Nassau Guardian Stories

Man, 25, found hanging from tree

August 11, 2014

A 25-year-old man was found hanging from a cord attached to a tree on Baldwin Avenue, off Farrington Road, on Saturday morning, police said.
Police believe the man committed suicide.
According to the crime report, police received a call around 2:30 a.m. of an apparent suicide.
When officers arrived, they met the lifeless body of the victim still hanging from the tree.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian, relatives identified the man as Kelvin Tomeko Strachan, a father of one.
His grandmother, Florence Rolle, said she was awoken around 5 a.m. Saturday and told about Strachan's death.
She said she was shocked by the incident.
"He loved his child," said Rolle, as she struggled to hold back tears.
"...It's so hard. I can't take it. I feel so bad inside. I do not know what to do."
Annalee Dames, Strachan's aunt, described him as a motivated and ambitious young man.
She said she spoke with him around 9 p.m. on Friday and he seemed to be doing well at the time.
Rolle added that Strachan had matured a lot in the last 10 months since the birth of his child.
She said when she last saw him on Friday he was happy.
An autopsy will be conducted to determine the exact cause of death, police said.

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Minnis: Cash spoke on behalf of FNM

August 11, 2014

Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday that Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Darron Cash spoke on behalf of the FNM when he called on Prime Minister Perry Christie to apologize for campaigning against the 2002 constitutional referendum.
Although he did not want to comment on too many specifics of Cash's recent statement, Minnis said "the chairman represents and spoke for the party" on that issue.
Since Cash issued that statement last week, he and Christie have exchanged blows.
Cash said an apology is needed to heal old wounds.
Christie said, "The leader of the opposition, unlike Darron Cash, is an elected official who I would pay attention to.
"Darron Cash is a fellow traveler, a fellow Bahamian, who has an office, and I pay no attention to him at all with respect to that because it is political."
The prime minister also said he was uncertain whether the FNM shared Cash's view on the matter.
He said the time has long gone for an apology, but he will provide an "explanation".
In response, Cash said Christie can ignore the sentiments of thousands of
Bahamians at his peril.
Asked directly whether an apology from Christie could build support for the
November 6 referendum, Minnis sidestepped the question.
He said he does not know what the prime minister wants to do or what he will ultimately do in that regard.
"As far as the referendum, the FNM has always been in favor of women equality and we will stand by that," he said.
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts, who was contacted for comment, said the events leading up to the 2002 referendum are recorded history.
"If the decision today is the right thing to do they (electorate) ought to do it for the women of The Bahamas, and move on," he said.
"It would be a case of ego clinging to what happened before."
The government tabled four bills to amend the constitution last month.
The bills will institute full equality between men and women in matters of citizenship and will eliminate discrimination in The Bahamas based on sex.
Debate on the four bills started in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.
In order for constitutional changes to take place, the bills must be approved with at least three-quarters support in both the House and Senate.
The bills must then be approved by a simple majority of voters in a referendum.
The referendum is set for November 6.
Cash recently said both Minnis and Christie will have a considerable amount of work to do to win the support of rank and file FNMs and FNM supporters to ensure bi-partisanship on the referendum.
When asked whether FNMs and FNM supporters have expressed concern about the proposed referendum, Minnis said he would comment on that at a later date.
He added that FNM MPs will present their views during the debate, which is expected to continue on Wednesday.
Last Friday, Leader of Government Business in the House Dr. Bernard Nottage, who has responsibility for elections, said if there is not unanimous support for the proposed constitutional amendments, the government would not proceed to a referendum.
Several MPs have expressed concern about the bills: Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller (PLP), Marco City MP Gregory Moss (PLP), Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells (PLP), Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins (PLP) and Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn (FNM).
Referring to concerns expressed by MPs about the bills, Minnis said that is "PLP business" as a result of "internal issues", but the FNM has been and continues to support gender equality and it will not deviate from that position.
It did not appear that Minnis was yet aware that Lightbourn has also raised concerns about at least one of the bills.

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Man fatally shot on Ronald Street

August 11, 2014

A man was shot and killed last night on Ronald Street off Farrington Road, Superintendent Paul Rolle said.
Rolle, the officer-in-charge of the Central Detective Unit, said the victim was standing outside a residence with another man around 8 p.m. when two masked men approached them.
The masked men then produced guns and opened fire.
Rolle said one of the men managed to escape, but the victim was hit multiple times.
Rolle said he died at the scene.
The shooters then fled to a black car and sped off from the scene, Rolle said.
Family members identified the victim as Brandon Russell, 23. According to his parents, Russell was expecting his first child.
This killing pushed the murder count to 72 for the year.

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Christian Council president concerned about referendum

August 11, 2014

More than three months after he pledged he will not support another referendum, Bahamas Christian Council President Dr. Ranford Patterson said the constitutional amendment bills, particularly the fourth one, has "inspired" him to vote.
The bill he referred to seeks to make it unconstitutional for any law or any person acting in the performance of any public office to discriminate based on sex.
Patterson suggested the bill may pave the way for more than just eliminating discrimination against women.
"The questions I believe require that Bahamians participate, particularly that fourth question," Patterson told The Nassau Guardian.
"We can start off by saying discrimination based on sex, but then what I did is Googled the United States Constitution as it relates to discrimination based on sex, and there is a whole lot of other stuff that is involved in that.
"If you look at the U.S. Constitution as it relates to [eliminating] discrimination based on sex, it is not just man and woman.
"It goes deeper than that."
Following the government's decision to ignore the result of the January 2013 gambling referendum, which was non-binding, Patterson said the government was setting a dangerous precedent.
At the time, he said he would not support the proposed constitutional referendum because it would be a waste of his time.
The majority of people who voted in the referendum last year voted against the regularization and taxation of web shops.
But Patterson said there is "no way in hell I will not let my voice be heard" in the referendum set for November 6 because of the importance of the issues.
He said everyone is equal and deserving of the same rights and he believes his colleagues share his view and support the first three bills.
He called on the government to clarify the fourth bill to ensure there is no underlining agenda.
"That is why it is so important for us to read the questions again, go over the questions again, and try to figure out what exactly we are trying to accomplish by the questions that are being asked of us," Patterson said.
The government tabled four bills to amend the constitution last month.
The bills will institute full equality between men and women in matters of citizenship and will eliminate discrimination in The Bahamas based on sex.
Despite the government indicating that same-sex marriage is not legal and there is currently no intention of changing that, Democratic National Alliance Leader Branville McCartney said recently that the wording could lead to that.
He said the government should make the proposed amendments to the constitution simple.
Under the Matrimonial Causes Act, a marriage is void if "the parties are not respectively male and female".
Last week, Erin Greene, a human rights activist, said she believes the fourth constitutional amendment bill will offer some form of protection to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
She said the bill is not a gay marriage bill, but there are protections that would be afforded to LGBT people if the bill is passed.

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Four arrested in gambling raid

August 11, 2014

Police arrested four men on charges of illegal gambling early Sunday morning.
When police arrived around 1 a.m. they allegedly found people playing blackjack and poker at a bar on Apple Street.
The club's owner and three patrons were taken into custody. They are expected to face formal charges before a magistrate on Wednesday.
In a separate incident, Jermaine "Big Tymer" Russell was shot five times in the stomach as he left the establishment around 3 a.m. on July 27.
He died around 8 a.m. at the Princess Margaret Hospital.

