Nassau Guardian Stories

Nassau gymnasts impress in Florida
Nassau gymnasts impress in Florida

April 15, 2014

Nassau Gymnastics is one of the top gymnastics programs in the country. It has a lot of young gymnasts in a program that is constantly growing. One of the main focuses of the program is giving their athletes international exposure, so that they can gain valuable competition experience...

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Top 50 camp could be groundbreaking

April 15, 2014

The Bahamas Top 50 camp could be the start of something groundbreaking in the country. For years, a camp of this nature has been talked about but never came into fruition until now.
In a time when there are more Bahamians playing in the NCAA, and professionally, than ever before, it is crucial to develop players who can be interjected into a college system and grasp things quickly.
Hosting major basketball events like the Battle for Atlantis also helps to give the country sports-related exposure, and enlightens the world on the love the country has for the sport.
Getting all of the best Bahamian-born players and getting them to play against each other seems like a simple task, but the cost of getting players who are abroad to come home has always been the breaking point in terms of the tournaments not happening.
America is the mecca of basketball and has been putting on camps and games like this for some time now, such as The Pangos All-American Camp and the Reebok ABCD camp, just to name a few. These camps have drawn crowds of college scouts from all over the country looking to see who will be the next top prospect coming out of high school. Almost every NBA player has come up through the camp and AAU tournament circuit.
The purpose of the camp is to not only give the top players their credit but to propel their games to another level. The more basketball that you play, the sharper and polished your skills become, so the fact that more camps and tournaments are being put on in The Bahamas, means that in the near future we can expect an even higher level of players.
Bringing in coaches from abroad to help out with the camp is also a plus for the players and local coaches. It presents a chance for both to learn new concepts and styles of play. It also helps the kids who were not invited to the camps, because the local coaches can pass on the knowledge that they have gained. It could also builds ties and connections to schools abroad.
The main reason a lot of Bahamian players fall short of the NBA is not due to a lack of talent, but rather to a lack of exposure. Systems have a lot to do with how a player plays; in most cases Bahamians have been recruited by lower level schools and placed in systems where they don't get to play the minutes needed to grow. The camp will be a huge help because it can attract more coaches and players have a better chance of ending up in systems where they can contribute.
The three-day camp will run from July 23-26, and will be put on by Committee Chair and Director of Basketball Operations at CSA Basketball Academy in Nassau, Bahamas Marvin J Henfield; NBA hall-of-famer and former Denver Nuggets guard Alex English, as well as legendary boys' basketball coach Mike Daniel.

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Building golf enthusiasm evident at par-3 course

April 15, 2014

It was a bridging of the eras in golf!
The par-three extravaganza organized by the Bahamas Golf Federation (BGF) obviously served the purpose of President Craig Flowers and his executive colleagues. At the Blue Hill Complex on Saturday past, they came out in good numbers, the young and the old. There were those who focused primarily on the novelty contests, the putting, driving and rounders.
Others appreciated the opportunity to interact with those of the sports fraternity who seldom communicate otherwise. For instance, there was Daphne (Stephanie) Carey, who assists the BGF with its programs. There she and I were, two 60-somethings who grew up in the same neighborhood, together, again, with golf as the forum.
Larry Black was on hand. We started at St. Augustine's College together in 1962.
Charley Smith, all 84 years old of him, showed up and waxed nostalgic with the likes of fellow octogenarian Sam Hall, his brother Peter, Jim Newbold, George Turnquest, Glen Archer, Harcourt "Coins" Poitier, Zorro Stubbs, Sterling Quant and others.
Clifford Rahming, the secretary general of the Bahamas Basketball Federation was present. So was John Adderley, a sports buff from years back. Nutritionist Dr. Pattie Symonette made an appearance. Director of Sports Tim Munnings was there, representing the Ministry of Sports.
He had high praise for the BGF.
President Flowers had with him a large bag of historic material, newspaper articles, magazines, tournament programs and photos. He, along with such as his Vice President Ambrose Gouthro, BGF Secretary Oswald Moore and Director Wilfred Horton, closely looked over the items, during a pleasant trip down memory lane.
Most importantly, though, was the presence of the young swingers, Ethan Taylor, Arthur Johnson, Evaleana Johnson, Devon Cooper and scores more of their ilk. They are the future of golf and, presently, the foremost Bahamian female professional, Georgette Rolle, is working with them and doing an excellent job.
The air was charged with the kind of excitement that was once commonplace for golf.
"This is fantastic," said Sam Hall, when reminded that 40-plus years ago, he was one of those who were a part of that second wave of pioneering golfers who contributed to taking the Bahamian game to the top of the Caribbean region and the Americas.
"I never thought of it, but it is the truth. We did our part. Man, it is a joy to still be around all these years later and to see the sport coming alive, once again. I like what I see with these youngsters and it is exciting. I'm just very happy to be here," he said.
Indeed, it was that kind of an occasion.
Flowers took it all in, and obviously liked the scenario.
"This is just what we want to do, bring a big focus back to golf. We have to recognize, however, that we must spread this program out all over The Bahamas. We must have a presence in other areas of The Bahamas. I'm thinking that, first off, it would be good to single out a facility in Grand Bahama that can serve as the base for the Federation. This is the sort of thing we have to do to bring the game back throughout the country," noted Flowers.
It is all sounding very good.
Bahamian golf is certainly on the rise again!
oTo respond to this sports feature, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at sturrup1504@gmail.com.

