Nassau Guardian Stories
February 23, 2015
The probable cause of the fatal plane crash that killed world renowned pastor, Dr. Myles Munroe, his wife and seven others in Freeport, Grand Bahama, last November was "poor decision making of the crew", according to a final report prepared by the Department of Civil Aviation.
"The AAIPU (Department of Civil Aviation Aircraft Accident Investigation and Prevention Unit) has determined that the probable cause of the accident was the poor decision making of the crew in initiating and continuing a descent in IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) below the authorized altitude, without visual contact with the runway environment," read the report.
The AAIPU said the aircraft made an initial instrument landing system (ILS) approach to runway 16 at Grand Bahama International Airport.
Due to poor visibility and rain at the decision height, a specified altitude in the approach, the crew executed a go around procedure, the report said.
According to the report, during a second attempt, the aircraft struck a crane positioned at dock number two of Grand Bahama Shipyard at approximately 220 feet above sea level.
The report said this occurred around 3.2 nautical miles from the runway threshold.
According to the report, a fireball that lasted approximately three seconds was observed as a result of the contact between the aircraft and the crane.
The right outboard wing, right landing gear and right wing fuel tank separated from the aircraft on impact, the report said.
"This resulted in the aircraft traveling out of control, some 1,578 feet (526 yards), before crashing inverted into a pile of garbage and other debris in the City Services Garbage and Metal Recycling Plant adjacent to the Grand Bahama Shipyard," read the report.
"Both crew members and seven passengers were fatally injured. No persons on the ground were injured."
Munroe, 60, was founder and president of Bahamas Faith Ministries International (BFMI).
Also onboard the flight with Munroe were his wife, Pastor Ruth Ann Munroe; BFMI Youth Pastors Lavard and Radel Parks, who were expecting their second child; their son Johannan; Stanley Thurston, a veteran pilot; Frahkan Cooper, a pilot who also worked in the medical field, and Diego De Santiago, an American.
The crash is the most significant aviation tragedy in The Bahamas since nine men were killed in a crash in Lake Killarney in 2010.
The group was traveling to Freeport for the Global Leadership Forum.
With the exception of De Santiago, funerals were held at BFMI on Carmichael Road.
While the tragic incident has faded from national headlines, there remains a great sense of loss and mourning for the nine souls in the national and international community.
Munroe and the eight other victims were dedicated to service.
The report will be made available on www.aipu-bcaa.com.
read more »
February 23, 2015
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has requested the government implement eight precautionary measures to "ensure the life and physical integrity" of migrants at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
But the government said many of the concerns expressed by the human rights organizations were
"overstated and inaccurate".
The recommendation were outlined in a report released on Thursday.
These measures included providing adequate medical treatment to detainees, addressing the situation of unaccompanied children in accordance with international standards and ensuring legal assistance is available.
The commission also requested the government take immediate action to substantially reduce overcrowding at the center and ensure civil society organizations and relevant international organizations have access to the facility for the "purpose of monitoring detention conditions".
IACHR said it made the request based on the "factual and legal arguments" presented by several non-governmental organizations, which visited the facility on November 12, 2014.
The organizations named were the Caribbean Institute for Human Rights, the International Human Rights Clinic of the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
The commission said these NGOs obtained information about residents' living conditions based on interviews with seven women and eight men at the detention center.
The NGOs reported that several women detained were either pregnant or had children residing with them between the ages of six months and seven-years-old.
The NGOs also indicated the detention center lacked basic items such as mattresses, bed sheets, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper, soap, toothbrushes and diapers.
Many people were forced to sleep on the floor; there was limited access to legal services and there was no professional translation services, according to the organizations.
The commission said it was also advised about limited food options.
"All detainees receive the same food; an oatmeal ration in the morning, a slice of bread for lunch and plain pasta for dinner, regardless of age," the NGOs alleged.
In addition to the precautionary measures, the commission requested the government respond to allegations that migrants have been mistreated at the detention center.
The government's immigration policy, which came into effect on November 1, 2014, focuses on reducing the number of illegal immigrations living in The Bahamas.
But NGOs said the influx of people rounded up under the immigration policy has "only served to worsen the conditions" at the detention center.
The human rights organizations expressed concerns about alleged lack of due process, access to phone calls and visitations, physical abuse and ill treatment by officers.
The IACHR said as of February 13, the government had not responded to its January 15 request for more information.
The government advised on Friday that it had received the IACHR's report.
It said the report is being fully reviewed and the government will provide a considered response to the allegations and recommendations shortly.
The government said it is unfortunate that the report appears to have adopted the narrative of the various human rights groups and press-based advocates that are not based in fact.
"Many of its assertions are based on untested tendentious, anecdotal material," read the statement.
"In the face of these inaccuracies, it is difficult to accept any conclusions, which flow from this decision of the commission.
"It simply strains credibility. The decision is not helpful in resolving the issues which are confronted by illegal migrants to The Bahamas and comes off as prejudicial."
The government took exception to the allegations surrounding the treatment of children at the detention center.
"The government again states that it is committed to maintaining the highest standards in any of its detention facilities in The Bahamas and works continuously at achieving those standards within the level of resources that are available," the statement said.
The government said it is in the process of addressing several recommendations made by an appointed panel, which led a formal investigation into the conditions at the detention center.
The panel was headed by a former justice of The Bahamas Court of Appeal.
The IACHR noted that the granting of precautionary measures and their adoption by The Bahamas shall not constitute a "prejudging of any violation of the rights protected in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man or any other applicable instrument".
read more »
February 23, 2015
Free National Movement (FNM) Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest suggested yesterday the government is not taking United States Department of State crime warnings and their implications seriously enough.
However, Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell said the government takes all matters related to the security of citizens and visitors "very seriously".
Bell said anyone who suggests otherwise shows a "lack of understanding of the situation that confronts the country".
"I think government is continuous, and I don't know if Mr. Turnquest realizes that he is part of the government," he said.
"And so, he is actually shooting himself from the hip in the foot."
Turnquest was responding to questions from The Nassau Guardian over the damning report, which again rated the crime threat in New Providence as "critical".
"I think on the last report that was issued by the state department, I listened to the government attempt to be defensive with respect to it," he said.
"[The government] indicated that every major city in the U.S. [United States] has the same sort of crime levels and they ought to be concerned about that.
"But I think they missed the point because it is not so much that there isn't crime in major cities around the world; that is true.
"The point is that we as a country, that sells itself as a safe, friendly destination for work and for play, this cuts to our economic survival.
"So, we have to take it a little more seriously.
"We ought to be looking at it as constructive criticism and looking at ways that we can address the problem rather than being fearful of it or being defensive about it."
The Bahamas 2015 Crime and Safety Report, which was released on Friday, said while there has been a "very slight reduction" in some classifications of crime in 2014, violent crime remains above the 2013 level.
The report said the Royal Bahamas Police Force has enforced dynamic policing methods, which included indiscriminate armed checkpoints and a crime reduction plan in tourist areas.
Though it said the majority of violent crimes reported were perpetrated against Bahamians in areas that are not frequented by tourists, New Providence has "witnessed a significant increase of violent armed crimes in locations heavily patronized by U.S. citizens".
In January, Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade said crime in The Bahamas decreased by 18 percent in 2014.
However, murder, attempted murder and attempted robberies increased last year.
Murders increased by three percent, from 119 in 2013 to 123 in 2014.
"The reality is that a lot of our problems in relation to crime is concentrated in New Providence, and to a much lesser extent in Grand Bahama," Bell said.
"And the concerns lie in the shootings, homicides and armed robberies.
