, but it does say that the freedom of Bahamians "will be guaranteed by a national commitment to self-discipline, industry, loyalty, unity and an abiding respect for Christian values..."
This being the case, then the reverse suggests that if you possess any other religion or faith outside of the named Christianity, then your freedoms, as a Bahamian, cannot or will not be guaranteed. So you can choose whatever creed you like, but if it ain't Christian, 'we' ain't really hearing it?
The fact that one religion has been chosen for a country and embedded in its constitution creates a discriminatory country - a country of people who are automatically and subconsciously taught to and will discriminate against anyone whose religious beliefs differ from theirs, in spite of the fact that religious discrimination is outlawed in the same document.
And it follows that any discriminatory principles within the constitution, being that they are upheld only by the one religion, will never falter when challenged.
Because the constitution is based on Christianity, the Bible will always be the point of deference by the people who want to defend the Christian church as the one true religion of The Bahamas, and who defend certain discriminations which are entrenched in Christianity.
It is no accident or anomaly that scores of Bahamian men sincerely believe themselves to be superior to women, whether they recognize it or not.
The very choice of religion that filters through the people via every denomination of Christianity in the country instructs women to be submissive, subservient and subjected, and men to be the opposite.
It instructs Bahamian women to yield to (Bahamian) men as leaders and in positions of power, and, with this as the ultimate law of the land, the Bahamian men's mindsets are not soon to change, after 41-plus years of practicing philosophies which exalt men and belittle women.
I've heard many Bahamians say, lately, in the turmoil of equal rights discussions, that women are not discriminated against in The Bahamas, but the mere fact that the persons saying this cannot see any one such circumstance at all tells me they choose not to; because they choose not to, they make their belief their reality, as opposed to the actual reality.
But blatant discrimination is one thing; latent discrimination is entirely another.
Any black or poor Bahamian knows this.
The discriminations against women in this country lie just beneath the surface of everyday life; throughout the church and within many families, it is obvious, but Bahamians just don't see it. They see it as something else, or they simply refuse to acknowledge it.
Even if, or when, they do see it or acknowledge it, their Bible, their religion, their Christian faith tells them it should be that way, that men should be superior to women. And you're back at square one again.
The argument and push for the complete, itemized, unambiguous, equality of women and men in The Bahamas constitution won't find success until The Bahamas is brought to its knees economically, socially and politically - when it realizes it can no longer rely on prejudices while at the same time relying on foreign tourism, international banking and commerce, and other foreign relations or assistance, without first reconditioning the Bahamian national psyche with respect to its religiosity and the separatist nature of the religious principles that cause Bahamian women and men to view themselves as unequally different in the first instance.
The overarching impact of a new method of taxation in 2015 and the compromising economic position it will place many Bahamians in will be the first occasion in which this truth of unfortunate reliance will be manifested.
And there will be a host of many other such occasions to follow.
Because of our forebears/constitutional framers, the reputedly brilliant men who came before us and created a philosophically-crippled country that is now hobbling along on crutches, The Bahamas is nowhere near possessing the level of independence necessary to exist without relying heavily, in countless ways, on the international community.
And discriminatory principles don't fit anywhere in a global family portrait.
o Facebook.com/politiCole

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More than two years later, CLICO policyholders still looking for answers