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School kids meet Breezy

April 15, 2014

School kids in the capital are to get a taste of life in the fast lane as the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relays races to The Bahamas.
The official IAAF World Relays Bahamas 2014 mascot, "Breezy", will visit schools to introduce kids to the event that will thrill spectators in the next few weeks.
The visit to Kingsway Academy recently, came weeks after Breezy was unveiled at Temple Christian High School. Local Organizing Committee (LOC) Managing Director Lionel Haven said, "The event will be inspirational for young people all across The Bahamas, and it is the hope that this fun and engaging tour will give youngsters a taste of the world-class sport they will experience in their home country on May 24 and May 25."
Haven added that the event is a once in a lifetime opportunity and young Bahamians growing up today will want to have the chance to say in years to come, "I was there."
Breezy was designed and named by 14-year-old Kirshon Smith, a ninth grade student from Temple Christian High School.
Haven said: "Wherever Breezy goes he always receives a positive reception. He is friendly, fun and cheeky, and he is exactly the mascot to introduce the event to young people."
Kirshon, who won an iPad; $500 tuition; $500 for his school's art department and four tickets to the World Relays said: "Breezy, The Nassau Grouper, is the fastest fish alive and is happy that the relays are coming to The Bahamas to show off his running ability."

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Canada demands controversial investor rights clause

April 15, 2014

Disagreement over whether a controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism will be included in a new trade deal between Canada and The Bahamas has emerged as a point of contention between the two countries in the protracted negotiations, Minister of Financial Services Ryan Pinder has disclosed.
An ISDS clause gives foreign investors the right to sue a government if the company's business interests and investment returns are adversely affected by national policies.
Proponents of ISDS have argued that it allows investors to protect their investments in situations where the judicial system of the host country may be weak or lacks independence, and that states and their governments are bound by public international law, which includes bilateral investment treaties and international investment agreements.
International opponents, who first stood up against the clause when it was included in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), say it allows big businesses to run roughshod over national interests in areas ranging from health to labor rights and environmental protection.
In a recent forum on The Bahamas' accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Pinder said the government has concerns about the implications of including such a clause in the Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN), which is now being renegotiated by CARICOM (Caribbean Community) on behalf of the region with Canada.
The agreement covers trade in goods as well as services and investments. Presently, Canada already has a significant presence in The Bahamas as an investor in the financial services sector, with Scotiabank (Bahamas), RBC (Bahamas) and CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank (Bahamas) all being Canadian owned.
"That's one area of negotiation ongoing now with Canada and CARICOM, because Canada wants an investor-state dispute clause where investors can potentially sue the government. Well, we take a little bit of a different position on that, where if we negotiate that we can maybe carve out for corruption and fraud and those types of things, but who knows if you leave it too open ended what the result is," said Pinder.
He compared the demand from Canada with the WTO's approach to similar situations. Under WTO rules, a company must persuade a sovereign nation that it has been wronged, leaving the decision to bring a trade case before the WTO in the hands of elected governments, avoiding the prerogative of corporations to unilaterally bring trade cases against sovereign countries - a potentially significant legal burden for a small country like The Bahamas.
While it withstood opposition during the negotiation of NAFTA, the ISDS clause has become increasingly controversial on an international scale.
A recent article in Forbes.com highlighted eight reasons why the U.S. government should "purge" demands for ISDS from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations that it is presently conducting.
The article is based on a paper recently published by the Cato Institute, a libertarian, pro-free trade think tank, which claims that demands for the ISDS have derailed U.S. advances towards further trade liberalization, and should therefore be "purged" as a compromise in achieving this ultimate objective.
Noting that the TPP and TTIP negotiations have run into the "usual objections from the usual suspects -- labor unions blaming trade for manufacturing decline and job loss; environmental groups blaming trade for climate change; anti-globalization activists sparing the developing world from development," the Cato Institute concludes that beneath the "hyperbole" and "vacuous, anti-capitalist hyperventilation" about the agreement is a "kernel of truth".
"(This is that the) so-called investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which enables foreign investors to sue host governments in third-party arbitration tribunals for treatment that allegedly fails to meet certain standards and that results in a loss of asset values, is an unnecessary, unreasonable, and unwise provision to include in trade agreements.
"Although detractors may not know it by name, ISDS is a significant reason why trade agreements engender so much antipathy. Yet, ISDS is not even essential to the task of freeing trade, so why burden the effort by carrying needless baggage?" said the institute.
In Australia, a bill introduced by Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, which would ban trade agreements between Australia and other countries that include ISDS clauses, has been garnering support.
Pensioner and religious groups have supported a bill to ban ISDS clauses in international trade and investment agreements, raising concerns such as higher medicine prices and the loss of Australian sovereignty, according to The Guardian of London.
The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of New South Wales (CPSA) has joined the Catholic organization, the Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes NSW (CLRI), which represents a membership of 3,500 nuns, priests and brothers, to condemn the use of ISDS clauses in its submissions to a Senate committee.
The CPSA submission said it was "troubled by the heavy influence of U.S. corporations" and the reduced capacity of the government to make laws for the Australian people.
In 2011, Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson, said he would not support any deal that gave greater rights to foreign businesses than domestic firms.
Pinder's recent disclosure about the contention over Canada's efforts to include an ISDS in its trade deal with The Bahamas come as both he and Prime Minister Perry Christie have indicated that there have been challenges in finalizing a new trade deal with Canada, which would enable the country to avoid steep increases in duty rates being charged on goods exported to Canada, ranging from crawfish and fuel to pharmaceuticals and salt.
Prior to Pinder's comments regarding the ISDS, the major sticking points holding up the deal had not been entirely clear.
However, in a recent presentation to the National Conclave of Chambers of Commerce, Pinder called the trade agreement talks "very tenuous", and, in a recent address to the University of the West Indies on this nation's relations with CARICOM, Christie lamented that The Bahamas has not been able to conclude a trade agreement with Canada.
The prime minister pointed to that The Bahamas had supported Canada when it resisted the movement of the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) from Montreal, and said the fact that the two countries' "traditional friendship" had not yet led to The Bahamas being able to bring closure to a new trade deal was evidence of what he termed a "fundamental disequilibrium".