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The case for constitutional reform

August 11, 2014

Dear Editor,
The Bahamas prides itself on being one of the oldest democracies in the western hemisphere, having convened Parliament in September 1729. Ironically, it is one of a handful of countries maintaining far-reaching reservations on the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
That places us in unenviable company such as some Muslim countries that practice Sharia law. The Bahamas is about the business of fixing this with vigorous parliamentary debates on four constitutional bills, followed by an intense public education campaign that will culminate in a constitutional referendum for enshrinement on November 6 in accordance with article 54 of the constitution.
In short, the amendments to the constitution seek to eliminate gender inequality, discrimination against women and discrimination against unmarried Bahamian fathers. Bills one through four seek to achieve the following:
The Bahamas Constitution (Amendment) Bill 1, 2014: The transfer of Bahamian citizenship
In accordance with Article 54 of the constitution, this bill seeks to repeal Article 8 and make a consequential repeal of article 9 of the constitution.
Presently, article 8 enables a child born outside of The Bahamas to a married Bahamian father (who is a Bahamian by birth) to automatically become a Bahamian citizen at birth, but denies this legal right to a Bahamian mother if the father of her child (born outside of The Bahamas) is a non-Bahamian.
In the latter case and under article 9, the child born to a Bahamian mother and non-Bahamian father can make an application upon attaining the age of 18 and before attaining the age of 21, to be registered as a Bahamian citizen.
Bill 1 seeks to institute gender equality by enabling a child born outside of The Bahamas to automatically become a Bahamian citizen at birth if either of the parents is a Bahamian citizen at birth.
Such an alteration to the constitution would eliminate the need for article , which is therefore repealed.
The Bahamas Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2, 2014: Marriage to a Bahamian citizen
Basically, under article 10 of the constitution in its current frame, a non-Bahamian woman becomes a Bahamian citizen immediately upon marrying a Bahamian man subject to terms and conditions of paragraph two which is designed to protect against marriages of convenience.
Bill 2 seeks to alter article 10 of the constitution in accordance with article 54 to "enable a Bahamian woman married to foreign man to secure for him the same entitlements to citizenship that a Bahamian man married to a foreign woman already has under the constitution." Of course this too is subject to the terms and conditions of paragraph two designed to protect against abuses such as marriages of convenience.
Under paragraph two, the foreign party may be denied registration for citizenship if there is satisfactory evidence of the following:
o The marriage no longer subsists
o The marriage was entered into for the purpose of enabling the foreign partner to acquire Bahamian citizenship
o The parties have no intention of living together after the marriage
o The foreign party was convicted in another country of an indictable criminal offense involving "moral turpitude." Bigamy and polygamy would qualify.
The Bahamas constitution (amendment) Bill 3, 2014: The transfer of citizenship by a Bahamian man to a child he fathered in The Bahamas with a woman he is not married to.
Currently under article 14 of the constitution, an unmarried Bahamian woman can transfer her citizenship to her child born in The Bahamas, but an unmarried Bahamian man cannot. This is the only law that currently discriminates against a Bahamian man based on his gender and marital status. This law has irked single Bahamian men for more than one generation in that they feel that they have all the rights only in making child support payments, but little to no say or sway (including citizenship) as it relates to their child born outside of wedlock. This law cannot be changed fast enough.
Bill 3 seeks to alter article 14 of the constitution to "enable the Bahamian father of a child born outside of marriage to pass on his citizenship to that child just as an unmarried Bahamian woman can presently do but subject to proof of paternity." This amended bill is directly connected to the Status of Children Act, where the result of a DNA test is recognized by Bahamian law as sufficient proof of fatherhood or paternity.
Also, in article 14(3), the word "father" is replaced with the word "parent" to achieve gender neutrality. Since both the father and mother are treated equally under the proposed amended law, singling out one parent based on sex becomes irrelevant and therefore redundant.
The Bahamas Constitution (Amendment) Bill 4, 2014: Including "sex" explicitly as strictly prohibited grounds for discrimination
Currently in paragraphs (3) and (5) under Article 26 of the constitution, the expression "discriminatory" means "affording different treatment to different persons attributable wholly or mainly to respective descriptions by race, place of origin, political opinions, color or creed."
Bill 4 seeks to add the word "sex" to the descriptions of the various attributes. Under the amended law, it becomes illegal to discriminate against a person based not only on race, place of origin, political opinions, color or creed, but also on the grounds of sex. This constitutional move effectively enshrines gender equality as a fundamental right.
It is important to note that pursuant to article 26(4), there are exceptions to this rule such as matters of personal law, including marriage where the Matrimonial Causes Act protects the position of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Same sex marriages will NOT be recognized by Bahamian law and will remain illegal after this constitutional amendment.
In closing, I share the expressed views of the government via the commission that there are urgent moral, national, international and political imperatives driving the need to reform The Bahamas constitution to achieve gender equality and eliminate discrimination based on sex. The Bahamas has international obligations, and our efforts are being closely scrutinized by the international community. We need all hands on deck to bring our laws fully in line with a 21st century free global community. Also, as a freedom loving person, I fully support the expansion of personal rights and freedoms.
- Elcott Coleby

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Government gun-shy after past referendum failures

August 11, 2014

National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage said that if there is not unanimous parliamentary support for the proposed constitutional amendments on gender equality, the government would not proceed with the referendum slated for November 6.
"This is not an exercise in futility," he said. "If it becomes clear that there is not unanimity, then we will not proceed with the referendum. If there is unanimity and we are satisfied it is genuine, then we will do so."
Yet so far, most of the expressed opposition to the content of the proposed amendments has come from some of the government's own members of Parliament. Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller criticized the provision allowing a foreign man to be granted automatic citizenship if he marries a Bahamian woman, while Marco City MP Greg Moss said a better way to approach establishing equality in this regard would be to withhold the right to transfer citizenship to a spouse from both men and women.
Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn, an FNM, said he has a problem with the bill that would allow a Bahamian man to pass on citizenship to his child/children by a foreign woman who is not his wife.
And Nottage himself has weighed in, saying that in his opinion, the proposed referendum questions are too complex.
Astute political observers could not be blamed for reading Nottage's announcement as suggestive of an administration that is insecure and wants to hedge its bets before going into the second referendum since it came to office.
What's more, Nottage is backing away from the government's unequivocal promise of a constitutional referendum when most of the dissenting voices should be well within the prime minister's sphere of influence.
The government cannot be blamed for feeling gun-shy about hosting a referendum, considering the catalogue of failed public votes in recent Bahamian history.
In January 2013, the Christie administration held a referendum on the future of gaming in The Bahamas at a cost of $1.2 million to the public, only to see the "no" vote win convincingly.
And 12 years ago, the former Free National Movement (FNM) government's first referendum on gender equality also crashed and burned, with many feeling this contributed significantly to that party's election loss shortly thereafter.
However, Prime Minister Christie should keep in mind that his own Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) led the opposition to the 2002 referendum. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the criticism over the recent gaming referendum was not aimed at the fact that the public voted against the proposals, but rather that after spending the public's money the government has decided to ignore the outcome.
It is clear that the Christie administration is working hard to overturn a growing reputation as a government of blunders, failures and broken promises. However, breaking yet another promise is no way to go about doing it, particularly under so thin an excuse as the lack of parliamentary unanimity in what is supposed to be an exercise in unleashing the voice of the people, not political parties.

