Nassau Guardian Stories
March 03, 2014
The debate is raging. Since the announcement by Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF) President Charlie 'Softly' Robins, in January, that the process had been started to select the '40 Greatest' players from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the topic has gotten hot.
In New Providence, the major plank for Bahamian basketball since its inception, many discussions are taking place. The '40 Greatest' idea has given much more significance to the federation which has been upstaged heavily in recent years by high school and independent tournaments.
Grand Bahama did not become a noted basketball island until during the 1970s. The interest there, nevertheless, is just as heavy as it is in the capital island. I was in West End recently, and saw James 'Goon' Culmer, one of the great Grand Bahamian players. He is excited.
Earlier, when the news of the '40 Greatest' project began to spread, Denzal 'Inch McGuire' Swain contacted me and emphasized the intent of Grand Bahama to not be left out" of the mix. Swain took the time to network with others from the Grand Bahamian basketball fraternity, and submitted a large list to the BBF for consideration.
His list included several players from Abaco. The resurfacing of the BBF because of the '40 Greatest' project has led to Swain expanding his effort. A former top basketball statistician, Swain, in conjunction with several of his fraternity colleagues who are feeling the spirit, has put together the '40 Greatest' of Grand Bahama.
Here's the list: 1. Dereck 'Bookie' Nesbitt, 2. Basil 'The Kid' Sands, 3. Charles 'Softly' Robins, 4. Stanley 'Wizard' Williams, 5. James 'Goon' Culmer, 6. David 'Stretch' Morley, 7. Bradley 'Shy' Evans, 8. Humphrey 'Cripples' Smith, 9. Philip Jones, 10. Mario 'Ice' Green, 11. Anthony 'Dunkin' Hines, 12. Ritchie 'Coupier' Adderley, 13. Kenneth 'Sir K' Smith, 14. Dereck 'Fire' Cummings, 15. Carter 'Sky Scraper' Lightbourne, 16. Ben 'Smooth' Russell, 17. Gary 'Ragon' McIntosh, 18. Keith '7 Footer' Mullings, 19. Jerry 'Super J' Johnson, 20. Julius 'Doc' Lewis, 21. Scott 'Scottie' Forbes, 22. Leon 'Lukie' Stuart, 23. Oral 'Big O' Jones, 24. Dirk 'DT' Tynes, 25. Steven 'Visine' Rolle, 26. Milton Russell, 27. Jeff 'Cheese' Pinder, 28. Hilton 'B-Bay' Davis, 29. Paul 'Pablo' Rose, 30. Simon 'Hondo' Lewis, 31. Austin 'AG' Grant, 32. Drexel 'Sexy' Porter, 33. Clifton
Martin, 34. Keithlyn 'Smooth' Russell, 35. Dion 'Redman' Pinder, 36. Gilbert 'Showboat' Rolle, 37. George Saunders, 38. Philip Williams, 39. Anton 'Backboard' McKenzie 40. Fletcher Lewis.
Those are the greats from Grand Bahama, according to Swain and company. Now, we await the BBF's process, the countdown to the '40 Greatest' in history.
The excitement grows!
(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at email@example.com)
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March 03, 2014
Once again, Bahamian collegiate athletes had strong outings in their respective track and field meets.
Grand Bahamian Raymond Higgs won his second conference title in the past three years, as he soared 7.83 meters (m) - 25' 8-1/4" - at the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Indoor Championships, over at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium in College Station, Texas. The Arkansas Razorbacks senior recorded the distance on his final attempt at the board. His teammate, Arkansas sophomore Jarrion Lawson, was second with a best leap of 7.77m (25' 6"), and Alabama senior Kamal Fuller rounded out the top three with a distance of 7.53m (24' 8-1/2").
Higgs wasn't done yet, as he added a seventh place finish in the men's triple jump, with a best distance of 15.34m (50' 4"). Bahamian Trae Carey, a freshman at Arkansas, failed to record a mark in that competition as he fouled all three of his attempts.
At those same championships, which was hosted by Texas A&M University, Andros native Tamara Myers won a silver medal in the women's long jump, and added a sixth place finish in the women's triple. In the long jump, the Arkansas junior soared 6.28m (20' 7-1/4"), to finish second behind Mississippi State's senior Rochelle Farquharson, who had a best leap of 6.42m (21' 0-3/4"). Georgia's sophomore Chanice Porter finished third, with a best leap of 6.24m (20' 5-3/4").
In the triple jump, Myers leapt 12.89m (42' 3-1/2") to finish sixth.
The next highest individual finisher for The Bahamas at those indoor championships was Shavez Hart in the men's 200m. Running on his home collegiate track in College Station, the Texas A&M junior sprinter ran a blazing 20.66 seconds for third place behind the University of Florida duo of Arman Hall and Dedric Dukes. Hall, the sophomore, ran 20.59 seconds, and Dukes, the junior, was second, in 20.61 seconds. The 20.66 seconds time for Hart was a personal best for him. He ran 20.82 seconds in the heats.
Hart added a fifth place finish in the men's 60m, sprinting to the finish line in 6.69 seconds. He ran 6.68 seconds in the heats.
He did win gold however, as a member of Texas A&M's 4x400m relay team. The squad of Hart, Aldrich Bailey Jr., Carlyle Roudette and Deon Lendore, in that order, ran 3:03.20 for the gold medal. Florida was second, in 3:03.50, and Louisiana State University (LSU) rounded out the top three, in 3:04.04.
Also at those championships, Auburn senior V'Alonee Robinson finished eighth in the women's 60m, in 7.46 seconds. She ran 7.33 seconds in the heats. Robinson was 13th overall in the 60m hurdles, in 8.48 seconds. Teray Smith, an Auburn freshman, was 11th overall in the men's 200m, in 21.22 seconds, and Rashan Brown, a redshirt freshman at the University of Georgia, was 12th overall in the women's 400m, in 53.97 seconds.
At the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Indoor Championships at the Dempsey Indoor Arena in Seattle, Washington, Tynia Gaither was second in the women's 60m, in 7.39 seconds. She ran 7.38 seconds in the heats. Gaither's teammate at the University of Southern California (USC), senior runner Jessica Davis, won that event, in 7.34 seconds. Gaither, a junior, was second, and Arizona State's senior Asiah Gooden finished third, in 7.44 seconds.
