Nassau Guardian Stories

Slim pickings

October 26, 2014

One of the challenges of the Free National Movement (FNM) as its leadership battle approaches is that its pickings of potential leaders from the House of Assembly are incredibly slim.
The party holds eight seats in the House.
Three of those MPs are former ministers; four are political novices, and the eighth -- Central and South Abaco MP Edison Key, a veteran politician -- is approaching retirement.
The party's only real options for the leadership position from its House of Assembly team are the two former ministers who are running for leader: current Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis and Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner.
Their other colleagues in the Ingraham administration, with the exception of former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, were wiped out on May 7, 2012.
Ingraham won his North Abaco seat, but quickly resigned.
Names like Tommy Turnquest, Carl Bethel, Dion Foulkes, Zhivargo Laing and Phenton Neymour very seldom come up these days in discussions on future leadership in the party.
They are all former ministers who lost their seats.
Following the 2002 defeat, the FNM tried the formula of having a leader outside of the House. Turnquest led the party from in the Senate, but it was clear that, in order to be effective, the FNM leader needed to be in the House.
This thinking, and Turnquest's failure to sufficiently excite the party's base, paved the way for Ingraham's eventual return as leader of the party.
Former Minister of State for the Environment Phenton Neymour told National Review that the reason the FNM's pickings for leadership are so slim today is because the party's young were "picked off".
"Many of us who were born in the 60s and early 70s, when we became politically involved, were targeted and, one by one, taken out by many of those who preceded us when they recognized that we had leadership potential. And, therefore, our generation slowly but surely was strangled by many political leaders, and as a result of it, there is now a political void that exists in terms of leadership and there are many who are afraid to stand firm and fill that void," said Neymour, who is considering running for FNM chairman at the party's convention on November 21.
"And in that regard, our generation has failed because we have failed to stick together."
We found Neymour's comments interesting enough to let his former colleagues and former leader know what he is thinking.
We asked him to expand on his statement.
"Let me be clear, young leaders, early, when they were identified as young leaders, in the existing political system, they are slowly but surely picked off by the boys club," Neymour said.
"Within the political system there exists boys clubs who, if you do not abide by their rules, or, if you demonstrate leadership or threaten the hierarchy, you are picked off one by one. You are picked off either financially, you're picked off politically or you are slandered."
He added, "That may be the case with regards to the public's perception of me, but many of us, in a way, have been, and I say 'picked off', and have been left out there to die politically and many of us have allowed it, but yet again the system has created an environment where they stifle the young."
Neymour insisted that "it's not just in the FNM".
"Do you know there is no Young Liberal in the PLP elected to the House of Assembly? They pick them off young," he said.
"Not one. You look at all the young people in the PLP; some of them aren't even PLP."
Asked whether he believes Ingraham paid attention to succession planning, Neymour said, "Most political leaders do not focus on that, in my view because they are looking for their own survival."
He added, "I think the mere fact that Phenton Neymour was outspoken worked to his detriment. Phenton Neymour was outspoken in Cabinet. Phenton Neymour was outspoken, and that's why I'm of the view that is one of the things that created some of my challenges while in office and currently today because [I am] outspoken.
"There are many of us who have been picked off. I am of the view, and many politicians will agree, that, when you win, your own becomes the enemy."
Neymour said some young politicians were held down since the days of the first prime minister, the late Sir Lynden Pindling.
Asked if Ingraham held him down, he responded: "I believe that there were many who had an opportunity and were not given a full range of opportunities, yes.
"I think that the younger generation should have been given more opportunities, and I would go so far as to say that I felt that myself and others, if allowed, could have made a greater contribution."

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Out of the dark

October 26, 2014

Our reporting on the various audits into the affairs of the Public Hospitals Authority (PHA) appears to have sped up the PHA board's consideration of those findings.
Many who have followed this story fear that those audits may, in the end, amount to a waste of public funds if they do not lead to any action or improvements in procurement and other procedures.
But some are hopeful that real action will be taken to address the concerns raised by various auditors.
While the initial reaction by some was to attack the messenger -- John Bain of UHY Bain and Associates -- several other audits have also sounded the alarm on the PHA.
Bain's forensic audit into the PHA's pharmaceutical and medical supplies was completed seven months ago.
Yet the PHA board, headed by Frank Smith, has only now formally accepted it.
According to an inside PHA source, this now clears the way for the board to carefully consider the findings of that report and the other audits completed by several firms.
In a recent letter to the editor, Nathaniel N. McKenzie -- a former lead forensic auditor for Medicaid fraud in the United States, an $85 billion subsidy to the state of Florida's health plan -- explained that, in a forensic audit, a conclusion is reached when there is an abundance of evidence and every rock gets turned over.
McKenzie explained that a financial audit, or a financial statement audit, on the other hand, is a process that provides the business owner with assurance that the business's financial statements fairly represent the business's financial position, during the time period being investigated.
The auditor who conducts a financial audit looks over the financial statements for any signs of financial statement fraud.
But the forensic audit, like the one Bain completed, is a thorough investigation into the business' system of internal controls in order to determine whether anyone within the company has misused the entity's funds for personal gain.
This type of audit is used when asset-theft fraud is suspected, according to McKenzie. Forensic audits should only be performed by certified public accountants who are also certified fraud examiners, he noted.
Bain is a paid professional whose qualifications are not in dispute.
As opposed to seeking to denigrate his work and questioning his integrity, those who insist there is nothing to be concerned about as it relates to the PHA's tendering for contracts and accountability of public funds should provide a believable defense so we can all be comforted.
Bain is one of few Bahamians with certifications in both the United States and United Kingdom.
He has carried out forensic work in The Bahamas and the Caribbean.
He received the 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the global professional accounting body offering the Chartered Certified Accountant qualification.
So, again, his qualifications are not in dispute -- neither are the professionalism and qualifications of the other professionals who carried out several audits on the PHA.
A separate audit was conducted by HLB Galanis Bain into the PHA's human resources. Another was completed by Grant Thornton into the PHA's receivables, and the fourth into the PHA's information technology was completed by Providence Technologies.

