Nassau Guardian Stories
December 16, 2014
The Bahamas' newly-regulated web shop industry will have little difficulty meeting international anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) requirements, a prominent accountant said yesterday.
Accountant and financial services commentator Philip Galanis told Guardian Business that several of the country's web shops are making good progress in hiring compliance officers ahead of the industry's projected full regulation in spring 2015.
"I don't think there is going to be any difficulty with the web shops being able to satisfy the AML requirements. They will have in place procedures and policies for compliance and client acceptance to ensure that they meet requirements. Just as banks vet applicants for opening accounts, [web shops] will be doing similar exercises," said Galanis.
He said he is aware of former compliance officers and other personnel from the banking sector applying for chief financial officer and compliance officer positions at web shops as local financial institutions continue to cut staff.
"I don't see any issues there at all. The regulations require web shops to have people involved in compliance and some of the very people who work in compliance departments at banks that are letting people go will be suitably qualified to fill those positions," he said.
The government embarked upon its first national AML/CTF risk assessment in October, which is assessing the country's vulnerability to money laundering activity through a host of industries, including the web shop sector. Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson has previously stated that the 2014 Gaming Bill is a necessary step in avoiding an international blacklisting over AML/CTF concerns.
The government has suggested that the country's web shop industry generates $700 million on an annual basis. However, Galanis expressed some doubt with this estimate, claiming that there is a substantial difference between the revenue that web shops generate and what they ultimately earn.
Galanis suggested that regulating the industry could translate into annual government revenue of approximately $25 million.
"We don't know that the number is $700 million. I think that there has been a lot of preliminary speculation as to the amount of money that the web shops are actually generating.
"The government intends to generate about $30 million for the activities prior to regulation, and I think we're looking at another $20-25 million on an annual basis," he said.
Obie Wilchcombe, the minister responsible for gaming, stated earlier this month that the government had collected $5 million in web shop tax arrears as of December 1.
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December 16, 2014
IP Solutions International Limited (IPSI) CEO Edison Sumner said yesterday that the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority's (URCA) proposed network-sharing regulations are necessary in meeting the government's demand for countrywide cellular service from new mobile licensees.
Speaking with Guardian Business, Sumner called on URCA and the government to ensure that all optic fiber coming into the country is owned and leased by a neutral party to significantly reduce capital investments for new operators providing services throughout the Family Islands.
"That is going to be a bit of a challenge for anyone coming in. That's why I think this proposal of network sharing is so important. Otherwise, anyone coming in is going to have to spend an exorbitant amount of money putting in fiber to get around to the Family Islands."
The government's request for proposals (RFP) stipulates that any new cellular licensees must be able to provide service throughout the country, which Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) CEO Leon Williams argued would prevent future carriers from "cherry-picking" the most commercially-viable portions of the country.
Sumner, who is also the CEO of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), said a third license would be dependent on how well the second applicant does and whether there's an appetite and market share for a third licensee.
The government has the discretion to offer a third mobile license in 2016. It is currently accepting responses to its RFP until the end of February. The government's Cellular Liberalization Task Force is then expected to make its decision for the second mobile licensee by the end of April.
Sumner said that there may be an opportunity for a third licensee in 2016 should the second licensee prove unable to provide its services throughout the country as it is supposed to based on the requirements outlined in the RFP.
"It's also important for BTC because what they will have now are new commercial customers who are paying them to ride on their fiber. As opposed to selling off small bits to the consumer, they now can sell widebands to commercial subscribers who can then resell that service, but it has to be done on a very competitive basis.
"You can't have BTC or Cable Bahamas charging fees that makes it uncompetitive for others to offer the service," said Sumner.
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December 16, 2014
An international value-added tax (VAT) consultant yesterday addressed several concerns of The Bahamas' retailers, stating that VAT is a "very, very simple" tax for the sector.
New Zealand VAT consultant Don Brash told Guardian Business that he does not understand the concerns of some retailers over the timing of the tax's implementation, stating that, if anything, retailers could benefit from the coinciding of the January 1 introduction date with the traditional sales season.
"Retailers want big sales in December for the Christmas period. What better way of getting good sales in December than to tell consumers that prices might be going up in January?
"For retailers this is a very, very simple tax. Everything they sell or buy is taxable. Calculating the VAT that they have to pay to the government is therefore a very simple calculation, which should be a matter of minutes, not hours, for them to do the calculation," said Brash.
Brash also addressed the retail sector's objection to VAT-inclusive pricing, stating that the extensive repricing of goods is a one-off cost and the government's allotted transitional pricing phase provides sufficient time for retailers to adapt.
"It's a one-off cost. Many retailers have a quite high retail turnover so the goods that would have to be repriced if they're held for a long time don't have to be repriced if they're sold out quite quickly. I don't think it's a big deal," said Brash.
He referenced the government's planned transitional period for large retailers providing VAT-inclusive pricing, which is expected to last until the end of February.
Brash noted that New Zealand retailers were required to provide VAT-inclusive pricing, while businesses selling only to other businesses typically utilized VAT-exclusive pricing.
Given the government's decision to switch from calculating import tariffs from the previous cost, insurance and freight (CIF) method to the free on board (FOB) method, Brash argued that the prices for quite a few goods would be reduced following January 1. The FOB method is expected to lower landed costs for certain imports in a effort to ease the tax's impact on some retailers.
