Nassau Guardian Stories
March 23, 2015
Someone in the Ministry of Works will be held accountable for failing to ensure that all contractors for the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) had the requisite all-risk insurance, Minister of State for Works and Urban Development Arnold Forbes told The Nassau Guardian.
"I'm sure that there will be people who are held accountable in the ministry and I am sure you will hear from the deputy prime minister as far as what action will be taken, and I'm sure that action will be taken," said Forbes, when asked whether anyone will be held accountable in this matter.
"There is no way that monies, public funds are spent and we are not
securing those funds to ensure that the public's interest is protected.
"So there will be
consequences based on this. I'm sure there will be. And again, the deputy prime minister will address these consequences very shortly and I'm sure he will explain the reasons why he is making these decisions."
Forbes' most recent interview with The Nassau Guardian in relation to the BAMSI controversy represents the latest twist in the ongoing debacle.
But Forbes said he does not think Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, who is minister of works, should resign, as the Official Opposition is demanding.
Last month, Davis told the House of Assembly that the contractor for the BAMSI male dorm that was destroyed by fire on January 15 had all risk insurance at the time the contract was executed.
Two weeks later, Davis said he had checked the file and there was never any insurance in place.
"I don't see the reason why he should resign," Forbes said.
"I really can't say that he should. I don't believe that he should. If you know a minister's job is a very hectic job. There's a lot to do and if the minister is going to sit down and scrutinize every contract, every piece of paper that comes through the Ministry of Works, we would be at a standstill.
"There are individuals in there who should be looking at these matters and protecting [public funds]."
Neither Davis nor Forbes has said whether all of the other 13 BAMSI contractors had insurance in place as of January 15.
While Prime Minister Perry Christie said last Wednesday he was advised that all the contractors have insurance, he too did not indicate whether they rushed to get that insurance after the controversy that erupted in the wake of the dorm fire.
Forbes told The Nassau Guardian there is no confirmation that insurance is now in place for all the contracts.
"I can't say for sure," he said.
"I don't want anyone to bring me any one page document saying that they have insurance or whatever else. I've asked all of the contractors, I would like a letter on letterhead from insurance companies outlining what the insurance is, when it was taken out, when it was expired.
"Some of them are having a little challenge getting it but I am giving them the benefit of the doubt presently and that is why we have not completely reviewed this matter.
"As you know, I took over this matter probably I think it was a week on Monday, so I'm giving them an opportunity, at least until next week Thursday (March 26) to bring in all of the letters from insurance companies."
Asked whether evidence of insurance should not already be on the ministry's files, Forbes said, "We are checking our files, but most of the people would have probably gotten a plain certificate. I'm not accepting that.
"I want them to bring me proof from these insurance companies."
Forbes admitted that he had not checked all of the files as yet.
"They will bring me all of the information and I will make my decision," he said.
"I've not looked at them personally, so I cannot say if they are (insured), but what I am saying they may very well be on file and I've not looked at it yet."
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March 23, 2015
The body of a six-year-old girl was discovered in a cesspit behind a church off East Street South on Friday night after a five-hour search for her, police said.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Stephen Dean said relatives reported the girl missing around 6 p.m. and began searching for her.
They reported to police that the girl was playing with several other children on Windstead Avenue when she went missing.
She was found around 11 p.m.
"They mounted a search party in the area in an attempt to find this young girl," said Dean around midnight.
"The search intensified. The police were called. They brought in the K-9 Unit to
assist with the search.
"Just over an hour ago police were able to locate the body with the assistance of the K-9 Unit in a cesspit just rear of a church building.
"... We are interviewing a number of persons to determine how this could have happened."
Police said an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.
Dean also warned parents and guardians about leaving children unattended.
"They must be in the care or eyesight of a parent or adult at all times," he said.
"The responsibility for these children is [not their own]. They cannot be left on their own. It is non-negotiable.
"We are putting out the warning to people to please know where your children are every time, every hour and every minute."
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March 23, 2015
Prime Minister Perry Christie said he is still committed to tabling the agreement signed with Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) for the Bahamian people to regain just under two percent of shares in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC).
In a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian, the prime minister was reminded that he pledged to table the agreement in the House of Assembly, but it had not happened more than seven months after the deal was finalized.
Asked whether he was committed to fulfilling that promise, Christie said, "Yes. In fact, I am glad you reminded me."
When asked how soon that would happen, Christie said he has an informed view on the matter, but did not provide a timeline.
CWC bought 51 percent of BTC's shares in 2011.
After coming to office, Christie appointed a committee headed by businessman Franklyn Wilson to negotiate the take back of two percent of the shares.
The BTC deal was first announced in January 2014.
Under the terms of the deal, CWC committed to transfer $5,930,200 worth of shares to the government to be held in trust for the Bahamian people.
Those funds will be placed in the BTC Foundation.
Christie has stated nothing was paid for the shares.
During a ceremony at the Balmoral in August 2014, CWC CEO Phil Bentley and Christie announced the long-awaited BTC deal was finalized and the BTC Foundation was established.
CWC officials also presented the government with a $1 million check for the foundation.
At the time, Christie recommitted to tabling the MOU in Parliament.
He said this would serve as "evidence for the Bahamian people that the deal has been done".
Meanwhile, Bentley encouraged the government to be flexible with BTC's needs for certain duty reductions and foreign work permits, again raising questions surrounding what the government agreed to in the MOU.
Many critics have dismissed the deal as a face-saving agreement, as it does not result in Bahamians regaining control of BTC - something Christie promised ahead of the 2012 general election.
Others have repeatedly suggested a side deal may have been struck with CWC, though government officials have denied this.
Wilson told The Guardian the deal represents "good will" on the part of the company that will bode well for it financially.
The prime minister has said the deal represents a fulfillment of his election promise to regain a majority of the shares for the Bahamian people.
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March 23, 2015
A 73-year-old visitor to The Bahamas was found unconscious in waters off Farmers Hill, Exuma, on Saturday, police said.
It is believed he drowned.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Stephen Dean said the man, who had not been identified, was visiting from Ohio.
He went snorkeling with relatives and was found unconscious in the water around 6 p.m.
He was transported to a local clinic and pronounced dead.
Dean said an autopsy will be performed to confirm the cause of death.
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March 23, 2015
More than 100 Haitian migrants were apprehended in separate incidents on Saturday, according to police.
Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) officers intercepted an American sailing vessel carrying 40 Haitian migrants off Snake Cay, Abaco, around 1 a.m.
The RBDF's satellite base in Abaco spotted the boat just south of Marsh Harbour.
It was unclear who the captain was.
Another 61 Haitian migrants were arrested around 2 a.m. on Snake Cay, police said.
The group included 11 woman, 45 men, three teenaged girls and two children.
A man, 52, of The Mudd, Abaco, who was parked in a van on the island, was arrested in connection with the matter.
Inspector Terecita Pinder, public affairs and communications officer, said the migrants will be transported to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre once the Department of Immigration has processed them.
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March 23, 2015
It's been almost two years since the custody death of 20-year-old Aaron Rolle was ruled an "unlawful killing", and no decision has been made on the fate of the officers involved in his death.
Rolle died at the Southern Police Station on February 8, 2013, two days after his arrest on suspicion of armed robbery and escape.
Constables 2126 Akiel Smith and 2648 Carl Smith said they had to forcefully restrain Rolle during an alleged escape attempt through a louvered aluminium window on the second floor of the Southern Police Station. The officers remain on administrative leave.
Rolle died from a ruptured intestine due to blunt force trauma to the torso.