Multiple concerns
Much of the furor surrounding our reporting on the PHA has centered around Bain's conclusion that there was a $10 million difference in pharmaceutical inventory between the physical count and what is reflected in the Princess Margaret Hospital's (PMH) computer system.
It was the same conclusion reached by the hospital's internal auditor.
Are we to believe that multiple auditors got it wrong in their conclusions?
According to The Tribune, PHA Finance Director Daniel Knowles said he found it "difficult to believe" that internal auditors, who originally raised the alarm on the unaccounted for inventory, did not recognize clerical errors, given that the authority's total yearly inventory had never exceeded $4 million.
According to The Tribune, Knowles addressed a letter to PHA Managing Director Herbert Brown on the matter after The Nassau Guardian's initial reporting on the Bain report.
If this is indeed the first explanation regarding the $10 million difference in pharmaceutical inventory then it is quite unfortunate that it has taken so long for Brown or the board to receive such an explanation.
We are left to wonder where this process would have been had the report not been leaked to the media.
The Tribune also reported that management at the Public Hospitals Authority claimed that the forensic audit conducted on pharmaceutical drugs and medical supplies did not follow best practices or industry standards and exposed the agency to civil litigations.
If the board of the PHA is serious about following through on ensuring that the authority is adhering to high standards with clearly defined procedures regarding the expenditure of public funds, then it ought not let another seven months pass before seriously addressing the many issues raised in the various audits.
While the $10 million inventory issue sparked great public discussion, there are many other very serious concerns noted by the auditors who examined the affairs of the Public Hospitals Authority.
As we have reported, Bain's audit raised concern about the formation of what the forensic accountant said appears to be a shell company "quickly established for the purpose of transacting" with the Bahamas National Drug Agency (BNDA), which is administered and governed by the PHA.
Grant Thornton found that there had been a personal bank account established at the Royal Bank of Canada in the name of the Public Hospitals Authority.

Crown Agents
From as far back as November 2008, the global consultants, Crown Agents, highlighted that "inventory management systems are weak".
But Crown Agents recognized that there were initiatives to improve the inventory management capacity in the health sector.
That particular report also notes "there are limited controls over expiration-date management".
The consultants wrote that, "There is an unclear view of the waste and potential risks due to expiration-date management. In part, this is due to weak inventory systems. However, a regulator consolidated date collection and reporting mechanism was not identified."
Crown Agents said this posed a risk to value for money.
In response, PHA's management said new software will allow for virtual inventory statistics to be available.
Additionally, the consultants note that "disclosure policies and common tools to prevent irregularities are inconsistent and/or in need of augmentation.
"It was observed in the assessment that there was less than optimal documented disclosure to help preclude ethical or conflict of interest irregularities.
"Specifically, no disclosure was reported as required from PHA board members involved in the oversight of public funds."
According to Crown Agents, this included no current requirement for written conflict of interest statements and/or statements committing to high standards of ethical behavior.
"In addition, and of significant concern, is that no hotline or whistleblower policy was reported to be in place at any institution within the Ministry of Health," the report says.
"While written statements do not always preclude irregularities, they have been shown to promote a standard of behavior and directly contribute to a demonstrative and positive 'tone at the top'."
The PHA board committed in 2009 to implement a conflict of interest policy to be signed by board members, senior executives and vendors commencing July 1, 2009.
We have no confirmation whether this was ever implemented.
We also know of no whistleblower hotline or policy within the Ministry of Health or within the wider public service.
It would seem proper for Minister of Health Dr. Perry Gomez -- who has so far remained silent in the face of revelations on the PHA -- at the appropriate time (sooner rather than later) to provide to Parliament and the Bahamian people a full reporting into the affairs of the PHA, and any action taken and/or improvements implemented in the wake of the various audits.
We also hope that the integrity of the PHA's files is kept sound as the board follows up on the findings and makes determinations on how best to proceed.
While being careful not to associate sinister motives with any PHA official or employee, one professional accountant explained to us recently that quick action is important to avoid possible destruction or disappearance of files following a forensic accountant's findings.

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The joy of achievement

October 26, 2014

I can remember real well a time when I was about ten years old attending boarding school in Droitwich, Worcestershire in England. I started boxing and began to win most of my fights. As I won fight after fight, my confidence in myself began to noticeably grow as I experienced 'The Joy Of Achievement'. I still to this day appreciate 'The Joy Of Achievement' each and every day as I participate in the work which I do knowing that it is impacting the lives of many around the world in a positive way. The fact is, that so often, the more difficult a task is to complete, the more we appreciate the results achieved in the end.
As Earl Nightingale put it "Man is a goal seeking organism who is happiest when in pursuit of a goal". So what he was saying in essence was, that the real Joy in Life will come from the achievement of our goals and objectives. As Earl also put it "Success is in the Achieving and not in the Achievement" meaning of course, that we have to keep on setting goals and achieving them if we wish to be really successful in life.
Anyone who watches The Olympics or any other major sporting event will witness firsthand what 'The Joy Of Achievement' is all about. Yes indeed, there's no doubt about it, if you personally wish to continue to experience 'The Joy Of Achievement' in your life, you most definitely need to keep on setting meaningful goals and persistently pursuing these objectives until they are achieved. Then you will receive The Prize 'The Joy Of Achievement'.
Of course, as I alluded to in the last article, 'The Joy of Achievement' is when you experience severe tests along the way as you battle with life and circumstances to make your dreams, your goals a reality in your life. So, in conclusion, if per chance you don't have any goals which you are pursuing right now, you better set some Today....NOW! Once you've established your goals and are religiously pursuing them each and every day with both passion and purpose, you'll be well on your way to the proverbial Success City which once reached will allow you to finally experience 'The Joy Of Achievement'.

o Think about it!
Visit my website at: www.dpaulreilly.com
Listen to "Time to Think" the radio program on STAR 106.5 FM at 8:55 a.m. and 6:20 p.m.

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Mandatory pension bill needed

October 26, 2014

Yet another Cabinet minister has added his voice to a growing chorus calling for mandatory pension legislation in The Bahamas, but it is unclear as yet whether this Cabinet-level support will result in the desired legislation.
Pinewood MP Khaalis Rolle, who has Cabinet responsibility for investment, told Guardian Business that mandatory pension legislation must be seriously considered. In so doing, he joins Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis and Labour Minister Shane Gibson in expressing public support for mandatory pension laws.
"Too many of our aged population are living in substandard conditions because, over a period of time, they didn't think about what would happen when they retire," Rolle said.
"For far too long I see individuals at retirement age, and they have nothing. They can't retire, because they have nothing. The only thing they have is National Insurance to rely on, and that can't fund a comfortable lifestyle for the average person."
He said, however, that he was unaware of whether the Ministry of Finance was preparing mandatory pension legislation at present.
Guardian Business spoke with CEOs of two of the nation's leading pension fund managers about the situation.

Regulation
Providence Advisors CEO Kenwood Kerr said the absence of mandatory pension legislation means no rules govern the administrative and investment behavior or qualifications of the current service providers in the marketplace.
CFAL CEO Anthony Ferguson also told Guardian Business that regulation is key.
"With legislation, the industry would be better regulated and companies would not be able to do some of the things they would like from an

investment
perspective," Ferguson said.