VAT will be implemented at a rate of 7.5 percent on January 1, 2015.
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December 16, 2014
The Sandals Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International, and the Nassau, Bahamas Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (DST), today kicked off their "1000 Bricks in 100 Days" fundraising campaign. The call-to-action challenge will aid the partnership's PACE program (Providing Access to Continued Education) and the completion of a first-of-its-kind support center that will ensure young teenage mothers and their children are provided with a resource that accommodates administrative, counseling and academic services.
Staying committed to PACE's mission of hope and inspiration, the "1000 Bricks in 100 Days" campaign will further promote awareness of policies designed to counter the growing epidemic of teenage pregnancies specifically within The Bahamas, where over 500 teenagers become pregnant annually. Through this local appeal, each brick purchased will actually be used to renovate P.A.C.E.'s new facility into a larger, state-of-the-art learning center with additional resources. Additionally, these vast upgrades will allow for greater content to be developed, improved vocational training and the new structure will be able to accommodate additional students.
Individual donors as well as local businesses are invited to participate in the "1000 Bricks in 100 Days" campaign by making a purchase of a US$100 brick. Donors will then see their contribution placed permanently on a special wall within the new school that is anticipated to be completed by Fall 2015. Donations can be made by visiting http://www.sandalsfoundation.org or locally by visiting any of the revenue areas at Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort & Offshore Island.
"We are so grateful for this joint fundraising effort between the Sandals Foundation and The Nassau, Bahamas Alumnae chapter of DST, which can help bring us closer to our goals of providing purpose-built facilities to enrich the learning available to our students and to help more young girls in need," said Sonia Brown, president of P.A.C.E. Our top priority here is to support every teen mother passing through our doors, to rebuild their lives and this transformative programme seeks to help them be good parents and productive citizens of our country which is important for every Bahamian." Brown concluded.
For more information on the Sandals Foundation's and The Nassau, Bahamas Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Inc.'s "1000 Bricks in 100 Days" campaign or to donate to this cause, please visit http://www.sandalsfoundation.org#mce_temp_url# or any of the revenue areas at Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort & Offshore Island.
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December 16, 2014
The mother of two teenagers who were shot on Saturday following their brother's funeral, said her family fears that someone will attempt to finish the job.
Shantell Dorsett's 18-year-old son, Jaquan Anthony Rolle, was killed and his younger brother, age 14, was injured after assailants shot up the vehicle they were in as they left their brother's funeral on Saturday afternoon.
Her eldest son, Jermaine Rolle, 31, was shot and killed in front of a home at Nicholls Court in Yellow Elder Gardens, around midday on November 28.
Dorsett, who was awaiting news of her youngest son's condition at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) yesterday morning, said a man visited her home over the weekend inquiring about him.
"Yesterday, [he] asked people if they knew about his condition," the grieving mother said.
"That is why I had to call CDU (Central Detective Unit). I was not home.
"[He] went to my neighbors...and asked if they knew the condition of the little boy."
The 14-year-old was expected to go into surgery yesterday afternoon, according to Dorsett, who said he was in critical condition.
Dorsett, who briefly spoke to The Nassau Guardian over the phone, said it is an extremely difficult time for her and her family.
Police were yesterday questioning two men in connection with the double shooting, according to Superintendent B.K. Bonamy.
Bonamy said the men, who are in their early 20s, were picked up over the weekend.
He did not confirm whether police were searching for more suspects.
"Once we have talked to these people we will see where the investigation takes us," Bonamy said.
The shooting took place on Soldier Road around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Jaquan Rolle, who was being electronically monitored, was driving to the repast with his 14-year-old brother.
When they stopped at a traffic light at the intersection of Solider Road and Prince Charles Drive, a gold Honda pulled in front of them.
Two men exited the Honda, pulled black masks over their faces and began shooting, according to police.
The brothers were both shot multiple times.
Rolle attempted to drive to the hospital.
Chief Superintendent Paul Rolle said police assisted them en route to the hospital.
However, the 18-year-old was pronounced dead on arrival, according to police.
Dorsett said her focus for now is on her youngest son.
She wants police to monitor him to prevent any further attack.
When contacted, Assistant Commissioner of Police Stephen Dean said police were in talks with family members and "any concerns they have or anything that may arise, police will address it, including threats".
"We want to reassure people that every matter is important to us," Dean said.
"We understand our responsibility. We want to also say that should anyone have any information, come forward.
"We are urging people to contact us."
Rolle's murder pushed the murder count to 116 for the year.
At the end of 2013, the murder count stood at 119.
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December 16, 2014
With two weeks before the implementation of value-added tax (VAT), New Zealand tax consultant Don Brash said yesterday while the situation is "looking pretty good", the government still has some more work to do.
VAT will be implemented on January 1 at a rate of 7.5 percent.
Brash, who is advising the government ahead of the introduction of the new tax, said the country is in a far better position to roll out VAT than it was in April when he recommended that the government delay the July 1 implementation.
Back then, Brash said the VAT legislation needed substantial work. He also listed 15 to 20 points the government needed to work on.
Yesterday, he said the government has implemented many of his recommendations.
However, Brash said there are still details that need to be addressed.
"It's not quite ready yet," he told The Guardian.
"I think the government indicated that it needs to do a few things, the VAT controller has to be appointed and so on, but by and large I think the situation is looking pretty good."