September 03, 2014

Former CLICO employee and policyholder Lincoln Deal said the continued inaction by the government to resolve the CLICO matter has left him feeling "demoralized".
Deal called on the Christie administration to indicate whether it intends to honor a $30 million guarantee for CLICO policies.
In June 2013, Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis said the government intended to bring a resolution to the CLICO liquidation by the end of that year.
However, that has yet to happen, and Deal questioned whether the government has taken any steps at all to honor the commitment to guarantee the 13,000 Bahamian policies, which have been in limbo since the insurer's February 2009 liquidation order.
Deal, 53, was one of more than 100 people who lost their jobs at CLICO after it was declared insolvent. He said he never received a "single cent" when he was laid off.
He also noted that thousands of Bahamians invested millions in the insurance company.
"It's very demoralizing that, after all of these years, the FNM government and the PLP seems to be almost hopeless," he said.
"...But it's an indictment to this government, in particular, because they came into office saying they would deal with this matter. Two-and-a-half years later the situation continues and nothing seems to be in the mill. They don't even talk about it now.
"We had employees who lost homes; children had to come out of private schools; people's cars were repossessed and not one cent from them... The government just needs to address the matter."
In late December 2013, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which monitors the stability of this country's financial sector and economy overall, called on the government to "urgently address" the CLICO (Bahamas) situation by outlining the terms of a government guarantee.
When contacted yesterday, Halkitis said he could not comment on the matter.
But Bishop Simeon Hall, another policyholder, said it's time for the government to end its silence on the matter.
"As somebody who lost a lot of money...I want to encourage the government to make some effort to regularize this situation, because there are persons who have been marginalized," he said.
"I think a lot of people who were with CLICO are under great mental stress at this time because of the absence of any resolution.
"I recognize that money is tight all around, but I think the government should use some creative ways to answer the people who have been affected by this unpleasant situation."
Hall added that since the matter came to a head, too many politicians have used the issue to get mileage.
Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney is also seeking answers. He charged yesterday that it appears as if the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) sold the Bahamian people a dream.
"The Democratic National Alliance demands to know what, if anything, is this government prepared to do to provide closure for the thousands of former CLICO customers," he said in a statement.
"The time has come to make the necessary legislative changes to the Insurance Act to ensure that the rights of Bahamians are protected in the future.
"This government should not be allowed to falter on yet another of its promises to the people of The Bahamas. Believe in Bahamians. Protect their interests."
McCartney added that the both the former Ingraham administration and the Christie administration have failed to help the policyholders.
The government guarantee was intended to allow for the transfer of the CLICO (Bahamas) policy portfolio to another life and health insurer, as no other underwriter would purchase the portfolio without it.

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business softweb 3rd sep

September 03, 2014

business softweb 3rd sepbusiness softweb 3rd sepbusiness softweb 3rd sepbusiness softweb 3rd sepbusiness softweb 3rd sep

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LGBT activists slam Munroe

September 02, 2014

Two lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activists yesterday accused Bahamas Faith Ministries International President Dr. Myles Munroe of "rank hypocrisy" and said his statement about the LGBT community perpetuates discrimination against an already marginalized group.
Former lecturer at The College of The Bahamas Joseph Gaskins Jr. and human rights activist Erin Greene said they were alarmed by Munroe's statement.
In his statement, titled "Homosexuality - Phobia or Principle", Munroe said he has watched with horror over the years as people have "hijacked" and "raped" the meaning of the civil rights movement in an effort to fight for the rights of the LGBT community.
"This comes a little over 51 years after the march on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his now iconic 'I Have A Dream' speech," Gaskins said.
"It was organized by Bayard Rustin, who was a black gay man, one of King's top lieutenants, and the primary organizer for the march on Washington.
"I don't know who Myles Munroe thinks he is to characterize the civil rights movement as one thing, when people who were deeply involved in this movement had made it clear that LGBT rights is not the same thing, but a continuation of the work for justice and equality for all people."
Gaskins said other civil rights movement activists, such as King's wife, Coretta Scott King (now deceased); John Lewis, a civil rights icon; Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Julian Bond, a leader in the movement, support LGBT rights.
Munroe's statement was in response to a gay pride event that took place on Grand Bahama over the weekend.
"In the guise of civil rights and human rights, the LGBT minority community [has] decided to celebrate the civility of [its] very uniquely-chosen lifestyle and sexual preference publically," Munroe said.
"I am not sure what their mission or goals are in this effort, but obviously they have received enough incentive and motivation to attempt something that 90 percent of The Bahamas and Bahamians consider unacceptable and violates their collective convictions, moral standing and values."
He spoke at length about the importance of fear and phobia and said there is a misconception surrounding homophobia.
He also objected to being labeled as homophobic for disapproving of the LGBT lifestyle and suggested the LGBT community has a heterosexual phobia.
Greene said she was shocked by Munroe's statement.
"I would say, what Mr. Munroe labels as a fear of heterosexuals is, in fact, a fear of social and religious leaders like himself that would drive a nation to act... against a community of citizens," she said.
"I sit wondering how a man who...fraternizes with a known polygamist - President of South Africa Jacob Zuma - would still be taken seriously as a social leader and a political commentator."
Munroe traveled to South Africa over the weekend as part of a "diplomatic mission".
He met with several senior government ministers, including Minister of Energy Tina Joemat-Petterson, who welcomed Munroe and his wife on behalf of Zuma.
Gaskins accused Munroe of "rank hypocrisy" by making grand statements about homosexuality, but making no statements about the "sinful lifestyles" being displayed in nightclubs throughout the country.
He also questioned the type of democracy Munroe wants for The Bahamas.
"To use your influence to promote discrimination and prejudice is problematic no matter where you come from," Gaskins said.
"Despite it being your opinion or religious belief, we all have a responsibility to protect the humanity of people in this country, and in general."