NIB assumptions
Ferguson said while many Bahamians are relying on National Insurance for retirement, the scheme is not a pension plan.
"[National Insurance] is a supplementary plan, and since its initial formation has taken on other responsibilities, such as unemployment insurance, accidental insurance and the prescription plan. In the first instance, NIB itself needs to review its asset allocation and contribution rate, but I suspect - actually I am certain - it won't be able to even meet its current obligations should nothing change," the CFAL chief said.
Kerr pointed to an inherent lack of savings and generally poor preparation for retirement.
He cited a recent KPMG pension report indicating that less than 25 percent of the working population is covered by a pension plan. He said given this, plus a lingering belief that the young should care for the old, there is "a general over-reliance" on National Insurance.
"Combined with a lack of savings generally and no savings or planning for retirement, and little or no pension plans to provide for retirement, the only pillar left is the National Insurance Fund. An over-reliance on the National Insurance Fund leads to a financial strain, particularly if contribution levels are low and investment returns are not being maximized," Kerr said.
"Therefore pensions play a significant role as the second pillar to bring retirement relief and to lessen the retirement financial burden on the state... Two other important points are the current high level of employment and, in particular, youth unemployment that puts a future strain on the NIB's ability to collect higher revenues, and also the rising level of baby boomers who will be going into retirement who have not saved sufficient enough and will be claiming NIB benefits.
"When you add these to the mix there needs to be serious consideration to this matter."

Pushback
Ferguson said that, with low NIB contributions and a low savings rate, mandatory pension legislation is "regrettably" necessary.
"Just about every civilized country has it," he said. "We like to benchmark when it meets our goals and we ignore (the world) when it contradicts."
Kerr envisioned a "push back from a business perspective".
"They would view the provision of mandatory pension as a tax or additional cost to businesses and they may resist this. We need a renewed focus on financial literacy and education on the need for savings, financial and retirement planning."
The National Insurance program was established in 1972; the National Insurance Board (NIB), the organization charged with administering the social security program, is charged with providing income-replacement in respect of sickness, invalidity, maternity, retirement, death, industrial injury/disease and involuntary loss of income. NIB's added mission in the administration of the country's social security program, is to provide assistance for needy citizens and to assist with the social and infrastructural development of the country.
Currently sitting at close to $2 billion, the fund is considered on solid ground, although there have been questions in the past about its sustainability.

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Govt 'firm' on VAT-inclusive pricing

October 26, 2014

Financial Secretary John Rolle has affirmed the government's commitment to "VAT-inclusive pricing" in the face of concerns voiced by retailers that the administrative costs of converting to this kind of system will be exorbitant and might even drive some of them out of business.
The Bahamas Federation of Retailers (BFR) issued a press statement calling on the government to move forward with a pricing system that allows retailers to charge value-added tax (VAT) at the register at the time of the transaction (VAT-exclusive pricing), rather than a system that requires VAT to be factored into the sticker price (VAT-inclusive pricing).
Rolle, while not responding directly to the BFR release, told Guardian Business that "the position on inclusive pricing is firm".
"The VAT department will allow retailers some leniency during the first two months of 2014 to complete the transition," he said, reiterating the government's most recent stance.
"We understand that there is an administrative effort required, but it would not be to the advantage of the system to justify a reversal in the approach to pricing display because of this. We continue to encourage businesses to use transparent approaches to inform consumers of the price adjustments that are forthcoming, even if businesses are unable to complete the labelling of individual shelved items in the short term."
The BFR charged that the "massive administrative cost" on businesses' of VAT inclusive pricing will necessitate the repricing, relabeling or retagging of millions of items across all of the retail stores and other businesses in The Bahamas.
The federation included comments from a number of unidentified retailers in its statement.
Said one individual identified only as a Bahamian retailer: "We believe that VAT-inclusive pricing would be so much more difficult for businesses like ours to implement, not to mention the additional cost for thousands of labels, printing, labor and time to re-price existing stock. Bahamians are fully aware and comfortable when dealing with sales tax in the U.S., [so] pricing should be VAT-exclusive, and the tax should be added at the time of check out on the sales receipt."
Another business, this one in construction supply, said: "VAT-exclusive pricing will be much easier for the consumer. If a business has to advertise VAT-inclusive prices, it will mean that the consumer will see two prices, one unit price on labels and a different unit price at the register. VAT receipts will show total VAT paid at the bottom and with a standard 7.5 percent VAT rate, it will be easier for customers to calculate their costs and compare prices with VAT-exclusive pricing. VAT-exclusive pricing also makes it easier for businesses to apply discounts and advertise sale prices. It will be a nightmare on businesses to have different VAT-inclusive labels every time they have a sale, especially if different discount rates apply to various items."

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Govt considering timeshare legislation, but not priority

October 26, 2014

The footprint of the shared ownership industry is increasing in the Caribbean - more than $2.2 billion in economic output in the region in 2010 alone - and the industry is ever more committed to the region. while the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) continues to urge member states like The Bahamas to increase the shared ownership component of their tourism mix, Bahamian lawmakers say it's not their "number one" priority.
Guardian Business spoke with Caribbean Tourism Organization CEO Hugh Riley, who said it is "very important that the Caribbean be aware of what the trends are in the tourism industry".
"The trend towards vacation ownership and shared ownership is advancing, it's increasing," he said.
Riley said the shared ownership sector offers several advantages as an avenue of development; shared ownership brings with it an impressive "loyalty factor," as well as
continuity. He noted that owners in the industry frequently bequeath their ownership, ensuring continued usage. He cited the industry's ability to generate airlift, and revenue.
"There is data that shows how one type of visitor spends in relation to another," Riley said. "So there are all kinds of factors that destinations in the Caribbean are well advised to consider when looking at (shared) ownership."
Riley noted the CTO's ability to assist member countries with relevant information on the industry.
Timeshare Legislation
Shared ownership professional and CEO of the American Resort Developers Association (ARDA) Howard Nusbaum told Guardian Business recently that legislation to govern and support shared ownership (the new industry name for what used to be known as timeshare) has been under active development in The Bahamas.
Minister of State for Investment Khaalis Rolle acknowledged that timeshare legislation is indeed among the "development opportunities" the government is considering but he said it's not the highest of priorities right now.
Rolle - who chairs the National Economic Council - told Guardian Business that when he came to office, timeshare legislation was among the things the new administration met in the pipeline in various stages of completion.
"I can't say that it is the number one (priority for development), but it is on the list, and we are looking at the options for it. It is currently still among the list of suggestions we have taken that we will look at to ensure that we are globally competitive," he said.
The minister would not tie the government to a timeline on presenting timeshare legislation.
Industry Research & Study
The 2012 Shared Vacation Ownership Report - the most recent available at press time - found that in 2010, the industry generated more than one million jobs around the world, nearly half of them direct jobs in the industry itself. The supply chain and spending generated by the industry accounted for the other half. The study also revealed that the global shared vacation ownership industry directly generated over $45 billion in direct economic output in 2010 through the activity of corporate, sales and marketing, resort operations, off-resort vacation expenditures, and capital expenditures.
In the Caribbean, the industry was responsible for $2.2 billion in output in 2010, and generated nearly 49,000 jobs that year alone. It generated $753 million in income and $166 million in taxes.
Some of the players in the industry are familiar names: Disney got into shared ownership in 1990, Hilton in 1992, Hyatt (1994), Starwood (1999) and Fairfield/Wyndam.