He said the government also has to make public the rules that will govern VAT.
"I've seen a draft of those rules, they are not very far away and they'll be coming out very shortly," he said.
Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis said the government has addressed or is in the process of addressing those concerns.
He said the government appointed Financial Secretary John Rolle as the acting VAT controller.
Halkitis said finalizing the rules is an ongoing process.
Asked about the government's readiness, he said he is pleased with where the administration is.
Halkitis said the government is also pleased with the feedback it received from Brash.
"We brought him back to give an independent view on our state of readiness given his extensive experience and the work he had done here previously," Halkitis said.
"He has expressed how impressed he is with our progress and that we are ready for the January 1 implementation given his experience and where he sees us. We acknowledge that the process does not end on January 1, but that the education and compliance process will be ongoing.
"We thank all those who have complied with the law by registering and encourage those who have not to do so. We want businesses and the public to know that we continue to work hard to ensure as smooth an implementation process as possible. We are convinced that this is the best policy option to stabilize government finances and promote economic growth."
Brash said the most important things to make the implementation a success have been done already.
Brash, a professor of banking, economics and finance and a leading businessman, was also a leading private sector figure in New Zealand's implementation of a VAT system in 1986.
He headed a committee appointed to liaise with the private sector on the tax after his country's government published a white paper on VAT in 1985.
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December 16, 2014
Free National Movement (FNM) MP Neko Grant said yesterday he is not prepared to support the fourth constitutional ammendment bill unless the government adds the words "at birth" to the question.
St. Anne's MP Hubert Chipman also said he still has serious concerns with question four and said "at birth" should be added to the question.
Chipman and Grant said they were told that the Constitutional Commission would meet with them to discuss their issue with question four, but have heard nothing from the commission in the last 10 weeks.
The fourth 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.
Many fear that the bill could lead to same-sex marriage in the country.
The commission has proposed an amendment to the question to include a definition of sex as "male and female".
But Grant, MP for Central Grand Bahama, said, "All I want them to put on question four is male and female at birth.
"They have male and female, all I want added is at birth. So I don't know what the big deal is. That's it. Two words: at birth.
"I've made my position very clear and I don't know why they are making a mountain out of a molehill.
"Why are they worrying about me and Chippie?
"They have three of their members, [Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre] Rollins, [Marco City MP Greg] Moss and [Bamboo Town MP Renward] Wells who they need to convince. But don't use us as a scapegoat not to bring it."
Grant said, "I will not support it unless they add at birth."
Prime Minister Perry Christie has said that the government will not move ahead with the proposed constitutional referendum without unanimous support in the House of Assembly.
The referendum, which was slated to take place in June 2013, has been delayed four times.
The government has said the vote will now take place "sometime next year".
Chipman said he spoke with Commission Chairman Sean McWeeney about his issue with question four and was assured that it would be addressed.
But he said it never was.
"No one has spoken to me since we had that discussion with Sean McWeeney," he said.
"As a matter of fact, I didn't go looking for Sean McWeeney, he came to me."
Chipman said he is tired of the blame game regarding the constitutional ammendment bills.
"It has nothing to do with us, the opposition," he said.
"The government needs 29 votes in the House of Assembly to pass the bills.
"You can run on...about [how] you are not going ahead until you get unanimous support, but the thing is we had unanimous support with the 2002 bills and they went and campaigned against the bills."
During a similar exercise in 2002, the then opposition, headed by Perry Christie, voted in support of the bills in the House, then openly campaigned against them. The questions were later defeated.
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December 16, 2014
Although he has previously supported the government's new immigration policy, former Minister of State for Immigration Branville McCartney said yesterday that he can not
"blindly" support the new policy.
"While the government's intent behind the execution of these new immigration policies is necessary, I will not blindly support an initiative while taking one step forward takes five more backwards," he said in a statement.
"We must also act responsibly so as to not damage the country's international reputation."
McCartney, the leader of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), was referring to allegations of abuse by immigration officers towards foreign nationals picked up during recent checks.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell has said that there is no evidence to suggest that foreign nationals were abused.
Mitchell is expected to speak today before the Organization of American States (OAS) to address the new policy.
McCartney acknowledged Mitchell's defense that no wrongdoing has taken place.
"Earlier this year, however, the minister made similar statements about allegations of abuse at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre and the treatment of Cuban detainees," McCartney said.
"Investigations into the allegations later gave credibility to those reports and spawned widespread protests by activist groups in the United States. Is the good minister prepared to risk yet another such public relations fiasco?"
The former Bamboo Town MP was referring to allegations that members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force abused a group of Cuban detainees at the detention center following an alleged escape attempt.
McCartney called on the government to be more transparent and accountable on the new immigration policy.
But Mitchell has dismissed McCartney's concerns and chastised him for switching positions on the policy.
"Stop all the gamesmanship and support the policy that people who live and work in The Bahamas need to have the documents to show that they live and work in The Bahamas," Mitchell has said.
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December 16, 2014
The trial of former Free National Movement Senator John Bostwick Jr. has been delayed again.
The trial was expected to begin yesterday but was delayed to April 7 due to a lack of witnesses.
This is the second delay.
In September, Magistrate Andrew Forbes granted the adjournment at the request of Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Franklyn Williams, who said the prosecution was not ready to proceed.