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Local businesses suffer 'ridiculous' lime price inflation

April 15, 2014

Customers and suppliers alike have been left with a sour taste in their mouths after a perfect storm of natural and criminal elements has caused local availability of limes to drop, and their prices to rise to unprecedented levels.
Super Value Food Stores Limited has cut back on its lime purchases by 50 percent over the past three weeks, after seeing the price of a box of limes rise from $19 to $115, inflation attributed to a disastrous combination of droughts, blights and the influence of Mexican drug cartels on the global supply chain.
Up from a low of 19 cents per lime, the fruit has now reached a price of 69 cents per lime in Super Value, a level described by Super Value President Rupert Roberts as simply "ridiculous". Meanwhile, Don Carnine, general manager of Bahamas Food Services (BFS), a supplier for many local restaurants, said he has "never seen it this bad for so long".
The inflation is increasingly forcing customers to look for alternatives, said Carnine.
"A lot of people in the market have switched from limes to lemons, or bottled lime juice for marinading. They are quite a bit cheaper. It's really a pure availability issue."
Roberts said he has advised many of his customers to do the same, and has increased purchases of lemons by 60 percent.
"We had to cut back on our purchases because people just aren't willing to pay for them at that price, and we said to the public, 'Look, we have lots of lime juice at the old price,' and so we suggest customers switch to juice, but the ones who have to have it will have to pay the price, there's nothing we can do."
Citrus inflation has been impacted by what is going on in the Mexican state of Michoacan, where a hike in lime prices due to a severe drought, which was followed by a bacterial disease, and a harsh winter, did their part to increase the price of limes. The situation has gotten to the point that some are now terming the fruit "green gold".
With nature having played its role, the Mexican drug cartel known as the Knights Templar stepped in and began hijacking lime trucks and demanding ransoms from farmers, or at worst, killing farmers outright.
Both Carnine and Kyle Cummings, executive vice president of Sun International Produce, Super Value's supplier, said that they do not project that lime prices will begin to fall until after the Cinco de Mayo holiday in Mexico, which is also celebrated in the U.S., with plenty of lime juice-based drinks.
"The supply is next to nothing. It's probably a third of what it was, and people are paying the price," said Cummings.
He added that, unlike with other agricultural commodities which tend to fluctuate more in price, limes have been a traditionally stabled commodity when it comes to pricing, and so his company never locked in a contract for limes that would have sheltered it from the current volatility.