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Fraudsters use Rum Cay as hook

October 26, 2014

Two Miami Beach residents have been convicted in an $8 million investment fraud scheme regarding the proposed Paradise is Mine (PIM) real estate development on Rum Cay.
A U.S. federal jury found Lawrence Foster, president of PIM, guilty of seven counts of wire fraud and conspiring to commit wire fraud last Thursday.
The same jury found PIM Corporate Officer Johana Leon guilty of three counts of structuring currency transactions.
PIM raised $8 million from approximately 90 investors, who were led to believe that PIM owned extensive amounts of land on Rum Cay, and that the invested funds would go towards further development on Rum Cay.
A report filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Miami Division stated that rank records presented to the court indicate that no money ever reached The Bahamas.
Leon was found guilty of withdrawing over $1 million in cash in increments below the $10,000 currency transaction reporting level.
It was revealed that Foster used the investment money on personal expenses.
PIM also defrauded investors by claiming that the development had been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and USA Today, and had received financial backing for sports stars, including Joe Montana.
Foster faces a maximum term of 20 years in prison for each of the seven counts, while Leon faces up to five years in prison for each of her three counts.

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New airlift should boost already 'tremendous' GB tourism growth

October 26, 2014

Demand for Grand Bahama's tourism product is growing at a "tremendous clip" as stopover visitors increased 39 percent for the first half of 2014, according to the national director of airlift.
Speaking with Guardian Business, Tyrone Sawyer said Grand Bahama tourism figures would likely continue on an upward trend into 2015 after Sunwing Airlines, an affiliate of Memories Resort, announced that it would launch nonstop flights from Vancouver and Calgary into Grand Bahama on November 1.
"Demand is growing at a tremendous clip. We've seen a 39 percent increase in air stopovers to Grand Bahama. That's very encouraging, and we see that Grand Bahama is on an upward trend," said Sawyer.
The new seasonal routes will likely run until the spring. In addition, Sawyer noted that the Ministry of Tourism is finalizing future nonstop routes from U.S. cities to Grand Bahama in an attempt to further boost tourism numbers in 2015.
"The Canadian market tends to taper off by April. There will be further announcements regarding flights from U.S. cities into Grand Bahama that will [commence] next spring and go through summer into the fall.
"We certainly will have the capacity that we need to meet the demand and fill the rooms we have in Grand Bahama," stated Sawyer.
However, Sawyer could not provide a figure for the projected increase in regional airlift as a result of the expanded partnership.
Until Sunwing begins flights on November 1, there are no direct flights from Canada into Grand Bahama following WestJet's decision to discontinue service into Grand Bahama in May.
WestJet cited a decline in the island's tourism product as the driving force behind the decision.
At present, Sunwing Airlines offers seasonal flights from Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, Halifax, Ottawa and Edmonton, which are also expected to resume November 1.
In a press release issued by the Ministry of Tourism last week, Carmel Churchill, director of marketing services for Grand Bahama's Tourism Board, anticipated a 35 percent increase in air arrivals following Sunwing's two additional flights.
Churchill claimed that the partnership with Sunwing had already generated 25,000 visitors for the island.
The announcement follows similarly encouraging airlift figures released by the Ministry of Tourism this month.
A recent tourism report indicated that foreign air and sea arrivals to the Family Islands increased by 10 percent for the first half of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013.

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Duncombe: Solar is affordable

October 26, 2014

Outspoken environmentalist and freedom of information advocate Sam Duncombe has challenged some of the assertions underlying recent observations by Bahamas Electricity Chairman (BEC) Chairman Leslie Miller, who has expressed doubt about the government's ability to grant further concessions for solar energy.
Miller told Guardian Business that, given the fiscal constraints facing The Bahamas, he could not imagine the government extending its concession regime. Last fiscal year the government eliminated import duty on solar panels, solar-powered air conditioners and solar panel inverters.
During a conversation about the importance of solar power to The Bahamas, Miller said he couldn't see the government even considering more concessions at this time.
Duncombe, long known for her candid defense of environmental concerns, took issue with the BEC chairman's view on this and his statement that "regular Bahamians" couldn't afford to go solar. She also challenged the affordability question.
"What rock does he live under? What Mr. Miller fails to address is that solar water heating can cut your bill by $2,000 a year and practically pay for itself in a year," Duncombe said. "BEC could easily set up a payment plan for users via their current billing system. State-of-the-art heating systems are making solar water heating super efficient, and easy to install."
Guardian Business found solar heaters of different types costing as little as US$500 and as much as US$5,000-plus.
"Solar PV (photovoltaic) is more expensive, but if the tenders are expected to pay for initial installation, I don't see what the problem is," she said.
Duncombe argued that renewables are labor intensive, which opens up job opportunities for the average Bahamian.
"And they would also give the 'regular' man access to not only a job but a livelihood (through proper training) - something which the fossil fuel industry cannot compete with. Renewables allow the wealth to be shared far more equitably. Renewable energy is the fastest growing segment of the energy sector."
Miller told Guardian Business that a heightened interest in renewable energy self-generation (RESG) - particularly through solar energy - is the result of "a lot of misinformation", and that he couldn't fathom the government even considering subsidizing solar any further.