Bostwick is on trial for ammunition possession.
Prosecutors allege that he was found in possession of 10 rounds of .22 ammunition.
A security screener at Grand Bahama International Airport allegedly discovered the items in Bostwick's bag as he prepared to travel to New Providence on May 17.
Bostwick pleaded not guilty to the charge.
He is on $9,000 bail.
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December 16, 2014
Although Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade insists that there is no need to panic, Free National Movement Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest said unarmed civilians are likely living in fear.
Turnquest said he is "distressed" by the recent spate of murders and charged that the government has failed to address the problem.
Following the shooting death of a police sergeant, Greenslade acknowledged that the police force is challenged in dealing with homicides.
He noted, "There is no reason for any police to panic or for the police to panic you" as most of the perpetrators are repeat offenders.
Pointing to those comments, Turnquest said, "For those of us who don't carry a gun, we are indeed concerned and it doesn't matter to us whether it's a repeat offender or if it's a new criminal. To us, we are still concerned."
Turnquest added, "When you think about these kinds of killings, it really distresses you. As a society it says that we are undisciplined and we are losing our values.
"We regret the number of serious incidents of crime that have happened over the last year... The government indicated that it was going back to the drawing board...but we still have these unabated instances of murder, but even more so we have assaults and harm that we don't pay too much attention to."
Turnquest said the government seems unable to sustain any program geared toward combating crime.
"Obviously the government is failing in this area despite their pledge to have all of the answers during the 2012 election," he said.
"What happened to all of the proposals and strategies that they had in their Charter for Governance? Some of their programs held promise, if they were implemented.
"What happened to the much talked about violence breakers?"
In the run-up to the election, Prime Minister Perry Christie (then opposition leader) promised to introduce a new team of highly specialized outreach workers called violence breakers.
He said they would be recruited for their street smarts, their deep roots in tough neighborhoods and for their ability to build relationships with those with the highest risk of shooting or being shot.
Turnquest said if properly implemented that program could breed positive results.
The murder count hit 116 over the weekend following the death of an 18-year-old man who was shot multiple times as he left his brother's funeral.
There are increasing concerns that the 2014 murder count will eclipse last year's count of 119.
On at least three occasions since coming to office, the government has outlined initiatives to fight crime.
In October, Christie said the government will go back to the drawing board with its crime strategies in the face of soaring murders.
Shortly after, National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage announced that the government had developed several new strategies it hopes will bear "positive results".
However, neither the prime minister nor Nottage has unveiled these new strategies. Last week, Nottage told The Nassau Guardian details will come soon.
Meanwhile, Greenslade said he believes the police are doing a good job.
However, he said more must be done to keep criminals behind bars.
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December 16, 2014
Some are suggesting that former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham is still in control of the Free National Movement. That is a possibility.
This would give reason for some to proclaim that a vote for the FNM in the next election is really a vote for Ingraham, who is in retirement and has no plans to run; but with the present state of the economy, it would not be a bad idea.
At the same time, the scenario of a 74-year-old sitting prime minister running against a younger, retired person is very amusing if not funny.
While I am in the speculation mode, I would like to address what is going to be a trying situation for another political party that is sure to contend the next election. A connection has been made between the law firm of that party's leader and the $600 million Stellar Waste to Energy project, a fiasco that has brought about the resignation of what was one of the Progressive Liberal Party's up and coming leaders.
Are there some who are going to claim that the law firm in question may have had dealings with the governing party over this matter that were uncomfortably close in the eyes of its own supporters?
The revelation could even lead some to say that a vote for that other party is really a vote for the Progressive Liberal Party, for all intents and purposes.
If such blatant speculations continue, many who currently aspire to leadership are going to find themselves floundering in the political wasteland come 2017.
- Edward Hutcheson
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December 16, 2014
The following is an open letter to Prime Minister Perry Christie:
Please accept this letter as an official request for your urgent and personal intervention in the growing debacle that is the Department of Immigration's iron-fisted and unconstitutional new enforcement policy, effective November 1, 2014, and the increasingly drastic and extremist utterances of Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell in his attempts to defend the same.
In particular, the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association is alarmed over Mitchell's threat of bringing criminal libel charges against myself and GBHRA Vice President Joseph Darville, along with his ominous declaration that "the commissioner of police must investigate what the GBHRA mean by their remarks".
The statement to which the minister refers concerns the testimonials of several detainees housed in the Carmichael Road Detention Centre about the harsh, unsanitary and inhumane conditions they were forced to endure. If Minister Mitchell wishes to dispel these characterizations, he need only allow the GBHRA and other human rights groups to tour the facility and view the conditions firsthand.
Instead, he has sought to use the threat of police action and indeed imprisonment in an attempt to intimidate those he views as opponents -- and silence the alleged victims of mistreatment, neglect and physical abuse. In broadcasting his injunction to Commissioner Greenslade over the government's news network, the minister has also placed undue pressure on the police force, in a manner that threatens to compromise the fair and impartial enforcement of the law.
In itself, the Sword of Damocles with which Mitchell seeks threaten us is spurious and anachronistic to the point of comedy, both in the particular instance and generally speaking. Criminal libel as a category of offense has been abolished in Britain and is shunned across most of the commonwealth as anathema to freedom of expression and citizens' rights. That such laws even persist in The Bahamas can only be source of shame and embarrassment to this society.