"Even though the crime statistics indicate that crime is going down, it is not good enough. We all accept that we have to do more.
"We have to be continuos and consistent with what we do. But at the same time you have to recognize the facts; that The Bahamas does not manufacture guns.
"A significant majority, more than 90 percent, of the violent incidents, including homicides are committed with the use of firearms.
"And these firearms are traced [to] the United States."
Noting the government is doing a lot of work "behind the scenes", Bell said he hopes to soon educate the media and official opposition "as to what is going on and what we are seeking to do".
But Turnquest said the frequent U.S. advisories shows that "we are headed in the wrong direction".
He said he believes the police force is doing the best it can with the resources available, but there is a lot of work to be done to address crime, social dislocation and improving unemployment.
He expressed concern that continued U.S. warnings would have a major impact on The Bahamas' viability as a tourist destination.
Bell insisted that the country remains a safe destination despite the challenges in New Providence and Grand Bahama.
read more »
February 23, 2015
It has been two months since it was revealed that a foreign company admitted to bribing a Bahamian official more than a decade ago to secure a lucrative Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) contract.
So far, there have been no answers in this case, not for Bahamians interested in knowing what really happened.
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts told The Nassau Guardian that a parliamentary committee should be appointed to "get to the bottom of this".
In December, The Bahamas was featured prominently in a plea agreement whereby French company, Alstom SA agreed to pay $772 million to resolve allegations that it bribed high-ranking officials of foreign governments for lucrative projects.
In relation to The Bahamas, the events detailed by court documents took place between 1999 and 2001.
Several weeks ago, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson confirmed that she had requested information from the Americans in relation to the matter.
The government has been quiet on the specific steps it has taken and on whether it has received any response from the United States (U.S.) to the matter.
Last week, Maynard-Gibson said she will speak to the issue at the appropriate time.
Roberts told The Nassau Guardian that the $330,000 bribe Alstom detailed was one issue.
"The bigger issue was the cost to BEC of those two generators in maintenance and repairs to those engines that constantly break down that still challenge BEC after all these years up to the present time," he said, referring to the generator contracts Alstom secured.
"The Bahamian people really need to the know the extent to which the taxpayers had to carry that burden after a decision was made to buy one generator, which was compounded when they bought the identical generator later on and the same problem that occurred with the second generator has occurred with the first one and both continue today."
As The Nassau Guardian has highlighted previously, a key question that remains is why did the Cabinet of The Bahamas reject a decision of the then board of BEC, headed at the time by J. Barrie Farrington, to award the generator contract in question to the Korean firm Hanjung?
Roberts said on Friday, "I think that the public needs to know and a parliamentary probe would uncover the full extent to which we were burdened by that decision and it is interesting that the then deputy chairman of BEC, who was a former senior executive of BEC, had gotten the board to agree to recommend the Korean company, which was knocked down by the cabinet, which resulted in him resigning.
"He felt so strongly about it, Mr. [Vincent] D'Aguilar, that he walked away from being a member of the board of BEC."
Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has said the matter should be turned over to police.
Asked if he agreed, Roberts said, "Yes. It should be a police matter, but I think it should go further than that.
"He should have been in a position to tell the press why the government took the decision and ignored the advice of the unanimous decision of the board, but he chose not to."
Roberts previously pointed to issues with the Alstom contract. As minister of works with responsibility for BEC, he said in a communication in the House of Assembly on May 14, 2003 the BEC board unanimously agreed to award the contract for a DA-12 generator to the Korean firm.
Speaking of the BEC bribe matter in an interview with The Guardian on Friday, Roberts said, "It's strange. Very strange. Very strange.
"That was a major decision to ignore completely the unanimous decision of the board and management of the corporation. A parliamentary committee would certainly be able to get an answer to that."
Roberts also said he did not think it was taking too long to get answers from the U.S. government on this issue.
"It's a matter of relationship of government to government," he said.
"What might be a priority for us may not necessarily be a priority for the U.S. government at this time, but eventually they will be required to provide the information."
He added, "The government must get to the bottom because it is an embarrassment to us as a people that something like that could happen and that those in charge, for example the former deputy prime minister, Mr. [Frank] Watson, who had responsibility, they seem to be completely oblivious that it happened.
"And the sitting chairman of BEC, J. Barrie Farrington, he was shocked, bewildered that something like that could have happened."
On Friday, Farrington, who previously called for an investigation in the matter, reiterated that he would support "a non partisan special committee appointed to get to the bottom of this, to find out exactly the person or persons responsible who have taken the bribe and in effect tarnished the reputation of the country, the board then sitting and the previous government."
He added, "Quite frankly, I am of the opinion that sufficient time has elapsed and that we should have an answer on the disclosure of the guilty person or some sort of more precise information on what steps are being taken.
"This is important. Very important in my opinion."
read more »
February 23, 2015
Two additional judges have been appointed to work in the new criminal courts that should be operational next month, according to Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, QC.
Maynard-Gibson told The Nassau Guardian she would not preempt an announcement by the chief justice.
The Guardian understands that Cheryl Grant-Bethel, deputy law reform commissioner and Gregory Hilton, former acting magistrate, have been appointed acting Supreme Court judges.
During her address at the opening of the legal year, Maynard-Gibson said she hoped that 10 criminal courts would be operational by March.
However, shortly after her announcement, all eight courts were unable to sit for the first two weeks of January because there was no jury pool.
At the time, Maynard-Gibson said this resulted in "wasted judicial time" and "adversely impacted the administration of justice".
Asked if the problems with juries had been resolved, Maynard-Gibson said the matter had been discussed with the chief justice.
She said the necessary resources had been allocated to make sure that the 10 courts will be operational.
Maynard-Gibson said the courts may not begin sitting on March 1 but they will sit next month.
According to the attorney general, prosecutors have already been rostered to work in the new courts and cases were supposed to be assigned during arraignments that were held on February 20.
read more »
February 23, 2015
The vacant post of director of public prosecutions (DPP) has not been advertised in hopes of appointing a suitably qualified Bahamian, according to Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, QC.
The position has remained vacant since Jamaican Vinette Graham-Allen quit last August to take up a judicial appointment in her homeland.
Graham-Allen assumed the position in August 2010 amid much controversy, as many thought a Bahamian should have filled the position.
She replaced Bahamian Bernard Turner after he was appointed to the Supreme Court.
Garvin Gaskin, whose substantive post is deputy director of public prosecutions, has been acting DPP since Graham-Allen prematurely terminated her contract.
The Nassau Guardian asked Maynard-Gibson yesterday if she knew when the post would be filled.
She replied, "No, I don't."
When asked if the position had been advertised, she said, "I don't think that it has."
Pressed on whether the post would be advertised, Maynard-Gibson said, "We have no intention of advertising it.
"We want to make sure that the Bahamians within the organization will be given a chance."
While here, Graham-Allen had been criticized in many circles for failing to take a leading role in high-profile prosecutions.
Graham-Allen's performance was also criticized in Bermuda when she held the top prosecutor's post.
According to an article in the Royal Gazette, a report recommended that she be bought out of her contract and replaced with a Bermudian.
In July 2010, former Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryl Grant-Bethel sued the Bahamas government for sidestepping her for the post and transferring her to the Law Reform Commission.
While the court ruled that the selection process was flawed, Grant-Bethel was not named to the post.
She was awarded 90 percent of legal fees in costs.
In 2012, the government withdrew its appeal against the award of costs.
After the appeal was withdrawn, Grant-Bethel's attorney Wayne Munroe told the media outside court, "[The attorney general] said that there are 400 men charged with murder on bail.