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Bahamas should lead region in ICT

October 26, 2014

Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) CEO Leon Williams called on the government to lead the way toward The Bahamas becoming the hub for regional information and communications technology (ICT), in his recent address to ICT professionals at the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner's second annual National Training Symposium in Nassau.
The symposium theme, "The seventh data protection principle: Personal data security offline and online", is one of the eight data protection principals that guide the industry.
Williams was one of seven speakers and an honoree of the data protection commissioner for achieving 46 stellar years of service in the telecommunications industry. Others honored were Felix N. Stubbs, past president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce; June Collie, director of Department of Information Technology; Raymond Wells, deputy director of information technology at the National Insurance board, and Detective Sargent Dale Strachan, Royal Bahamas Police Force.
Williams spoke to the question, "Does The Bahamas have the necessary IT infrastructure to become a premier data relocation jurisdiction?"
He answered, "not yet" on his subject matter, but he envisions a day when investments will be made to build the country's information and communications technology (ICT) sector to full capacity. He said that The Bahamas must "dare to dream" to reach its full potential as an IT and data hub in the region.
"I dreamed last night of something called digiBahamas," said Williams.
"In the dream, the 21st century information age forces leaders to re-think the present mode and its ability to sustain the economy without exploiting the digital dividend in the industry of ICT. My vision is that the government of The Bahamas would diversify the economy, as it did with tourism and financial services. It would implant ICT as the third economic pillar by making the Bahamas the hub for regional ICT."
Williams believes that the foundation for this vision already exists, if resources and opportunities are utilized correctly.
"We must use our proximity to the U.S. mainland to our advantage," the CEO urged.
"We have at our disposal the existing four fiber optic submarine cables between The Bahamas and the U.S.: The Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS) network connecting us to 14 Caribbean countries and our Bahamas Domestic Submarine Network International (BDSNi) connecting 14 Bahamian islands and Haiti."
Williams suggested a multi-pronged approach to achieve his vision.
"We should establish ourselves as an internet exchange point (IXP); establish data centers and create incentives to attract manufacturers; revise our ICT regulations and laws, and capitalize on our skilled labor force. There is no shortage of Bahamian engineers but we must find ways to counteract the brain drain and attract them to come home."
An IXP is infrastructure where internet service providers (ISPs) exchange internet traffic between their servers.
Warning that the country may be falling behind, the CEO explained: "Many countries in the Caribbean have already created local IXPs; we are falling behind. The IXP, like our regulating body URCA, should be created by the providers. Having this structure will save money for the ISPs and the consumer, as the bandwith to send data to the U.S. and back would no longer be required. Furthermore, it is more secure, so the data from our country stays in country. The major benefit is national security."
Williams related that, in a meeting with Cable Bahamas Chairman Anthony Butler the previous week, they enjoyed a meeting of minds and objectives with regard to national interests and he surmised seeing more cooperative actions in coming years.
"Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Cisco have anywhere from $45 billion to $137 billion, if we could attract companies of this magnitude to build manufacturing hubs here, we could do away with tax structures like VAT and address the country's debt."
Speaking further on data security, Williams reiterated the need for a sovereign, local IXP. He explained that currently Bahamian data is at the mercy of foreign entities.
"Recently, we talk a lot about the NSA, the National Security Agency, but all of our data passes through Miami currently. Since 2011 there has been something called the Patriot Act, where no ICT company can have an encryption that the NSA cannot access. With a local IXP, we limit data access to Bahamian eyes."
He also stressed personal responsibility in data security and told users to beware of overshare in the digital age, warning that data mining by international companies and governments could endanger personal information.
"Every time you use an app to count your steps, for example, you tell Google, or whomever, where you are, you must ask, 'Who else are you telling by extension'? We must stop putting so much blame on law enforcement, because no matter what they do, they can't protect your data better than you."

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Ministry of Tourism launches media campaign in Canada

October 26, 2014

The Ministry of Tourism hopes to further infiltrate the Canadian market with the launch of an aggressive media campaign to promote the islands of The Bahamas as well as several direct flights into the archipelago.
The campaign comes just in time to support the introduction of two new Sunwing Airlines direct flights into Grand Bahama from Calgary and Vancouver, beginning November 1, 2014, bringing the airline's total number of Canadian cities with direct flights to The Bahamas to eight.
The ministry also wants to promote Air Canada's direct flights to Exuma and Nassau and WestJet's non-stop service to the capital.
"It is really important that we market aggressively to the Canadian consumer and the travel trade to let them know that all of this inventory is available to The Bahamas from Canada," said Ministry of Tourism Deputy Director General Ellison Thompson.
The campaign began on October 21, 2014 when the "Behold" television advertisement aired for the first time in Canada during an episode of the popular romance reality television series "The Bachelor Canada".
Eight versions of the ad, featuring Bahamian NBA star Rick Fox and model Shakara Ledard, will air on the most watched TV stations in Canada, including HGTV, DTour, Showcase, Food Network, Discovery, The Weather Network, CBC Newsworld, SportsNet, Travel and Escapes and Cottage Life.
Communications Manager for the Bahamas Tourist Office Canada Ambrose Morris said, "It's a national campaign that extends from sea to sea - from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. This is the coming out, so to speak, of Bahamas television ads in Canada. It has been many years since we have done that."
Sunwing is taking the Bahamas brand to eight cities in Canada with an aircraft wrapped with Islands of The Bahamas and Grand Bahama logos.
In Toronto, images of The Bahamas will dominate the Air Canada Center (ACC) through a 360-monitor display, exterior superboards, in-suite monitors and concourse digital monitors throughout the center. The Bahamas brand will be displayed during all ACC events, including the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey games and the Toronto Raptors basketball games for the duration of their seasons.
Posters of advertising the islands of The Bahamas also adorn the interior walls of the Toronto Transit Commission subway. Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe and a team of tourism officials viewed the ads in Toronto during the recent Media Blitz.
In Western Canada, two large murals in the Burrard Street Station in Vancouver entice thousands of TransLink subway commuters to visit Grand Bahama Island via Sunwing Airlines' new non-stop flight. Above ground, the SkyTrain wrapped with The Bahamas logo and imagery will be a moving advertisement for the country's brand.
Over in Calgary, Bahamas ads will run every 60 seconds on digital boards throughout the city for the next 10 weeks.
"As soon as the weather starts to get bad in places like Canada, you have to make sure that your message is where the consumer is going to be," Thompson said.
"So for those persons who are commuting in the morning, it's cold; it's gray; it's snowy, and they're already thinking that they need to get away, then they see these wonderful islands of The Bahamas and we're there in front of them saying 'This is the place you need to go to and it's convenient to get there'."
The Bahamas Tourist Office in Canada has also launched an aggressive social media campaign complete with Facebook contests and Twitter parties.

The campaign ends on June 22, 2015.

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GBCC unveils award nominees

October 26, 2014

The Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce recognized businesses and business persons who have demonstrated commitment to community building at the fifth annual Business Excellence Awards Ceremony, held on Saturday, October 25 at the Regency Theatre.
These prestigious awards are designed to honor outstanding Grand Bahamian businesses and executives. Nominations closed a few weeks ago, with several businesses from throughout the community nominated for the various awards. Highlighted by nominators were specific business and management practices and various companies' commitment to employees and the community.
There were six general categories for nomination: "Outstanding Business Person of the Year", "Developing Entrepreneur of the Year", "Company of the Year", "Philanthropic Business or Business Person of the Year" and "Lifetime Achievement Award". This year's nominees are:

Business Person of the Year
This year's nominees include Leigh Lightbourn-Termath (Bahama Buy & Sell), Peter Taylor (Express Food Mart), Larry Albury (Freeport Jet Wash), Carl-Gustaf Rotkirch (Grand Bahama Shipyard)
Developing Entrepreneur
Tim & Rebecca Tibbits (Flying Fish), Britney Baldwin (Sweet Affairs), Billie Bowe (Benchmark Consultants), and Ravano Ferguson (Fast Track Management).