GB gay pride event
The gay pride event over the weekend was cut short because members of the LGBT community expressed security concerns.
The Bahamas Pride Weekend is "designed to inspire, educate and celebrate the diverse Bahamian LGBT community", according to a statement from the event organizers.
Speaking about the controversial event, Greene said she was disappointed, but not surprised.
Gaskins shared similar sentiments.
He said he was invited to attend the event, but did not because of business.
Greene, who was nominated for a Community Titan Award, said she did not attend because of a work conflict.
"Bahamians generally operate under gross misinterpretations of the law," Greene said.
"But it is the government that does not understand its obligation to its LGBT citizens, and allowed the state affairs to occur.
"Bahamians coupled with their ignorance of the law have no respect for the law or the lives of other citizens, but it is nothing new."
Greene said LGBT people have a right to freedom of association, freedom of consciousness and expression.
She added that, as an LGBT advocate, she has been stalked, verbally harassed and assaulted, and has faced several death threats in the last three years with no recourse.

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Two charged with Mackey murder

September 02, 2014

The two suspects accused of the shooting death of the prime minister's press secretary, Latore Mackey, yesterday claimed they were brutally assaulted by police officers following their arrest.
Kelvin Kelvano Deveaux, 18, of Market Street, and Dereck Reginald Neilly, 22, of Young Close, told Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt that they were slapped, beaten and body slammed by officers whom they did not know, but were able to recognize by face.
Prosecutors allege that the men killed Mackey, 37, on August 25. He was found dead in his government issued SUV at White Road, off Market Street, around 4:30 a.m. He had been shot in the neck.
Police said the motive for the killing was robbery.
In addition to the murder charge, Deveaux and Neilly face charges of conspiracy to commit armed robbery and attempted armed robbery.
The men were not required to enter pleas to the charges and have been remanded to Her Majesty's Prisons.
The men make their next court appearance on November 7. At that time, it is expected that the case will be forwarded to the Supreme Court by a Voluntary Bill of Indictment (VBI).
Neilly's lawyer, Michael Kemp, told the court that police had the right persons "but let them go".
He added, "In time, the truth will be revealed."

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Greg Moss : Women's rights being used to advance gay agenda

September 02, 2014

Marco City MP Greg Moss said the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in The Bahamas is attempting to advance its agenda "under the guise" of the advancement of women's rights.
His comments were made on Facebook in response to Bahamas Faith Ministries International President Dr. Myles Munroe, who said he has watched with horror over the years as people have "hijacked" and "raped" the meaning of the civil rights movement in an effort to fight for the rights of the LGBT community.
The statement has received strong criticism from the LGBT community.
Moss said, "Under the guise of standing upon their civil rights, they are attempting to intrude upon our civil and religious rights.
"By their attempt to enlarge their civil constitutional rights, they are attempting to whittle down our religious constitutional rights.
"That is why the present debate in Parliament is so important."
He was referring to debate on the constitutional amendments bills.
There has been widespread concern about the fourth bill, which would make it unconstitutional to discriminate against someone based on sex.
Several members of Parliament, including those on the governing side, have expressed strong concerns that the word "sex" is open for interpretation and could lead to same-sex marriages.
The government has proposed to amend the bill to define the word "sex" as a man and woman.
The debate fueled a wider national conversation about the LGBT community.
Munroe's statement, titled 'Homosexuality - Phobia or Principle', was in response to a gay pride event that took place in Grand Bahama over the weekend.
"In the guise of civil rights and human rights, the LGBT minority community [has] decided to celebrate the civility of [its] very uniquely chosen lifestyle and sexual preference publically," Munroe said.
"I am not sure what their mission or goals are in this effort but obviously they have received enough incentive and motivation to attempt something that 90 percent of The Bahamas and Bahamians consider unacceptable and violates their collective convictions, moral standing and values."
The event was cut short because members of the LGBT community expressed security concerns.
Munroe said he is confident that the LGBT lifestyle will remain socially unacceptable.
He spoke at length about the importance of fear and phobia and said there is a misconception surrounding homophobia.
He said people who express disagreement about those "who practice this lifestyle" are seen as having a "phobia".
Moss said he agreed with Munroe.
He said the minority movement to advance the LGBT agenda and stigmatize those who oppose it as homophobic is "at its core, an attempt to impose a redefinition of the word of God by political means".
"A call to righteous living is redefined as being homophobic," Moss said.
"An insistence that marriage is a institution ordained by God between men and women is redefined as being hate speech.
"A fidelity to the word of God is redefined as being backward.
He continued: "Ultimately, the attempt to advance the LGBT agenda is an attempt to redefine the word of God in order to legitimize that lifestyle.
"And, therefore, the attempt to demonize religious resistance to the advancement of that agenda is implicitly a recognition by those who practice it that their lifestyle is wrong and needs to be legitimized.
"If they were content with their decisions, then they would not need to attempt to redefine the word of God in order to legitimize it. They would stand on their convictions."