Davis and Gaither also went 1-2 in the 200m, finishing in times of 23.51 and 23.86 seconds respectively. Arizona State's freshman LaTroya Franklin finished third, in 24.06 seconds.
At the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships in Blacksburg, Virginia, Campbell University senior Marcus Thompson had a pair of fourth place finishes.
He finished fourth in the men's 60m, in 6.89 seconds after qualifying in a personal best time of 6.87, and was also fourth in the men's 200m, in 21.64 seconds, after qualifying in 21.90. He was also a part of Campbell's men's 4x400m relay team which was sixth overall, in 3:25.76.
Andriel Strachan, a freshman at Campbell, also took part in those championships. She was fifth in the pentathlon with 3,099 points, and finished sixth in the women's high jump, with a best leap of 1.62m (5' 3-3/4").
At the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Clemson-Indoor Track Facility in Clemson, South Carolina, Florida State senior Alonzo Russell was ninth overall in the men's 400m, in 48.49 seconds, but did win a bronze medal as a part of the Seminoles men's 4x400m relay squad. The team of Russell, Dentarius Locke, Michael Cherry and James Harris, finished third, in 3:14.04. Pittsburgh won the gold, in 3:10.12, and the University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels settled for the silver, in 3:10.28.
Bahamians also competed in the Big 10 Indoor Championships in Geneva, Ohio, this past weekend.
Purdue outstanding freshman Devynne Charlton ran two personal best times in the women's 60m, settling for a time of 7.52 seconds in the final, for an eighth place finish. She qualified in 7.56 seconds.
Charlton's highest individual finish was a fifth place finish in the women's 60m hurdles, as she crossed the finish line in 8.36 seconds. She ran 8.39 seconds in the heats. Charlton wasn't done yet as she also ran the 200m. She didn't advance to the final in that event, but was 13th overall, in a big personal best time of 24.53 seconds. That stunning time was more than half of a second faster than her previous personal best time.
Also at the Big 10 Championships, Minnesota senior Te'Shon Adderley was 25th overall in the women's 800m in 2:18.61, and Penn State freshman Dannielle Gibson was 26th overall in the women's long jump with a distance of 5.35m (17' 6-3/4").
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March 03, 2014
InterEnergy, a company seeking a contract for power generation under the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) reform process, has stated that it has "no existing or past agreements" with any Bahamian entity, but is open to Bahamian partnerships should it get the opportunity to do business here.
InterEnergy was commenting after FOCOL Holding's largest shareholder, Franklyn Wilson, said that FOCOL had been invited by InterEnergy to partner with them in an equity arrangement should they win the BEC bid.
InterEnergy said that contrary to "speculation" it does not have "any Bahamian participation in its shareholders group, and has no existing or past agreements with any Bahamian entity for businesses anywhere in our investment region".
However, InterEnergy said it does value local knowledge and is happy to work with partners who can add value to its businesses and investments.
Wilson had previously
stated in an interview with Guardian Business that FOCOL was approached about a partnership with InterEnergy but whether this would happen remained "theory" until it was known if InterEnergy had won the bidding process. His comments caused opposition spokesperson for finance, Peter Turnquest, to argue that because of Wilson's close relationship with the government it must do more to demonstrate that the BEC reform process is "fair and open."
In a statement in which it promoted itself as a potential partner in the BEC process, InterEnergy said it is "serious and experienced" and not the "private equity predator" or "new kid on the block" that some sources speaking with Guardian Business have claimed it may be, based on its formation in 2011 on a foundation of private equity.
InterEnergy has described itself as a world-class company focused on delivering the most cost-effective and reliable electricity to end-users in order to promote growth in the markets they operate in.
The company said that its operations in the Dominican Republic make it "very knowledgeable of island systems and dealing with tourism-based economies."
InterEnergy is the first of the companies involved in the BEC reform process to speak openly about their background and experience and what makes them appropriate to participate in the Bahamian energy sector.
Officially each of the companies involved in the process is required to remain silent on the process itself and their involvement in it.
However, InterEnergy sent a statement to this newspaper, following comments from Wilson in which this newspaper was told InterEnergy is seeking a partnership with FOCOL should it win the BEC bid.
Wilson's comments came at around the same time as it came to light that InterEnergy CEO Rolando Bunster Gonzalez, along with other power company executives in the Dominican Republic, is the subject of an outstanding legal complaint in that country.
InterEnergy, in further follow-up comments to this newspaper, said that the complaint never led to a charge, and that the individual who filed the complaint "had no authority to initiate criminal proceedings."
In the meantime, InterEnergy has continued to grow in its involvement in the DR's energy sector.
It also obtained the support of the International Finance Corporation (IFC)
Highlighting their relationship with the IFC, which became involved with InterEnergy via a $100 million equity investment in 2013, and the AIC Caribbean Fund, InterEnergy said that the "rigor and scrutiny of the IFC due diligence process is unlike any other our team has gone through."
"We are very proud to have obtained their investment and to have them as co-owners of our business today," it added.
In an emailed response to Guardian Business regarding the allegations made against Bunster in the Dominican Republic, the IFC's spokesperson, Adriana Gomez, said that the IFC was aware of the complaints filed by FONPER against shareholders and executives of EGE-HAINA and other companies and individuals in the Dominican Republic, which were discussed in the local press at the time of
IFC's appraisal of its investment in IEH.
"On the basis of IFC's thorough due diligence process, we decided to move ahead with the financing. We understand EGE-HAINA has issued public statements to express its position and Haina Investment Corporation has initiated recourse to an international arbitration against FONPER," said Gomez.
On the subject of its experience in the energy sector, InterEnergy emphasized that it was founded in 2011 "after a series of transactions executed by its predecessor, Basic Energy Ltd. which traces its origins back to the late 1980's."
"The great majority of our executives...were directly or indirectly involved with Basic, accumulating over two decades of experience."
Basic had investments in Jamaica, as controlling shareholders in Jamaica Energy Partners, and Panama, as the largest shareholders of Pedregal Power Company. "InterEnergy's current team was involved in all those transactions and provided management oversight for those businesses," it added.