Company of the Year - Large
Grand Bahama Shipyard Company and Sanitation Services Co. Ltd.

Company of the Year - Small
Sav Mor Drugs and Town and Country Maintenance Company.

Philanthropic Businessperson
Karen Clarke, Tip Burrows/GB Humane Society.

Lifetime Achievement
Anita Doherty and Peter Koll.
Final winners will be chosen by the Awards Committee based on several factors including: business age; nature of activities; historical performance - business achievements; contribution to Bahamian economy; management/employee relations; contribution to employment and employee training; commitment to fair and honest conduct in the marketplace and contribution to the community or a charity.
Previous winners include:
Lifetime Achievement
Award recipients: Harold "Sonny" Waugh & Sir Albert Miller, (2008), Rev. Havard Cooper (2009); T. Maitland Cates (2010) and Edward St. George (2011). Previous Business Person of the Year recipients are Cleveland Duncombe (2008), Donald "Don" Roberts (2009), Keith Rolle (2010), Jeremy Cafferata (2011).

Developing Entrepreneur of The Year recipients: Sally Gaskin & Sharon Glover (2008), Noel & Britton Clarke (2009), Peter Taylor (2010).

Company of The Year "Category A" recipients: Regional Air, (2008), BWA (Freeport) Ltd. (2009), Butler's Specialty Store (2010), MSC Bahamas (2011).

Company of The Year "B"recipients: Kelly's True Value (2008), Sawyers (2009), Bahamian Brewery & Beverage Co. Ltd. (2010), Hutchison Port Holdings (2011).

Philanthropic Business Person of the Year recipients: Basil Neymour (2008), Frank Outten (2009), Waugh Construction (Bahamas) Ltd. (2010) Wallace & Georgette Groves Foundation (2111).

Business Student of the Year recipients: Bria Williams (2008), Dreshon Rolle (2009).

President's Award recipients: Star General Insurance (2008), Grand Bahama Shipyard (2009), Atlantic Medical Insurance Company & Hutchison Port Holding Group (2010), BORCO (2011).
The chamber will announce this year's winners during a gala awards ceremony at the Regency Theatre this weekend. The evening's event commences at 7 p.m., followed by a champagne after party. Tickets are on sale at the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce office. It can be reached at info@gbchamber.org or 352-8329.

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Automated passport control is landing at Lynden Pindling International Airport

October 26, 2014

Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) today announced its purchase of 20 automated passport control (APC) self-serve kiosks to safely expedite the customs process for eligible passengers departing its U.S. pre-clearance facility and improve the overall passenger experience.
APC kiosks will be available at LPIA beginning in February 2015, making it only the second international airport with U.S. pre-clearance facilities to offer this technology.
Provided by Vancouver Airport Authority's Innovative Travel Solutions team, the BorderXpress APC kiosks and technology have dramatically reduced customs wait times at 14 airports across North America, including New York's John F. Kennedy International, Los Angeles International, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International and the world's busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta.
Instead of filling out a declaration card and taking travel documents to a U.S. customs and border protection (CBP) officer, eligible passengers will proceed directly to one of the 20 kiosks. Travelers will simply follow the on-screen instructions to scan their passport, answer declaration questions, have their photos taken and receive a confirmation receipts, which they will show to a CBP officer to finalize processing. Vancouver Airport Authority studies have shown that BorderXpress APC kiosks reduce wait times by up to 89 percent when compared to the typical CBP primary inspection process.
Eligible passengers include all U.S. and Canadian passport holders, U.S. lawful permanent residents and international travelers with Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) from 38 countries not requiring U.S. entry visas, including Australia, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom.
"With more travelers flocking to The Bahamas every year, we are delighted to add this service to the Nassau airport experience," says Vernice Walkine, president and CEO, Nassau Airport Development Company. "BorderXpress APC kiosks will complement our existing amenities and newly redeveloped terminal, allowing us to offer a truly world-class first and last impression to our customers. I'd like to recognize and thank our partners in this initiative including the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board and the international airlines operating out of LPIA, who've helped to fund the installation, operations and maintenance of the new processing system."
The addition of BorderXpress to NAS will also help alleviate potential congestion resulting from the growth of new tourism properties in the islands, including the Baha Mar mega-resort, slated to open in 2015.
"As an airport, we understand how important it is for people to get to their destinations quickly, efficiently and safely." Said Craig Richmond, president and CEO, Vancouver International Airport (YVR). "BorderXpress APC kiosks help airports process four times more passengers per CBP officer, to dramatically cut wait times, lower operating costs and improve the customs experience for travelers and airport staff alike."

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New hotel for downtown

October 24, 2014

China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) signed a contract yesterday to purchase the British Colonial Hilton and the vacant property to its west, but officials did not reveal the price of the sale agreement.
This comes after almost two years of negotiations.
As a part of the sale agreement, CSCEC will develop the vacant property to create a luxury hotel and condominium unit, Prime Minister Perry Christie said.
He did not give a start or completion date for the construction of the project.
The hotel will also include a multi-storied garage with rooftop garden and banquet rooms, a high-end retail shopping center, restaurants, gym, marina, movie theater and boardwalk along the waterfront.
Christie said it will be a major investment that will create 250 construction jobs and 500 permanent jobs for Bahamians.
He said an additional 500 jobs in the amenities and commercial components will be created.
He also said CSCEC has agreed to join in a partnership with the government and other stakeholders along Bay Street to implement a plan for its redevelopment, extending from Arawak Cay to Potter's Cay.
"Some of these stakeholders with whom I will meet in the next fortnight are ready to move ahead with their redevelopment plans," Christie said.
During the signing ceremony at the British Colonial, Chinese delegates joined Hilton and Bahamian government officials.
While the ownership has changed, the hotel will continue to be managed by the Hilton.
Gerhard Beukes, chairman of the British Colonial Hilton said all employees of the Hilton will continue their employment under the new ownership.
Chinese Ambassador to The Bahamas Yuan Guisen said this investment in The Bahamas is one of several he hopes the government will facilitate in the future.
CSCEC Chairman Jun Yi said the project should contribute $750 million to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) over the next 20 years.
CSCEC began its foray into tourism developments globally with the Baha Mar project, investing $150 million in the $3.5 billion resort, which it went on to build.
In July, CSCEC made a U.S. $1 billion investment in the Viceroy Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, a project for which it was also taken on as general contractor.