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Man, 30, accused of sex with girl, 12

September 02, 2014

A man accused of having a sexual relationship with a minor was yesterday remanded to prison.
Osbourne Thompson, 30, of Farrington Road, appeared before Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt on a charge of unlawful sexual intercourse.
Prosecutors allege that Thompson had sexual relations with a girl of 12 on August 21.
Thompson was not required to enter a plea to the charge. He did not have a lawyer.
Ferguson-Pratt advised him of his right to seek bail in the Supreme Court, as she did not have the jurisdiction to consider bail.
Thompson makes his next court appearance on November 6. Prosecutors plan to fast-track the case to the Supreme Court by a voluntary bill of indictment.

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Constitution overhaul could take 15 years, McWeeney says

September 02, 2014

Constitutional Commission Chairman Sean McWeeney said The Bahamas will likely be considering constitutional reforms for more than a decade, adding that the current considerations on gender equality are a "good start" to the larger process.
"I'm pleased that the constitutional reform exercise that we're involved with now has exercised the electorate as intensely as it has," McWeeney told The Nassau Guardian in a recent interview.
"I think it's a wonderful sign going forward because, remember, this is going to be the first of a series of referenda over a very long period of time," he said, referring to the November 6 referendum on gender equality. "We are probably going to be looking at reforms to the constitution over the next ten to fifteen years. So I think that this is a good start."
Some of the proposed constitutional changes that would lead to gender equality have sparked widespread debate, particularly bill number four, which would make it unconstitutional to discriminate against someone based on sex.
Several members of Parliament, including those on the governing side, have expressed strong concerns that the word "sex" is open for interpretation and the bill could pave the way for same-sex marriage in The Bahamas.
McWeeney said the issues the commission is faced with now will help guide the process in the future.
Last July, the commissioners made public their 250-page report detailing a wide range of recommendations.
The report came nine months after it was appointed by Prime Minister Perry Christie to look at constitutional reform.
In total, the commission made 73 recommendations, but McWeeney said only about 30 represent issues that would require actual constitutional changes.
The elimination of gender equality was among the list of recommendations the commission presented.
The commission also recommended that The Bahamas keep the death penalty on its books. However, the commission suggested that the law be amended to increase the likelihood that the death penalty would be carried out.
Other notable recommendations include the retention of the Privy Council as the country's highest court of appeal; increasing the number of senators and the creation of an independent Boundaries Commission.
The commission also suggested that the prime minister's powers be modified so that instead of having the authority to dissolve Parliament at any time, the nation's leader must give at least nine months' notice ahead of a general election.
The Constitutional Commission further recommended that the automatic right to a jury trial in the Supreme Court in certain instances be removed.
The report noted that the constitution guarantees a jury trial when a person is charged in the Supreme Court.
"That alone should signal that it might be necessary to look seriously at the utility of retaining such a provision," the report said. "But importantly it was never suggested that removing the constitutional right to trial by jury would introduce any unfairness to the system."
The commission also recommended that there be a size limit on the Cabinet, capping it at 15.

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