"We are up to 60 plus murders this year, yet from the point that we started this case before [Justice Jon] Isaacs the attorney general has not prosecuted any murder case.
"The DPP that they chose to appoint has not prosecuted any murder case. It's a complete failure of leading from the front."
read more »
February 23, 2015
Bar Association President Elsworth Johnson has filed a lawsuit in relation to a court marshall's decision to refuse him access to the Supreme Court last year.
The Office of the Judiciary, David McFall, the court marshall, and the attorney general are named as defendants in the action.
According to Johnson, on November 24 McFall unlawfully prevented him from accessing the precincts of the court where he was representing a client.
Johnson is seeking damages and punitive damages and/or exemplary damages and costs.
He is also seeking an injunction to prevent the Office of the Judiciary through its agents from unlawfully and/or negligently detaining and/or imprisoning him to prevent him from accessing the court.
He is also seeking a declaration that the agents of the Office of the Judiciary are not lawfully entitled to search a lawyer in his capacity as counsel and attorney at law without just cause.
Shortly after the incident, Johnson said that Mcfall refused him entry to the court after he objected to him searching his bag, which contained confidential legal documents.
The officer allegedly denied Johnson access to the court, although the judge sent instructions for him to be allowed in court.
read more »
February 23, 2015
What did you say, editor? Murder is against the law?
You know what, you're right. I believe that murder is against the law in The Bahamas.
What else did you say, editor? We should hang all murderers in The Bahamas? Why, you say? Because the law is on the books?
Is it really?
I believe that it is. And so, editor, if you want to take this argument to its logical conclusion, you say "hang 'em high" because it is on the books!
OK, editor, if murder is against the law, aren't there other laws on the books of The Bahamas? You better believe it!
And, so, if you are willing to kill a man for murder, tell me, are you willing to pay a $250 fine (or however much it is) for littering. You are? Then I say "kill him!
Hold on now, editor; not so fast! Are you willing to pay a $500 fine (or however much it is) for urinating in public? You are? Then I say kill him!
Wait a minute, editor, you're getting ahead of yourself. You say you won't litter, you say you won't "take a piss" in public, what about stealing from your work? Are you willing to go to jail for stealing from your place of work? You are? Then I say kill him!
Now, editor, you know as well as I know that there are many more laws on the books of The Bahamas. Some you know about, and some you don't. But you know what the law says, editor?
Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
So, before we kill anyone (capital punishment) I challenge you and the rest of The Bahamian people, to see if you can keep the law - the whole law of The Bahamas - before we decide to uphold the law on murder and kill anyone!
- Marvin G. Lightbourn
read more »
February 23, 2015
MICAL MP V. Alfred Gray's suggestion that some PLP backbenchers re-evaluate their political future is a good one, though not for the reasons he proffers.
Gray claimed that the PLP had been commendably tolerant - if certain young MPs had been members of a different party, they would have been removed by now. Nevertheless, he asserted that if politicians want to be part of a team, they have to play by the rules.
Though he did not name names, Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins and Marco City MP Gregory Moss have been particularly critical of the government.
Moss has criticized the plan to introduce value-added tax (VAT) as being against the principles of the PLP, and threatened to campaign against the gender equality bills in their present form. Meanwhile, Rollins went so far as to call for new leadership in the party.
Rollins was fired from his position as chairman of the Gaming Board over these remarks. Moss was fired as chairman of the National Insurance Board over earlier comments he made regarding Prime Minister Perry Christie and Minister of Labor Shane Gibson.
Another leading light in the new generation of PLP politicians, Renward Wells, was removed from his position as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Works over a controversial letter of intent he signed for a waste-to-energy contract.
Many believe the ongoing altercation between these young PLPs and the leadership of the party highlights a more general clash of generations taking place across the Bahamian political landscape.
On the one hand are seasoned veterans like Gray, who value loyalty and a respect for authority. On the other are political novices for whom the priority seems to be the welfare of their constituents and the state of the country as a whole.
Some months ago, while criticizing the government's decision to legalize web shop gaming but continue the ban on Bahamians gambling in hotels, Rollins called the party out on its failure to live up to stated principles.
In response, Christie announced that it had been a "mistake" to nominate Rollins in the first place.
Another senior PLP, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, said being part of a political team "requires that you understand that if I want to win the championship, I have to practice in-house. That's how basketball teams win, football teams win; that's how politicians win and that's how teams win generally".
History may not be on the side of Gray, Christie and Wilchcombe, however.
More and more, young voters are adopting the belief that progressive and talented representatives should not be made to bow and scrape at the altar of any political organization; and should be praised rather than castigated for speaking truth to power in an effort to defend the common man.
Moss and Rollins have said too much to remain in caucus, of course. They clearly no longer support the leadership of their party. Their words, however, calling into question the concern of the current administration for the people, for Bahamians, are necessary.
The country has serious problems and a government aloof to the concerns of the people. Someone needs to point that out in Parliament. Moss and Rollins do this well.
read more »
February 23, 2015
"When you focus on the consumer, the consumer responds." - Alexander Wang
Last week, we noted that many modern societies have established laws and organizations that are designed to protect the rights of consumers, to ensure fair trade and competition in an orderly economic environment and to provide for the dissemination of accurate consumer information in the marketplace. Therefore this week, in the conclusion of this series, we again invite you to Consider This... in The Bahamas, who is protecting the consumer?
In the first installment of this series, we noted that Bahamian consumers need to be better protected from questionable commercial banking practices, and from certain deficient services that are provided by BTC, BEC, and Cable Bahamas. This week, we will review consumer protection that is afforded in connection with food preparation, fuel providers, roadside automobile peddlers and airline hackers.
We live in an environment where some products, such as food and fuel, are regulated. There are certain foods that are price-controlled at our food stores. The real question that an educated consumer should ask is whether the Price Control Commission methodically monitors foods that are subjected to price control. Although it is not unusual for consumers to observe vastly different prices for the same food items, it is extremely rare that we hear of food stores being sanctioned for pricing breaches by the Price Control Commission. Is this because the food stores are virtually compliant or have they been able to circumvent the price control regime?
The price of fuel is also regulated and importers and end-service providers are allowed to earn pre-determined margins. But who monitors the pricing behavior of service providers to ensure that the consumer is not being gouged at the fuel pump? We do not frequently, if ever, hear of any violations of the established margins by fuel merchants or of any penalties imposed for attendant breaches.
Finally, the Bahamian consumer needs protection relative to local food production and distribution. In the absence of sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards regarding the production of food, plants and vegetables, the all-important question of food safety will remain elusive at best and questionable at worst. One of the benefits of the country's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) is that such standards must be established. However, until standards relative to food, plant and vegetable production, harvesting and distribution are implemented and enforced, consumers will never really know just how safe the food is that they are consuming.
There are many roadside vendors who operate in broad daylight without any protection for the consumer. For example, consider the roadside food vendors who serve the public from the trunks of their cars on a daily basis. Their food preparation is not regulated or inspected by anyone; therefore, consumers have no recourse if their hair falls out or they develop food poisoning as a result of unhygienic food preparation procedures.
Flight safety standards and hackers
Many people are aware of, but often turn a blind eye to airline "hackers"; that is, private pilots who operate their aircraft from airports in The Bahamas without an Air Operator's Certificate, and frequently in uninsured aircraft. This represents a clear and present danger and a serious potential risk to the flying public who are unaware that they are placing themselves, their family and friends at risk in several ways.
First, because such "hackers" operate without an Air Operator's Certificate, persons who charter such flights should be aware that even if they have life insurance, their insurance company will probably not pay the benefits that are due them if they lose their lives in an aircraft that is operated by a hacker.