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Two more companies seek oil licenses

April 15, 2014

The government is considering applications from two oil companies that are seeking exploration and production licenses to search for oil in waters north of Grand Bahama.
Bahamas Petroleum and Atlantic Petroleum have applied to the government for eight licenses for territory covering an area of around 5.4 million acres.
Minister of the Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett and Bahamas Petroleum Company Limited (BPC), confirmed that the companies are separate and apart from any exploratory efforts being undertaken by BPC, which currently has five active exploratory licenses in the southern Bahamas, close to the border with Cuba.
Dorsett said that the government is now seeking public feedback on the proposed licenses, according to the law.
"We look at each applicant on its merits and make decisions based on each application, and I think that's what has historically been done. BPC are the only ones who have been issued a license, at present, but there are others who have, in this instance, made an application, but they've not been licensed. The law requires a process and the areas involved have to be gazetted."
Dorsett did not say whether the government is minded to approve the licenses.
Permanent Secretary Camille Johnson said that there is a "nexus" between the two companies, Atlantic Petroleum and Bahamas Petroleum, although it is unclear in what regard at this stage.
According to filings before the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in July 2010, a company called Offshore Petroleum Corp (OFC) listed companies called Atlantic Petroleum Limited and Bahamas Exploration Limited as subsidiaries.
While it is unclear if there is a connection between this subsidiary and Atlantic Petroleum, and if Bahamas Exploration Limited and Bahamas Petroleum Limited may, in fact, be one and the same, OFC said that its objective was to "explore and, if warranted, develop the area covered by eight licenses to be granted by the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas".
The filings later stated that there was "no assurance the licenses will be granted".
"We will not list our shares on any exchange, or further pursue the effectiveness of the registration statement of which this prospectus forms a part, until the licenses are received," said OFC.
Guardian Business attempted to reach the company at the phone contact provided, but the number listed, for an office in Fort Lauderdale, was out of service.
The development comes as investors in BPC, which is listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), a sub-market of the London Stock Exchange, continue their efforts to identify a partner who will bring the capital needed to spud an exploratory well in Bahamian waters.
Such a well is necessary to test the results of the data gathered by the company so far, which it says indicate a significant possibility of a major oil find in Bahamian waters.
Last week, Guardian Business reported that BPC's share price has fallen to its lowest level since 2009, as investors questioned whether or not the company will be successful in its "farmout" efforts to find a company to partner with in the drilling initiative.

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What you need to know about VOCs

April 15, 2014

Just smell it, that's how you know its new - whether it's a car, shoes, bag or a freshly painted room. The chemical compounds that give us this sense of comfort are part of a group of products called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs for short.
When they linger for a day or two, no problem, but enduring emissions are a cause for concern and could lead to health problems.
A reader wrote in to draw my attention to the increasing popularity of bamboo flooring, locally, and I now understand why. According to EcoBuilding Pulse, the production of bamboo flooring has advanced over the decades but there has been no level of standardization among the NWFA (National Wood Flooring Association) in the United States.
The product is primarily produced in Asia, and there are great variations in quality among brands, and, of more concern, large differences in the level of urea-formaldehyde used in the adhesive to lay the floor.
Consumers ought to do their homework and take advantage of blog posts and product reviews that name and shame companies whose products should be avoided. Note that formaldehyde free adhesives can be specially ordered, and some U.S. importers have begun producing their own glues.
Generally, though, VOCs are emitted as a gas from very ordinary items in our surroundings such as glues, plastics, carpet, paint, building materials, printers, paper and the list goes on. The concentration of VOCs indoors, where we spend most of our time, has been found to be generally 10 times that found outdoors.
Because there is such a wide variety of compounds, the effects range from limited to toxic, and, in some cases, have been contributing factors in sick building syndrome. In some instances VOCs have been known to cause cancer in animals and are suspected to cause cancer in humans. They are more commonly attributed to irritations of the eye, throat or nose; nausea; headaches and damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system.
Admittedly some of the problems are a result of misuse of products by consumers. A common mistake persons make is mixing cleaning products, against the advice of the manufacturer, or neglecting to ensure that spaces are well ventilated when painting or general construction is taking place.
The problem has caught the attention of many agencies including the Carpet and Rug Institute that introduced a green labeling program in 1992 to test carpet, cushions and adhesives for emissions. Suitably qualified products earn their green labels. Building designers wishing to attain their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications have VOC limit tables to guide them; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has its own set of guidelines called Indoor Air Plus Construction Specifications.
To limit your exposure to VOCs get a fact sheet available on many websites that lists the types of products that contain VOCs. Use products as they are intended to be used, and avoid mixing chemicals. Store them in original containers in garages, for example, as opposed to occupied spaces, and limit storage amounts by only purchasing as much product as you need.
o We would like to hear how this article has helped you. Send questions or comments to sbrown@graphitebahamas.com.
Sonia Brown is the principal of Graphite Engineering Ltd. and is a registered professional engineer.