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Court rejects death penalty for double killer

August 10, 2014

A man convicted of a double murder will not be put to death after a judge ruled on Friday that his crime did not meet the stringent standard for the imposition of the death penalty.
Justice Roy Jones sentenced George Williams to two concurrent life sentences for the 2008 murders of Terrel Mingo and Andy Weekes, finding that their deaths could not be considered the "worst of the worst" and there was no evidence that Williams was incapable of reform.
The legislature in 2011 categorized the murder of more than one person as a death eligible offense.
According to the evidence at trial, Mingo was killed because he refused to share the spoils from a robbery with Williams and Weekes was killed because he witnessed the crime.
Both were killed with a single gunshot to the head.
In making his case for the death penalty, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Neil Brathwaite noted that Parliament had deemed multiple murders and the murder of a witness as death eligible crimes.
In rejecting this argument, Jones noted that the murders of Mingo and Weekes were not rare or exceptional and there was no evidence of premeditation.
Jones said that Weekes could not be considered a witness as he had not been called upon to testify.
Jones said the level of violence in the Williams case could not be compared to that in the case of Maxo Tido, the first person to receive the penalty since it was declared discretionary in 2006. The Privy Council in 2011 overturned Tido's death sentence and ordered him resentenced.
Jones said that Williams' previous conviction for manslaughter was not proof that he was incapable of reform.
Williams' lawyer, Jairam Mangra, said he intends to appeal the conviction and sentence.

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Lead, PM. Lead

August 10, 2014

Philip of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, said, "An army of deer led by a lion is more to be feared than an army of lions led by a deer."

On the matter of Parliamentary Secretary Renward Wells and his controversial signing of a letter of intent (LOI) for a $600 million plus waste-to-energy project last month, Prime Minister Perry Christie has characteristically displayed a lack of leadership.
It has confirmed for many people, in many quarters, on all sides of the political divide, that Christie is the captain of a sinking ship with a crew that appears to have no direction or any immediate hope for calmer seas.
What leaves us bewildered is that this controversy is of Christie's own making.
It is not something manufactured or fed by the opposition. It is not something that was made up or blown out of proportion by the media.
With every statement he makes, he becomes a weakened man, digging a deeper hole for himself.
It is as if he knows he is prime minister, but is again proving he does not know how to be prime minister, how to lead, how to implement an effective strategy to stay politically strong while focusing on crafting and implementing effective policies to move our country forward.
Christie has allowed a matter he should have dealt with weeks ago to develop into a circus in which he is the main act -- a clownish character who provides a kind of dark entertainment, but who no one, not even those in his own circle, should take seriously.
The prime minister's latest comments on the Wells saga have made him the butt of jokes on multiple social media sites.
His handling of the matter has been so poor it is comical.
He has no one to blame but himself.
When National Review dealt with the Wells debacle two weeks ago, we spoke of the confusion that has ensnared the affair.
There is absolutely no reason why this should still be grabbing headlines.
Quietly, some who are closest to Christie are whispering about how dumbfounded they are that he has been unable to get a handle on it.
His failure once again to act has resulted in a fracture across his administration that could have been easily avoided.
It has been three weeks now since Christie asked Wells to resign. That revelation came after Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works Philip Brave Davis told The Nassau Guardian that Wells did not have the authority to sign the document.
Davis later said he was not sure Wells did anything wrong and was investigating the matter.
That was three weeks ago.
We have not heard anything further from Davis or anything about his so-called investigation.
Many people have wondered why the DPM needed to investigate anything if Christie has already asked for the resignation.
On this issue, Christie remained silent for two weeks, all the while watching it snowball into a political nightmare for him.
When he finally spoke, he made matters worse.
Last Wednesday, Christie released a statement in direct response to a claim by Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney that it was the prime minister who asked Wells to sign the letter of intent.
McCartney's comments were enough to draw Christie out of his shell, but the prime minister's statement was insulting to Bahamians looking for a full explanation on the Wells matter, including whether he acted inappropriately in signing the LOI with Stellar Waste to Energy (Bahamas).
Christie said he did not ask Wells to sign and he claimed he had been defamed by those making and publishing the claim.
Exactly what is defamatory about that statement is unclear.
Instead of taking the opportunity to provide a clear outlining of the facts, it seems Christie pulled an old political trick from his hat, seeking to shut people up from discussing the issue by threatening legal action.
So, Christie did not ask Wells to sign an LOI.
He should also say whether he gave Wells any signals prior to that signing that this is a project he wished to have facilitated.
Christie has said there is no deal with Stellar before him.
But he has not explained what led to the LOI signing and who knew what as it relates to the government's discussions with the company that wants to construct the project at the New Providence landfill.
Wells also released a brief statement on Wednesday confirming Christie did not ask him to sign the LOI.
Christie has not yet explained why he asked Wells to resign.
The PM seems to hint that Wells should be making a determination as to whether he, Wells, should resign.
Perhaps this is how Christie views things and governs; perhaps this is how he viewed the Ishmael Lightbourne situation, where to all eyes, Ishmael Lightbourne was clearly compromised in his position as the key value-added tax (VAT) spokesman while he himself had not been compliant in paying his taxes to the treasury.
Perhaps this is how Christie views things when the Executive Chairman of Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) Leslie Miller and his family-owned business were revealed to have not paid BEC bills to the tune of nearly $250,000, and Miller has clearly lost the moral high ground or authority to run the corporation where delinquencies are at the highest they have ever been.
Christie's lack of understanding of true leadership leaves the nation bouncing from pillar to post, from one leaderless issue to the other. We are fatigued with this circus, with this headless chicken show.

Confusion
The question many people still have is if Christie did not ask Wells to sign, and Wells' only other boss, DPM Davis, did not ask him to sign, then why has Christie not fired Wells?
It leaves great speculation that there is much more to this story than any of us know at this point.
Pressed by reporters on Thursday, Christie worsened the confusion by announcing that he has ordered an investigation.
So, more than three weeks after asking for Wells' resignation, the prime minister is only now investigating what transpired with the LOI.
The LOI saga has escalated into a series of LOL moments -- completely laughable.
On Thursday, Christie also seemed to be asking Wells publicly to step down.
But again, the lack of clarity in the prime minister's statements did nothing to kill the issue.
Christie said, "I have the responsibility of investigating it and making a determination based on my own findings, what I would do, because it was the prime minister in my capacity that appointed Mr. Wells.
"Mr. Wells has the responsibility of determining whether in the meantime, what he has done, whether that is sufficient for him to want to step down. I think he has indicated no.
"But the point is you should know that at the end of the day, I have the responsibility, which I accept, of being the final determinant on what happens with respect to this matter.
"And I don't want to run away from that obligation. I just want to come to understand all that has taken place and its full meaning, and then I will act one way or the other."
It is unclear whether the prime minister's investigation differs from the investigation announced weeks ago by Davis.
As one social media blogger observed, perhaps Christie is investigating the investigation already carried out by the DPM. Perhaps the results of the prime minister's investigation will determine whether there needs to be another investigation.
We do not know.
Christie insisted he will have the "final say" on the matter.
"I have to make a determination as to whether that event in the scheme of my government goes to the root of Mr. Wells' existence as a part of my government," he said.
Translation: I have to determine whether to fire Wells.
Nearly a month after requesting Wells' resignation, the prime minister has to determine whether to fire him.
Is there any wonder Christie has become the butt of jokes?
The Wells matter is now clouding the constitutional referendum debate in and outside Parliament.
Some Progressive Liberal Party insiders have opined that Christie might be afraid to fire Wells right now because that might impact whether Wells and other fearless new generation politicians support those referendum bills.
These two issues are not directly related, but Christie needs the support of three-quarters of the House for those controversial bills to pass.
The prime minister is in a bad spot.
He has jammed himself between two difficult positions.
It is his move now.
Quite unnecessarily, Christie has created for himself a distraction that has not faded with his silence or his eventual incomplete response to the building controversy.
It has drawn out the swords of his political opponents.
On Thursday, the DNA leader asked, "How brazen are you sitting there, head up high, strutting around and not saying anything to the Bahamian people who put you there?"
McCartney then predicted, "These people will put you out. Hear my words today, start your countdown to your exit as the prime minister and the exit of the PLP as the government of this country."
Seizing the opportunity to fan the flames, Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis told reporters at a press conference at the House of Assembly on Wednesday that Christie is not man enough to fire Wells.
No one appears clear on why Christie has not fired Wells.
The only thing we really know for sure in all of this is we have a prime minister who has a serious problem leading. He is skilled at dithering.
Christie continues to drive a dagger into his own flesh.
There can only be two explanations for this: Either he is an incompetent leader or he desires punishment.
We conclude, as have many others, that Christie is simply out of his depth as it relates to the proper handling of the matter in question.