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Keith Bell prepared to support eventual Ft. Charlotte nominee

October 24, 2014

After imploring Fort Charlotte MP Andre Rollins to resign from the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) for his sharp criticisms of Prime Minister Perry Christie, Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell said yesterday he will support whoever the party decides to run in Fort Charlotte.
Bell was responding to questions from The Nassau Guardian about the disciplinary action Rollins could face following whatever decision the PLP's disciplinary committee makes.
In August, Bell said as far as he is concerned, the former Gaming Board chairman needs to resign from the PLP and as a member of Parliament.
He challenged Rollins for his seat and said "he only got the seat because of the PLP".
Yesterday, Bell said it would be inappropriate for anyone to preempt the committee's decision.
However, he said the PLP is a strong organization, where members respect democracy and due process.
"You know Mr. [Alfred] Sears has said he will be prepared to accept a nomination if it is given to him. So, I mean, again, the party is one [in] which there is democracy within the ranks," Bell said.
"Once the [disciplinary] process is followed, whoever is chosen, I will support."
Rollins appeared before the disciplinary committee on Monday and again on Wednesday.
He has said the country needs new leadership.
Despite being asked by the National General Council of the party to apologize to Christie in the House of Assembly, Rollins has refused to.
During a Fort Charlotte constituency meeting on October 6, more than 30 constituents expressed displeasure with Rollins' performance in the House and in his constituency.
Following that meeting, PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts, who called the attendees the "nucleus and backbone" of that constituency branch, said he had approached Sears about running on the party's ticket in Fort Charlotte once again.
Sears has said he is ready to serve, but will not do anything to "injure an incumbent member of Parliament" representing his party.
Attorney Valentine Grimes heads the disciplinary committee.
Other members of the disciplinary committee include, Charles Carter, Errington "Minky" Isaacs, Aaron Sargeant, Robin Lynes, Barbara Pierre, Michelle Reckley and Tom Basden.
Speaking about the impact Rollins' comments have had on the PLP, Bell said there is some tension within the party.
"There is no question that the matter has caused tension within the ranks, and simply because the statements that he made were so strong and so direct at the leader and the leadership of the party," Bell said.
"And so, certainly you would have emotions. You would have tempers and you would have some deep concerns.
"But the PLP is a party of strength, [and] a party of unity. There is a process within the party.
"There is a constitution and we abide by the processes outlined in that constitution."

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Sands responds to Pintard's comments on deputy race

October 24, 2014

Free National Movement (FNM) Deputy Chairman Dr. Duane Sands yesterday called FNM Senator Michael Pintard's recent statements about the deputy leadership race "unfortunate", but said they are not representative of the issues and ideas that concern FNM delegates and supporters.
He was referring to an interview on Thursday where Pintard said he does not believe anyone who has "had a position and does nothing should be seeking elevation".
Pintard said he is strongly considering joining the race for deputy leader, noting he has received strong support from FNM delegates to pursue the position and that of chairman.
Pintard said no matter what post he runs for, he "intends to serve".
Sands and FNM Chairman Darron Cash have said they will run for deputy leader.
When asked, Pintard said his statement was not directed at them.
In a statement, Sands said, "I was informed of the comments made last night (Thursday) on NB12 by Senator Pintard.
"While they were unfortunate, they are not representative of the core issues and ideas that are of critical concern to FNM delegates and supporters.
"Rather than responding publicly, I shall remain focused and steadfast in my efforts to build our great party.
"I shall work tirelessly to build on the expressed support of the members of the Free National Movement and to continue to reach those with whom I have not yet spoken."
Sands, who was out of the country yesterday, said he welcomes any officer of his organization who is willing to serve in any capacity.
As it relates to the race for deputy leader, Sands pledged a "clean, respectful and honorable" campaign.
"May the best person win," read the statement. "I regard all FNM's as colleagues.
"On my return I shall sit privately with Senator Pintard so as not to distract from our party's primary focus."
Pintard has said he is supporting FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis for leader.
FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner is also running for leader of the party.
The FNM will hold its convention on November 21

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Suspect in Fox Hill murders seeks bail

October 24, 2014

A suspect in the shooting deaths of four people at Fox Hill last December appeared before a Supreme Court judge yesterday seeking bail on medical grounds.
Peter Rolle, 30, is one of three men charged with the December 27 drive-by shooting at Freedom Park that also left seven others seriously injured.
Rolle, Justin Williams, 22, and Jermaine Curry, 25, are accused of the murders of Shaquille Demeritte, Claudezino Davis, Shenique Sands and Eric Morrison and the attempted murders of Samuel Ferguson, Leroy Taylor, Janet Davis, Chino Davis, Jermaine Pratt, John Davis and Benjamin Demeritte.
According to Rolle's lawyer Geoffrey Farquharson, the prison was unable to provide adequate care for Rolle.
He also asserted that Rolle had a weak heart.
Dr. Hastings Johnson, who works at the prison, said he saw Rolle on September 19 and he complained of headaches and vomiting blood.
After an examination, Rolle was transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital where a battery of tests were performed, Johnson said.
He said that Rolle was diagnosed with musculoskeletal pain and was prescribed Voltaren for the pain and Zantac for acid reflux.
Johnson said Rolle was also on medication for hypertension.
In response to a question from Farquharson, Johnson was unable to say whether the prison experienced medication shortages as he was not responsible for the dispensary.
He said he had ordered that some inmates receive additional exercise and the prison was working on special diets.
In addition to the medical grounds, Farquharson also attacked the strength of the evidence. He said the prosecution sought to rely on the "unreliable" evidence of uncharged accomplices.
Farquharson also noted that co-accused Williams had been released on bail, although he had a previous conviction for armed robbery.
Viola Barnett, the prosecutor, opposed the application, saying the prison was able to provide adequate care for Rolle's medical needs.
Barnett said there was no unreasonable delay and a trial date had been set for September 12, 2016.
She said Rolle faced a severe penalty if convicted and this could provide an incentive to flee.
Barnett said there was a possibility that Rolle could re-offend as he had a previous conviction for causing grievous bodily harm.
Justice Bernard Turner will give his decision on Wednesday.