In addition, the flying public who utilize the services of hackers have no way of knowing whether the pilots who operate their aircraft are properly trained, or whether they properly maintain their aircraft and regularly update their own flying skills.
Finally, there is the risk of loss to persons or companies whose property might be damaged by such aircraft if the hackers are uninsured. It is therefore incumbent on the Flight Standards Inspectorate of the Department of Civil Aviation to protect consumers from hackers.
Unscrupulous automobile peddlers
Who protects the consumer from those individuals who go to Florida to purchase wrecked vehicles, import them into The Bahamas, rebuild them, many times with parts from stolen vehicles, and advertise them on the side of the road or via print or social media? These vehicles are potentially dangerous to the consumer and often false information is provided about the background of such vehicles.
The suppliers of these vehicles prey on consumers who do not know better or "thrifty" consumers who feel that legitimate automobile dealers are ripping them off, therefore they purchase automobiles from roadside vendors, believing that this is a better option.
When consumers buy these roadside vehicles and finally realize what they have purchased, they often experience buyer's remorse, and run to legitimate dealers to try to trade in their vehicle for an untainted one. When Bahamian dealers refuse to trade them in because of the car's history, legitimate dealers are viewed with suspicion. In some cases, consumers destroy their vehicle to collect the insurance proceeds in order to get out of the deal.
The bottom line is that consumers need protection not only from big business but also from greedy, fly-by-night operators who contribute nothing to the Public Treasury by paying no business license fees, no National Insurance and now no VAT payments. These unscrupulous automobile peddlers do not employ anyone and do not pay property taxes, as they operate from the roadsides, at roundabouts, at RM Bailey Park or on social media.
Then there are those peddlers who purport to bring in good, undamaged cars from auctions. The consumer can easily go on CarFax.com with the VIN number to determine the car's history. A simple search of the website will provide a full report on the car's history. Sometimes, unethical automobile peddlers change or remove the VIN number located on the door frame but the VIN number can also be located on the engine and other places where it is more difficult to find and erase.
Politicians cannot have it both ways by claiming that they are empowering and protecting the small businessman by turning a blind eye to such unscrupulous business practices or that legitimate automobile dealers are ripping off the consumer.
When consumers have a problem with a big business, they can access the courts to have their complaints heard. At least consumers know where the legitimate car dealers are located if they want to serve a summons as compared to fly by night operators who are invisible and cannot be found.
Real consumer protection should apply to all business persons who sell goods and services to the public - equally to the side of the road car vendors on RM Bailey Park as well as legitimate car dealers.
There are many other examples where consumers need to be protected, but neither time nor space enable us to cover them all.
As we observed in part 1 of this series, until we become educated consumers, we will not be good customers. Instead, we will indeterminately wander and wallow in the quagmire of ignorance and abuse. We should no longer tolerate consumer abuses or neglect. Ultimately, we must become empowered, not only to stop those abuses for ourselves, but to end them for each and every Bahamian consumer.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in parliament. Please send your comments to email@example.com.
read more »
February 23, 2015
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama - One of the largest exclusive ship repair fleet agreements in Caribbean history, worth over $10 million, has been signed between the Grand Bahama Shipyard (GBS) and Crowley which will extend through 2017.
GBS, the ship repair and refurbishment yard in Freeport, has signed a ship repair fleet agreement with Crowley Maritime Corporation for an extensive maintenance program for twenty three vessels over the next twelve months. The agreement, worth more than $10 million, will see GBS dock and upgrade these vessels exclusively at the shipyard.
Graham Couser, senior vice president of GBS, said "The agreement will allow GBS to work with Crowley as partners to prepare, plan and collaborate in advance of each docking to maximize efficiency and success. Not only is Crowley getting excellent value through advance commitment, but by removing the time consuming individual tendering process for each ship, we can provide priority dock space, superior scope planning, and leading turnaround times."
"Grand Bahama Shipyard's variety of facilities and excellent track record positions them well to be a long-term partner in ensuring our fleet's stringent maintenance needs are met for the foreseeable future," said Rob Grune, senior vice president and general manager, petroleum services. "The benefits of an exclusive fleet agreement with a single yard are clear. Rolling over experience from one vessel to the next will create exponential rewards and efficiencies over reselecting a yard each time. Also, the doubts and uncertainties that arise from individual bids are eradicated. It's a win-win situation."
GBS's Chief Executive Officer Carl-Gustav Rotkirch disclosed that throughout 2015, Crowley has committed the following units: one oil product tanker, 12 product barges and 10 tugs from the company's articulated tug-barge (ATB) fleet for regular dry dock maintenance and upgrade work at GBS.
Rotkirch pointed out that the agreement was signed in December 2014 and is effective immediately, with the first vessel having arrived at GBS this past January.
read more »
February 23, 2015
The C.C. Sweeting Cobras are back in Hugh Campbell Basketball Classic final, and they will play the winner of this afternoon's match-up between the C.I. Gibson Rattlers and the upstart Anatol Rodgers Timberwolves in the championship game tonight.
In a game to decide a championship team, the Cobras shot past the C.I. Gibson Rattlers, 72-61, late Sunday night at the A.F. Adderley Gymnasium. The Timberwolves got past the Doris Johnson Mystic Marlins, 63-60, in the other game last night, and will play the Rattlers this afternoon, for the right to contest the Cobras in the 33rd Hugh Campbell championship game.
Against the Rattlers last night, the Cobras got 23 points from Adrian Thompson and 15 from Corey Sands. The Rattlers were led by a game-high 27 points from Johnley Noel. Prolific point guard Shakwon Lewis was held to just nine.
"It's a good feeling to be back in the championship game. It's something that we anticipated and felt very strongly about," said Cobras' Head Coach Mario Bowleg last night. "We knew that the road wasn't going to be easy, but to come out here in back-to-back nights and get wins over Doris and C.I. was huge for us. However, we know that last nail has not been put in the coffin yet. We still have one more battle to fight, so we just want to stay focussed and do what is necessary to finish this thing."
The Cobras lost to the Mystic Marlins in the Government Secondary Schools Sports Association (GSSSA) playoffs this year, but they got the better of them, 58-50, to put themselves in a position to go after the Rattlers on Sunday night. Sands scored 11 points in that victory for the Cobras on Saturday night, and Garrith Moss added 10. Brendon Stubbs paced the Mystic Marlins with 16 points and Kyle Turnquest scored 10.
As for the Rattlers, they blasted the Timberwolves on Saturday night behind a huge 31-point effort from Lewis. Stephon Johnson and Michael Sweeting scored 11 apiece, as they blasted the Timberwolves, 86-67. Dominic Bridgewater paced the Timberwolves with 20 points, and Levonne Moxey added 12 points.
Unfortunately for them, the Rattlers couldn't get that same type of production against the Cobras on Sunday night. Head Coach Kevin "KJ" Johnson remains confident in their ability to bounce back and make the championship game, to have an opportunity to defend their Hugh Campbell title.
"We just have to be focussed and mentally ready and I think we'll get back to the championship," said Johnson late last night. "We lost a tough one to C.C. tonight, but that's what basketball is all about. Physically, we didn't match their intensity. We had far too many turnovers and our bigs didn't give us the game that they're capable of giving us, but I'm confident in our ability to bounce back. I think we'll come out ready to play tomorrow, and hopefully get back to the championship with a chance to defend our title."
Many felt that the tournament might have lost some of its luster this year, with the Grand Bahama teams pulling out at the last minute, but Bowleg said that whilst it was unfortunate, the quality and intensity of the tournament remains the same.