Executives and operations staff also have professional sector-based experience in countries including Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
The companies in InterEnergy's portfolio today operate over 1,300 MW of installed capacity.
"We have enormous experience in acquiring, developing, managing and refurbishing thermal generation systems and have a very deep bench of staff who are highly experienced in all possible generation technologies," said the company.
It described itself as a pioneer in the field of renewable energy, with 77 megawatts of wind turbines and plans to enter the solar business via a 10 megawatt system.
Preferred bidders in the BEC reform process are set to be selected by mid-March, with negotiations then set to take place to determine the terms on which these companies will take over BEC's generation and transmission and distribution functions.
In an interview last week, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works, Philip Davis, said it is possible the government could - if not satisfied with any of the bidders - fall back on reforming BEC alone. Executive Chairman of BEC, Leslie Miller, has come out against bringing in foreign companies to help bring efficiencies to the corporation.
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March 03, 2014
Malaysia-based conglomerate Genting has reported an 80.5 percent drop in its net profits in the fourth quarter, citing losses in part due to start up costs and "operational challenges" in its Resorts World Bimini operation (RWB) on Bimini.
However, the company has promised in its latest filings that it "remains committed on stabilizing operations there".
"In the United States of America and The Bahamas, higher revenue was attributed to higher volume of business from the operations of Resorts World Casino New York City (RWNYC), and contribution from Resorts World Bimini (RWB) in The Bahamas upon the commencement of its operations on 28 June 2013," the company said.
"However, the leisure and hospitality segment in the U.S. and The Bahamas suffered an adjusted loss on earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) due to the loss suffered by the Bimini operations as a
result of operational challenges associated with the start-up of its operations, partially reduced by higher EBITDA from RWNYC operations."
While revenue was up in the fourth quarter of 2013 over the same period in the previous year for Genting's US and Bahamas operations, from $203 million Malaysian ringgits to R$237 million, profit before tax slipped from R$49.8 million to a loss of R$21.2 million, offset only slightly by profits in Genting's Resorts World New York operations.
For the fiscal year overall, profits were up slightly for its US and Bahamas operations, from R$173.2 million to R$185.8 million.
The outcome contributed to an overall fall of profits for the conglomerate for the period to $1 billion, as opposed to $2.969 billion in the same period last year. Genting's business ranges from leisure and hospitality to energy to oil palm plantations.
Reuters news agency said that the sharp drop also partly reflected an inflated figure a year earlier due to profits from the sale of two power plants. Profits were also down significantly in its Singapore gaming operations.
Their latest results came out on Thursday, the same day as the Bimini Blue Coalition welcomed news that their judicial challenge of the RWB's efforts to construct a ferry terminal to which their Bimini Superfast ferry can dock at Bimini will get a second chance.
The Bimini Blue Coalition had been seeking a judicial review of the legality of work to construct the ferry terminal in Bimini, along with an injunction to stop the work until this was determined, but had seen their efforts brought to a halt in December 2013 when Justice Hartman Longley called upon the group to put up $650,000 in security for costs in advance, in case they lost the matter.
Longley had called last December for the group to put up the funds by Friday February 28th, or face an automatic dismissal of their case.
On Thursday, the Court of Appeal gave the Bimini Blue Coalition an extension of time to appeal the decision of Justice Longley after the group failed to do so within the initial 14 day window. The appellate court also stayed an order of Longley's from February 14th which had mandated that unless the group paid the security for costs by Friday, they would see their judicial review action completely dismissed.
The Bimini Blue Coalition's appeal against the security for costs order will now be heard on March 25th. In filings in November 2013 to support its judicial review application the Bimini Blue Coalition told the court that the "threat to Bimini's future is substantial" from the construction of the ferry terminal and an accompanying 4.5 acre man-made island off the coast of Bimini.
Responding to the ruling on Thursday, Michelle Malcolm, director of public affairs for Resorts World Bimini, said: "Resorts World Bimini respects the position of the Court of Appeals and will provide all materials requested as we have in the past. We have always followed the proper procedures to seek approvals and will continue to work with the Bahamian Government to do so in the future."
The Bimini Blue Coalition's efforts to stop the terminal were not the major issue affecting the profitability of Resort's World Bimini's operations, however.
A legal challenge in the US courts against the company's night cruises, which stopped the company being able to use its Bimini Superfast vessel to offer night "cruises to nowhere" which allowed passengers to gamble offshore. The cruises complimented its day time trips, and in filings in the court case in which the US Customs and Border Patrol claim they violated the law because the crew were non-US, it said that without them its Bimini operations would be placed "in peril" as the night cruises were generating key revenue, while its Bimini operations went through the start up phase.
In late January, Genting lost an appeal against the court's ruling which stopped the trips.
Genting's response: "We respectfully disagree with the ruling and are evaluating all options, including appeal. This decision does not impact our ability to conduct day cruises, which will continue without interruption."
Resorts World Bimini is currently in the process of investing $150 million into Bimini, as part of a plan which will include a 350 room marina hotel and 50 villas. It has also been involved in an effort to obtain one of the contracts available under the Bahamas Electricity Reform process in recent months, although the current status of its bid is unclear.
At the same time, Genting has become a major player in the Miami development market, and is progressing with a mixed-use development plan at the former Miami Herald site. When it initially purchased the property it had announced plans to launch a large casino in downtown Miami on the site. However, these plans have since become less popular with Miami authorities.
Genting announced on January 9th that it hopes to use a Broward racetrack's second, dormant casino license to open a 2,000 machine slots parlor in a building known as the Omni Complex off Biscayne Boulevard. Genting paid more than $420 million for this property, along with the former Miami Herald building, in 2011. It is unclear how the establishment of more gaming facilities by Genting in Miami could impact demand for its Bimini casino and Bimini Superfast ferry service.
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March 03, 2014
The Department of Customs is investigating the status of a newly-launched operation in downtown Nassau alleged to be importing bulk aggregate, causing concern about the re-emergence of heavy trucks on Bay Street and raising questions about whether or not the company is paying the required taxes.