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Referendum in jeopardy

August 10, 2014

The November 6 constitutional referendum on gender equality is in jeopardy.
Less than three weeks after the bills were tabled, there are growing signs that on the current path the government would be unsuccessful in securing a majority yes vote.
It needs three quarters of the House of Assembly and three-quarters of the Senate to vote in favor of those bills for the referendum to advance.
Daily, there are cracks emerging in the united position that has been mounted by Prime Minister Perry Christie and Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis.
On Friday, Dr. Bernard Nottage, who is the leader of government business in the House and the minister responsible for elections, made a startling statement.
Nottage said the four questions proposed need to be simplified.
One assumes these questions were thoroughly considered by the Cabinet.
Nottage's admission that they are too complex is puzzling.
Was he seeing those questions for the first time when they were tabled, or was his input ignored around the Cabinet table?
The government has already had to bring amendments to the referendum bills.
While Minnis has pledged the opposition's support of those bills, a statement on Wednesday by Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Darron Cash was a clear sign that the opposition as a team might not be fully in support of the bills.
Cash has come out strong, saying that the announcement of the November 6 referendum has opened old wounds of the 2002 referendum.
That was a similar initiative.
After supporting it in the House of Assembly, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) members, at the time in opposition, campaigned energetically for its defeat.
In the current discussions on the approaching referendum, the Christie administration has tried to suppress talk of their disingenuous and shameless actions a dozen years ago.
In previous explanations, Christie pointed to concerns expressed by the church as the primary reason why the PLP changed course on that crucial vote.
One blogger pointed out on Friday that opposition from the church ahead of the 2013 gambling referendum was not enough for the PLP to change course then.
While Christie has tried not to wake the monsters of the 2002 referendum, and Minnis has obliged, Cash pushed the PLP's past actions into national focus.
"Both the leader of the opposition and the prime minister will have a considerable amount of work to do to win the support of rank and file FNMs and FNM supporters," Cash said.
"The work to ensure bipartisanship will be a lot harder than has been imagined. The scars of the anti-referendum battles of 2002 led by then Leader of the Opposition Perry Christie and undercover agents of the PLP still run very deep.
"Regrettably, with the announcement of this current exercise the scab has been ripped off.
"Today, referendum 2002 blood is back in the water. Prime Minister Christie can turn things around. It is up to him to apply the healing balm of reconciliation. It will not be easy.
"The first thing the PM must do is give a full-throated apology to the country and to FNMs for leading the no vote campaign in 2002.
"He should apologize for his actions and seek forgiveness. His actions hurt supporters of the equality for women movement and it

hurt FNMs who worked so hard to try to secure that important win for women."
Cash's statement has resulted in a nasty exchange between him and the prime minister, with Christie rejecting the demand for an apology, saying he pays no attention to Cash because he is not an elected leader.
Christie also said the time for apologies has passed, but said he will provide an explanation on what happened in 2002.
While Minnis has pledged the opposition's support for the referendum, he gave a signal yesterday that his love fest with Christie on the referendum, which we have so far witnessed, might be coming to an end.
When we contacted him, Minnis said Cash spoke on behalf of the FNM when he called on Christie to apologize for campaigning against the 2002 constitutional referendum.
Although he did not want to comment on too many specifics of Cash's recent statement, Minnis said "the chairman represents and spoke for the party" on that issue.
This brewing political storm is not good for the stability of this crucial vote.
Supporters of the equality movement might have a very long time to wait for the change they seek.
The process is already confusing, the tone of the debate is caustic and there is no unanimity.
It appears unlikely that the education campaign recently mounted by the government would do enough to overcome these factors.
The signal from the minister responsible for elections is not a good one.
It does not give us comfort in the process that one of the most senior members of the Cabinet, who happens to be the leader of government business in the House, thinks the ballot questions are too complex.
This was an issue raised with the 2002 referendum.
It alone could sink the vote.
Nottage said on Friday the government would abandon the November 6 referendum if there is no unanimity.
"This is not an exercise in futility," he told reporters.
"If it becomes clear for us that there is not unanimity, then we will not proceed with the referendum.
"If there is unanimity and we are satisfied that it is genuine, then we will do so."
In this regard, Chairman of the Constitutional Commission Sean McWeeney stressed at a referendum town hall meeting last Tuesday night that if there are cracks in the opposition's support of the referendum the entire process would collapse.

Cracks
With debate on those bills set to continue on Wednesday, there appears to be multiple cracks developing, and not just in opposition support.
The government, it seems, could have done a better job at rolling out this important effort.
We are told for instance that backbenchers had no input in the development of the questions presented to Parliament.
Several PLP members have already gone public with their concerns about the questions, and Bahamas Christian Council President Rev. Ranford Patterson said he will vote no to question four.
The bill that relates to this question would make it unconstitutional for any law or any person acting in the performance of any public office to discriminate based on sex.
This would not permit same-sex marriage, the prime minister explained.
But there are growing worries that it could indeed leave the door open for court challenges in this regard.
Dr. Andre Rollins, the outspoken and sometimes controversial MP for Fort Charlotte, said in a statement on the weekend, "The question that will be in the minds of many Bahamians who consider question four is are they being asked simply to protect against discrimination of women, as has been postulated by those framing the discussion, or is this question asking them to give future legislators and judges the latitude and discretion to redefine marriage?"
Rollins added, "If so, how wedded will they be - future legislators and judges - to the belief that marriage is the union between one man and one woman and are Bahamians today prepared to leave that up to their interpretation and discretion?"
Thus far, question four has drawn the strongest reaction and greatest opposition from commentators and members of the public in general.
Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells told us he too is concerned about that question and will not support it.
Other questions are also triggering worries.
Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn has issues with the third bill, which seeks to reverse the law that prohibits an unwed Bahamian man from passing his citizenship to his child if he or she is born to a foreign woman.
But Lightbourn suggested this might be a bad idea.
"You can go on a trip to wherever in the world and you have a casual relationship with some woman in whatever country and you come back to The Bahamas and you find out nine months later that you had a little baby," he said.
"That child is entitled to be a citizen. So if that child is going to be a citizen of The Bahamas then surely the child is entitled to be here. Are you going to have that child come here without its mother? I would think not."
Another observer told National Review, "We aren't being male pigs who don't feel women are equal. But the reality is right there."
Also drawing opposition is some quarters is the second bill which seeks to enable a Bahamian woman who marries a foreign man to pass on her Bahamian citizenship to him.
However, the bill will still outlaw marriages of convenience. As it stands now, a Bahamian man is able to pass on his citizenship to his foreign wife.
But Rollins sees a problem here.
"If we, therefore, accept the premise that we have an illegal migration problem and that economic considerations are paramount in the minds of those seeking refuge here, we should not compound our immigration challenges via constitutional provisions that give an automatic entitlement to citizenship upon marriage," he said.
Rollins said obtaining citizenship should be earned via a gradual process, not an automatic entitlement.
Similar concerns were expressed by Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller and Marco City MP Gregory Moss.
"It is a false paradigm to suggest that in order to remove discrimination against women, in respect of whether their spouses will become Bahamians or not, we must give them the same right that a man has - that his spouse would become a Bahamian," Moss opined.
"There is one other alternative, which is to remove that right from everyone. I personally do not believe you should be able to buy citizenship by getting married."
Moss also said he has a problem with bill number one, which seeks to give a child born outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian-born mother and non- Bahamian father the same automatic right to Bahamian citizenship that the constitution already gives to a child born outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian-born father and a non-Bahamian mother who is his wife.
Sex
Moss also said he has a problem with bill number four, which seeks to outlaw discrimination based on sex.
Worsening the chances of that fourth question succeeding was activist Erin Greene, who said last week she believes it will offer some form of protection to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
"When we expand the rights for men and women, when we ensure that men and women both have equality and equity under the law, we are also ensuring that men who choose to be in relationships with men, and women who choose to be in relationships with women are also equal and receive equity under the law," Greene said.
"This is not a gay marriage bill. This bill will not automatically enact or sanction gay marriage.
"But what it does state unequivocally is that we will not allow any discrimination against a person because they are a man or a person because they are a woman.
"That means that we will not discriminate against you because you are a woman who loves a woman and will not discriminate against you because you are a man who loves a man."
While Greene was well within her rights to comment on that bill, it is likely that her words did more harm than good as there is a growing push to have it defeated.
We, however, do not suggest that she was making an intentional effort to harm the chances of that bill's success.
McWeeney, the Constitutional Commission chairman, told National Review, however, that it is important that question number four remain on the ballot.
Asked about possibly abandoning that question, McWeeney said, "You can't because the other three bills are simply particularized expressions of the fundamental principle, which is to rid the constitution of discrimination based on sex.
"If you abandon that, you're basically abandoning the core principle upon which the other three bills are based -- in other words, bill four is the broad principle about the equality of men and women and the other three bills are just particular expressions of that in relation to citizenship."
It appears then that that question alone could end up leading to the referendum failing.
It is unfortunate that another important attempt at constitutional reform is in danger because of multiple issues.
It seems likely that the government will have to pull back on the November 6 referendum or face what appears to be inevitable -- defeat.