"Winning it without them (Grand Bahama teams) here makes no difference to me. The Grand Bahama teams didn't show up, so we have to move on. It's kind of sad that the country wouldn't have seen some of the better players out of Grand Bahama, but that's just how it is this year," he said. "We've won it before over a New Providence team, and we could do it again. The best teams in the country right now are New Providence teams anyway. In everyone's eyes right now, it's just Doris, Anatol, C.I. and C.C."
The Cobras will be aiming for their fourth Hugh Campbell title when the championship game is played tonight. They won two straight titles in 2012 and 2013, before the Rattlers ended an eight-year drought for them and won their fifth title last year.
read more »
February 23, 2015
National Football League (NFL) Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino and his legendary friends from the Miami Dolphins hosted their second annual youth football clinic on Saturday, at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium.
More than 200 enthusiastic kids from all over New Providence showed up to learn from 18 of the greatest Miami Dolphins players of all-time.
Some of those NFL legends included Nat Moore, Mark "Super" Duper, O.J. McDuffie, Sam Madison, Mark Clayton and Troy Drayton. The 200-plus kids who attended represented more than twice as much who participated in the inaugural clinic last May.
On the field, the kids were divided into groups according to their ages, and spent 15-20 minutes at each station, where they learned a specific football skill from each of the former Dolphins players.
"You could see the excitement on some of the kids faces, getting a chance to be out here with some of the former players," said Marino. "We just want to thank the people of The Bahamas for their support of the Miami Dolphins, and the families and kids who came out and supported this clinic today."
Marino and the Dolphins are in the second year of a five-year deal with the Ministry of Tourism to promote the islands of The Bahamas throughout the South Florida community. Hence, The Marino and Friends Bahamas Weekend event is expected to continue, at least for the next three years. When asked about his expectations for the clinic over that span, the nine-time pro bowler said that he expects to see the number of kids continue to grow.
"We would love to see the local kids here become Dolphins fans and recognize that football is a great game," he said. "Hopefully once they are introduced to that, they can make that a part of their lives."
Prior to Saturday's clinic, Marino hosted a golf tournament on Friday morning at the Ocean Club Golf Course on Paradise Island and a sunset cruise in the Atlantis Marina later that evening.
He noted that, although he and the other legends come to The Bahamas with the purpose of raising the awareness level of American football in the country, his favorite times on the island have been times that he's had the chance to experience some of the local culture.
"I think the reason that these guys come is for the drinks," Marino said jokingly. "It was a lot of fun being with some of the local people and being a part of that. We had some good food and some good drinks while listening to the DJ and having sing-alongs. It was a fun time."
Marino and crew ended the weekend with a flag football game against the Bahamas All-Stars on Saturday night at the stadium.
Despite never winning a Super Bowl ring in the NFL, Marino is widely recognized as one of the top quarterbacks to have ever played the game of football. During his 17-year pro career, the 53-year-old led the Dolphins to the playoffs 10 times. He was first player drafted by the Dolphins back in 1983, has held numerous records in the NFL, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005. Marino retired prior to the 2000 NFL season.
read more »
February 23, 2015
The Barracuda Swim Club pulled off an impressive victory as the Bahamas Swimming Federation's (BSF) 2014/15 swim season continued this past weekend.
In the third meet of the year, the Barracuda Swim Club totaled 703 points, winning the Sea Waves Aquatic Club meet which was held at the Betty Kelly-Kenning National Aquatics Centre. The Alpha Aquatics Swim Club finished second with 485 points, Swift Swimming was a distant third with 238 points, the Dolphin Swim Club got fourth with 217 points and the host Sea Waves team rounded out the top five with 148 points. The Sea Bees Swim Club completed the six-team field with just 72 points.
A number of brilliant performances were turned in, as the swimmers continue to prepare themselves for the upcoming CARIFTA Trials in March.
In the under-8 boys 50 meters (m) freestyle, Keiran Sealy from Barracuda won a gold medal with a time of 1:06.98. Christoph Johnson from Barracuda won the 15-and-over boys 50m butterfly in a time of 29.28 seconds, and he was followed by teammate Farion Johnson with a time of 29.80 seconds. Michael Walking from Swift Swimming picked up a bronze with his time of 31.72 seconds.
Alpha Aquatic's Zoe McCarroll won the 13-14 girls 200m backstroke in a time of 2:49.38, followed closely by her teammate Virginia Stamp with a time of 2:50.34. Madison Davis from the Dolphin Swimming Club rounded out the top three with a time of 3:09.98. In the 13-14 boys butterfly, Tyler Russell from Swift Swimming won a gold medal with his time of 31.48 seconds. His teammate Joshua Murray finished second in 31.58 seconds, and Tenajh Gaitor from Barracuda finished third in a time of 35.07 seconds.
"We had planned a two-day meet but had to move Friday evening's events to today as the wind chill factor with the low temperature of the pool was not up to minimum FINA (International Swimming Federation) standards for swimming last night," said Head Coach of the Sea Waves team Shirley Mireault. She attributed the pool's inclement temperature to the fact that the pool's heater had been off for three works prior to the meet.
"Six clubs participated with about 123 athletes swimming. Although the water is cold, they swam well and we had no incidents of injury. Despite the cold, some swimmers did personal bests and they are all gearing up for the CARIFTA Trials in March and nationals in June. We were pleased that we placed fifth out of the six teams with our eight swimmers. We may be small, but we try hard."
Mireault said that although she was pleased with the meet's final result, she feels that some of the BSF's smaller clubs are constantly at a disadvantage, due to a lack of sponsorship and consistent access to suitable facilities.
"Our club trains primarily at the South Beach Pools, but are severely handicapped at the moment as the competitive (25-yard) pool at South Beach has been out of operation since July of 2014, and it is the only pool there with any heat," she said. "It seems our plea for assistance to the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture is not being heard as they keep saying it is being dealt with, but after more than six months, we are very disappointed to see no obvious change taking place there.
"We ran a successful meet today with a small number of swimmers' families assisting, as well as other clubs helping us. Some clubs have had the same sponsors for more than 20 years, but the smaller clubs like ours have been unable to get sponsors to assist with the expense of running a meet."
The BSF will continue with its regular season on Friday, as the Barracuda Swim Club prepares to host its second meet of the year at the aquatic center.
read more »
February 23, 2015
More than 15 years since his retirement from the National Football League (NFL), Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino found himself throwing bombs to a couple of familiar faces on the gridiron over the weekend.
The nine-time pro bowler ended the second annual Marino and Friends Bahamas Weekend by taking part in a flag football game, as some Miami Dolphins legends took on the Bahamas All-Stars on Saturday night at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
The All-Stars were made up of Bahamian dignitaries including Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, and former and present players from both the Bahamas Flag Football League (BFFL) and the Commonwealth American Football League (CAFL).
Despite the fact that the legendary Miami Dolphins players had not played together for years, they showed very little signs of rust in a 54-32 rout of the All-Stars.
The Dolphin legends jumped out to a 21-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the game and never looked back. That lead extended to 28-0 before All-Stars quarterback Michael Foster connected with a receiver in the end zone to put his team on the board, 28-7.
At the start of the second half, the legends intercepted a pass from Foster and returned it for a touchdown to go ahead 34-17. The legends scored three more touchdowns to cruise to an easy 54-32 victory.
After the game, Marino said that although they aren't as athletic as they used to be, it was fun to get out on the field with some of his former teammates in a great environment.