Shortly after the coroner's jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing in June 2013, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said that a review of the jury's recommendations would be expedited.
She said at the time, "I told my team that the public wants to see matters involving law and order expedited. And I want to assure the public that with all of the resources that we have, we are making every effort to move as quickly as is possible."
This February, Maynard-Gibson promised that she would make an announcement about the decision on whether the officers would face charges.
Attorney Christina Galanos, who represents the Rolle family, told The Nassau Guardian yesterday, "It's a waiting game. I have always held the position that it doesn't make sense to file a private prosecution and the attorney general can always come and take it over or enter a nolle [prosequi]."
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March 23, 2015
Police say they have no problem with witnesses providing information that could lead to an arrest. However, those witnesses sometimes recant or refuse to testify at trial, resulting in failed prosecutions.
At the opening of the legal year, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said that witnesses who do not turn up for trial is one of the problems "maligning our justice system".
However, Chief Superintendent Paul Rolle, who heads the Central Detective Unit, told The Nassau Guardian recently that he was not concerned about witnesses not showing up for trial.
"We've done our part once we've charged them and put them before the court," Rolle said.
This year, prosecutors offered no further evidence in four trials after key witnesses failed to show.
In a murder trial, which resulted in conviction based on the defendant's confession, none of the civilian witnesses showed.
In another case, a reluctant witness never returned to testify after the court adjourned to allow him to compose himself.
The testimony of four civilian witnesses in a murder trial who cannot be located will be read into evidence under Section 66 of the Evidence Act.
According to process servers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, witnesses often go to great lengths to avoid receiving notification of upcoming trials.
Some witnesses reportedly deny that they are the persons being sought, according to the process servers.
Last week, the country secured its first murder conviction with the testimony of an anonymous witness.
Two previous murder cases in which anonymous witness testimonies were relied on were withdrawn from the jury at the close of the prosecution's case.
The Witness Anonymity Act, which removes the defendants' constitutional right to face his accuser, came into force in November 2011.
It allows investigators and prosecutors to shield the identities of witnesses at the investigative stage up to the trial.
While defending the law during debate in the House of Assembly, then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham referred to the murder of Robbie Rolle, who was shot multiple times during a home invasion on October 18, 2011.
Police suspect that the gunmen were in search of a witness to a murder earlier that year.
"It is my information that they tried to kill him before," Ingraham said.
"This is the second attempt to kill this man, and they killed the wrong man".
Prosecutors can apply for anonymity orders in cases such as murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery while armed with a firearm, dangerous drugs, terrorist acts and trafficking in persons.
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March 23, 2015
The separation of powers doctrine is critical to the orderly functioning of modern democratic societies.
It divides the state into three branches: A legislature, an executive and a judiciary.
The doctrine dictates that the powers of each branch are separate and are not in conflict with each other.
When there is a conflict or abuse, or even the appearance of such, this poses a threat to the democracy.
This is precisely why V. Alfred Gray, the MICAL MP and the minister of agriculture, marine resources and local government, has landed in boiling hot water.
Gray has admitted that he told Mayaguana Administrator Zephaniah Newbold, the local magistrate, that he could release a man convicted of a crime on bail.
Gray said, as far as he knows, Newbold did just that after their conversation.
Remarkably, the minister insisted in an interview with National Review on Friday this was "the right thing to do".
"If the appeal is filed, I think that's the right thing to do," said Gray, an attorney with more than 30 years' experience.
"I didn't tell him he had to... I told him that he could consider releasing him on bail until the appeal is heard."
It is stunning that the minister saw nothing wrong with this.
Incredibly, Gray also said he could not remember whether he called the administrator on the matter or whether the administrator called him.
"I'm not sure whether he called me or I called him," he said. "I'm not sure. I did speak with him. I think it's safe to say that I did speak with him."
We reminded him, "This was just yesterday."
We again asked him if he could not remember whether he made the call or whether he received it.
Gray said he speaks to administrators in the various islands that make up his constituency daily, so he would not always remember whether he initiated contact.
The details of the case in question are still sketchy as Newbold, the administrator/magistrate, declined to comment when we contacted him.
We told him the Free National Movement had released a statement in which it suggests Gray "may have called, ordered or induced" him into releasing a prisoner.
Newbold said, "I'm not prepared at this time to make any comment.
"That does not mean I'm not denying anything or whatever. Further down the road there may be a comment."
According to the FNM's statement, the prisoner
"had already been sentenced to a term of incarceration and was merely awaiting transportation to Nassau to commence serving the three-month sentence".
Reportedly, the offense was committed against a police officer on Mayaguana.
Whether a serious or a minor offense, any interference in the judicial process by a minister of the government is completely unacceptable and should be abhorred.
In the interview with National Review, Gray insisted that he had not interfered in a judicial process.
"My position is very simple," he said.
"By the time I heard of this matter yesterday, (Thursday) it was over. The administrator had done what he had to do in terms of [convicting], and subsequent to that he (the convict) appealed the decision of the administrator.
"And by the time I heard that the appeal was filed and when I asked him (the administrator) about that he said they filed the appeal and I said, 'Well, what is the position?'
"He said that the appeal is filed, and I told him that he should consider releasing him on bail until the appeal is heard and that's what I am told he did."
The FNM said that at a time when violent crime is at epidemic levels, it would be tragic if a senior government official were to interfere, or to be perceived as having interfered, with the proper dispensing of justice.
The party expressed
outrage and dismay over the "undermining of the authority of the island's magistrate, administrator and the police force".
In typical arrogant fashion, Gray dismissed the FNM's concerns.
"The FNM needs to worry about how they are going to make some impact in the governance of this country and try to find leadership," he said.
"That's what they need, leadership. Until they get that, they are not worthy of comment."
He later told us he would not have a problem with an independent probe into what transpired.
"I have no problems with that," Gray said. "I have no problems with that at all."
During our discussion, he added, "It is important for justice not only to be done, but to be seen to be done."
What irony, we thought.
After telling us that he told the magistrate what his options were in a matter, the minister was now talking about the need for justice to be seen to be done.
We asked him whether he could see how someone might conclude that justice was not seen to be done.
Gray shot back, "I speak to judges on judicial matters, so, I mean, what's your point?"
We told him, "The point is, this is your constituency. This is the administrator. We suppose that you have some authority as local government minister, as well, on who's hired, who's fired as an administrator.
"And so, there are some people who would see this as perhaps crossing the line or being a bit dicey for you, for the administration of justice or for the appearance of justice in this matter."
Gray responded, "Well, that's a matter of opinion."
Again, we asked the minister, "Do you see how some people would see this as interfering in a judicial process?"
Gray insisted, "What is the judicial process? The matter was over. The appeal was filed. What is the judicial process?"
We reminded him that if an appeal is filed, the matter is still before the courts.
The minister told us, "I don't think it's interference. If I had spoken to him during the matter, during the case, I would have been interfering.
"I believe that by the time I spoke to him the matter was over. The appeal was filed and I have a feeling that he would have done that anyway (grant bail).
"I didn't tell him, 'You must release him'. I said to him, if the appeal was filed, I think he could consider releasing him on bail until the appeal is heard."
While Gray kept insisting on Friday that "the matter was over", he was singing a different tune last night after the Free National Movement called for his resignation.
In a clear bid to kill debate on this issue, Gray said he cannot speak to this as it is still before the courts.
In a statement released to the media, he said, "In reference to recent press reports, I categorically deny that I sought to influence or pervert the course of justice.
"Any suggestion that I did so is absolutely preposterous and completely false.
"However, as the matter in question is still before the courts, I am constrained from making any further statement at this time."