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Changing course

August 10, 2014

While the government has announced that the four constitutional referendum bills will not be retroactive, Chairman of the Constitutional Commission Sean McWeeney revealed to National Review that the Christie administration may have to change course in this regard and make them retroactive.
This would be a major amendment to the referendum bills which were tabled in the House of Assembly just over two weeks ago, and are already attracting significant opposition from various quarters.
"I think it definitely is already being looked at by both the political parties (PLP and FNM) and the Constitutional Commission," said McWeeney when asked about making the bills retroactive.
McWeeney also explained why the government's initial position was not to make the proposed constitutional changes retroactive.
"I think one of the major concerns that have been expressed is that when it comes to granting something as precious as citizenship, you should at least have some idea of how many people you're giving it to.
"And this to some extent is a shot in the dark because remember we're talking about granting citizenship retroactively, automatically. There's no need to apply. You don't know who's getting it, how many people are getting it.
"That's the first thing, and you're talking about 41 years of Bahamian women really who were married to non-Bahamians who had children outside The Bahamas and we have no idea how many people we're talking about."
McWeeney said he tried to get rough calculations in this regard from the Department of Statistics.
"They told me very candidly, they had no way of knowing," he said.
"It's not something which is a part of the tabulations that they do."
Asked what the implications are of not knowing how many people would be impacted by the retroactive provision, McWeeney said, "Think about the fact that we're a very small country, 350,000 people. How many people are we talking about?
"If we start off with the premise that citizenship is the most precious gift you can have for a nation, shouldn't you have some idea of how many people enjoy the gift, instead of just with the stroke of the pen conferring it upon an indeterminate number of people, who you don't even know who they are?"
McWeeney said, since the bills were published two weeks ago, the governing party and the Official Opposition got a lot of feedback from people who have been personally affected by the decision not to make the bills retroactive.
These people were looking forward to the liberalization of the law, the chairman said.
"They have children already in this category [where there is no automatic right to citizenship] and I think they see that there is a difference in getting it under the administrative policy that the prime minister has promised, on the one hand, instead of getting it automatically under the constitution," he said.
"The major difference is that if you get it under the administrative policy, you have to renounce any other citizenship that you have, whereas if you got it automatically, you wouldn't have to renounce."
Liability
The prime minister is hoping for bi-partisan support for the four bills before the House.
The first bill would give a child born outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian-born mother and non-Bahamian father the same automatic right to Bahamian citizenship that the constitution already gives to a child born outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian-born father and a non-Bahamian mother who is his wife.
The second bill seeks to enable a Bahamian woman who marries a foreign man to pass on her Bahamian citizenship to him. However, the bill will still outlaw marriages of convenience. As it stands now, a Bahamian man is able to pass on his citizenship to his foreign wife.
The third bill seeks to reverse the law that prohibits an unwed Bahamian man from passing his citizenship to his child if he or she is born to a foreign woman. It would require proof of paternity.
The final bill seeks to make it unconstitutional for any law or any person acting in the performance of any public office to discriminate based on sex.
Last Wednesday, Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez explained why the decision at that point was not to make the bills retroactive.
"What we're saying is that at present, we have no definitive estimate of the effect that a retroactive provision would have on our population size and in treating applications of persons who would fall in the category that are to be...provided for, but who were born between 1973 and now," Gomez said.
"From a policy perspective, we will be better able to manage the situation."
As for the cost, Gomez said, "There are persons who have been paying work permit fees. If it's retroactive those fees then become refundable.
"In the current fiscal situation that we're in that's not a feasible thing to do. By adopting the course that we are adopting we are able to confer citizenship on those persons on a case-by-case basis without incurring any liability to them in relation to refunds. So that's a practical solution, which we're adopting.
"We don't want to incur a large liability, which then has to be paid for, ultimately at the expense of taxpayers".

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David and Goliath

August 10, 2014

I was watching "60 Minutes" on CBS TV a few weeks ago and Anderson Cooper was interviewing Malcolm Gladwell best-selling Author whose latest book 'David & Goliath': Underdogs, Misfits and the art of battling Giants, has just hit The New York Times best seller list. I'm quite sure, that just about everyone in my reading audience is more than familiar with the Biblical story of David & Goliath, the story of how the puny, small David defeated the Huge, strong giant of a man Goliath with a slingshot.
So one may say, so what is his book all about? Well Malcolm Gladwell who was born in Toronto, Canada explained to Anderson Cooper during the 60 minutes interview, that from his extensive research, so many of the people who make it big time in life, did indeed appear at first glance to be underdogs. That's right, contrary to popular belief, coming from an affluent background and attending prestigious, hallowed educational institutions like Yale, Harvard, Oxford or Cambridge does not necessarily mean that a person

will be successful in life.
On the contrary, many who come from extremely poor backgrounds, who attended very ordinary government schools and colleges, and who had in fact some impediment like dyslexia for example, went on to have great careers and became outstandingly successful in life.
So the great lesson which I got from watching this fascinating interview with Malcolm Gladwell Author of 'David & Goliath', is that so-called underdogs can, and indeed do make it in life, and in so many cases, they make it big time.
An excellent actual example of what I've written about here today is David Neeleman. When David Neeleman, who was born in Brazil to American Parents, was young, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and was indeed not expected to do too well in life at all.
His Parents returned to The U.S. when he was seven years old. David Neeleman went on to have an outstanding career in aviation actually starting four very successful low cost airlines; namely Morris Air which he and his Partner subsequently sold to Southwest Airlines, Canada's WestJet, Jet Blue Airways, and Brazil's Azul Airlines.
So to me, David Neeleman is the proof of the pudding, so to speak.
The long and the short of it is this. No one, nothing can keep you back from succeeding in life, if you really want to, and do the work necessary to be successful.
o Think about it!
Visit my website at: www.dpaulreilly.com.
Listen to 'Time to Think' the radio program on STAR 106.5 FM at 8:55 a.m. & 6:20 p.m.