It goes without saying that their deployment against the GBHRA in such a manner smacks of cowardliness, opportunism and clear desperation on the minister's part. Worse though, are the serious implications of Mitchell's behavior for the integrity of our democracy at home and the state of our reputation abroad.
As you know, the use of law enforcement as a weapon to achieve political aims, through intimidation or worse, has been a hallmark of brutal and authoritarian regimes throughout history. This, coupled with Mitchell's recent threat to annul the citizenship of Bahamians who hold opinions with which he disagrees, constitutes an extremely serious challenge to the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in The Bahamas constitution. I submit to you Mr. Prime Minister, that your Cabinet colleague's actions have placed us on the slippery slope to dictatorship.
On a different note, though one no less alarming coming from a senior public figure, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the minister's seeming disinclination - either through unwillingness or incapacity - to tolerate dissenting opinions, has led to an unprovoked series of rude, intemperate and childish personal attacks against myself in the press. In resorting to such puerile tactics, he disrespects the invaluable work of the GBHRA, which has been at the forefront of the struggle for human rights in this country for the last four decades. In addition, as one of the mere handful of Queen's Counsel practicing in The Bahamas today, I consider his references to me as "a joker" and "a jack-in-the-box" who should "learn to read", to constitute a mockery of that venerable and internationally respected institution - irresponsible antics of which your administration, with respect, should be ashamed.
Shame should also ensue from the audacity which Mitchell displays in threatening men like Fred Smith and Joseph Darville in the first place - men who have spent their entire lives in the service of their fellow Bahamian on an number of fronts, and have been repeatedly commended and decorated accordingly, as the minster full well knows.
I recollect with sadness a young attorney named Fred Mitchell who was a fearless civil rights activist, deeply involved in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, and invited to observe the Nelson Mandela take up his historic leadership of the country. The crucial role played by The Bahamas in freeing Mandela from prison and bringing an end to that most oppressive and discriminatory of regimes was among the most glorious moments in the history of our fledgling country, and of the Progressive Liberal Party.
Somehow, at some point in the intervening years, Minister Mitchell's once progressive outlook has ossified, become calculating and cynical. He is willing, it seems, to force this society into ethnic tensions and divisions on a scale previously unknown, and of a kind which led to incalculable degrees of human suffering in so many other societies around the world. What is more, this precarious position has been arrived at through a policy that has absolutely no basis in law, that violates the Bahamas constitution on too many fundamental levels to fully enumerate here.
It is the considered opinion of the GBHRA that Minister Mitchell has become far too confrontational, authoritarian and disregarding of the value of fundamental rights and constitutional protections to preside over so complex and sensitive an issue. We feel that his behavior, if allowed to continue, will have grave and lasting consequences for The Bahamas, both at home and abroad.
Joseph Darville and I have already alerted the relevant international agencies regarding the insidious threat leveled against us personally, including the Organization of American States, The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, regional and global human rights advocates such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Americas Watch; international agencies specializing in the protection of human rights attorneys, as well as radio, television and print media throughout the Caribbean and British Commonwealth.
With regard to the threat presented to the country as a whole by Minister Mitchell's increasingly intemperate behavior, I can only urge, prime minister, that the more experienced and reasonable individuals in your Cabinet step in and take control of the situation before it is too late. I thank you for your time and attention.
- Fred Smith, Q.C.
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December 16, 2014
It is the yuletide season once again and although this time of year was originally supposed to commemorate the greatest gift to mankind, the birth of the Savior, the focus of Christmas has changed over the years. The emphasis is still on the act of giving but not necessarily the Almighty's gift to us.
There is an insatiable drive to buy as many gifts as possible to deliver to as many family members and friends as possible this time of year. There is a problem, however; a problem that is likely to be particularly vexing this season. The question is: How do we bridge the gap between our desires to obtain all the items on our gift lists given the current restraints on our individual budgets because of the sluggish economy?
In the vast majority of cases, we immediately trim the list to meet the amount of available funds we have to spend during the holidays. For others, they find ways and means of increasing their incomes, legitimately or illegitimately, to meet the needs of the gift list. It is that illegitimate group that gives us cause for concern this season - those who turn to crime as a means to an end.
Every Christmas there seems to be a spike in the crime rate: An escalation of breaking and entry reports; muggings; armed robberies; property thefts; store robberies; carjackings and a growing list of bogus service providers who roam suburban neighborhoods offering heavy discounts for home repairs and painting. These people disrupt a time that is supposed to be spent in pleasure with loved ones.
Each year, the Royal Bahamas Police Force issues warnings and sage advice to the public to be on guard against criminals. It is especially important to be mindful of the advice given by police this year based on the high level of crime and violence in New Providence. In that regard, we must recall that the country is still experiencing a challenge providing sufficient jobs. It is by no means suggested that those seeking work are likely to turn to crime. On the contrary, it is those who have no intention of working, but who still desire filling their Christmas lists, who cause the problems.
If we wish to avoid being victims of the crimes of Christmas then we must pay special heed to the warnings and practical advice offered by our law enforcement community this time of the year. Be vigilant and use common sense in order to avoid being a victim.