During our interview with the minister on Friday, we wondered whether it is usual for Gray or any other minister to speak to a magistrate about releasing someone on bail.
Gray claimed he was
"not advising" the magistrate. He said he was merely "telling him his options".
"The administrator knows his duty," he said, seemingly unable to see why anyone would question why he saw the need to point out to the magistrate what his options are.
Gray insisted, "The position I took is a position that I believe was right, that if all the processes were in place, he could consider (releasing the prisoner)."
This matter is in our view very serious in nature.
It does not send the right signals about the administration of justice in The Bahamas and the separation of powers.
Already burdened by one issue after the next and multiple stains on his administration, the prime minister is now left to consider the facts of this matter and determine whether Gray is still fit to serve in his Cabinet.
No doubt, many will be watching.
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March 23, 2015
Last Wednesday, as Prime Minister Perry Christie was telling reporters he had been advised that all contracts related to the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) have insurance, simultaneously, Minister of State for Works and Urban Development Arnold Forbes was telling National Review there is no confirmation those contracts have insurance.
That added to the confusion that continues to surround a matter that has held the public's attention in recent times.
Forbes said he has given all the contractors until this Thursday to provide proof from their insurance companies that they have all-risk insurance.
He admitted that he had not checked the files to confirm they all have insurance certificates attached.
So, who exactly has advised the prime minister that insurance is in place?
Did he, like his deputy prime minister, get wrong information on this?
We will not be able to grasp fully the depth of the BAMSI debacle and the failings of the systems of checks and balances within the Ministry of Works without a full reporting on whether all of the BAMSI contracts had insurance at the time the male dorm was set afire on January 15.
It is not enough to report that they are now insured.
We suspect, though, that it is unlikely the government will ever report on the insurance status of all BAMSI contracts at the time of that fire.
This is relevant because it would shed light on the extent to which those charged with the protection of public funds allowed abuse of the system and ultimately abuse of public money.
We are told by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works Philip Brave Davis that it will cost $5.5 million to rebuild that dorm. The contractor, Audley Hanna, is liable for $2.5 million, he said.
It is also not enough for Christie to deflect by suggesting the Public Accounts Committee of the House Assembly also look into the handling of contracts under Neko Grant, who was minister of works in the last Ingraham administration.
There is no place for that kind of politics as many Bahamians up demands for accountability on the BAMSI affair.
Christie should be concerned that he and his minister of state are sending conflicting information on this matter.
How is the public to have any confidence in this government when our officials are issuing conflicting statements?
Who are we to believe? What are we to believe?
Misleading the House
Christie should show that he is concerned that his minister of works misled Parliament when he addressed the issue last month.
Davis told the House the contractor for the male dorm had insurance at the time the contract was executed and the insurance lapsed due to project delays.
He later told the House the contractor never had insurance.
This is egregious, though nothing Christie has said reflects he gets that.
Had the PLP been in opposition under these exact circumstances, we have no doubt that its leaders would have been demanding the minister's resignation, as the FNM is now doing.
When water taken from the reverse osmosis plant in Grand Cay in 2011 reportedly proved to be unsuitable for human consumption, the PLP demanded then Minister of State for the Environment Phenton Neymour resign.
After a group of tourists was robbed in 2009, the PLP called on then Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest to resign.
In 2008, when mistakes were made in the process of that year's local government elections, the PLP called on Minister of Lands and Local Government Sidney Collie to resign.
He eventually did so after court action and the consequent frustration of many Family Island voters.
Obie Wilchcombe, the West End and Bimini MP, told the House at the time that every Cabinet minister should take responsibility for that matter, and more resignations were in order.
It is 2015, and millions of dollars of the people's money has literally gone up with the smoke.
The deputy prime minister has shown incompetent handling of the matter in the wake of the fire.
When he last reported to Parliament on this issue on March 11, he said the files were provided to him on March 2.
That is 46 days after the fire.
This is extraordinary.
Is the deputy prime minister concerned about abuse of public funds? Is he concerned about slackness in his ministry?
Why did it take him 46 days to look at the files?
More significantly, Davis violated a fundamental tenet of the Westminster system. He misled Parliament, and has so far arrogantly refused to explain what led him to do so.
Instead of expressing profound regret, and at the very least reprimanding Davis, the prime minister is pointing to what happened under the FNM administration.
Voters kicked the FNM out of office three years ago. Christie promised better. He promised accountable and effective government.
This affair points to anything but that.
Christie's constant claims of accountability are laughable. He demonstrates a considerable tolerance for the irresponsible and flagrant actions by some who sit around the Cabinet table.
Forbes, the minister of state in Davis' ministry, told us he took over responsibility for the BAMSI contracts issue two weeks ago.
This suggests that Davis, who is the minister of works, is no longer overseeing the review of the files.
Davis has been under fire over this saga. And rightly so.
Both he and Christie have been flippant in their disregard for mounting concerns over the fact that Davis misled Parliament.
It is not acceptable for him to merely report that he was wrongly advised.
He also reported that there is nothing in the files to tell him who took the decision to advance mobilization without the requisite insurance. As a Queen's Counsel who seeks to become prime minister one day, it is incredible that he would come to Parliament with a full false story before seeing the files.
We go back to a question we have been asking for the last two weeks: Who will be held accountable for this?
Forbes insisted that someone will.
But he does not think it should be the deputy prime minister.
"I don't see the reason why he should resign," Forbes said.
"I really can't say that he should. I don't believe that he should. If you know a minister's job, it is a very hectic job.
"There's a lot to do, and if the minister is going to sit down and scrutinize every contract, every piece of paper that comes through the Ministry of Works, we would be at a standstill.
"There are individuals in there who should be looking at these matters and protecting [public funds]."
Forbes also told us, "I'm sure that there will be people who are held accountable in the ministry and I am sure you will hear from the deputy prime minister as far as what action will be taken, and I'm sure that action will be taken.
"There is no way that monies, public funds are spent and we are not securing those funds to ensure that the public's interest is protected. So there will be consequences based on this.
"I'm sure there will be. And again, the deputy prime minister will address these consequences very shortly, and I'm sure he will explain the reasons why he is making these decisions."
Forbes gave no indication when Davis will again address the BAMSI matter.
Given the mixed messages the government has sent as this saga played out, we just don't know what to believe anymore.
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March 23, 2015
Approaching its third anniversary in office, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) is facing widespread discontent.
There is a mood in the country that does not correspond with Prime Minister Perry Christie's unbridled optimism.
The mushrooming debacle involving the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) and the Ministry of Works is a throwback to the multiple scandals that climaxed in the sinking of the SS PLP in 2007.
The revelation that the BAMSI male dorm that was destroyed by fire on January 15 was uninsured now seems to be but one element in a bigger story that reflects poorly on the Christie administration and its handling of this fiasco.
Added to this have been the spectacular failure of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, still unanswered questions about a letter of intent for a waste-to-energy facility, confusion surrounding Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival and lingering fallout over the government's decision last year to ignore the will of voters in the 2013 gambling referendum.
The arrogant manner in which government officials have responded to cries for greater accountability, repeated conflicting statements from political authorities, and in some instances, the incompetent handling of these issues continue to weigh on the Christie-led government.
The introduction of value-added tax has also made the government unpopular, notwithstanding the many explanations from the government that this move was unavoidable and had also been the FNM's plan.
The newest budding scandal involves Agriculture and Local Government Minister V. Alfred Gray, who admitted to us on Friday he spoke to an island magistrate in his constituency on Thursday about releasing a man convicted of a crime -- albeit minor -- on bail pending the outcome of an appeal.