Acting Comptroller of Customs William Poitier said that his department has been looking into the operation for the past week to determine whether or not it is in fact operating in accordance with the law, which requires companies importing bulk aggregate from Freeport, or outside The Bahamas, to pay tax per ton of material imported.
While this information has yet to be fully confirmed, Poitier and others said they have been informed that the material was coming in from Freeport and the relevant taxes are not at present being paid.
"Once aggregate leaves Freeport into other areas it becomes dutiable and taxable," he said.
Guardian Business has been informed of the name of the company, but it is not listed and efforts to track down its owners/operators were not successful up to press time, therefore it will not disclose the company's identity at this time.
A source in the shipping industry, speaking on condition of anonymity last week, said that as far as he is concerned, it makes no sense to allow the operation to go on in the downtown area.
"A lot of effort, time, energy and money went into getting the heavy shipping industry off Bay Street, and today there is a sand operation which has sprung up on John Alfred dock and the barges are now coming in along the water front on Bay Street, discharging sand and aggregate, and there are dump trucks which are coming in and moving the stuff along.
"The other part is to do with taxes. That operation, as I understand, they have a ship in from Freeport with Freeport aggregate on board and the operator is not being made to pay road tax, whereas any other operator who comes into the Nassau Container Port has to pay those taxes. So we have this issues with VAT and the government needing to collect revenues, and then you have something going on Bay Street that is not in the interest of downtown or revenues," said the source.
Another source connected with the bulk aggregate industry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that he, too, had been told that the operation is bringing in aggregate from Freeport and may not be paying the requisite taxes, putting others at a competitive disadvantage, and losing revenue for the government.
"It's not fair, you go and put in a nice port for this to make sure government collects the revenue and now you have people coming in (allegedly) without paying road tax," he said.
Several individuals this newspaper spoke with mentioned that evidence of the operation had been seen lately in the form of spills of sands and aggregate material along the roadway.
A downtown stakeholder, speaking on condition of anonymity, was less disturbed by the situation.
He said that his understanding was that the operation had been granted a temporary permit in order to break the "monopoly" that he said currently exists on bulk aggregate at the port, adding that he is not overly concerned about the new company re-launching a business which requires the use of heavy trucks in the downtown area.
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March 03, 2014
An investment of millions of dollars by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) into its private island, Great Stirrup Cay, has created employment opportunities for Bahamians and increased the nation's capacity to accommodate NCL's mega ships, NCL Captain Tommy Stensrud said Friday.
Stensrud made his comments as tourism officials welcomed more than 3,000 passengers on the NCL's cruise ship Norwegian Getaway when it made its maiden voyage to Nassau.
And Guardian Business understands those numbers will increase in the coming weeks with the start of the Spring Break season. Getaway's maiden voyage comes four months after its sister ship, the Breakaway,
made its voyage to Nassau, bringing nearly 4,000 passengers.
On Friday, officials from the Ministry of Tourism, along with NCL executives and other dignitaries participated in a plaque exchange ceremony, followed by a extensive tour of the mega ship.
During his remarks, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism Harrison Thompson said the decision to bring its latest addition to the cruise line speaks to the strong relationship between The Bahamas and NCL, one that dates back to more than 30 years.
"Indeed from where I sit, the future of cruise tourism in The Bahamas is very bright. So in the years to come, we look forward to a sustainable relationship with NCL because this wonderful partnership continues to grow from strength from strength," he explained.
The Getaway, which is 325 meters long and approximately four meters wide in size, is expected to make weekly calls on the Port of Nassau on Fridays. It will start and end in Miami with stops in the Eastern Caribbean to places like St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Nassau over the course of seven days.
In addition to its fleet, 50 Bahamians are now employed at NCL's private island.
"NCL has been coming to The Bahamas since the 60s. We got the private island Great Stirrup Cay, in the Berry Islands back in 1976. With the shore excursion tours possibilities, we are very happy to be in The Bahamas," Stensrud shared with Guardian Business.
"We're in the last phase of expansion for Great Stirrup Cay where we have spent millions of dollars to develop and increase the capacity for our mega ships when they are coming in. It's a huge change for the island in terms of structure and brings employment opportunities.
"We are following the freestyle product, something that we have been developing over the years within the Norwegian Cruise Lines brand."
Norwegian Getaway is Miami's ultimate ship and embodies the essence of her tropical hometown with hull artwork by Miami's own David "LEBO" Le Batard, which features a whimsical mermaid holding the sun above the waves. It features the Grammy experience at sea with live performances by past Grammy award winners, along with artifacts. The Norwegian Getaway has 21 restaurants and bars and dance productions. On three decks, there is a multiplex of dining and activities, including a sporting complex with five water slides and two swimming pools.
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March 03, 2014
Lance Knowles and George Mosko, the two young Bahamians whose unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) photography and cinematography business has skyrocketed since its launch just over one year ago, today said they will seek government's consideration of regulating the rapidly expanding drone industry.
Knowles' and Mosko's company, Sky High Media LTD, has employed highly sophisticated camera platforms mounted on multi-rotor UAVs to do work for government agencies, security, major resorts, real estate developments, on movie sets and more.
They have just wrapped shoots in Florida for Busch Gardens and Sea World, and are leaving this week for a shoot in Grand Cayman.
But while they are taking the business of unmanned aerial cinematography to new heights, they worry that an unregulated atmosphere could lead to an explosion in the popularity of drones with hobbyists failing to recognize or honor rules of the airways.
"It may sound strange to ask for regulations where none exist," said Mosko. "But for us, this is very serious business. We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment. Nowadays, you can buy a drone off the shelf at a hobby store for less than $1,000, so you can imagine the chaos that could erupt in the skies if the quickly evolving industry is not regulated."
So serious are the founders of Sky High Media that they secured the counsel of Llewellyn Boyer-Cartwright before they started their business to ensure they complied with all local general aviation laws. Now they want to pursue further legislation specific to drones to make sure the public has a clear set of rules governing their use, on all topics from privacy to safety.
"The UAV, or drone technology, is changing so fast that governments are scrambling to keep up with it," he said. "Canada and Australia already have legislation and regulations and I suspect we will see a lot more activity by other governments in the very near future. A few days ago the Associated Press issued a story about the United Arab Emirates experimenting with drones delivering government documents.