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PM, minister, financial secretary agree: Payroll tax not a viable option

April 15, 2014

Bahamian workers would face grave reductions in take-home pay if a payroll tax were implemented instead of a value-added tax (VAT), said three of the leading voices in financial affairs, including that of the prime minister.
"You would need a payroll tax of 20-25 percent to equal what a VAT of 15 percent would generate," said Prime Minister Perry Christie.
The prime minister was addressing a gathering of more than 100 people, ranging from those with farm interests in Abaco to consultants from some of the nation's largest businesses and the financial services industry at a national conclave for Chambers of Commerce at SuperClubs Breezes resort on April 2.
Most of his address dealt with the way forward for The Bahamas, and touched on subjects including the advancement of an international arbitration center and international aircraft registry, and the untapped potential of seabed products. He then turned to the ever-present topic of national conversation - the broad-based tax system the government proposes to implement to raise annual revenue by $200 million, in hopes of avoiding the devaluation of the Bahamian dollar.
Asked if the government had considered alternatives to VAT, the prime minister said absolutely, adding that he was still listening to and talking with persons from a wide range of perspectives. But a payroll tax would penalize the working individual, he said, a conclusion echoed by Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis and independently at a later presentation by Financial Secretary John Rolle.
Both men said government had plugged payroll tax into a model, and the results showed that the impact on the economy, including smaller take-home paychecks, would be far greater than the anticipated 5-6 percent increase on the cost of living, which is expected to accompany the first year of VAT.
According to the government's figures, it would take a 16 percent salary deduction to equal what a 10 percent VAT rate across the board would generate. The deduction would have to be between 20 percent and 25 percent to generate as much as a 15 percent VAT rate would net.
"The net positive impacts (of implementing VAT) outweigh the net negative impacts," said Halkitis, noting that The Bahamas still does not have capital gains tax, estate taxes, corporate or individual income tax.
And, according to Minister for Financial Services Ryan Pinder, The Bahamas remains one of the lowest percentage tax regimes in the region and in the world.
The Bahamas rate of taxation to GDP is 16 percent, he said, while other countries collect far greater percentages of their total product, including the U.S., where taxpayers cough up 32 percent of the gross domestic product in taxes every year.
"The real question," said Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle, "is can we afford not to do it?"
Warning of the increased scrutiny of credit rating agencies, he said, "It only takes one person, one suggestion that The Bahamas is not a good place to invest, not a safe place to put your money, and guess what happens - it not only impacts the government, it impacts everyone. We have only one chance to get it right."

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WTO executive meets with Freeport industrial players

April 15, 2014

A World Trade Organization (WTO) executive who visited The Bahamas to help raise awareness about issues surrounding The Bahamas' decision to join the WTO, was welcomed to Grand Bahama last week by Minister for Grand Bahama Dr. Michael Darville.
While there, David Shark, deputy director general of the WTO, met with executives at a number of major Freeport companies.
Traveling to the second city on April 10, Shark was accompanied by Ryan Pinder, minister of financial services; Rhoda Jackson, ambassador and permanent representative of The Bahamas to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva, Switzerland; June Young Lee, WTO legal advisor, and Keva Bain, acting director of trade and industry.
The Bahamas is in the process of negotiating accession to the WTO, primarily to secure favorable market access for its goods and services in the international community.
Shark arrived in The Bahamas on Wednesday, meeting with senior government officials in New Providence prior to traveling to the nation's second city.
His visit to The Bahamas is expected to increase public awareness about the WTO accession process, the multilateral rules governing international trade, how those rules impact access to foreign markets by Bahamian companies, and access by foreign companies to the Bahamian market.
His first stop in Grand Bahama was a courtesy call at the Ministry for Grand Bahama. He then went on to meet senior executives at the Grand Bahama Port Authority, the Freeport Container Port, Grand Bahama Shipyard, the Bahamas Oil Refining Company and Pharmachem Technologies Limited. Shark was also the featured speaker at a luncheon hosted by the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, which was held at the Pelican Bay Hotel.

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Minnis should let the chips fall where they may

April 15, 2014

Critics and naysayers of Free National Movement Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis are becoming impatient with him because there has not been a convention held in the two years since he was elected leader on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at a one-day convention held at the Holy Trinity Activities Centre in Stapledon Gardens...

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Strange practices at the House of Assembly