Gray said he thought this was the "right thing to do" and does not see it as interfering in a judicial process.
As that plays out, Christie is likely to face another tough week. The Gray matter will add to the tsunami of troubles facing this administration.
Last week, the prime minister told National Review that despite the sometimes harsh assessments from critics, he feels encouraged.
"With respect to the governance of the country and the overall management of the country and specifically the overall management of the economy, I continue to be upbeat and optimistic because I know what is taking place," he responded, when asked whether he is aware how hugely unpopular he is at this juncture in the term.
"I have no doubt whatsoever that employment is going to be heavily impacted and positively impacted."
As he has done multiple times, Christie then pointed to investment projects he said are coming on-stream, and the thousands of jobs he has projected will be created.
Christie has said that another 8,000 jobs will be added by year's end, driven primarily by Baha Mar.
He also talked about the 22,000 jobs he said his adminstration created in its first term.
We reminded Christie that in 2007, unemployment was at 6.9 percent, down from 9.1 percent in 2002 when the PLP took office, yet the PLP was kicked out of power by an angry electorate that had, had its fill of a scandal-ridden government.
Christie told National Review this rejection during good economic times was a lesson for the PLP.
But incredibly, he still seems to miss completely the message that was sent by voters.
"The real lesson from it was that we never allowed ourselves to effectively communicate to the Bahamian people on what we were doing. So the point is, it doesn't make sense to a political organization that wants to perpetuate itself to do good things but have those good things not known by the people," he said.
While Christie might continue to believe that the reason for the loss was ineffective communication, his party's own post-election survey outlined reasons to the contrary.
The report was a tightly-guarded secret due to its embarrassing findings. It was eventually made public after The Nassau Guardian met a copy in its garbage bin.
The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Report set out what the reasons were for the PLP's stunning loss in the 2007 general election.
It revealed that 57 percent of respondents cited Christie's perceived "weak leadership" as the reason they decided not to vote PLP.
The "weak leadership" issue was widely discussed before and after the election campaign, with Hubert Ingraham, at the time leader of the FNM, stating repeatedly that the 2007 election was about leadership.
The survey said the alleged scandals that plagued the PLP leading up to the vote took their toll.
Ahead of the 2007 race, Ingraham adopted this theme and relentlessly drummed at it.
"The Christie administration is the poster boy for failed governance. They have plunged our country into chaos," said Ingraham at a rally at R. M. Bailey Park on April 27, 2007.
"Mr. Christie's PLP is besieged by scandal and incompetence. They have lost the will and capacity to fix their own mistakes, or maybe they never had it."
The Greenberg Report highlighted steps the PLP should take to rebrand its image, so as to gain the confidence of the Bahamian electorate.
It recommended expanding the party's base; cleansing the party's reputation; conveying Christie's leadership qualities and advancing a progressive social agenda.
In 2012, voters -- many of them angered by the sale of the Bahamas Telecommunication Company, and the Ingraham administration's botched handling of the New Providence roadwork project -- rejected Ingraham's message this time around, and bought into the PLP's promises to turn the economy around, drive down crime, deliver on National Health Insurance (within the first year) and provide much-needed mortgage relief.
Christie also promised to take a hardline approach against any minister found wanting.
In 2012, he proved again that he can win an election. He also proved inspiring for a portion of the electorate who felt disrespected by Ingraham over the former PM's failure to listen to their cries, and be more in tune with their wishes.
Christie benefited from this disconnect.
He was back. He was redeemed.
Three years into his term, Christie is facing a rough ride.
It has been worsened because of the irrational, hallow and ill-considered promises made by the PLP on the election campaign.
Those promises fueled unrealistic expectations.
The government's inability to deliver on several key pledges and increasing signs that the prime minister does not have a firm grip on his crew are eating away at the base of the PLP's ship.
It would be foolhardy for Christie to bank on a strong economy to shape his legacy and position the PLP for another term in office.
Improving the economy is, of course, critical. We need jobs. We need ownership. People need to feel good about themselves. They need to be able to meet their obligations.
But meeting these needs is not enough for them to also feel good about their government and have faith in their prime minister.
A key conclusion of the strategists hired by the PLP for the 2007 post-election survey rings true today.
Speaking of the PLP, the strategists wrote in their report, "It needs to take concrete actions that convey its seriousness about purging corruption from the party and state.
"There is a perception among voters -- one deepened by the FNM -- that the PLP has become more focused on doing things that benefit its own politicians than for the people."
Christie does nothing to fight this perception when he makes statements like the one he made last week when he was asked to respond to a claim by the Democratic National Alliance that the government issued contracts for BAMSI to "PLP cronies".
"The contract works that were going on down there, by and large, were intended to be given to people who live in that community," he said.
"Now, whether all of them are PLPs, I mean I hope some of them are. I hope the majority of them are, because the former government did a remarkable job in being able to empower FNM contactors."
Christie might have been playing convention politics with such a statement.
It really was an extraordinary thing for a prime minister to say into a reporter's microphone.
During that same interview, we asked him whether he understood how many people now feel about the government.
While saying he felt "encouraged", he added that it is normal for governments to be unpopular during the mid-term.
Christie also insisted that he remains connected to the pulse of the electorate.
"I am saying that we use every indicator to understand what people want, what people are thinking, their disappointments. Because it must all be calculated into how you go about shifting policies and addressing the needs and wants of the people you represent," he told us.
At this point in his second term in office as prime minister, Christie, who is showing no indication that he plans to exit the political stage come 2017, might benefit from another read of the Greenberg report.
Even with a feckless opposition, the chaotic path his administration is on could lead to a replay of 2007.
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March 23, 2015
Leslie Miller is not in the Christie Cabinet these days.
However, he still proves hugely embarrassing for Prime Minister Perry Christie, who seems content with letting him operate in a manner that ultimately does damage to Christie's leadership image.
It is hard to understand, really.
But we are reminded about something Christie was quoted as saying to then U.S. Ambassador John Rood in 2005, during his first administration.
"Some ministers were brought into the Cabinet because of their qualifications. Others, like Minister Miller, were included in an effort, at times unsuccessful, to keep an eye on what they're doing," said Christie, according to a United States (U.S.) embassy cable made public by Wikileaks in 2011.
Back then, Christie and Rood were reportedly discussing the Petrocaribe deal, a program under which countries purchase oil from Venezuela on condition of preferential treatment.
"The PM indicated that he has concerns about the Petrocaribe agreement signed on behalf of The Bahamas on June 29 by Trade and Industry Minister Leslie Miller," the cable said.
"He stated that Minister Miller 'got way out in front of the Cabinet' on the issue and suggested that Cabinet's eventual consideration of the Petrocaribe agreement would not be favorable."
The 2005 cable added,
"Christie has also shown no inclination to silence a minister whose more outrageous comments regularly make for embarrassing headlines."
The Americans also wrote,
"Minister Miller is an erratic figure within the Christie Cabinet and his frequent dramatic pronouncements on issues ranging from Petrocaribe, to hurricane relief funding, to liquefied natural gas projects are taken with a large grain of salt."
These days, much of what Miller says should still be taken with a large grain of salt.
Although he proved problematic for Christie in his first term as prime minister, Christie appointed Miller executive chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) when he returned to office in 2012.
Miller has bounced from one controversy to the next.
He has gotten into nasty public spats with BEC union officials.
He shamelessly threatened to disconnect power supplies while his family-owned businesses owed BEC more than $200,000.
When The Nassau Guardian made the revelation last summer, Miller's daughter rushed to the corporation and paid $100,000 in cash, a violation of BEC protocol.