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December 16, 2014
o First published March 22, 2012
The words of our national anthem written by the late Timothy Gibson urge us as Bahamians to march together to a common loftier goal. The importance of a common purpose to nation building is further highlighted in the words of our national pledge which states, "I pledge my allegiance to the flag and to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas for which it stands one people united in love and service." However, taking a look at the current state of our polity and recent events that have occurred in our country, it leaves one to wonder whether the Bahamian people have a united front to serve our country toward a common loftier goal.
A lot has been said about the recent documentary entitled "Caribbean Crime Wave", produced by Australian reporter Mark Lazaredes, which seeks to highlight the crime problem that is spiralling out of control in The Bahamas. The aforesaid documentary seems to create the impression that we are a nation under siege. Many Bahamians who viewed the documentary were incensed that our beloved nation was portrayed and characterized in such a manner for the entire world to see. In a country that is heavily dependent upon the tourism and financial services industries, it is an understatement to say that the documentary represents unsolicited bad publicity for The Bahamas in the midst of an already challenging economy.
While it is undeniable that crime and the fear of crime have taken hold of our nation, it does not seem to justify the characterization of The Bahamas as a nation under siege. The everyday Bahamian citizen and residents as well as the millions of tourists who grace our shores annually are still able to enjoy to a great extent the freedom of movement and enjoyment in peace and harmony. Unfortunately, we are experiencing a record number of murders, break-ins, robberies and crimes against persons. It also seems fair to state that the government could address the issue of crime in a more significant manner and should have taken a more rigorous approach toward crime.
What are we doing to address the problem?
The Bahamas seems to have become a nation that has traded its moral and spiritual values for materialism, power, vanity and self-promotion. The reality is that sectors of our society and stakeholders such as parents, the church, the community, civic organizations and the government are failing us daily by not making a concerted effort to address our moral and social issues and find plausible solutions. More detrimental to the Bahamian society is the fact that our politics over the years has done very little to unite us as a people, but rather continues to encourage a "divide and rule" mentality among our people. It was reported that there have been attacks against supporters of both major political parties. However, it is noteworthy and encouraging to state that the leaders of the Free National Movement (FNM) and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) have openly condemned this unruly behavior and urged their supporters to act in a civil manner.
How did we find ourselves at this point? We have always prided ourselves on being a nation that has a long history of stable democracy and civil governance. The recent behavior of our politicians leaves little to be desired by those of us who stand by on the sidelines and witness the continuous mudslinging and personal attacks to the gratification of political crowds who in many cases have been blinded beyond party lines. It must always be remembered that regardless of our political persuasion, ideology or affiliation, we are first and foremost Bahamians. The inability of our leaders to address issues that are plaguing our nation sets a poor example for the citizenry of our country. It presents the "don't do what I do, but do what I say" philosophy that so many parents raise their children by. How can a politician expect to be taken seriously as an advocate of conflict resolution when he/she is supposedly guilty of the same offense? The same question can be directed toward parents and leaders of the aforementioned sectors of society who seem in some cases to lead a double standard life. It must be emphasized that children and people in general follow the actions of those who preside over them rather than listen to their words or rhetoric. It is imperative that we set the right example for those that we lead.
Paradigm shift needed
It is difficult for our nation to arrive at non-partisan solutions to the myriad of issues that plague our nation without a paradigm shift by our political leaders. The conception seems to be that crime starts and stops with murder, hence the cry for the death penalty each time one of our fellow citizens falls victim to murder. It appears that the documentary among other things focused upon the fact that The Bahamas because of its judicial ties to the United Kingdom has been prohibited from enforcing the death penalty. However, can it really be said that the death penalty will solve our problems? It appears that our problems are far greater than imposing the ultimate punishment for what is considered arguably the most unacceptable crime - that is, murder.
It must be emphasized that crime includes all forms of illegal activity. Therefore, if we take an introspective look at ourselves, we will find that the first step to addressing the criminal element in this country is to adjust ourselves accordingly. The saying that "we must become the change that we seek" is true now more than ever. We must refrain from nurturing a culture of lawlessness in our society that continues to erode the moral and spiritual fabric of our nation.
Political, civic, business and religious leaders must regain their focus and although not prohibited from following or supporting the political party of their choice, they must ensure that they demonstrate that their first allegiance is to our common loftier goal. The Bahamas must come first at all times and above all individual ambitions. This common loftier goal comes with the mentality of being our brothers' keepers and truly building our nation until the road we trod leads unto our God. It is only then will we be able to move foward, upward, onward, together and our Bahamaland can truly march on.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at email@example.com.
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December 16, 2014
A judge on Monday denied bail for a man accused of abetment to murder.
Prosecutors allege that Kervin Neely abetted the June 1 stabbing death of 17-year-old Enrico Major, who was killed weeks before his high school graduation.
Dwayne Peter Lockhart is charged with Major's murder.
Both men have denied the charges.
In other court news, a coroner's investigation into the fatal police shooting of Patrick "Peanuts" Strachan convened yesterday.
Police shot and killed Strachan on February 27, 2008 at Wilson Tract after they alleged he pulled a gun on them.
Residents in the area claimed that Strachan was unarmed.
The matter continues on Wednesday.
The inquest does not determine criminal or civil liability.
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December 16, 2014
A man who police caught in a car taken during a home invasion either took part in the crime or knowingly received stolen property, a prosecutor said.
Viola Barnett was making her closing address in the case of Indrick Tilme, who is on trial for the July 9, 2012 burglary and armed robbery of Shawn and Mavis Rolle.