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Gold medal leap for Ingraham in Canada

August 10, 2014

Ryan Ingraham leaped his way to a gold medal yesterday, winning the men's high jump competition at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) Under-23 Championships, in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. Ingraham set a new meet record, matching his season's best jump of 2.28 meters (m) - 7' 5-3/4".
Dakarai Hightower, from the United States, was a distant second with a jump of 2.10m (6' 10-1/2"), and Domanique Missick, from the Turks and Caicos Islands, settled for the bronze medal, with a best leap of 2m flat (6' 6-3/4").
The five-member Bahamian team wasted no time making its presence felt at the three-day meet, which wrapped up yesterday in the tiny town of Kamloops. The small Bahamian team finished with a total of four medals - a gold, a silver and two bronze medals.
On Friday evening, Trevorvano Mackey captured a bronze medal in the men's 100m dash. Mackey finished the race in 10.30 seconds. He ran a wind-aided 10.21 seconds in the heats. American Diondre Batson won the gold medal, in 10.08 seconds, and Tyquendo Tracey, of Jamaica, settled for the silver medal, in 10.21 seconds.
Mackey returned on Sunday, and won a silver medal in the men's 200m, running a personal best time of 20.46 seconds. Remonty McClain, from the United States, won the gold medal, in 20.32 seconds, and Everton Clarke, from Jamaica, settled for the bronze medal, in 20.51 seconds.
Over in the field, Lathone Collie-Minnis finished third in the men's triple jump with a leap of 15.86m (52' 0-1/2"). He finished behind Eric Sloan from the United States, who won the event with his leap of 16.20m (53' 1-3/4"), and second place finisher Steve Waithe from Trinidad and Tobago who finished with a best leap of 15.94m (52' 3-3/4").
Alfredo Smith managed a seventh place finish in the men's long jump. He had a best leap of 6.93m (22' 9").
Unfortunately, Katrina Seymour was unable to finish the final of the women's 400m hurdles. Kiah Seymour, from the United States, went on to win that race in a time of 56.35 seconds.
There are several factors that played a part in the size of the team that traveled to Canada. For instance, several of the athletes who qualified for this meet were at the 20th Commonwealth Games, in Glasgow, Scotland.
Another reason for the low showing of athletes is that it is late in the season, and most of them are winding down, some of them getting ready for the start of the new school year.
However, it was an impressive performance for the five Bahamian athletes who travelled. Three of them are coming back home with medals which says a lot about the performances they turned in.

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Wildcats slam Puerto Rico in opening game of 'Big Blue Bahamas' Tour

August 10, 2014

The Kentucky Wildcats kicked its "Big Blue Bahamas" Tour off in style on Sunday at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium, as it defeated what was said to be a 'B' version of the Puerto Rican national team, 74-49.
It was estimated that about 1,000 fans, most of them decked out in Kentucky blue wear, were in attendance yesterday.
The Wildcats are now 1-0 in its six-game tour; the team will be in action again today, at 1 .p.m, against the Champagne Chalons-Remis Basketball Club out of France.
Aaron Harrison put all his skills on display for the crowd yesterday. He hounded the Puerto Rican ball handlers on defense and set up his teammates for easy looks on offense. What really stood out was his ability to get to the rim with relative ease. In the fourth quarter, he finished a straight line drive to the rim with a ferocious dunk that sent the already loud crowd into a frenzy.
"One of the things that he (Aaron) wants to do, which were his comments to me, 'I don't ever want to evaporate on the court. I want to have a presence on the court whether I'm scoring or not'," said Wildcats' Head Coach John Calipari afterwards. "You saw him pressure the ball, you saw him in pick and rolls and you saw him without the ball."
In the first half, Puerto Rico came out and tried to rattle the younger Wildcats with aggressive play, so much so that a technical foul was called on Manuel Narvaez within the first two minutes of the contest for taunting.
Despite having less experience, the Wildcats were clearly the more talented squad. The team took the lead at the end of the first half, 38-31.
The Wildcats never looked back from there. The team began to pick the Puerto Rican team apart in the second half. Puerto Rico committed multiple turnovers as fatigue settled in and was forced into taking low percentage shots from behind the three-point line, while the 'Cats continued to pour in points from deep as well as close range.
With the 'Cats playing without big men Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles, it made the team's victory that much more impressive. After the game, both Calipari and organizer of the tournament Sean Bastian expressed their sentiments about Kentucky's trip to The Bahamas.
"We have only been here two days, but it's been terrific so far," said Calipari.
Bastian said: "It is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have coach Calipari and his team playing in The Bahamas. It is wonderful that basketball fans had a chance to see this level of talent showcase their skills against a national team. I'm hoping that as we move forward, other major programs jump on board for next year."
Puerto Rico will have another shot at the Wildcats on Tuesday. Tip-off time is set for 1 p.m. over at the Kendal Isaacs Gym. That game will be broadcasted on ESPNU.

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Men lose in semis women finish winless at CAZOVA Championships

August 10, 2014

Both the men and women's national teams suffered losses over the weekend at the 15th Caribbean Zonal Volleyball Association (CAZOVA) Championships in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
The men's team went up against the host country on Saturday evening in the semi-final round at the Jean Pierre Complex, Mucurapo.
Simon Blake had a strong game for his team, helping it overcome the defending champions, The Bahamas, in five sets, 27-29, 25-22, 25-21, 21-25 and 15-8. The win put them into the final to face Barbados while The Bahamas was left on the outside looking in.
On Saturday, against The Bahamas, Blake finished with 24 kills and five service aces. Ryan Stewart and Marc-Anthony Honore added 13 points each, and team captain Nolan Tash scored 11.
Captain of the Bahamian team, Prince Wilson, finished with 17 points, 15 of which were kills. Wilson was not alone in his efforts as teammates Renaldo Knowles had 13 points, Byron Ferguson scored 12 and Shedrick Forbes put up 10.
The game went back and forth, as both teams came out and put on a good show. Both squads were even at nine on blocks, and six service aces apiece. However, Trinidad and Tobago held a 67-52 advantage on spikes and committed fewer errors than the Bahamian team.
The women's team played its final round-robin match against Suriname on Saturday. Suriname made quick work of the Bahamian squad, defeating the players in straight sets, 25-9, 25-18 and 25-13.
Morena Leter led her team to victory with 13 points, while her teammate Sandrina Hunsel chipped in with 11.
The game was extremely one-sided as Suriname dominated in all of the key areas of the match, 33-20 on spikes, 5-2 on blocks and 4-1 on aces. The loss eliminated The Bahamas from the medal rounds of the tournament.
With the win, Suriname improved its win/loss record to 2-2 and advanced to the third place game against Barbados.
Jamaica and four-time champion Trinidad and Tobago advanced to the gold medal game.