Christie promised to look into the matter.
Of course, that was the last the public heard of it.
Miller's latest blunder was declaring last Sunday that the catastrophic failure of BEC's system on New Providence and Paradise Island last weekend was due to neglect on the part of workers.
Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, who has ministerial responsibility for BEC, eventually released a statement, denying that the workers were at fault.
Davis did not acknowledge that it was Miller who had placed the blame on the workers.
The DPM seemed to suggest this blaming the workers was something that mysteriously popped up in the media.
"I note the commentaries by various media houses relative to this most unfortunate incident," he said.
"Having personally visited the site and having discussed the matter with BEC's management and technical staff, I am satisfied that the fault did not occur as a result of negligence by employees, and it is regrettable that any intimation to that effect was ever issued."
Miller changed his tune, telling The Nassau Guardian he never said the power meltdown happened due to neglect by BEC workers.
Somehow, he seemed to have forgotten the interview he gave a couple days earlier.
But we were not surprised.
Miller's track record is that of someone who changes positions almost quicker than we can write the story.
Somewhere out there is a prime minister who sits back and allows the clown show to play out, to his own detriment.
After the DPM's statement, we asked Christie, "Are you happy with Leslie Miller as chairman?"
The prime minister told us, "Leslie Miller's unpredictability and his expressions concern me. I've said it to him.
"I'm in the process of dealing with BEC (choosing a management partner) and I'm nearing the end of that process. And so, you're going to find therefore that real change is going to take place in the country."
We followed up, asking Christie directly why he keeps Miller in his position as chairman when Miller has again proved to be a troublesome appointee.
Christie responded, "I have the responsibility of governing and taking responsibility for all of the people we put in that position. I take responsibility for Leslie Miller. I said it to the union president.
"I take responsibility in everything he does, because as long as he is there I am responsible and accountable for what he does."
While he seemed to be expressing some disappointment in Miller, the prime minister also praised him.
"I've also said he has made remarkable discoveries and pronouncements about what is wrong with BEC," Christie said.
"He has brought to the attention of the government for the first time in a real meaningful way a lot of information that was necessary to guide us going forward.
"I applaud him for that. But I say again to Leslie, I say to the people of The Bahamas, you cannot fail to recognize that when you have a fallout of the kind or a collapse of the kind... in a country with the hotels filled with rooms and this remarkable speed at which the workers at BEC brought that back, those systems up, you have to applaud that.
"You don't get caught up in controversy where you appear to be going against what they did so well, and I think one of the things that I wanted to say, and I say it again over and over, I applaud them for the speed at which they were able to bring back the energy requirements to meet the normal."
On Wednesday, BEC faced more problems when two of its engines at Clifton failed.
Amid outrage from customers, Miller seemed annoyed that people were not seeing "the big picture".
"We have cut out a lot of things at BEC that should not have happened," he said.
"But you get no credit; all you get is damn criticism for the petty things. The big picture is we have saved millions of dollars at BEC."
There is no justification for Christie continuing to burden the public with Leslie Miller.
His unprofessional, abrasive approach to the affairs of BEC is tiresome.
We cannot imagine a BEC, being run by a professional management firm, having anything to do with Leslie Miller.
The prime minister is concerned about Miller's antics, so he says.
Apparently, he is not concerned enough to cut Miller loose.
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March 23, 2015
You know, there are a whole lot of sayings that have been passed down from generation to generation which so many of us repeat like parrots again and again without even thinking about their actual contents. We just blurt them out whenever it seems appropriate without giving a thought to The FACT, that maybe they don't make any sense at all.
One such phrase which I perhaps heard as a child is "Ignorance Is Bliss" and another one which basically proclaims a similar message is "What you don't know won't hurt you"... Oh Yea? Believe me, what you don't know will indeed hurt you, in fact it could lead to your failure in life, and even your demise. The title of today's article is a simple, straightforward question 'Is Ignorance Really Bliss?' and the resounding answer has got to be a very loud NO it's not!
Let's give an extreme example to prove the point. Let's say that you're on vacation in a foreign land and you go for a swim in an area which is well known to the locals as having strong currents, which can carry even a very strong swimmer out to sea very quickly. If you go to swim in this area without this important knowledge, if you're just ignorant about The FACTS, it could actually cost you your life.
So ignorance is in no way bliss, and yet many continue to use this phrase without really thinking it through. Yes indeed, what you don't know will indeed hurt you and could turn out to be deadly, as the example just given points out.
Yes my friend, as I teach when dealing with the subject of communication, we all need to think before we speak. If only we did that more often, we would not get into so much trouble as we so often do by blurting out statements which are in fact really quite ridiculous in content, like "What you don't know won't hurt you" or "Ignorance is Bliss".
As we all heard many times before "Knowledge Is Power"... yes it is, and it can take you wherever you want to go in life. However, being ignorant, not acquiring as much knowledge as you can will quite definitely hold you back in life.
THINK ABOUT IT! LISTEN TO 'TIME TO THINK' THE RADIO PROGRAM ON STAR 106.5 FM AT 8:55 AM & 6:20PM
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March 23, 2015
Now that the wait is over and the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) has announced the list of competitors participating at the 2015 CARIFTA Track and Field Championships, athletes and coaches can begin preparation for the top junior track and field meet in the Caribbean region.
After slipping all the way to seventh place overall at last year's CARIFTA Games in Fort-de-France, Martinique, BAAA President Mike Sands and his team made the decision to do things a little differently this year ahead of the 2015 version of the championships, set for the Easter holiday weekend, April 4-6, in Sugar City, St. Kitts and Nevis.
This year, the BAAA decided to go with a "leaner" team, made up of only athletes who qualified in individual events.
Sands said that although the 53-member team traveling in April may be a little slimmer than some around the association would like it to be, he thinks this roster will be much more effective than those in the past, particularly last year's group. The team was announced yesterday.
"We feel that this team is a very strong team," said Sands. "We indicated earlier that we were going for individual events. We would go with qualifiers, and we did just that. Every athlete that has been named to this team, originally, as we are stating now, are all those who qualified in their individual events.
"Consideration was given after much debate by the selection committee, then the executive management team and the membership at large were a part of the debate on that, and we ended up as a result, identifying persons to ensure that the relay teams were strengthened. The Bahamas is known for its relays, with less than 40 days to go to the IAAF World Relays, we want to make sure we maintain our tradition and make sure the future of track and field is bright in the country."
John Ingraham will head the team's coaching staff; Doris Rolle-Ramsey will serve as the team manager; Dr. Cindy Dorsette will head the medical staff, and Dion Britain and Cecile Campbell are the chaperones. Other members of the management team include Sharon Gardiner, Wendell Collie, Bernard Rolle, Don Johnson, Sandra Laing, Torrington Maycock and James Rolle. Dave Charlton will serve as the consultant to the national team.
Sands said that his expectations are high for this group, and that he feels he has the right leaders in place to keep everyone focused on the task at hand.
"We always look to do the best we can," he said. "Obviously CARIFTA is really based on medal count, and we've slipped a few notches. I think last year was a wake-up call for us in a number of areas and I think the coaches, athletes and executives heeded the call where we needed to focus on getting our athletes qualified. While we may not have as many qualifiers in all of the events that we would like, we are satisfied that what we have here is the best we have to offer under the circumstances. I'm satisfied that this team will be very competitive as we go into CARIFTA."
Sands also added that he feels our strongest events will be our field events, which hasn't been the case for some time now.