Tilme is also accused of the attempted murder of Mr. Rolle, who was shot in the leg when he confronted three intruders in his home, and receiving stolen property.
Police arrested Tilme the following day following a high-speed chase during which he crashed the Rolles' 2007 Nissan Tida into another car on Wulff Road while trying to evade police.
According to officers, Tilme exited the car and was caught hiding on the roof of a house on Palm Beach Street.
The officers said that Tilme, who lives on Seventh Street, was breathing heavily.
Barnett said jurors could reasonably conclude that Tilme was involved in the home invasion or at the very least received a stolen car.
On the other hand, defense lawyer Wilfred Bain asserted that Tilme was the victim of mistaken identity.
Tilme exercised his right to remain silent.
Justice Vera Watkins will turn the case over to the jury today after summing up the evidence.
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December 16, 2014
The alumni associations of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University in The Bahamas are pleased to announce that Michael Hemesath, president of Saint John's University and Mary Hinton, the newly-appointed president of the College of Saint Benedict, will visit The Bahamas in early February 2015. The primary purpose of their visit is to meet and fellowship with Bahamian alumni who have passed through those institutions.
Michael Hemesath is the first lay-president of Saint John's University, which was established 157 years ago in 1857, and Mary Hinton is the first Afro-American president of the College of Saint Benedict, established in 1913 or 101 years ago.
It is also significant that in 2015, St. Augustine's College, which was established by the Benedictine Monks of Saint John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota in 1945, and which has provided hundreds of students to both institutions over the years, will be celebrating its 70th anniversary.
It should also be noted that the newly-appointed President of the College of the Bahamas Dr. Rodney Smith is a graduate of both St. Augustine's College and Saint John's University.
During the presidents' visit, the combined alumni associations will host a gala banquet, during which we will seek to achieve five objectives, namely:
1. To introduce new College of Saint Benedict President Mary Hinton to The Bahamas;
2. To receive an update from Michael Hemesath regarding developments at Saint John's University;
3. To officially launch and raise funds for the Lou Adderley Scholarship Foundation, the funds of which will be tenable at both Saint John's and the College of Saint Benedict;
4. To confer the Colman J. Barry Award on Lou Adderley (posthumously). The Colman J. Barry Award for Distinguished Contributions to Religion and Society is given annually to those who believe and demonstrate that service to others, in the expansion of human understanding and extension of social justice, which comprises the best in human achievement;
5. To recognize St. Augustine's College's 70th anniversary.
During their visit, the presidents expect to pay courtesy calls on several government officials, the chairman and president of The College of the Bahamas and the Most Reverend Patrick Pinder, the archbishop of the Diocese of The Bahamas & the Turks & Caicos Islands.
The presidents' visit will be highlighted by a gala banquet which will be held on Saturday, February 7, 2015 at the Crown Ballroom of the Atlantis resort. The gala banquet will begin at 7 p.m. Tickets for the banquet will be available for a contribution of $175.00 per person and the net proceeds from this event will be exclusively earmarked for the Lou Adderley Scholarship Foundation for students who will attend either the College of Saint Benedict or Saint John's University.
The alumni is committed to ensuring that the blessings and benefits that its members received will continue through the financial assistance that will be funded, in part, by the Lou Adderley Scholarship Foundation. The alumni members will say more about the foundation over the next few weeks. The members are especially motivated to raise as much as they can for the foundation because Saint John's University will match the alumni members' contribution to the foundation, thereby doubling the funds that are available for educational funding at both the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University.
The alumni members expect that this historic joint visit by the presidents of these two institutions that have educated more than 1,200 Bahamians will further concretize the long-standing, mutually beneficial relationship between the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University and The Bahamas.
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December 15, 2014
Southworth Development has acquired The Abaco Club on Winding Bay from Marriott Vacation Worldwide Corporation (MVWC) in a $30 million all-cash purchase, in partnership with members and residents of the development, and is already looking forward to investing another $30 million in a second phase of the development.
Southworth President and CEO David Southworth told Guardian Business that the company, which now owns and operates private clubs and residential communities in The Bahamas, the United States, and Scotland, invested $30 million into the sale and the first phase of its renovations for the property.
"Another $30 million will follow that, and that will have the property in the shape that we envision it," he said, noting that phase two of the 534-acre property would largely center on the addition of a beach clubhouse and village.
Prime Minister Perry Christie welcomed the sale, stating that the investment in the property would greatly benefit Abaco through increased home building, tourism and jobs for Bahamians through an estimated $348 million in combined home construction and additional infrastructure project costs.
"This is precisely the type of partner that can deliver on the expectations of existing members to reestablish the club's rating as a first-class, five-star resort, while restoring homeowners' equity, and safeguarding the marketability and value of the real estate investments," said Christie.
Christie stated that employment boosts and entrepreneurial opportunities would vary based on the type of construction undertaken in the development, with 66 projected construction jobs in the second year of development, and 102 projected jobs in year three.
Southworth and Christie noted that an initial $10 million would be used to upgrade the property's golf course, which was recently ranked the top course in The Bahamas, and eighth throughout the Caribbean and Mexico, by Golf Week Magazine.
The sale puts an end to a series of legal disputes that have surrounded the property for more than a year. Homeowners originally sued MVWC for over $10 million, alleging that MVWC had neglected the property and had failed to meet other contractual obligations. MVWC countered by offering to sell the resort to a group of homeowners for $28 million, which they refused.