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Bahamas brokerage firm charged by U.S. SEC over international fraud

August 10, 2014

The principal of a publicly-listed Bahamian investment company has been charged in the U.S. over his alleged central role in an international fraud scheme that saw investors lose hundreds of millions of dollars.
Julian Brown, president and chief executive officer of Benchmark (Bahamas) Limited and principal of Alliance Investment Management (AIM), has been charged in a Chicago federal court along with AIM, for providing "substantial assistance" to Nikolai Battoo, president of BC Capital Group. Battoo was himself charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2012.
According to the SEC, as Battoo -- yet to be tried -- embarked on a "years-long campaign of lies and deceit" to cover "crushing losses" of $150 million in 2008 and to protect his reputation, Bahamas-based AIM and Brown played a "critical role" in his fraud. Battoo at one point claimed to have $1.5 billion in assets under management.
"AIM, a foreign securities broker-dealer, pretended to be an independent custodian safeguarding the securities and other assets invested in Battoo's investment program," said the SEC in its complaint, filed August 8.
The SEC further said AIM was not independent from Battoo and his asset management program -- the company operated under the name Private International Wealth Management (PIWM); AIM also did not act as a "custodian" as it had claimed.
"Brown and AIM enjoyed a cozy and profitable relationship with Battoo, which was anything but arms-length. They at times shared office space, a P.O. box, telephone and fax numbers and a common employee. Battoo even infused AIM with $5 million of investor money to help keep AIM solvent," said the SEC.
Since at least 2009, AIM did not in actuality have custody of most of the securities and other assets listed on the account statements sent to Battoo's investors, the SEC claims. When AIM received investment money from investors, Brown handed over most of it to Battoo, who "used it freely to support his lavish lifestyle - and to reward AIM," added the complaint.
The SEC alleges that Brown/AIM simply shipped a blank company letterhead to Battoo and allowed him to prepare investor statements on AIM's behalf. This further gave investors the perception they were receiving independent verification of their investments from AIM, as a supposed independent custodian.
Brown and AIM's involvement allowed Battoo's alleged massive fraud to "flourish in the shadows for years," said the SEC, as investors continued to funnel money towards Battoo's scheme in the belief that their investments were profitable and secure in AIM's custody.
"The longer the fraud continued, the bigger it grew; the bigger it grew, the more money Brown and AIM made," said the federal regulator.
Battoo, with the alleged assistance of Brown, is charged with not only concealing losses but also stealing funds from clients.
Five million dollars, which was on deposit with AIM, was "given to AIM as a supposed 'investment'" by Battoo, states the complaint, which noted that at this time AIM's accounts "had multi-million dollar deficits and the cash infusion kept AIM solvent".
In return, rather than keeping custody of funds forwarded to AIM on behalf of PIWM clients or using it to make investments to their benefit, Brown forwarded them on to Battoo, the SEC alleges.
"Brown and AIM transferred millions in investor assets to, among other places, Battoo, members of Battoo's family, and an interior design firm that renovated Battoo's 40,000-square-foot home in Switzerland," notes the complaint.
Battoo is alleged to have misappropriated at least $45 million of PIWM investor funds, which had been entrusted by investors to AIM as Battoo's custodian, to sustain his "regal lifestyle", according to the SEC.
"He spent approximately $3 million traveling the globe on private jets. He used $11 million of investor funds to renovate and furnish a 40,000 square-foot mansion in Switzerland. He paid more than $3 million to secure immigration status as a Swiss resident, and he gave another $1 million to his mother and girlfriend," adds the complaint against Brown and AIM.
The SEC claims that in addition to the $5 million allegedly misappropriated from investors and forwarded to Brown and AIM as an "investment" by Battoo, Brown and AIM profited from their conduct through fees and commissions amounting to $290,000 since 2009.
It is alleged that Brown and AIM routinely provided bogus account statements to accounting firms retained by PIWM investors to audit their holdings.
Brown and AIM are accused of violating the Securities Act, the Exchange Act, aiding and abetting violations of the Securities Act, Exchange Act and Advisers Act
Among other demands, the SEC is calling on a jury to demand that Brown and AIM "disgorge the ill-gotten gains received as a result of the violations alleged herein, including prejudgment interest"; provide the SEC with "an accounting of all of the funds received, directly or indirectly, from Battoo, any entities affiliated with Battoo, or any of Battoo's investors"; and "repatriate any funds, assets, accounts, or other property obtained or maintained with investor funds or with funds obtained from Battoo or his affiliated entities, or into which investor funds or funds obtained from Battoo or his affiliated entities have been deposited".
"We allege that Brown and his firm enabled Battoo's scheme by providing investors with false assurances about who was holding their money and how much money they had in their accounts," said Timothy Warren, associate director of the SEC's Chicago Regional Office, in a release.
On AIM's website, Brown is described as a professional investment banker with over 20 years of experience in the international investment and private banking arena. In addition for working for a major retail bank locally, Brown is said to have served for three years as a director of The Bahamas Development Bank.
"In 1998, Mr. Brown was honored by Barron's Who's Who of the World in Global Banking and Finance and also by International Who's Who of the World. He is presently the president and a director of Braun & Cie Ltd., (and) a director of The Bahamas Agricultural And Industrial Corporation," it adds.
The SEC said that its investigation is continuing. A release from the regulatory agency notes that it "appreciates the assistance of the Securities Commission of The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission, and Guernsey Financial Services Commission".
In March 2014 a U.S. court threw out the SEC's claim against Bahamian broker/dealer Warren Davis and his Gibraltar Global Securities firm that they knowingly helped perpetrate, and participated in, an $11 million securities fraud.
Davis continues to face other less serious charges that he participated in the sale of unregistered securities.

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SP: Atlantis long-term value 54 less due to Baha Mar

August 10, 2014

A Wall Street credit ratings agency has projected that Atlantis will experience "significant competition" from Baha Mar; the agency has used this prediction, in part, in quantifying its projection of Atlantis' "long term sustainable value". The long-term value, it says, is over 50 percent less than the value quoted by appraisers.
This comes as an international news agency has reported that the Atlantis refinancing deal, which the resort said was concluded in early July, could yet be "hampered" by the banks' decision not to seek a rating of debt instruments, which form part of the deal, from ratings agency Standard and Poor's due to concerns over a regulatory probe into that entity.
Quoting anonymous industry sources, Bloomberg reported on July 30 that banks seeking to sell billions in commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) that form part of Atlantis' $1.95 billion refinancing deal, among other major transactions, were likely to avoid an S&P rating for the securities despite S&P traditionally being the dominant grader of such debt.
On August 6, the news agency followed up in a report stating that banks would skip S&P ratings for the majority of the $1 billion in commercial bonds being sold to raise financing for Atlantis. The report suggests that, contrary to earlier statements by Atlantis and Brookfield Asset Management, its owner, stating that the recapitalization was complete, this may not be the case.
S&P is currently under the spotlight after the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission made a July 23 announcement of an investigation concerning commercial-mortgage deals that S&P rated in 2011.
Despite banks Deutsche Bank AG, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup - who are managing the Atlantis offering, according to Bloomberg sources - determining they will seek out other agencies to rate the Atlantis debt, S&P released a detailed report on how it would rate the various portions of the deal.
In that report, S&P provides an analysis of the property; an analysis of the characteristics of the loan, including the terms of the loan; payments and an analysis of the overall transaction, including the structure of the securitization.
It adds that the "expected closing date" of the transaction is August 19, 2014.
Notably, S&P said it would cap its ratings on the higher-ranking portions of the Atlantis deal at BBB+, the third-lowest investment-grade level, because of risks tied to the property being in The Bahamas.