"I'm very pleased with the performance of the field events," he said. "There were years that went by that our field events used to be our strongest events, and we fell off on that in some instances. I told the coaches to find a way to bring it up, and I must say that Coach Cartwright, Coach Maycock and Don Johnson, who are the primary coaches, have undertaken a plan that yielded itself this time around."
Today, the BAAA plans to hold a team meeting at 5 p.m. after team practice, where the team will be introduced to management and given other instructions related to their participation at the championships. They will also state when the practice sessions will be held.
For those interested in traveling with the team, the BAAA has packages available for family and friends. The airfare starts at $799 on the charter, and with accommodations, it ranges to about $1,500.
Last year, Team Bahamas finished with just one gold medal that came from the under-18 boys 4x100 meters (m). The relay team of Kinard Rolle, Tyler Bowe, Keanu Pennerman and Javan Martin captured that elusive gold medal, which was added to eight silver and 10 bronze for a total of 19 medals.
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March 23, 2015
For the first time ever, a pair of Bahamians will face off against each other in the Sweet 16 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Men's Basketball Tournament, and one guaranteed to go through to the Elite Eight, joining Bahamians such as Rick Fox, Magnum Rolle and Quentin "Three Ounce" Hall who made it that far.
Chavanno "Buddy" Hield, the Big-12 Player, came up huge for the Oklahoma Sooners in their third round game against the Dayton Flyers yesterday, particularly in the final two minutes of the game. The 6'4" 209-pound two guard from Grand Bahama buried two free shots with 1:30 remaining to give the Sooners a 62-56 lead, and then after Dayton cut the deficit to four, forced a turnover at half-court and appeared headed to a game-changing lay-up, Hield composed himself and recorded a huge block in transition. That play awed the crowd in attendance, and in the minds of many, saved the game for the Sooners. He connected on one of two free shots with 23 seconds remaining, and the Sooners prevailed 72-66.
Hield and the Sooners are now packing their bags for Syracuse, New York, the site of their Sweet 16 match-up against Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn Jr. and the Michigan State Spartans.
Nairn, who hails from New Providence, scored just one point for Michigan State but the Spartans' starting point guard played 17 huge minutes as he dictated the pace of the game, leading his team past the second seeded Virginia Cavaliers in an upset. The Spartans held on down the stretch to win, 60-54, knocking the heavily favored Cavaliers out of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. It's also their seventh trip to the Sweet 16 in the past eight seasons under coach Tom Izzo.
When seventh seeded Michigan State (25-11) and third seeded Oklahoma (24-10) get together in the East Region semi-finals on Friday, Bahamians will be focussed on the two sons of the soil.
Against Dayton yesterday, Hield shook off a poor shooting performance to finish with 15 points. He was just 4-for-13 from the field, and 1-for-6 from three point land. Hield actually sunk his first three point shot before missing five in a row from distance.
The Sooners were led by Jordan Woodard with 16 points, Hield added 15, five assists and three rebounds, and Frank Booker came off the bench to score a dozen.
It was steal by Woodard an ensuing assist to Hield for a lay-up that gave Oklahoma a lead it would never relinquish. They rallied from a nine-point deficit in the second half with defense, holding Dayton scoreless for 9:04 and without a basket for 10:32 in the second half. Hield's lay-up with 5:56 remaining made the score 57-56 in favor of Oklahoma, giving them the lead since early in the second half. They led by double digits early in the game, but Dayton came alive with a 9-0 lead at the start of the second half.
Scoochie Smith scored 16 for Dayton, Darrell Davis added 15, and Kendall Pollard powered in 13, as they faltered late.
For Oklahoma, it's their first time in six years in the Sweet 16.
As for Nairn and the Spartans, they would not be denied against the Cavaliers.
Travis Trice led them in scoring with 23 points, and Branden Dawson powered in 15 points and pulled down nine boards. Anthony Gill paced the Cavaliers with 11 points, and Darion Atkins added 10.
Like Hield and the Sooners, it was defense which got the job done for Nairn and the Spartans.
The Spartans limited the Cavaliers to 29.8 percent shooting for the game, and Virginia finished just 2-for-17 from three-point range.
Nairn's lone free shot was the final point for the Spartans, giving them a 60-52 lead with just 16 seconds remaining. Trice was huge, burying a three point shot, and sinking three of four free shots for the Spartans in the final three minutes of the game.
Now, all eyes here in The Bahamas will turn to Friday's match-up, pitting two Bahamians up against each other in the NCAA Sweet 16 for men for the first time.
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March 23, 2015
Since the New Providence Basketball Association (NPBA) playoffs began earlier this month, several players have stepped up and elevated their games to new heights. However, no one has been as dominant as forward Gamaliel "Chameleon" Rose. Last year's finals' most valuable player (MVP) has elevated his game on both sides of the ball, and has one of the league's newest teams playing noteworthy basketball.
On Saturday night at the A.F. Adderley Gymnasium, Rose continued on his double-double binge. He canned 19 points and pulled down a whopping 25 rebounds to go along with six blocks as the Patron Regulators edged past the MailBoat Cybots 100-98, taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the Vince Ferguson divisional finals.
In the other NPBA semi-final series, the defending champions Commonwealth Bank Giants managed to bounce back against the PJ's Stingers, evening up that series at a game apiece. They won 104-93 in game two of the John Archer divisional final on Saturday night.
Regulators 100, Cybots 98
Rose was one of four Regulators who finished Saturday's game in double figures. Cruz Simon had 26 off the bench, Cordero Thompson had 21 and Carlos Thompson chipped in with 17.
Ernest Saunders finished with 22 points and six rebounds in the loss for the Cybots. Eugene Bain scored 17, Brian Bain had 13 and Lerecus Armbrister added 11.
The Regulators' work on the glass allowed them to stay ahead in the tight game. They out-rebounded the Cybots 50-44 and converted on 12-second chance points, compared to just eight for the Cybots.
The first two games in the series have been decided by a combined total of just three points, but the Regulators won both to take a commanding two games to none lead in the series.
In Friday's game, the Regulators topped the Cybots 90-89. Kenneth Pratt led the way for the Regulators with 26 points and 14 rebounds. Eugene Bain had 28 points and 11 rebounds in the loss for the Cybots.
New Providence Basketball Association
Patron Regulators 90, MailBoat Cybots 89
Regulators - Kenneth Pratt (26 points)
Regulators - Cruz Simon (21 points)
Regulators - Gamaliel Rose (15 points)
Cybots - Eugene Bain (28 points)
Cybots - Ernest Saunders (18 points)
Cybots - Lerecus Armbrister (11 points)
Regulators lead best-of-five series 1-0.
PJ's Stingers 98, Commonwealth Bank Giants 95
Stingers - Batchlette Lafleur (23 points)
Stingers - Able Joseph (15 points)
Stingers - Ian Pinder (12 points)
Giants - Michael Bain Jr. (32 points)
Giants - Kevin Hinsey (14 points)
Giants - Mark Hanna (11 points)
Stingers lead best-of-five series 1-0.
Commonwealth Bank Giants 103, PJ's Stingers 94
Giants - Michael Bain Jr. (29 points)
Giants - Kevin Hinsey (20 points)
Giants - Samuel Johnson (20 points)
Stingers - Able Joseph (24 points)
Stingers - Daniel Bullard (19 points)
Stingers - Devon Ferguson (16 points)
Best-of-five series ties 1-1.
Patron Regulators 100, MailBoat Cybots 98
Regulators - Cruz Simon (26 points)
Regulators - Cordero Thompson (21 points)
Regulators - Gamaliel Rose (19 points)
Cybots - Ernest Saunders (22 points)
Cybots - Eugene Bain (17 points)
Cybots - Angelo Lockhart (17 points)
Regulators lead best-of-five series 2-0.