"Over the holidays we heard Amazon President Jeff Bezos predict the company would one day deliver packages by drone. While that may be a bit far-fetched for now, the mere mention of it shows that unmanned aerial delivery systems, whatever term you use for them, are going to play an increasingly important role in the future. I would like for the government to review and consider this expanding area of aviation and establish rules and regulations, or at least guidelines, as a matter of safety."
For Sky High Media Ltd, drone cinematography requires technical knowledge, technique and respect. Although they build the machines in Mosko's bachelor kitchen, one completed drone can cost up to $35,000. Once a platform is completed, it is put to several tests, including flight and stress tests, deliberately overloading it to test its mettle. "Knowing what you are doing takes a lot more than buying one off the shelf," says Mosko. "The precautions we take are 10 times what the civilian does to prepare."
Though the company is new, both men are experienced in photography and in flight. Mosko's first experiment with remote control was more than 25 years ago. "It went from cars, to trucks, to planes and now photography," he says. Not surprising for someone who's other hobby was photography. Knowles took a more roundabout route to unmanned aerial videography, working in a variety of fields, but all with intense responsibility requirements and his familiarity with equipment from cars, to boats, to cameras is extensive. When Sky High is on a shoot, it's Knowles who is on the ground controlling the drone in the sky, while Mosko controls the camera movements. They are both equipped with long range wireless controllers that also receive wireless video transmissions from the drone and camera system.
With long range control systems, they can operate the drone over 1,500 feet away.
"These men are out there every day and they have reason to be concerned about non-professionals failing to recognize air space," said Boyer-Cartwright, "but if there are no rules, then it could become a free-for-all without regard for safety. And this is something that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later, because you can't say drones are coming; they're here."
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March 03, 2014
MasterCard has partnered with the Ministry of Tourism to become the official card of the Bahamas, as part of the company's commitment to enhance the experience of cardholders visiting the country.
The announcement was made during an exclusive cocktail event for participating merchants, tourism industry influencers and media at John Watling's Distillery at Buena Vista Estate. The initiative is part of MasterCard's plan to expand its Priceless Bahamas destinations program and amplify its reach among international tourists.
"By becoming the official card, MasterCard will be more involved in the tourism industry and initiatives lead by the Ministry of Tourism throughout 2014," highlighted Lorena Holguin, vice-president of marketing for MasterCard in the Caribbean.
"We are thrilled with the success of Priceless Bahamas, and are excited to have evolved the program into something much greater," Holguin highlighted.
The announcement was particularly meaningful for the MasterCard team as well, as it is timed with the 40th anniversary of the Bahamas.
MasterCard Caribbean team executives joined with the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism officials at an event announcing MasterCard as the official card of The Bahamas.
In addition to relaunching the program in Nassau and Paradise Island in 2014, MasterCard is also expanding it to Grand Bahamas with 15 new merchants. As a result, cardholders will now be able to enjoy offers and discounts at more than 85 participating merchants, which is more than twice the number of merchants that the program had when it was launched in 2008.
Returning major retailers include John Bull, Carlo Milano, Columbian Emeralds and Diamonds International.
"This outstanding program again highlights that there is tremendous value in a Bahamas vacation. MasterCard's special offers and discounts amount to exceptional added value. When this is combined with the increasingly elevated customer service given by our warm and inviting residents, it is obvious that the overall experience is simply priceless," stated Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe.
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March 03, 2014
St. Andrew's School has been ordered by the Court of Appeal to pay over $26,000 to a former employee after it lost an appeal against a ruling by the Industrial Tribunal.
The private school on the eastern side of New Providence made Margo Albury redundant in August 2009 after advising employees several months earlier that it would be cutting back on non-faculty staff in order to remain solvent in the face of financial challenges.
Albury had been employed as a personal assistant to the principal at the school for 11 years under a series of fixed term contracts. In January of 2009 she had let the school know that she would wish to renew her contract, as per custom at the school.
She launched proceedings before the Industrial Tribunal in November 2009 after her former employer refused to pay her compensation after making her job redundant seven months later.
St. Andrew's took the position that no compensation was owed.
In a letter to Albury dated June 2009,the chairman of St. Andrew's School told her that severance pay "does not arise" in her case as she was employed on a fixed term contract, and had been advised in January that she would be terminated in August.
The Court of Appeal did not agree, instead largely siding with the Tribunal's original ruling.
In its judgment on the matter, the Court of Appeal had said that the key issues to be determined were whether Albury could be deemed to have been "continuously employed" by the school, and if she was entitled to redundancy pay.
Critically, the Industrial Tribunal had ruled in 2013 that notwithstanding the fact that Albury was employed under six "so-called individual and successive fixed term contracts" she was "employed under a global contract of employment" and therefore could have been considered "continously employed".
It also found that the way in which she lost her job fell under the definition of redundancy.
The Court of Appeal agreed with the tribunal on this and all but one other major point - the amount to be awarded to Albury.
The tribunal had found that she was owed just over $28,466.98, with interest to be payable at a rate of ten percent per annum, from February 20th 2013 until the payment is made. This would mean that to date almost $2,500 in interest would be payable in addition to the initial award.
The court adjusted the size of the award by deducting a portion given that Albury was in fact given seven months' notice by her employer. This left the total award at $26,094.073, with interest at ten per cent.
St. Andrew's, in its appeal to the court, claimed that the tribunal had erred in law when it determined Albury had been employed continuously for 11 years, had been made redundant as claimed, and added that even if she was, she had received the "requisite notice".
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March 03, 2014
The Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) maintains that the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) is "very committed" to Freeport, despite claims that the shipping giant had plans to pull its back office operations from Freeport over dissatisfaction with new customs fees imposed last year.
Given the "right" conditions, GBPA's Vice Chairman Sarah St. George said the company would look to double the volume of business they're already bringing in to Freeport Container Port.
"And that's what phase five of the expansion is all about. It's creating that extra capacity and I think you'll find them right there because it wouldn't happen if they weren't willing to use it straight away," she told Guardian Business.