April 15, 2014

We Bahamians are not good with time. In fact, we are so bad with punctuality that the term "Bahamian time" has emerged to indicate a time consistently later than when something should occur or when someone should arrive. Sadly, tardiness is part of our modern culture.
This tardy culture has been the norm in our House of Assembly this term. The House is supposed to start at 10 a.m. With the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) majority led by Perry Christie, however, that almost never happens. The House could start at 10:15 a.m., or 10:25 a.m., or 10:35 a.m. It seems as if it starts whenever the politicians who are in charge of it want it to.
This is disgraceful, and it sets a bad example for a country and a people who are already poor with punctuality. We recall when the Free National Movement (FNM) won in 2007, then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham emphasized that the House would again begin at 10 a.m., rather than the "anytime culture" that existed under Christie's PLP from 2002 to 2007.
The constant late starts at the House represent just one of the problems with the conduct of that chamber. Once the chaplain has spoken and the initial formalities are done, Speaker Dr. Kendal Major has taken it upon himself to start sessions off with an update from his constituency, Garden Hills.
Major talks about the basketball tournaments and the walkabouts. He gives birthday wishes and sends condolences to the families of those who died; he tells the country what new plans he has for his area. Major's updates are inappropriate. He is the speaker of the House. He should be an impartial judge of the proceedings of the chamber who ensures that the rules are maintained and members' rights are protected.
Once the chaplain has said his brief remarks and the initial procedurals are conducted, Major should go to the list of House business. He should not use his chair to push his "constituency news segment".
There is another issue we raise, when it comes to Major and impartiality. Major is a member of Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Dr. Myles Munroe is the leader of the church. Munroe is also one of Major's mentors.
Last month, Munroe and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell engaged in a heated public debate on gay rights. It culminated in Munroe and his supporters coming to the House in strong numbers to sit in the gallery. Major spent considerable time lauding his mentor in his "message" before the House began. While Munroe signed some of his books for members while he was in the House, it was clear that the move was a show of strength to Mitchell.
When two high-profile figures, such as Mitchell and Munroe, are in a public spat, the speaker using his chair to gush over one of the combatants gives the impression that he is taking sides. In this case, it seemed as if he was taking sides against a sitting member of our elected chamber. Again, the speaker should attempt to be impartial. Major, instead, was an over-exuberant follower of Munroe that day.
Our parliamentary system is old. It dates back to the 18th century. It has evolved along with our electoral system and constitution to be more liberal, democratic, pluralistic and sophisticated. For this progression to continue, the men and women who lead our houses of Parliament must think of the greater good above narrow self-interest. They should not just do what they feel like just because they can.
Our leaders need to immerse themselves in the rules and practices of our Parliament and those of other legislatures in other Westminster jurisdictions. If they do this, our parliamentary process will continue to progress. If they do not, future leaders will add to the bad habits that exist in our current House, debasing further the place where our laws are made and our democracy is represented.

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The essential reform

April 15, 2014

The next installment of the fiscal reform series that evaluates the successful implementation of value-added tax (VAT) by Singapore and New Zealand with a view to ascertaining if and what lessons The Bahamas can learn from their experiences as we voyage into unchartered territory had been drafted for subsequent publication.
However, in the midst of this debate, we must pause to recognize Holy Week - a week that is observed by Christians the world over in commemoration of the travails and ultimate triumph of Jesus Christ.
This week we shift focus to examine not the much debated fiscal reform or the popular topic of tax reform; rather we consider a different kind of reform. This reform is an essential reform that will probably not attract the level of public discourse or press time that political and economic issues attract within our country.
The triumphant entry
The four gospels of the New Testament of the Bible record the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on a colt. The entrance into Jerusalem was preceded by specific order from Jesus to two of his disciples to go into the city and bring him a colt that was bound and had never been ridden before. The choice of animal is also symbolic in that the donkey is perceived in Eastern tradition as an animal of peace as opposed to a horse, that is often associated with war. It is no surprise therefore that the Prince of Peace would choose a colt (or a donkey) as his vessel of transportation.
The inexperienced vessel that was the colt was chosen for an assignment that it appeared not to have any qualifications for and was perhaps not trained to embark upon. This is more puzzling when one considers the magnitude of the assignment and stature of the rider.
Several messages abound in this aspect of the story but the hope it provides to the Bahamian youth in this dispensation is apparent. The next generation of Bahamians should continue their strive for excellence and maintain their hunger for knowledge; however, we must remember that greatness is in us and we must be ready to answer the call to serve.
The response Jesus recommended to his disciples if they were questioned is ever so relevant to the young people of our country: the Lord needs you. The recently celebrated Palm Sunday also offers the hope of freedom from bondage as the colt that was hitherto bound was released to be a part of history.
Challenging the status quo
The pageantry and celebration that accompanied Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem were eloquently described in the gospels. From the cloaks that were laid on the colt and the ground upon which He rode to the palm branches which symbolize victory, triumph and peace, our imaginations may never do justice to the re-enactment of the scenery in our minds.
In spite of the glamour of his advent into Jerusalem, the Bible records the clearing of the temple courts of those buying and selling there. This act was aimed at bringing order to the temple and reiterating the purpose the temple ought to serve.
Bahamian leaders and aspiring leaders, having been lauded by the populace and ushered into positions of power, must never be afraid to do that which is right, although some of their decisions may prove to be unpopular. Leadership must not be reduced to a popularity contest and it is high time that our leaders address matters based on convictions and more importantly doing the right things even at the risk of offending supporters.
The voyage of purpose
The agony of the cross was felt prior to Calvary at Gethsemane as the Messiah sought to avoid the cross only to yield to the will of His Father. It is interesting to note that in His moment of despair and hour of sorrow, he could not rely on his disciples to hold Him up in prayer.
Leaders must be prepared to stand alone in their darkest hour and face their biggest trials on their own in a lonely place. We the people must follow the biblical instruction to pray for our leaders and those that govern us for the prosperity of our country.
The inherent dichotomy of human nature is pronounced in the crucifixion story with the change in proclamations by the people. It is interesting to note that within just a few days, the chants of Hosanna would change to the shouts of "Crucify Him". In essence, those who had hailed Jesus as a hero would soon reject and abandon Him; some even demanding His execution over that of a serious criminal.
The betrayal of Judas and the denial by Peter are testaments to some of the struggles of leadership and relationships. The journey from judgement hall to judgement hall may have been prevented if Jesus' commitment to and faith in His assignment was not unflinching. These experiences paled in comparison to the punishment inflicted upon the Son of God and we should expect no less if we profess to be Christians as no servant is greater than his/her master.
As we transition from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, the hope of resurrection must come alive within our Bahamaland, from Inagua in the south to Bimini in the north. In spite of the current challenges that confront us, hope ought to rise again in our hearts during this season that this too shall pass, the sun will shine again and roses will bloom again in this land.
The model reform
While various studies on tax reform in The Bahamas have been and are being conducted, this writer also recommends another study - the detailed study of the life of Jesus by leaders, aspiring leaders and the entire populace. All accounts confirm the reformist that He represented in the challenging of established doctrines and the status quo.
The pain and suffering that He bore were direct results of an unwavering commitment to His assignment. It is indeed a paradox that He was born to die; He fulfilled purpose by being tortured and subsequently going to Calvary to die a gruesome death. As followers of Christ commemorate His resurrection this week, in our personal lives we must rest assured that any perceived suffering of the present is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.
We need not look far to find individuals to which the clarion call is being made. For indeed the clarion call for the essential reform is being made to one and all.
The charge is made to this generation to be vessels in bringing about much needed reform to the social, cultural, religious and economic landscape of our commonwealth. In the words of the late Nelson Mandela, "...sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great, you (we) can be that great generation".
However, how can we change our communities and our nation if we do not begin by reforming ourselves and changing our thinking for the better? How can we say we love God when we do not love our brother, sister or neighbor, who we can see? The Bahamas will be a better place and will experience much prosperity if we are able to successfully implement this model reform. Happy Holy Week
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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Prison officers threaten action