"It's been a lot of fun, everyone has been so great to us here and I really had a good time," he said. "I want to thank the players for coming over, and as far as the flag football game, I think it was a big success. Getting the players to come down to The Bahamas is the easy part, getting them to play is the hard part, so thanks to them for taking part in the game."
Former Dolphins wide receiver Nat Moore said that he was happy to be a part of such a special event.
"Some of the greatest Dolphins fans in history are the Bahamian Dolphins fans, and to bring Marino and his legendary friends to Nassau to perform for the fans in The Bahamas is special," he said.
The Ministry of Tourism currently has a five-year agreement with the Miami Dolphins that brings the Dan Marino and Friends Weekend to The Bahamas every year during that period. It provides The Bahamas with a new platform to promote the destination. General Manager in the Sports Tourism Department of the Ministry of Tourism Virginia Kelly said this opens new doors for tourism.
"This affords us the opportunity to showcase the islands of The Bahamas to thousands of Dolphins fans through in-stadium Bahamas promotions and on their digital platform," she said. "This partnership also affords the islands of The Bahamas the opportunity to partner with Dan Marino, the Miami Dolphins Alumni and the Miami Dolphins with their corporate partners and civic organizations."
More than 500 local fans came out to the stadium to see the flag football match-up on Saturday, which wrapped up the Dan Marino and Friends Bahamas Weekend 2015.
read more »
February 23, 2015
The 28th Annual St. Valentine's Day Massacre took place last week at Montagu Bay, and many Bahamians and tourists braved the cool weather to watch the great Bahamian sport of sloop sailing, and the return of Bahamian sculling.
The 'E' Class sloop sailing races began at 12 noon on Saturday February 14, and participating boats were Blue Bird, High Rock, Strong Back, Sands, Lucayan Tropical, Sands Light and Ole Faithful. Emerging victorious was Blue Bird, skippered by Steven Rolle, followed by High Rock, skippered by Corey Knowles. Placing third was the Strong Back, skippered by Clayton Bain, and the Sands sloop, skippered by Sheldon Gibson, ended up fourth.
On that Sunday, all roads led back to Montagu for the "Catch me if you Can" Race and the much anticipated first sculling races of the 2015 season. The sailing races started at 2 p.m. with Ed Sky, skippered by James Wallace, Running Tide, skippered by Martie Fox, Lady Nathalie, skippered by Clyde Rolle, Red Stripe, skippered by Lundy Robinson, Lady Muriel, skippered by Brooks Miller, Rupert's Legend, skippered by Don Knowles, Southern Cross, skippered by Joshua Green, and Good News, skippered by Wycliffe Albury, all setting sail.
With the race in progress, the crowd grew to see which skipper would emerge victorious. The Lady Nathalie was in the lead for most of the race when suddenly Ed Sky came out of nowhere to win with the Running Tide, Lady Nathalie and Red Stripe finishing second, third and fourth respectively.
The "Catch me if you Can" Race was a great appetizer, as all eyes turned to the shoreline to watch the Sands 'Man in The Boat' Sculling Race. After four heats, including an all-female heat, the top finishers were Luda Nester in first place, Steven Rolle in second place and Josh Green taking third.
According to the organizers, this year's regatta was extremely successful with thousands of spectators coming out to enjoy the weekend. The next stop for the Sands 'Man in the Boat' Sculling Race will be in beautiful Elizabeth's Harbour, George Town, Exuma, at the National Family Island Regatta in April.
The Bahamian Brewery and Beverage team has been working tirelessly to revitalize the sport of sculling here in The Bahamas and the success of the St. Valentine's sculling races is proof that their efforts are working. The Bahamian Brewery and Beverage team hopes to see a number of sailing enthusiasts at the next sculling race, and encourages all to visit them on Facebook to see sculling photos, and to try their hand at sculling.
read more »
February 23, 2015
Prime Minister Perry Christie's recent tabling of the cellular liberalization request for proposals (RFP) document in the House of Assembly elicited thunderous pounding on the tables by PLP MPs as Christie declared it was in keeping with his government's commitment to transparency and accountability.
But for many who have been carefully following this administration's actions, that declaration was laughable.
It has been 13 months now since Christie and the head of Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) Phil Bentley announced that they reached an agreement to transfer just under two percent of CWC's shares back to the government to be held in trust for the Bahamian people.
In January 2014, Christie cut into the evening news with the major announcement. He called the deal "an historic agreement under which the majority economic interest in BTC will once again rest with the Bahamian people".
Christie also announced that CWC will collaborate with the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (BCB) "with a view to assisting in the integration of technologies and other collaborative strategies".
We got no explanation on what that meant then, and we have none now.
Indeed, the details of the Christie administration's agreement with CWC were fuzzy at the time the agreement was announced.
They remain fuzzy now.
That is because we have yet to see this deal.
After the original announcement, months passed and Christie refused to make the deal public so we could understand fully what the government agreed to on our behalf.
We were told repeatedly that as the agreement had not been finalized, it could not be made public.
Last August 29, Christie and Bentley held another major press event. The cameras were rolling as they announced with great fanfare that the deal was finalized.
That was just under six months ago.
Again, no agreement has been made public.
We have had no details of the so-called foundation that was to be formed as part of that deal.
While Christie had committed in opposition to regain "control" of BTC, that commitment was not achieved.
Bringing Leon Williams back as CEO might have been a symbolic move to help soothe Bahamians' anger toward the contentious 2011 agreement between the Ingraham administration and CWC.
It was no doubt designed to convey the impression that Bahamian involvement at the top meant Bahamian control of BTC.
While we were made to believe by the PLP that it would work to ensure that the Bahamian people got a firm hold back on the company, we did not.
What we got was a formalized commitment by CWC for the funding of community projects.
Our transparent and accountable government has made no reports on the foundation or given any updates in this regard.
But not to worry.
We have majority economic interest in the company.
That is not to be underestimated, we are told.
The government repeatedly pats itself on the back for achieving what it said was an important campaign promise.
PLP MPs repeatedly pound their tables at any declaration of transparency and accountability. But they would better serve the Bahamian people if they demand transparency and accountability all around.
What has up until now remained largely a secret agreement has come back into the spotlight now as BTC is prepared for cellular market liberalization.
After The Nassau Guardian revealed last week that BTC was seeking to let go at least 150 employees, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis made it clear that as BTC is a private company, there is nothing the government could do.
So while the Bahamian people hold 51 percent economic interest in BTC (or so we are told), the government has decided to take a hands off approach to the downsizing exercise.
"First of all it is a private company," Davis said.
"All we would hope is that they will conduct themselves, engaging best practices, and do what is in the best interest of their company having some regard to the welfare of their employees.
"That is what we would expect. And I think that is what is going to happen."
It is interesting that the government as a majority shareholder of BTC sees itself as powerless in saving the jobs of BTC workers.
The government has no ownership in Atlantis, a wholly-owned foreign company, yet we were told recently that Christie's intervention saved the jobs of 300 Atlantis employees last fall.
Either we as Bahamians are the majority owners in BTC or we are not.
The government boasts about this when it suits its agenda.
When it does not, it points out that BTC really is a private company.
What are we to believe? We have never even seen the agreement that lays out the reported share transfer.
Minister of Labour Shane Gibson placed the layoffs at the feet of the Ingraham administration.
Gibson said what CWC is doing now in downsizing the company was made possible through the agreement with the former government.
Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and the Free National Movement have paid a hefty price for their decision to sell a majority stake in BTC to CWC.
We have no doubt that, that deal and Ingraham's refusal to listen to the deafening chorus rallying against it was a major factor in the FNM's defeat at the polls in 2012.