Her comments come as the Freeport Container Port (FCP) plans to go ahead with a $300 million plus expansion of its facilities this year. Phase five is expected to include two additional cranes, while phase six could include up to six more, adding to the 10 cranes already on site.
The Freeport Container Port, in conjunction with MSC, its biggest customer, and other clients, is financing the expansion.
"They are very committed to Freeport, the port of Freeport. In fact, they are very keen to continue to be the main client," according to St. George.
"I think they have a million or so containers that are going to other jurisdictions right now, and that could change and be brought here if we had the right capacity. So they're quite willing, given the right conditions, to double the volume that they are already bringing in.
"Freeport is already a shipping hub. Freeport's time is now because we have the dedication, infrastructure and the world's leading port operator and builder. Success is when opportunity meets preparation. The shipping business is shaping up to be something you've never seen before."
Late last month GBPA President Ian Rolle expressed confidence to Guardian Business that MSC will not pull back its back office operations out of Freeport, suggesting the port authority and the government will work with the shipping giant to mitigate any concerns. At the time, he said he had received no indications of the plans by MSC to leave Freeport, but admitted having conversations with the company relating to concerns about the impact of additional customs fees imposed last year.
MSC is not only the Freeport Container Port's largest client, but also maintains back office operations on Grand Bahama.
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March 03, 2014
The Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) has won a second industry title, earning the 2014 Routes Marketing Award for Airport Under four million Passengers.
The ceremony took place at the annual Routes Americas air service development forum in San Salvador, El Salvador.
Vernice Walkine, president & CEO of Nassau Airport Development Company (NAD), was on hand to accept the award. "I am delighted that LPIA is the 2014 category winner for air service development and marketing. Having received 'honourable mention' last year, we are truly pleased to have been recognized in this way by the airlines, who nominate and select the winners in each category."
LPIA beat out Hato International (Curacao), Akron Canton, Charleston International, Juana Azurduy de Padilla International and Sangster International Airports for the title. Other award categories included 4-20 million passengers and over 20 million passengers.
The win comes on the heels of LPIA being named ACI Worldwide's Air Service Quality (ASQ) "Most Improved" Airport in Latin America and the Caribbean region. "The entire airport community should be proud of our achievements and motivated to continue to provide high standards of performance to our passengers," noted Walkine.
Routes/UBM Ltd. organizes world-renowned airline and airport networking events through its regional and global Route Development Forums. Each year, there is one global event and one regional event in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Americas and CIS respectively.
NAD hosted the Routes Americas Forum on Paradise Island in 2012.
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March 03, 2014
As part of an effort to spur greater knowledge of investment, the Bahamas International Securities Exchange (BISX) spent the afternoon of Monday, 17 February, 2014 with the Grade 12 economics and commerce classes at the R. M. Bailey Senior High School.
Speaking to the students was BISX Chief Executive Officer Keith Davies, and BISX Acting Chief Operating Officer Holland Grant. A small group session allowed students interested in economics and commerce to directly question senior exchange officials.
Davies commented on the visit: "Firstly I would like to thank Ms. Moree, R.M. Bailey's commerce teacher for having contacted BISX to arrange the session. As a society we owe so much to all of the teachers that go the extra mile for our young people, and so it was our pleasure to assist them in their efforts."
During the session, the BISX executives spoke about the exchange as well as stocks, bonds and other financial instruments, but also took time to speak about their educational and professional experience. During the session, Davies also took time to educate the students on the traits that employers look for in employees.
He said: "I enjoy talking about the stock exchange, but beyond that, this is one of those rare opportunities that high school students get to speak with senior executives informally about the working world. I think that I was able to impart some advice that will be invaluable to these students in the future"
Speaking about the session, BISX Acting Chief Operating Officer Holland Grant noted: "This was a bit of a homecoming for both myself and Keith. I spent many afternoons on the campus of R.M. Bailey while in the Technical Cadet Corps Program, and it was through this program that I received a scholarship to attend The College of The Bahamas. Keith spent many Saturdays, playing soccer on R.M. Bailey's playing field, so there is also an emotional element to a talk like this. My hope is that some of the advice that we imparted assists these students in their future educational and professional pursuits."
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March 03, 2014
The world's largest and most revolutionary cruise ship has docked at the Grand Bahama Shipyard for repair work on propulsion motors.
The work on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line's (RCCL) "Allure of the Seas" will continue on an around-the-clock basis for the expected seven day's stay at the yard.
"To perform this technically challenging work in such a timeframe involves detailed planning and teamwork from the owners, the propulsion motor manufacturers and the yard," stated Carl Gustaf Rotkirch, chairman and CEO at the yard.
"The facilities and skills we have readily available here in Freeport continually rise to the challenges posed by our customers. This type of docking has never been performed at any yard in the world; by successfully undertaking this project, we have once again proved we are a world leader.
"RCCL are a valued and repeat customer, with whom we have a very special bond, and their confidence that the yard can deliver such projects will resonate around the shipping industry," concluded Rotkirch.
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March 03, 2014
Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty has launched a concierge and property management division, making it a full service real estate company.
Mike Lightbourn, president of Coldwell Banker Lightbourn Realty, said the new division is in keeping with his company's projected growth plan.
The new service covers vacation rentals, property staging, coordinating general home maintenance, repairs and renovations, concierge relocation services, bill payment and custom tailored management packages.
Owen Shephard, with a background in real estate and construction, heads the new division.
Shephard said the company provides a "truly turnkey" service and takes the hassle out of relocation, home ownership, sales and rentals.
Relocation services also cover helping expats with the school enrolment process for their children, or application for membership into clubs and marinas.
The home staging aspect concentrates on making properties appealing to the highest number of prospects with the goal of selling homes faster and maximizing profits.
Mike Lightbourn Real Estate became affiliated with the giant U.S. based real estate franchise, Coldwell Banker, in 1999, operating from rented premises on Bay Street.
Today it is headquartered on East Shirley Street, two doors away from the Bahamas Real Estate Association.
The business has grown steadily and now has offices in Abaco, Exuma and Long Island, and agents in Andros, the Berry Islands, Bimini and Eleuthera, including Spanish Wells and Harbour Island.