April 15, 2014

The Bahamas Prison Officers Association (BPOA) warned yesterday there would be a "serious breakdown" in prison operations if the government does not address its mounting concerns...

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Men charged with gun smuggling

April 15, 2014

Two men accused of smuggling guns and ammunition from the United States made their first appearance before a magistrate yesterday.
Taxi driver Shamar Ellis, 36, of Campbell Street, and Leonard Saunders, 28, of Churchill Subdivision, were arraigned on 17 counts related to the seizure of five firearms and 387 rounds of ammunition.
The men were arrested following a joint operation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Bahamas Customs and The Firearms Tracing and Investigation Unit, police said.
The seizure was made at Prince George Wharf on April 8, but the contraband also transited Georgetown, Exuma.
The seized firearms included an Austria Glock 27.40 pistol, an Austria Glock 9x19 pistol, a Del-ton DTI 15 rifle, and a .223 5.56 assault rifle. Police also recovered ammunition for the weapons.
Ellis and Saunders also face charges of possession of guns and ammunition with intent to supply and conspiring to import guns and ammunition from October 20, 2013 to April 7.
They denied all charges at their arraignment before Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt.
They return to court today at 1:30 p.m. for a bail hearing.
Inspector Don Bannister said he was "strenuously objecting to bail" as the men faced a multiplicity of offenses and were the subject of a further investigation.
Bannister said that Ellis had a 1999 conviction for attempted murder for which he served three years, a claim that Ellis denied.
Ellis is represented by Jomo Campbell, who was not present at the arraignment because he was in the Supreme Court.
Dorsey McPhee appeared for Saunders.

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Businessmen claim intruder stole 31,000 from hotel room

April 15, 2014

Police are investigating claims by two Florida-based businessmen that an intruder stole more than $31,000 from their hotel room on Sunday.
Joaquim Lopez and Elvis Perez, the owners of J & R Import and Export in Hialeah, Florida, said they woke around 6 a.m. to discover a Coach bag that contained cash missing and the door to their room at the Melia hotel at Cable Beach ajar.
The Dominican-Americans said the missing money represented the proceeds of a business transaction with a client.
Lopez said it was not unusual to conduct business with large sums of cash.
The men said they unsuccessfully searched for the bag on the seventh floor and in the stairwell. However, they claimed the hotel's security staff recovered the bag in the stairwell next to room 710 about three hours later.
Although Perez's passport and wallet were still inside, the money was gone, they said.
The men said there was no sign of forced entry, leading them to conclude that someone with a key entered the room.
According to well-placed sources, only the keys assigned to Lopez and Perez were used to access the room.
The men claimed that no one else besides hotel staff knew they were still in the country on Sunday as they returned to the hotel after missing their flight home on Saturday.
The men said that prior to the alleged theft they "always felt secure" at the Melia, where they stay during their three times per month visits to the country.
The men are now of the view that it's "not safe".
Not only have they vowed not to return to the hotel, they said they have consulted their lawyers about the possibility of filing a lawsuit.
Robert Sands, Baha Mar's senior vice president of administration and external affairs, said the resort received reports of an "alleged incident" that is under investigation by the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
Melia is a part of the Baha Mar resort.