Christie stated that the Marsh Harbour airport's new terminal, the projected 2015 completion of a new $39 million commercial port in Cooper's Town, and an uptick in second home activities had positioned Abaco for strong economic growth moving forward.
"Abaco is set to become a market leader in the region for successfully built and managed mixed-use developments, encompassing both small and large-scale hotel, resort, and second home communities.
"This will now place Abaco in a position to attract new commercial airlift from major carriers in the United States of America and Canadian cities," said Christie, adding that increased demand would require the lengthening of the Marsh Harbour runway.
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December 15, 2014
The Bahamas has agreed with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to incorporate migration issues into the National Development Plan: Vision 2040, and has discussed with IOM an advance voluntary repatriation and reintegration program. In addition, a new immigration permit has been created for people awaiting a decision on citizenship.
This from Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell, speaking at a luncheon for the honorary consular corps in The Bahamas. Honorary consuls resident in The Bahamas represent more than 40 different countries.
Calling illegal immigration "one of the three greatest priorities of The Bahamas this year", Mitchell amplified for members of the diplomatic community in The Bahamas what was in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between The Bahamas and the IOM at the United Nations General Assembly in September.
Memorandum of understanding
The agreement speaks to the conduct of relevant research and studies on migration in the country and the strengthening of migration management, which Mitchell said includes measures to facilitate regular migration and to address irregular migration.
Also in the MOU is the identification and development of appropriate measures to assist and protect vulnerable migrants, the mainstreaming of migration into the development plan and the exploration of potential collaboration in activities related to the UN Post-Development Goals.
In January, the government and the Inter-American Development Bank launched a joint programme to create the national development plan -- Vision 2040. And last month at the College of The Bahamas, Prime Minister Perry Christie kicked off the public consultation phase of the plan's creation.
Mitchell said the MOU also spoke to the enhancement of disaster risk reduction and resilience due to climate change and environmental challenges which lead to the movement of population and the pursuit of informal intra-regional dialogue on migration in the Caribbean.
"Illegal immigration has been one of the three greatest priorities of The Bahamas in this year; the other two being crime and the protection of the environment," Mitchell told the diplomats, also revealing that IOM Deputy Director General, Ambassador Laura Thompson, had visited The Bahamas in November and reiterated the IOM's support for regional cooperation in combatting irregular migration and smuggling.
"There were also discussions on the Advance Voluntary Repatriation and Reintegration Programme and on The Bahamas' role in a regional consultative process to exchange views and best practices on migration management in the region," Mitchell said.
The voluntary repatriation and reintegration programme is located in Haiti, and designed for migrants who are returned to Haiti to be integrated into society.
He also outlined the steps the Department of Immigration has taken to -- as Mitchell put it -- "deal with the problem of the illegal influx of migrants into The Bahamas." Those steps include recruitment and training, and, of course, the new policy.
"November 1, 2014 saw the implementation of a new immigration policy which requires that all persons born in The Bahamas to non-Bahamian parents must be in possession of a passport of their nationality," Mitchell reitered. "Additionally, with this policy came the introduction of the Resident Belonger's Permit."
"This new permit would allow persons born in The Bahamas to non-Bahamian parents to have continuous legal status until they have had a decision on their application for registration as Bahamian citizens."
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December 15, 2014
As Cuba's economic liberalization slowly but surely progresses, The Bahamas must act quickly to establish linkages between the Cuban and Bahamian economies, according to Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle.
Speaking with Guardian Business after last week's CARICOM summit in Havana, Rolle said that such linkages are crucial as Cuba positions itself as a direct competitor to The Bahamas through the adoption of more foreign investor-friendly policies.
"Make no mistake about it, Cuba will be a competitor of The Bahamas and we have to look at our strategic advantages, look at our comparative advantages, and also look at establishing some competitive advantages," he said.
Rolle cited Cuba's recent overhauls to its foreign investment laws as a signal for increased cooperation between the two countries.
Cuba approved a foreign investment law in March with a host of incentives aimed at drawing in more foreign investment, including slashed profit taxes, bolstered legal protection measures and increased opportunities for joint ventures with the state and Cuban companies.
"Previously the state handled all investments, and this shows a shift in both their
political and economic policy, where they are now inviting foreign direct investors," said Rolle.
Rolle stated that tourism was a key linkage between the two countries, but conceded that Cuba had a clear advantage over The Bahamas in terms of the cost of labor. The minister anticipated a glut of potential investors in the centrally planned economy once Cuba's government further relaxed its influence over foreign investments.
"We want to understand what those dynamics are and prepare for it. We have to look at everything that spans the gamut of investment and determine how we can cooperate with Cuba to ensure that our economy isn't impacted significantly," he said.
Speaking at the CARICOM summit last week, Prime Minister Perry Christie stressed the need for joint ventures between The Bahamas and Cuba in the tourism industry, particularly in arranging multi-destination marketing initiatives and packages.
CARICOM and Cuba adopted the Declaration of Havana during the summit, which pledged strengthened bilateral and regional programs, a commitment to promote social initiatives, the implementation of projects to improve air and sea infrastructure and connectivity, and to broaden economic and trade relations through the implementation of the revised trade and economic cooperation agreement between CARICOM and Cuba.
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