The Coldwell Banker network covers about 3,000 offices worldwide.
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March 03, 2014
Government has launched a full month of public education on the impending implementation of value-added tax (VAT) .
Eight meetings have been scheduled beginning last week on Friday, February 28, in conjunction with the Exuma Chamber of Commerce and ending on March 13 at the Church of God of Prophecy, East Street, Nassau.
Presentations will also be made at Wesley Methodist Church, Baillou Hill Road on March 1 at 10 a.m.; Bahamas Faith Ministries on Saturday, March 1 from 9 - 11 a.m. and again at 12:45 p.m.; Killarney Community Development Association at Casuarinas Resort on Cable Beach on March 3 at 7 p.m., Bahamas Veterinary Association at the IICA Conference Room, Village Road, on March 5 at 6:30 p.m., Ministry of Tourism retirees on March 6 at 4 p.m., the Bahamas Bar Association on March 11 at 1 p.m., and Church of God of Prophecy on March 13 at 2 p.m.
The Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis will speak on the implementation of VAT at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 1 at Bahamas Faith Ministries. Other presenters for this series include Senior Customs/ Revenue Officer at the Minister of Finance Livingston Ferguson; VAT Consultant Pauline Peters; Ministry of Finance official Lucine Mingo and various other members of the finance sector.
All sessions are free of charge and include an interactive question and answer period.
For more information on the VAT implementation the public is advised to call the Ministry of Finance's VAT hotline between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, at 225-7280.
You can also visit the official Facebook page at www.facebook.com/vatbah242.
In a recent statement, the government said that value-added tax has been the "choice" taxation method for over 160 countries worldwide since it was first implemented in 1950.
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March 03, 2014
Prime Minister Perry Christie should replace Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell because he does not "represent the majority of the convictions of the Bahamian people", Bahamas Faith Ministries International President Dr. Myles Munroe said yesterday.
In a recent speech he gave in Trinidad and Tobago, Mitchell said his political career suffers because of his position on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.
"I am deeply concerned about recent events that have taken place in regards to the representation of the minister of foreign affairs, not only in the House of Assembly, but his international responsibility in representing The Bahamas..." Munroe told The Guardian last night.
"He seems to have an agenda that may disqualify him from serving in the position as minister of foreign affairs, because there is a great possibility that he may be more inclined to present his own views than those of the people of The Bahamas.
"Therefore, I am recommending that the prime minister reconsider him from being minister of foreign affairs because his personal opinions may interfere with his objectivity in the carrying out of his duties.
"I have nothing personal against Minister Mitchell.
"I think he is an excellent politician and man, like I am. It is nothing personal. It is more of a deep concern of his representation of our country in his position as minister. That's my position."
The Guardian followed up with Munroe following a sermon he delivered on February 23 entitled, "The Divine Government Mandate part 3".
Munroe said unlike some pastors, he is not afraid of touching the issue.
"Let me state for the record publically, Mr. Foreign Minister, I have no interest in your private life," said Munroe in the sermon.
"Personally, I really don't care about your private life. But when you step in our house that we are paying you to represent us in, you keep your private life in your closet and you deal with our public business in our interest."
He added: "Mr. Prime Minister, I say publically, I suggest that you reconsider who is the present foreign minister of The Bahamas because he does not represent the majority of the convictions of Bahamians, and therefore when he travels he should keep his personal convictions to himself."
Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Hubert Chipman recently said Mitchell should not have shared his views on the issue on the public dime.
In the House of Assembly on February 20, Mitchell described Chipman's comments as "homophobic".
"What it does and what it may not have been intended to do and what it does in this country is...it unleashes a torrent of abusive language," Mitchell said.
Mitchell touched on a number of other issues, including an episode from his childhood where a girl reportedly bullied him.
He also read a statement made in 1998 by then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham who lamented public vehemence to a gay cruise ship that was to dock in Nassau.
Ingraham said it is a right for people in a democratic society to expect to be respected by their government.
No new ground
Munroe said he listened to every word Mitchell said.
"He began to intellectually try to [discombobulate us]," he said.
"What amazes me is that we have some intelligent people sitting in there with their ties on and they said nothing. I am tempted to run for government, just to talk."
During his contribution, Mitchell said he broke no new ground in his speech in Trinidad.
He said he "always checks home first" before pronouncing on any policy.
"It is therefore, inconceivable that this minister would break new ground in any policy without being firmly planted either in our party's platform or in the established policies of the Cabinet or the sign off, if not the actual knowledge, of the head of government," he said.
"All I did in Trinidad was describe the current state of affairs in the Caribbean as I understand it on this issue, no more, no less."
Munroe said he has traveled to 138 countries, something he said Mitchell has not done.
"So I've been to more countries representing this country than anyone else in this government," he said.
"I go to tell them how good we are, what our standards are, what our culture is, how God lives here and how we are good people, and we have this other guy going to some countries standing in places we don't know presenting things we don't believe."
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March 03, 2014
Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis said The Nassau Guardian's revelations over the tax status of value-added tax coordinator Ishmael Lightbourne has triggered a "firestorm of interest" over real property taxes, and he promised to provide information by next week, indicating whether the increased interest has had any impact on the level of real property tax payments.
The Guardian revealed that Lightbourne owes more than $100,000 in real property taxes.
While insisting the government is serious about collecting the approximately $500 million it is owed in real property taxes, Halkitis also acknowledged that the government continues to be tolerant with some tax dodgers.
"We want to be aggressive, but you don't want to be counterproductive," he told The Nassau Guardian in a recent interview.
Halkitis suggested that if the government were to take a hostile approach across the board, it could have a negative impact on the economy or drive some people further below the poverty line.
He noted the government does have the right to take possession of delinquent properties in some cases, such as vacant property, which is only paid by non-Bahamians.
While the government does have that option, Halkitis said the government would likely only wield that power in extreme cases.
Halkitis said the government has also taken a softer approach in the collections of real property taxes for commercial properties.
"Remember that we have gone through a very difficult period," he said.
"Businesses have gone through a very difficult period and I imagine some of them have elected to keep their doors open and keep employees hired and they just let the real property tax slide.