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Fraser apologizes for 'pastoral misjudgment'

April 15, 2014

Convicted sexual offender Bishop Earl Randolph Fraser apologized to the country for his "pastoral misjudgment" during the launch of his new church, Palms of Victory Kingdom Ministry.
"I take this step further and say to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and, indeed, the Christian church that I apologize to you for my pastoral misjudgement which has brought disdain to the body of Christ," Fraser told a crowd at Workers House on Sunday.
"For this I am sorry."
Fraser was convicted in November 2011 of having sex with a dependent.
The Court of Appeal condemned Fraser as a sexual predator who "disgustingly defiled the sanctum of his church" when it upheld his conviction for having sex with the teenage church member who had come to him for counseling.
Fraser was fired as senior pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church during a meeting of its board of trustees late last year.
During the opening of his new church, Fraser said he will press forward with his life.
"The Punch has punched you out," he said.
"The Guardian didn't guard you. The Tribune was the tribunal, three courts. The Bahamas Press pressed me to pieces. Facebook messed up my face. They said you were finished, but God, despite all that, was going on and blessed me."
He added, "I want to assure you that I am living in the present. I am not looking back. I am pressing forward, so I say to you, let it go."
Fraser was released from prison last November.
He was sentenced to three years in prison.
During Fraser's trial, evidence revealed that he began the illicit affair with the 16-year-old girl shortly after their counseling sessions began in July 2005.
The sexual relationship ended in February 2006, his accuser said.
The girl said she and Fraser had sex on Mondays and Wednesdays on the floor of his office before services, and, occasionally, at his home when his wife was not there.
Police found Fraser's semen on carpet swaths collected from the church office.

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FNM chairman says govt appears divided

April 15, 2014

Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Darron Cash said yesterday the government appears to be divided after Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez said July 1 is not a realistic deadline for the regulation of the web shop industry.
"Sadly, the Gomez statement is yet another example of how governance under [Prime Minister] Perry Christie continues to be a race to the bottom, as he seeks to have governance sink to the lowest levels this country has ever seen," Cash said in a statement.
"The statement shows that this government has not yet learned how to work together, govern and speak in a way that inspires confidence that they know what they are doing.
"What is also clear is that the Bahamian people can no longer put up with this shambolic, pain and suffering-inducing style of government."
In the House of Assembly on March 5, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe announced that he intended to soon present a proposal for the regularization of web shops to Cabinet and was pushing for this to be official by July 1.
But, Gomez said in an interview with The Guardian on Friday that, due to the complexities of establishing a regulated sector, July 1 is an unrealistic date.
When asked what would be a more realistic date to start taxing web shops, he said December 31.
Cash said the government appears to be adrift with no clear focus or agenda.
"They have abandoned the long-standing principle of Cabinet government with collective responsibility, and they don't seem to care," he said.
"This is a government of every man or woman for himself or herself."
He added, "It is the FNM's position that this dysfunction cannot be permitted to go on much longer.
"It is time for Prime Minister Christie to call for the dissolution of Parliament and go back to the people for a fresh mandate. His government has failed on policy and it has failed on process."
Cash said Christie is far more concerned with giving grand speeches than he is with the details of writing laws, setting policies or governing departments and agencies.
FNM Senator Carl Bethel said last week the government is suffering from a "chronic lack of legislative focus," and called on the Christie administration to "get its act together".
Bethel was responding to comments made by Constitutional Commission Chairman Sean McWeeney who said the government may have to delay its promised constitutional referendum on gender equality for a third time.

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Man cleared of attempted murder

April 15, 2014

A Supreme Court jury yesterday cleared a man of attempted murder.
Prosecutors alleged that Rashad Paul, whose street name is "Eyes", shot Gregory Miller twice near a club on Nassau Street on December 12, 2012.
By the time the case came on for trial before Justice Indra Charles, Miller was murdered. He was shot dead at Cordeaux Avenue and Key West Street on April 20, 2013.
The Crown relied on a statement that Miller gave to police after the first shooting.
In the statement, Miller claimed that Paul whom he had known all his life shot him in the stomach and ankle at the Yardie Dance.
However, Paul's defense lawyer Ian Cargill relied on a sworn affidavit made by Miller in which he repudiated the statement.
According to the affidavit, which was used during Paul's bail hearing in the Supreme Court, he did not know who shot him and only named Paul because police told him to.

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