Monday, March 23, 2015
7:30 p.m. - MailBoat Cybots vs. Patron Regulators
9:00 p.m. - Commonwealth Bank Giants vs. PJ's Stingers
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
7:30 p.m. - PJ's Stingers vs. Commonwealth Bank Giants
9:00 p.m. - Patron Regulators vs. MailBoat Cybots (if necessary)
Friday, March 27, 2015
7:30 p.m. - MailBoat Cybots vs. Patron Regulators (if necessary)
9:00 p.m. - Commonwealth Bank Giants vs. PJ's Stingers (if necessary)
Giants 104, Stingers 93
Michael Bain Jr. finished with 29 points to lead the Giants. Kevin Hinsey added 10 points and 10 rebounds and Mark Hanna chipped in with 20.
Able Joseph was the Stingers top scorer with 24 points. Daniel Bullard added 19 and Devon Ferguson chipped in with 16 points.
The Stingers struggled from long range, finishing just 3-for-21 from behind the three-point line. They also left a significant amount of points at the charity stripe, making just 19 out of 40 free throws in the game.
Despite forcing the Giants to commit 29 turnovers, the Stingers' poor shooting led to their demise.
The Giants managed to bounce back from Friday's 98-95 loss. Batchlette Lafleur finished that game with 23 points for the Stingers, while Bain had a game-high 32 in the loss for the Giants.
Game three in both series are slated for tonight, with the first one starting at 7:30 p.m. The Cybots and the Regulators are scheduled to play the opener, and that will be followed by the Giants and the Stingers in the feature contest.
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March 23, 2015
The Bahamas Rugby Football Union (BRFU) and Team Bahamas managed to take advantage of a pivotal game at home over the weekend, as the country knocked off regional rival Bermuda 21-15 in the North America Caribbean Rugby Association (NACRA) 15-a-side North Caribbean Qualification match on Saturday at the Winton Rugby Pitch.
With Bermuda up one, 15-14, Kevin Salabie delivered for The Bahamas, scoring on a kick to seal a 21-15 win for The Bahamas. Team Bahamas withstood several last minute attempts by Bermuda to escape with a hard earned victory. Michael Watkins was named as the game's most valuable player (MVP).
Team Bahamas managed to avenge a 2012 loss at this same stage when they hosted Bermuda. The loss, at that time, was the third consecutive for Team Bahamas, which eliminated them from the NACRA 15-a-side Championships and International Rugby Board (IRB) World Cup Qualification contention. Back then, The Bahamas fell 16-8 to Bermuda in their second game of the North Zone group. Bermuda moved on to defend its NACRA Caribbean Championship.
Following this weekend's contest against Bermuda, The Bahamas will now take on the Turks and Caicos Islands in the third match of the round-robin tournament on April 18.
The 2015 NACRA Rugby Championships, the eighth edition, is a rugby union championship for Tier 3 North American and Caribbean teams. It has been divided into two competitions and four divisions. The two competitions are the Championship League and the Cup League.
The Bahamas is in the Cup League, which features teams in north and south divisions. The North Cup League is made up of The Bahamas, Bermuda and the Turks and Caicos Islands, while the South Cup League includes the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Curacao, St. Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The winners from the Cup League will earn a chance to play their way into the Championship League by facing off against the third place side from the Championship League.
The Championship League consists of two three-team divisions with Mexico, the Cayman Islands and the American South making up the North, while Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago are in the South division.
Round-robin play began on March 7 and the competition will extend through the end of June with the champions of each division playing. Also the third place finishers of the North and South Championship League's will take on the respective champions of the Cup League to determine who will be promoted.
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March 23, 2015
By allowing Bank of The Bahamas to accept the proceeds of online gaming - especially when the other clearing banks in the jurisdiction have clearly stated that they will not accept those funds - Shadow Minister for Finance Peter Turnquest said that, in effect, the Christie administration is setting up Bank of The Bahamas to "potentially be a washing machine" or a conduit to introduce funds from online gambling into the regulated arena, which would create a series of cascading problems for The Bahamas' offshore financial center.
And it is a problem the government ought to have foreseen and planned better for, he said.
FNM East Grand Bahama MP Turnquest spoke with Guardian Business about the matter yesterday.
"[The issue is that] if the other commercial clearing banks are not accepting money from the online gaming industry, once those funds get accepted into the Bank of The Bahamas, and become commingled with the other funds from other sources in the Bank of The Bahamas, it would seem there would be an issue with the Bank of The Bahamas then being able to transfer money to the other clearing banks, or for the other clearing banks to even accept checks clearing on the Bank of The Bahamas," he said. "In effect, it would be accepting gambling funds."
"The Bank of The Bahamas cannot act - in my opinion - as an intermediary for the proceeds from online gambling if it is, in fact, the stated position of these banks that they will not accept such funds," Turnquest said.
He said he did not know how the Bank of The Bahamas and the other clearing banks intend to handle the situation, but it seems a clear problem that must be dealt with.
Last week, CIBC FirstCaribbean Managing Director Bahamas Marie Rodland-Allen confirmed that neither her institution nor any of the other Canadian banks will accept web shop money; it is a matter of Canadian bank policy, Rodland-Allen said, not to accept money from online gaming.
Earlier this year, Commonwealth Bank President Ian Jennings also confirmed that his institution will not accept the web shop money, citing the issues that doing so would pose with the corresponding bank relationships between local banks and their foreign counterparts.
While the government has passed laws that will legalize and regulate web shop gaming, until the government grants licenses to the web shops, they are operating in what Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe has admitted is a de facto amnesty period, during which time they are not technically legal.
Meanwhile, PLP Senator Jerome Gomez has suggested the possibility of creating Bahamian banks - banks which would have no corresponding relationships with other banks in other jurisdictions - to accept the web shop deposits.
"We can create local banks that don't have any international correlations. They can take Bahamian deposits; they can give Bahamian loans; they can bank with Bahamians. They don't have to send wire transfers, trade in foreign currencies and so forth. We've got to think outside the box, and that's what we're not doing," Gomez said in a Guardian Talk Radio interview recently.
Turnquest, however, dismissed this suggestion as "showing a lack of understanding".
"It isn't just a matter of the money being able to circulate within the country," he said. "Even if that were so, they would at some point still have to transact business with these international corresponding banks in order to facilitate international commerce, because most of your supply - products in particular - is coming from overseas."
"So to the extent that the customers of these so-called internally circulating domestic banks will need at some point to transact international business, there is a problem. So I don't think that is any solution at all," Turnquest said.
Pressed for his preferred solution to the problem, the Shadow Minister told Guardian Business that the question of what the web shops are to do with their proceeds in the alternative is not a question for him.
"The Bahamian people gave a very definitive decision with respect to the web shops and how they should be handled, and the government decided that they were going to proceed anyway. In the face of that, they ought to have had the solution for the questions that naturally follow, one of which is what you now do with these proceeds," he said.
"I believe that they attempted to address the situation with the (2014 Gaming Act and Regulations) - which do contain some very good compliance requirements. However, that really doesn't mean much if, in fact, the major banks are still not going to accept the source," Turnquest continued.
"So the question has to be put to the government: What is their intention? Because I would assume that having decided that they are going to go against the Bahamian people, they must have thought through the whole entire process after their consultation with the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) - which we have never gotten a public report on, by the way," he said.
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March 23, 2015
The Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) must be "privatized once and for all", according to BEC Chairman Leslie Miller, who said Bahamians should 'buy it, privatize it and start it from scratch.'