"It would be counterproductive for us to say either you pay it all at once or we're going to shut you down. We have to be able to work out an arrangement and we have been doing that."
Halkitis said outstanding tax from commercial properties represent approximately $314 million of the $500 million that is outstanding.
He said the recession and failures in the government's tax collection system have largely contributed to the problem.
However, he said the government is trying to turn things around.
"We are serious," Halkitis said. "That's the message I want to get to the Bahamian people. We are serious about collections."
Halkitis said that in the last several months, the government has encouraged delinquent homeowners and business owners to come in and work out a payment plan with the collections agency.
He said the government has also petitioned the private sector for assistance.
"We've been doing a significant amount of work," he said.
"What we find is people may have let it accumulate. Maybe through some fault of our department, we have not been getting bills to them on time and so there's been that accumulation.
"So it's really unfair to not give someone a bill and 10 years later give them a bill and say you owe for the last 10 years."
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March 03, 2014
Tourism industry leaders intend to present a five-point 'smart tax plan' to the government, which will include a recommendation that the government tax web shops as part of efforts to improve its revenue.
Specifically, the plan will call for legislation to "regulate and tax web shop numbers".
The Nassau Guardian confirmed that tourism industry leaders also intend to recommend to the government that it institute a shared payroll tax of five percent -- that is, both employers and employees pay.
"Tourism is the goose that lays the golden egg," said veteran hotelier Robert 'Sandy' Sands, the group's spokesman.
"We protect tourism. We protect every industry in this country."
The measures will be proposed as an alternative to a 15 percent value-added tax (VAT) rate, which the government has said it intends to introduce on July 1.
It is the position of industry leaders that VAT at 15 percent would be harmful.
"Tourism is the lifeblood of the Bahamian economy and tourism leaders in The Bahamas are proposing a smart tax plan that will support, strengthen tourism and raise needed government revenues," Sands said.
"As the Bahamian economy continues its slow climb out of the great recession, our tourism industry once again leads the way.
"Public and private projects have made significant investments in the destination but this progress is being shattered by the government's pending plan to implement a value-added tax at 15 percent, which in its current form threatens to affect the more than 97,000 direct and indirect Bahamian jobs created by a growing Bahamian industry."
Sands said without question, the government needs to cut costs, increase revenues and address the country's national debt.
"We believe that our plan will stimulate the economy, not stifle it, as the current VAT proposal does," he told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.
"The government's current value-added tax proposal, we believe, would be damaging to tourism, the lifeblood of the Bahamian economy. The government's current proposal, has failed to position tourism, our most important industry for global competition."
Sands noted that tourism accounts for more than half of Bahamian jobs.
In 2012, the industry represented an aggregate 48.4 percent of GDP through direct and indirect measures.
Sands said the industry has been working with internationally-recognized tax experts and will soon present its alternative five-point plan to the government.
He said the group believes taxing web shops and instituting pay roll tax constitute the best option for The Bahamas at this time.
"These steps, combined with the efficient enforcement, management of government tax regulations would help to reduce the government's budget deficit, address the country's debt burden and support our tourism-driven economy in the longer term," Sands said.
The tourism industry leaders are but one group strongly opposed to a 15 percent VAT.
Prime Minister Perry Christie recently advised that he met with representatives of the Coalition for Responsible Taxation and agreed to give the group all the data it needs from the Ministry of Finance to complete a study on tax reform and produce a proposal on a suitable form of taxation.
The coalition has been pushing for the government to delay VAT's implementation.
The government has said it will introduce VAT at a rate of 15 percent in most cases and 10 percent for the hotel sector.
The government has not yet tabled the final VAT legislation and the accompanying tariff schedule in the House of Assembly.
VAT is expected to generate an additional $200 million in revenue, according to government officials.
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March 03, 2014
Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis said the public should not rush to judge Ishmael Lightbourne, coordinator of the government's value-added tax (VAT) Unit, because he owes thousands of dollars in real property taxes.
"I understand the concern of the general public, but at the end of the day it is all about the individual," Davis said.
"It is our responsibility to do things. Yes, it is often said do as I say and not as I do.
"It is a principle that persons often say. I think in this instance we have to look at the circumstance of the individual before we jump to judgment. There may be compelling reasons as to why he may not have been able to pay his taxes.
"If those are compelling, even though it is not an excuse, the reasons may mitigate against what the consequences may be. Until we know those reasons we ought not to judge what the consequences should be."
Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis said he does not think Lightbourne should be fired.
Halkitis said the government stands a better chance of collecting what is owed if he is employed.
Lightbourne told The Nassau Guardian last week that the government would have to make the call on whether he continues to be employed by the Ministry of Finance.
The Guardian revealed that Lightbourne, who has been lecturing Bahamians on the need to pay their taxes, has not paid property taxes on his West Bay Street home in at least a decade.
The Guardian further revealed that Lightbourne owes $110,083 in taxes on a commercial property he owns, through a company, at Mount Royal Avenue.
Lightbourne, who is also a director of Sandbourne Limited, has not paid taxes on the commercial property in Palmdale in over 20 years.
The Free National Movement (FNM) has called on Lightbourne to resign or be fired over his delinquent taxes.
Davis said there needs to be a focus on the message and not the messenger.
"Very often we are misguided by the fact that we look at the messenger rather than the message," he said.
"I'm always more concerned about what the message is than those delivering it.
"And though we often are influenced by who the messenger might be, I think it is folly and we will be on a march of folly when we pay more attention to the messenger than to the message."
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March 03, 2014
A 59-year-old American man drowned off New Providence on Saturday, police reported yesterday.
According to preliminary reports, the Fort Lauderdale resident was on a diving expedition.
Police said the man, along with his wife and several other people, were in waters off Stuart's Cove around 2 p.m. near the area of South Ocean Beach when the incident happened.
Emergency officials took him to hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.
His death comes days after an 87-year-old American man also drowned.
Police said the elderly man, a resident of South Carolina, was snorkeling with a female friend in waters off San Salvador, in the vicinity of Club Med, where he was a guest.
Based on preliminary information, the victim died around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
Police said he was pronounced dead by the island's doctor.
Police have not released the identity of either man.
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