Meanwhile, within that report, S&P also details how it expects Atlantis will face "significant competition from Baha Mar" that will result in cash flows significantly below that which have been projected by Atlantis itself and an appraiser brought in as part of the refinancing effort.
"We expect to compete directly with Atlantis due to their proximity. However, the hotels are each operated independently, will share a smaller beach and will not have a vast array of amenities like Atlantis. In addition, the new brand affiliation (between Atlantis and) Marriott may help offset some of the potential demand decline stemming from the supply increase. Nevertheless, we assumed the NCF (net cash flow) to be significantly below recent levels and our long-term sustainable value estimate is 54.4 percent lower than the appraiser's valuation," said the report.
According to S&P spokesperson, April Kabahar, when analyzing a CMBS, S&P examines the underlying property - in this case the Atlantis resort - and derives a property's long-term sustainable net cash flow, taking into consideration the cyclical nature of the commercial real estate markets and also volatility in certain asset/property types.
By looking at the revenues and expenses that could impact the property's cash flow, such as occupancy rates, capital expenses and more, the agency makes certain projections. The number derived from this analysis represents S&P's "long term sustainable" NCF, equivalent to a projection of the property's value.
Forming part of this projection is S&P's projection of Atlantis' estimated total revenue for 2014. S&Pset this at $774.1 million, some six percent lower than the $822.9 million projected by its appraiser in the debt deal, and some 2.4 percent lower than the projection of the issuer - in this case Atlantis itself.
On the upside, the report adds that Atlantis is closer to the cruise terminal, and Baha Mar hotels are primarily targeting wealthy adult travelers and casino patrons, rather than families.
"While the new Marriott affiliation will affect the Atlantis' performance, particularly the higher ADR (average daily room rate) Cove portion of the hotel, which was developed primarily to cater to adults, as well as the Atlantis' casino revenue," adds S&P.
Contacted for comment on S&P's analysis, Ed Fields, senior vice president of public affairs for Atlantis said: "Atlantis will do everything it can to continue to maintain and grow its market share."

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AIDS Foundation: Company's claims 'unfortunate'

August 10, 2014

The president of the Bahamas AIDS Foundation has expressed concern about a private company which has publicized itself as being a non-profit organization raising funds for the benefit of HIV/AIDS and cancer sufferers.
Noting that she had never heard of Celebrating Women International, Lady Camille Barnett said it is "unfortunate that there are people that try to misrepresent themselves".
CWI, as Guardian Business reported last week, does not have the non-profit status that it has claimed to date in press releases, on its website and in letters sent to potential "honorees" at an awards ceremony it is planning.
Barnett said: "It is sad because it gives other organizations a bad reputation, so we all get tarnished with the same brush."
A representative of the Cancer Society of The Bahamas, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he has concerns about CWI and the society would meet to discuss the matter.
Following a report by Guardian Business published last Thursday which confirmed that CWI is not a registered non-profit, the organization sent a statement that day which it said should clear up "misconceptions" about it. In support of this, it sent a certificate of incorporation dated the same day - August 7 - and signed by Acting Registrar General Deirdre Clarke-Maycock. The certificate confirmed CWI's status as a limited liability company incorporated under the Companies Act.
Although now providing evidence of CWI's status as a private company as of last Thursday, this continues to conflict with how CWI has represented itself. Up to press time on Friday, CWI continued to describe itself on its website as "a non-profit founded in 2001". Under Bahamian law, such organizations may engage in revenue generating activities, but they are different to private companies as they do not and cannot distribute profit or surplus to shareholders or members. They are legally-mandated to use revenues generated solely in pursuit of their charitable goals.
CWI has specifically called itself an organization which is, in addition to seeking to "honor women", also "supporting the fight against women suffering from HIV/AIDS and breast cancer", with funds raised identified as going to support these causes. The organization has pointed to plans for a ball, a gospel concert and other events.
CWI further describes itself as "a group of women's advocates in The Bahamas, United States and Canada, that supports women's rights". Pressed last week to identify these "advocates" in The Bahamas, Jeffery Smith, executive director of CWI, said: "We have some groups...I am not able to disclose that. There are several groups here in The Bahamas that advocate for womens' rights".
Asked why he would not disclose the names of the groups, Smith added: "We don't get political here. We are celebrating women. We are doing a great cause". Internet research reveals no evidence of any international presence or activity by CWI, whether in support of women, HIV/AIDS and cancer sufferers, or otherwise.
Responding to concerns raised about its status as a non-profit following confirmation from the Registrar General that it was not registered as such, CWI pointed last week to a proclamation from the prime minister as evidence of support of the organization.
The group was able to successfully solicit a proclamation from Prime Minister Perry Christie stating that October is "Women of Excellence Month". Guardian Business has seen the document and understands it has been forwarded to potential honorees attached to letters requesting them to accept an award from the organization.
The proclamation states: "Whereas Celebrating Women International (CWI) was founded in 2013 for the purpose of mobilizing and inspiring women across the globe to honor, recognize and celebrate the value of their contributions to community development...And whereas, during the month of October, CWI will present inaugural Woman of Excellence Awards to 50 outstanding Bahamian women...And whereas the Celebrating Woman of Excellence Awards International Planning Committee 2014 has organized a number of activities and events for the weeks and days leading up to and following the awards presentation luncheon...I, Perry G. Christie, prime minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, do hereby proclaim the month of October 2014 as the 'Women of Excellence Month'.
Government House further confirmed that CWI has booked the governor general's residence on September 30 for the CWI "awards luncheon".
Cabinet Office staff member Christina Brown confirmed to Guardian Business that in order to obtain a proclamation, a group must send a letter on the group's letterhead to the Cabinet Office requesting the same. That request is then considered and a proclamation made.
On Thursday, Guardian Business reported a number of discrepancies on Celebrating Women International's website. These included various dates upon which CWI was said to have been "founded" as a non-profit organization, various spellings of its own name and various spellings of the name of the parent organization from which it is said to have been created.
Smith has stated that the organization is simply seeking to honor women. "We have met all of the requirements for what would be taking place," he told Guardian Business.
The AIDS Foundation president suggested that people should "proceed with caution" when it comes to who they decide to give money to, adding: "The more investigation there is, the better".

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Atlantis: 'Not pessimistic' on Gaming Bill

August 10, 2014

An Atlantis official has stated that he is "not pessimistic" over the status of the oft-delayed Gaming Bill, arguing that the bill could be soon passed despite the government's recent focus on several other key issues.
Atlantis Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Ed Fields addressed concerns over the bill's delay, dismissing the idea that the Gaming Bill should take precedence over the value-added tax (VAT) legislation and the proposed constitutional amendments on gender equality.
"They're all important. I don't think the Gaming Bill has more priority than the referendum on women's rights, but it's still important to get it out there," said Fields.
"As far as I'm concerned, they can all be happening at the same time. If the referendum and VAT can happen at the same time, so can the Gaming Bill."
Despite the setbacks, Fields claimed that Atlantis was "comfortable" with the bill's progress and remained confident that it would be passed in the near future.
"Atlantis is comfortable with the process. Obviously we would like to see it move along, but we don't think that the government is unaware of those sentiments," stated Fields.
"I'm not pessimistic about it. Obviously, we would like to see it happen sooner than later, but I think it's going to happen [soon]."
The Gaming Bill has been touted by casino operators as a means of modernizing the sector and bringing it up to internationally competitive standards, by permitting, among other things, mobile gaming. In doing so, Baha Mar in particular has pointed to how the bill could increase revenues not only for resorts but also the government, through increased casino taxes.
The bill has been bogged down by a litany of issues, including doubt over whether banks would accept proceeds from regulated web shops.
Several local banks, including RBC and Commonwealth Bank, earlier claimed they would not conduct business with regularized web shops due to reputational concerns, including the implications for their correspondent banking relationships with U.S. banks.
The bill has also been criticized as "discriminatory" after the government announced that it would unlikely lift the current ban on Bahamians gambling in local casinos. However, both Atlantis President George Markantonis and Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian have both supported the right for Bahamians to gamble in their casinos.
The Gaming Bill was originally proposed to be debated after debate on the budget. However, Prime Minister Perry Christie has admitted that the bill would require more time, adding that all web shops would be taxed retroactive to July 1, 2014.

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