An admission from former BTC Chairman Julian Francis that he plans to switch his service to the company that is awarded the second cellular license due to BTC's "horrendous" service, left us wondering if Ingraham and all the FNM MPs who walked the line in the BTC vote in 2011 regret the sale to CWC.
While Francis did not say he regretted the sale, the strong language he used to describe BTC under CWC's ownership is telling.
BTC employees, meanwhile, remain in a pickle.
They are anxious and many are stressed as CWC brings out the axe.
With layoffs looming, Leon Williams, a man who is not short on words, has refused to speak to the media.
On Friday, he sent out a staff memo to employees formally advising of the voluntary separation packages (VSEPs) "as a part of [BTC's] program to restructure the business for full liberalization".
Williams informed that the 2011 VSEP program will be extended to managers and line staff up until March 13.
The packages are being offered in several categories: ages 58.5-60; ages 55-58.5; ages 50-55; ages 45-50 and under 45.
As the government paves the way for liberalization, it will likely continue taking a hands off approach to what happens to BTC's staff.
The workers have been left to battle their way through choppy waters.
As a more streamlined BTC emerges and as the government initially becomes the majority owner of the next company in the cellular market, in the interest of full disclosure, it ought to table the secret BTC agreement and provide a full update on what has transpired since in its relationship with Cable and Wireless.
read more »
February 23, 2015
The smiles of the children betray the squalid conditions in which they live.
It had been sometime since we went into the belly of the community to talk to those finding it hardest to survive, and as we always are, we were struck that anyone could live in this environment.
It is hard to call it a house.
But for Delerice Rahming, 41, and her children, it is the only home they have.
There is an outhouse in the yard.
As we drove through the Bain Town community talking to people who still use outdoor toilets, it was hard to imagine such things still exist in some areas.
Rahming, a mother of nine, is perhaps fortunate that theirs has a modern toilet.
But it cannot flush.
The shower in the outhouse is also of no use.
There is no running water.
The children dart around us in giddy excitement.
They are dirty.
Rahming tells us that with the loose dirt in their yard it is hard to keep them clean.
"And they do not like shoes," she remarks.
Their tiny feet are caked with dirt, so are their clothes.
Later, the children show us where they get water.
It is a short walk to the nearby street.
A small girl masters the water pump as three little boys assist, one of them sitting atop it.
Remarkably, the girl then lifts the bucket, which is more than half full now, back home.
We are awed by the strength of a child so small.
For them, this is life. And the only one they know.
Rahming allows us inside.
It is difficult to be in this space.
It is cramped. There are three small rooms, one a kitchen. A few items are scattered about.
There are two small beds that the children jump around in.
Surprisingly, there is also electricity.
Rahming tells us she pays $100 a month in rent, which she says "isn't bad".
But even $25 a week seems to be too much for these conditions.
Rahming used to be a mother of 10, but her eldest son was stabbed to death in the yard, she tells us.
Five of the children live with her, ages four, six, seven, nine and 11.
The others are grown, she says, one is 18, the others in their early 20s.
There was one question we had to ask: Why so many children without a job?
It is a question we asked several other women in the area that day.
In each case, the answer was the same.
"They are already here," Rahming says. "I don't know why.
"Like I said, I try to make it work. I pray and they don't see no hungry day. I send them to school. [I'm] going to make sure they get an education. That's the only thing that will work in this Bahamas."
When we visited, several of her sister's six children were also with her.
We asked Rahming how she takes care of her children.
"God mostly," she says, "And [I'm not] lazy. [I'm] a survivor...I don't mind ironing, cleaning; That's taking nothing off me."
Above one of the beds is a line with snacks pinned to it.
Rahming says selling them helps her get money to survive. She says the father of her last six children also helps out.
Looking around the small wooden structure we ask if she likes living there.
"I'd like a bigger place, because man, when they're ready they can make noise," Rahming says, referring to the children. "I don't have space. I think I will have space when [I'm] 50 something."
Rahming says she gets $180 in food coupons every month from the Department of Social Services.
"Sometimes when I cry about certain things, the next day it comes," she adds.
Most days, she says, she is lying on the bed with nothing to do, just passing the time.
Rahming's closest neighbor is a 49-year-old man.
He wears an ankle bracelet. Like the children, he is without shoes in the loose dirt.
The neighbor, a burly man with a seemingly quiet disposition, tells us he is accused of burglary.
He lives in the same wooden structure, but his side is separated.
We do not go in, but we imagine it is not unlike what Rahming already showed us.
He tells us he is unemployed, that he used to work a construction job.
The man says he used to get food stamps from the Department of Social Services, but he says those have been stopped.
Asked how he eats without having a job, he says, "[I will be] real with you; most of the times I go to Bethel Baptist Church and get breakfast from there, or if they have lunch too I go there too."
The rest of the time, the man says, he does odd jobs to try to eat.
"You have to make things work," he adds with a child-like shyness. "You have to go out there and hustle."
Because he shares the outhouse with Rahming and her children, he also has to tote water.
"I really don't like living here, but I'm used to it," he says, adding that he had only moved there recently.
A 32-year-old mother of five who stood nearby adds that she has carried water from the pump all of her life.
But she hopes one day her children have a house with running water.
She starts her day by toting water. She ends her day still toting water.
Like Rahming, the woman depends on help from the Department of Social Services every month. She says she gets $160 and a few additional dollars are now included to cover value-added tax.
It is hard to quantify how many people in Bahamian communities are living this way.
According to the Department of Statistics, 43,000 people were living in poverty in The Bahamas at the time a survey was conducted in the first half of 2013.
The absolute poverty line -- the minimum required for an individual to meet his or her basic needs -- was stated at $4,247 annually.
The results of the Household Expenditure Survey showed that 2.8 percent of the population lived in poverty, an increase of 3.5 percent over the 9.3 percent of the population who lived in poverty at the time of the Living Conditions Survey in 2001.
The mother of five we spoke to is one of more than 5,000 people who received food assistance from the government for the six-month period June 2014 to December 2014.
According to numbers presented by Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin in Parliament last week, $2.2 million in permanent and temporary food assistance was given to 5,181 people.
The minister also revealed the government paid out $425,041.89 to assist 769 people with their Bahamas Electricity Corporation bills.
She said $68,321.16 was paid to assist 150 people with their water and sewerage bills.
The government also assisted those in need with rental payments, temporary accommodations, burial assistance and medical assistance.
Wanting a better life
The woman we spoke to told us she is grateful for the assistance she receives.
Asked how she makes the $160 stretch, the woman says, "It is only me, so I have to make it stretch. I have to make it the best way I could."
When we ask her about having five children and no job, she says, "I thank God for having them; plenty people can't. I don't ever regret my kids."
But she adds that she does not plan to have any more children.
"In 2015, I have too much to accomplish," the woman tells us. "I am 32 and I [have not] accomplished [anything] yet.
"I can't let 2016 meet me doing the same thing. So [more] kids right now are not on my mind."
She tells us she lives in a "clustered place" with her sister.
"I [am] trying to get my own place and my own car," she says.
"I'll feel much better with that. I don't want my kids to grow up around here. I have so [many] dreams for them. I want them to go off to college. I want them to have the best life that I never had."
As we listen to her and watch the children play in the background, we wonder what will become of the children.
What will their environment shape them into?
At one point, several children lock themselves into an old vehicle in the yard. A young boy who they refuse to let in, becomes so enraged that he runs and grabs a bottle from a nearby pile of trash.
Pointing that bottle at the window of the car, he erupts into a kind of anger that does not seem natural for a boy his age.
These conditions are not conducive to the rearing of children.