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Jamaican man escapes police custody

October 24, 2014

A Jamaican man who was arrested for illegally entering The Bahamas escaped police custody on Thursday, police reported.
The suspect was identified as Lance McDonald, 53, of Westmoreland, Jamaica.
He is described as being of dark brown complexion with black hair and brown eyes.
Superintendent Paul Rolle said McDonald escaped the Carmichael Road Police Station around 7:20 a.m.
Rolle said as officers attempted to place McDonald into a cell, he resisted and was able to escape after a short struggle in the station.
It is unclear how many officers attempted to restrain McDonald before he escaped.
No one was injured during the struggle, according to Rolle.
"We are investigating the circumstances of how he escaped," he said.
"I am not certain as to all that happened or why it happened like that.
"He was not in custody very long."
The Nassau Guardian contacted the Carmichael Road Police Station, but was unable to speak with the officer in charge.
In April, Tamicko Williams, 22, of Podoleo Street, escaped the Grove Police Station.
He was arrested on suspicion of armed robbery and burglary, according to police.
He was picked up in western New Providence in May, along with a man accused of harboring him.
Another escape in Exuma that month ended fatally.
Police shot and killed Wesley Pierre, 33, after he stabbed a corporal in the face with a pen and escaped from the Georgetown Police Station.
Pierre was caught a short while later, but allegedly attempted to disarm one of the officers who pursued him, police said.
During the struggle, Pierre hit an officer in the head with a rock and the officer shot him, according to police.
He was arrested in connection with an assault matter.

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Suspect in Major's murder has longer wait for trial date

October 24, 2014

The men facing charges in relation to the death of a teenager weeks ahead of his high school graduation appeared in court yesterday to receive a trial date.
Dwayne Peter Lockhart is charged with the June 1 stabbing murder of Enrico Major, 17, on Baillou Hill Road South.
Kervin Neely is accused of abetment to the murder.
Justice Bernard Turner adjourned the fixture hearing for a second time this week because lawyers for both men were not present.
On Thursday, Neely's lawyer Glendon Rolle was not present, and Raymond Rolle, who appears for Lockhart, was not present yesterday.
Turner has now set a fixture hearing for Monday.
Lockhart entered a guilty plea to the murder charge last month, but the court did not accept the plea because it was equivocal.
Lockhart was unrepresented when he attempted to enter the plea.
Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Sandradee Gardiner appeared for the Crown.

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Anti-Haitian extremism

October 24, 2014

The big Caribbean tour bus left the bucolic village of Petionville in Haiti heading towards Santo Domingo, about one hour late; the customs papers must be filled out and put in proper order before departure.
It took another hour to meander through the crowded streets of Port au Prince until we got onto the main international highway leading to the Dominican Republic. The water level of Lake Azuei has risen several inches, forcing the government to pierce into the rocky mountain to create a new road. It is an unfinished one, causing more bottlenecks.
At the border, on the Haitian side, everybody must step out of the bus with their luggage for inspection. It was fast and courteous since we were traveling with a group of mayors and the national coordinator of the Political Platform Repons Peyizan; as such we received official courtesy and special handling.
On the Dominican side, five minutes later it was the same operation, everyone must get out of the bus with their luggage. The customs officers there were openly soliciting bribes. I refused to pay. Later I found out that my luggage was confiscated by some border supervisor on the allegation that I failed inspection. Luckily the enterprising Dominican who helped me with my luggage confronted the uniformed bandit inspectors.
I prepared my presentation for the ominous day; I traveled with a delegation of mayors and political leaders from Haiti to take part in the commemoration of the death of Jean Jacques Dessalines on October 17, 1806. It was organized by the Federation of Haitian Organizations in the Dominican Republic. It is a first for the Haitian Dominican Diaspora in spite of the fact that it is some 1 million strong.
It took that long for that diaspora to feel secure enough to call on their brethren from Haiti to come and share together the remembrance that makes a Haitian person proud that he is part of a lineage that has produced epic stories that changed the face of this earth.
Extensive preparation took place; the auditorium at the University of Santo Domingo was properly reserved. Diplomats and government officials were invited but, all of sudden, the very day of the event, the rector of the University called to cancel the presentation. A group of Dominican anti-Haitian extremists had manifested their resentment at having the Haitian hero, Jean Jacques Dessalines, remembered in the land of Juan Pablo Duarte.
The delegation from Haiti went anyway to the university to visit with the rector and make amends to the attendees. There, we were confronted with a group of vociferous Dominicans hurling insults and threats at the delegates. But for the strong support of the student security cordon, we could have been hurt by the demonstrators.
The University of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, along with Harvard University in the United States, is the oldest venue of learning in the Western Hemisphere; elegantly rebuilt and renovated, it is an oasis of higher learning where tolerance, civility and scholarship preside. The students were surprised and embarrassed by the violence exhibited by a small group of extremists that stopped the free flow of cultural exchange.
I would have understood the resentment against Jean Pierre Boyer, the third president of Haiti, who conquered the Dominican Republic, closed the university and treated both Haitians and Dominicans in a terrible manner. Jean Jacques Dessalines was a liberator, eager to break the chains of slavery whenever he found them. In fact, his first constitution proclaimed that all people, Indian, black or white, were to be set free as soon as they set foot on the soil of the Republic of Haiti.
Alexander Petion helped Simon Bolivar to regroup and win independence for the entire Latin America. The same Jean Pierre Boyer helped Greece to acquire its independence.
The Dominican Republic is at a critical juncture where it must turn towards full emancipation for all its citizens and residents to reach a higher plateau in its economic development.
A visit to Santo Domingo will indicate that the Dominican Republic has arrived. Large streets with imposing buildings give the impression that you are either in Minneapolis or in Toronto in autumn. The signals of success are visible everywhere, in the supermarkets filled with goods and people choosing the best from every corner of the globe. And in the joie de vivre of the people as soon as the weekend arrives!
Yet there are pockets of poverty discerned in the many se vende/for sale signs I have seen on the real estate market in Santo Domingo. It could also be seen on the road from Haiti to Santo Domingo; the towns close to the borders are desolate and are different from vibrant cities like Azua or Bani.
The economy of the Dominican Republic is now strongly linked with the economy of the Republic of Haiti; the resemblance is akin to the linkage of the United States to Canada or rather the United States to Mexico. Both countries must synergize their resources to take off without bumps and turbulence.
We took refuge after the incident at the university in the headquarters of presidential hopeful Fidel Santana of the Frente Amplio movement. He and his staff were very hospitable in helping us to endure the trauma of the violent discriminatory practices endured at the university. If and when he succeeds in taking power in 2016, he promised to work together with Haiti in making sure the wings of the same bird named Ayiti by the Haitians or Hispaniola by the Dominicans fly elegantly to the summit with the people on both sides of the border secure in their corner.
The United States had to undergo the revolution led by Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson to become a true united nation from sea to shining sea. South Africa went through the same process with Mandela and De Clerk.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti will become true sister nations when the leadership on both sides of the fence understands that the human resource is the greatest gift given to earth by the creator; nurturing, shepherding and developing that resource is the fastest way to full economic, social and political development for any nation.
A small group of extremists cannot stop the irreversible course of history. We shall overcome
o Jean H. Charles, LLB MSW, JD, is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: jeancharles@aol.com and followed at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti. This is published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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