Speaking at the Rotary Club of East Nassau last week, Miller conceded that BEC in its present state is "totally out of line" in terms of its high costs and poor performance, and endorsed scrapping BEC and forming a new entity owned and managed by Bahamians.
"What needs to happen is that we need to privatize BEC once and for all but make sure Bahamians own it. We have the ability to pay for it and own it, just like Cable Bahamas. Bahamians could buy BEC today and own it and run it effectively.
"We could turn BEC around. Buy it, privatize it, and start it from scratch," Miller said.
On top of the monumental hurdle presented to any buyer due to archaic infrastructure and high sovereign debt, Miller said that the entire workforce of the corporation needed restructuring. Despite the fierce resistance that Miller anticipated from unions should BEC ever be privatized, Miller believed that the privatization process could result in electricity cost reductions ranging anywhere from 20-40 percent as the company fell in line with the performance-based models of privately owned businesses.
"The best thing for the future of BEC is to be privatized. Privatize it and you will see the difference. You will see your costs go down by a minimum of 20, 30, to 40 percent.
"We'd catch all kinds of hell from the unions but we need to do it. You can see what happened to [the Bahamas Telecommunications Company]. BTC was privatized and look what happened. There's only so much left and if keep giving and giving the bottom is going to run out," he said.
Private sector demand for a revamped energy sector surged after an island-wide blackout earlier this month resulted in temporary business closures, including notably at Atlantis' casino.
However, Miller said that the cash-strapped corporation required close to $1 billion to get "back on track" through infrastructural overhauls and payment of its sovereign debt but questioned how it would ever secure that financing in its present state. Additionally, no meaningful changes can be made at BEC until the government announces the corporation's new management partner. While some industry officials have speculated that the announcement could be made this week, the government has repeatedly delayed making a decision.
"BEC's sovereign debt right now is $450 million. To get BEC back on track you'd need to borrow a minimum of $750 million. Where's the money coming from?" he said.
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March 23, 2015
Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe has thrown his support behind Baha Mar, standing up for the $3.5 billion mega resort development, despite news that rather than opening the majority of rooms in three hotels along with amenities, as advertised, Baha Mar is now only expected to celebrate the opening of the resort village's biggest hotel - the Baha Mar Resort and Casino - along with some amenities on Friday.
The opening of the other two properties will be scheduled "shortly thereafter", but given the five-month delay from the mega resort's original opening deadline, and the state of the buildings on the Cable Beach property, it is unclear exactly what "shortly thereafter" could mean.
"Baha Mar and its team intend to create something special for The Bahamas and unique for the Caribbean. They are anxious to have the project completed. All hands are on deck to meet deadlines," he said.
"I am working with Baha Mar to bring this new reality to our tourism industry. We are about to take a giant step. That I welcome."
Wilchcombe, however, admitted that the delay was no surprise to him.
"It was very clear that Baha Mar would have a soft opening for the hotel and casino on March 27 with the grand opening of all pieces of the development scheduled for May," he told Guardian Business yesterday.
"My ministry's focus is to increase awareness, increase airlift and generally improve service quality [which is] a fundamental component to a quality product. In the interest of all, we must make Baha Mar a great success. We must ensure that the delay was worth the wait. Growth and development of the tourism industry will be significantly impacted by Baha Mar," Wilchcombe insisted.
As reported, the 100,000-square-foot casino, resort core amenities, entertainment and recreation areas - the Beach Sanctuary and TPC at Baha Mar golf course - will be open on March 27, as will the Baha Mar Casino and Hotel.
Also, public spaces at SLS LUX at Baha Mar, Rosewood at Baha Mar and Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar will be open on March 27, with hotel rooms to come online shortly after, according to Baha Mar.
"We are on track to have all additional areas open by our grand opening celebration in May," a Baha Mar spokesperson said.
The entire industry has been watching the Baha Mar development, and its impact is already being felt across sections. For instance, Tropic Ocean Airways has offered a pre-booking special aligned with the opening of Baha Mar, through which customers could reserve a flight from Miami Seaplane base to Nassau to experience Baha Mar first-hand in the month of March.
"Tropic Ocean Airways is] looking forward to the opening of Baha Mar in Nassau's Cable Beach, and are pleased to provide a convenient, reliable and exciting sea to runway travel experience for guests out of Miami aboard our new fleet of Cessna aircraft," said Tropic Ocean Airways CEO Rob Ceravolo.
It is not clear what - if any - effect the delay will have on Tropic Ocean's offer.
Even the court system, where Baha Mar and its neighbor Sandals are fighting over land, has been observing the development; Baha Mar told the court it would lose "hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses and lost revenues" and employment for thousands of Bahamians would be delayed should the resort be blocked from meeting its schedule.
However, as Guardian Business has reported, the delays are not a surprise, given the track record of the companies involved. China State Construction Engineering Company - parent company of China Construction America, the builders of the resort - has been sanctioned by the World Bank for fraud before. The specifics of the case revolve around the company's ability to bring projects in on time, and on budget.
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March 23, 2015
While he said he wants Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival to succeed, particularly considering the $9 million the government "threw behind" the festival, PLP Senator Jerome Gomez has questioned why the Christie administration would not spend $10 million or $20 million on small business entrepreneurship.
"What about helping Bahamians own businesses? We just had the last oil
company sold last year to a (Barbadian) company. Now, my colleagues tell me there are all sorts of extenuating circumstances why it had to go in that direction, but I don't believe it," Gomez said.
"The only way Bahamians are going to make money going forward - big money - is telecommunications, energy, banking and insurance. Those are the things. We have to own the economy," he added.
Gomez appeared on a Guardian Talk Radio program, and admitted that - like the other new members of the Progressive Liberal Party's Parliamentary team - he had, in 2012, imagined things going in a different direction.
"And it's not too late. We still try to fight, [but] I think we didn't get a fair piece of the pie coming in. I think more important positions should be held by a lot more of the young persons. In politics, it's not only young, but new to politics as well," he said.
Create local banks
He also touched on the controversial issue of what the web shops will do with their money, since the Canadian banks and Commonwealth Bank have all said they will not accept web shop money, while Bank of The Bahamas has said that it will.
Gomez suggested the possibility of creating Bahamian banks - banks which would have no corresponding relationships with other banks in other jurisdictions - to accept the web shop deposits.
"We can create local banks that don't have any international correlations. They can take Bahamian deposits; they can give Bahamian loans; they can bank with Bahamians. They don't have to send wire transfers, trade in foreign currencies and so forth. We've got to think outside the box, and that's what we're not doing," he said.
"We're losing an opportunity for educated Bahamians who have gone abroad to train to own this economy," Gomez said.
Gomez, who was part of the initial founding of what has become the Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund, also took his own government to task over its lack of support for local entrepreneurs.
"Foreigners come to this country all the time, start some development, fail and move on. And these developments get sold back and forth, and some never come to fruition. Take the Ginn project in Grand Bahama [for example]. But the first Bahamian business that goes under, that's funded by the government, we condemn all small businesses and therefore we don't want to help anybody. We have to move away from that attitude," Gomez said.
"Some businesses will succeed, and some will fail, but we have to give Bahamians a fair chance to own this economy. And that's where we're failing, you know. Bahamians are not owning this economy, and the government - I must say - is not making the opportunities available for Bahamians to own this economy," the senator asserted.
Gomez also noted that Prime Minister Perry Christie has asserted that Bahamians will own 51 percent of the new company that wins the second mobile license due to be granted before summer 2015.
"Will that happen? Will it happen? We have to be serious that it happens on day one," he said.
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