We fight unsuccessfully against inserting ourselves and our feelings into a situation that will still exist after we have left.
They will still have to carry the water to that outhouse.
Rahming will still have to walk by the spot every day where her son was murdered.
This will still be home for her and her children.
The reality of that impacts us in a way that causes us to lose objectivity.
We have our story. We have our photos, and we admit, a bit of heartache too over the time we spent in the yard that day.
read more »
February 23, 2015
We have made the point before: One of the greatest threats to national development in an independent Bahamas has been blind political allegiance.
It stagnates us and it keeps us divided.
It is this tribalism that leads many politicians to act in arrogance and out of ignorance.
Oftentimes, their views are shaped by the side of the fence they sit at any particular time.
The reaction of politicians to any particular problem or issue is predictable in many cases.
If it is something being proposed by their side then it is a marvelous idea that will enure to the benefit of the people.
If it is presented by the side opposition it is surely a bad proposition that must be opposed.
As Marco City MP Greg Moss observed during debate on the mid year budget statement in the House of Assembly last Thursday, "You cannot fault the general public for listening to the debate in this House and for seeing it as political theater."
Moss went on: "The contributions that were made by the governing side are the same contributions that were made by the opposite side when they were in government with a few twists and turns, different projects, different names.
"And the contributions being made by the opposition are the same contributions that were made by the present governing side when they were in opposition.
"It's always the same thing. We come into this House and whoever is governing paints a rosy picture, everything is going well.
"All the things make sense and whoever is in opposition says the opposite. It is going terribly and disaster is at hand, and people were once very satisfied with that, Mr. Speaker.
"That was very good theater at one time. That was very good entertainment, but all of a sudden it has gotten very serious because people finally understand that politics impacts their lives."
Moss used the mammoth national debt as an example.
While PLP MP after PLP MP blamed the nation's fiscal woes on the Ingraham administration, he pointed out that both the PLP and FNM are responsible for piling on the debt.
In her contribution to the debate, Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin said squandering by the FNM administration caused hurt, pain, hopelessness and devastation.
She said the FNM government did not provide prudent management of the economy and the country is already benefiting from sound fiscal management.
As Griffin excitedly told the story of the marvelous interventions being made by the Christie administration, several miles away, hundreds of Bahamians waited in line outside Sandals resort for a handful of available jobs.
They and we can only hope that the unbridled optimism repeatedly expressed by Prime Minister Perry Christie is well founded.
As Christie would have us believe, we are headed to utopia under his stewardship. Everyone who wants a job will soon have one, good jobs. National Health Insurance will no longer be a dream, and value-added tax will be one of the greatest success stories in our country's modern history.
It is sometimes hard to separate reality from political theatrics.
Indeed, we have had our fill of disingenuous politicians.
It is to the point where it has gotten sickening.
One politician who repeatedly gets the award for being disingenuous is MICAL MP V. Alfred Gray, a comedian of a politician with a track record of spewing utter nonsense.
Gray took this approach when he contributed to debate on the mid-year budget statement last Wednesday.
In typical arrogant fashion, he declared that the Christie administration did not break a promise to the Bahamian people when it chose to ignore the results of the 2013 gambling referendum.
In fact, Gray suggested that due to the actions of the court, the government was powerless to act against web shops.
"Even though there are those who say the government broke its promise on the referendum, that's not true," Gray said.
"The government did not break any promises on the referendum. After the referendum the government intended to enforce the law as it were.
"The numbers people went to court. The numbers people took the matter to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court intervened.
"That is what happened. So if you can't close them down, it would be wise of the government to make the decision to get something out of them in the way of the tax.
"Otherwise it would have been an economy driven underground."
While Gray seemed to have been pointing to an injunction web shop operators secured immediately after the referendum, he conveniently forgot that the Court of Appeal later determined that courts in The Bahamas have no authority to block police from taking action if they deem anyone is carrying out an illegal activity.
So yes, the government did break its promise to abide by the results of the referendum. Its decision on the matter had nothing to do with the courts.
The reason Christie gave was that after the referendum the Central Bank governor raised concerns that web shops might facilitate money laundering.
Of course, that was also a bogus explanation provided by the prime minister, who long before the referendum had pointed to money laundering concerns, and who had still committed to abiding by the results of the referendum.
Indeed, tribalism and spurious reasoning from politicians have created widespread distrust of our leaders.
There are so many examples of politicians fashioning their statements for political expediency.
In opposition politicians see crime as a problem the government cannot control.
In government, crime becomes all of our problem. It is not something that the government alone can tackle, and we are reminded that it is not something we can address overnight.
In opposition, politicians lash the sitting administration when unemployment rises. They point to the government's failed policies. They even criticize the professionals in the Department of Statistics.
When they are in government, however, they are quick to explain, as the prime minister did in his recent budget statement, that while the number of jobs increased the work force also increased.
So really, as Christie would have us believe, the government is to be applauded for creating those jobs.
Of course, this kind of context does not matter when they are in opposition. It would make the other side look too good.
Much of the same
Like mindless robots, MPs often pound their tables and beat their chests in support of anything being uttered by a member of their side.
If it is an MP on their team, surely it makes a lot of sense.
If it is something left in place by the former administration, then surely there is something wrong with it.
Edison Key, the South Abaco MP, pointed to one example, the national youth service program that was in operation in Andros.
The program was introduced by the first Christie administration.
It got the axe when the Ingraham administration came to office. Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham explained that too much money was being spent that did not justify the number of young men in the program.
Key said in his many years in political life he has seen too many examples of tribalism and it has not proven to be good for the country.
"No matter what this side says that side says it's wrong or vice versa," he said, noting that when ministers are appointed they suddenly become gods.
"If it's right, it's right. Let's give credit where it's due and work together for the betterment of our Bahama land."
Speaking of administrations, the FNM MP, who once played on the PLP team, concluded, "They're all the same. [They are] no different.
"The PLP does the same thing. Whatever one government in this country starts, whether it is doing well or not, the next one comes and it's gone.
"It shouldn't be that way. We should all be thinking about The Bahamas and the future of The Bahamas and the future generations of The Bahamas. That's what we should be doing. We are here to serve the people of The Bahamas, the people in our constituency."
Moss, the Marco City MP, believes that in changing administrations over the last few elections, the Bahamian people have gotten much of the same.
"If you look at the political parties in this country you can very easily come to the conclusion that there is just one big bus and all the top people are on the bus, and the only thing that changes every five years is who's driving the bus, but the bus continues going on that same course, and that course is for the detriment of the people and for the benefit of the established few," he said.
"And so there has been a general increase in [disaffection], Mr. Speaker, a general increase in disconnect in our country, a general increase in hopelessness under both governments and the question is what do we do about it."
Moss pointed out that since 2002, voters elected new administrations.
He suggested, "That has to send a message to the people in this House. That has to send a message to the political directorate and it has to send a very coherent, very loud message as to the dissatisfaction of the people in the way in which we are governing."
While allegiance to one's political party is important for members, acting for the overall good should not be sacrificed in the process.
There is an important balance that must be achieved in this regard.
As Moss sees it, our politicians have long been spinning the bottle and the game has continued.
"Are we really about building a country?" he asked.
Speaking directly to so-called new generation leaders in Parliament, Moss added, "This is what we were elected for in 2012."
While there are some hopeful signs that a new brand of politics is emerging, the failure of Moss and others to play the political game could mean that they are on the outside looking in when the bottle spins again in 2017, officially cut from the tribe for failing to fall in line.
Instead of benefitting further from their contributions, we would likely be left with new players, and old ones, committed to the tribal agenda, all to the detriment of national progress.
read more »