Opinion

The conviction and courage of Warren J. Levarity

November 12, 2014

It is a brutally painful week for the country. The nation is grappling with the tragic loss of Pastor Myles Munroe; his wife, Ruth, and seven others. The number of those killed in the air crash and the sheer tragedy of it beggars our imagination.
So much loss of life and potential. Grief beyond measure for many, especially the children, families and congregations who have lost spouses, parents, loved ones and spiritual leaders. Grief which no words can easily comfort.
This week we also lost another national hero. Warren J. Levarity was a physically sleight, gentle man with a wide grin. His gentle manner did not fully portray his larger disposition of intellect, conviction and courage. He was a brilliant man with a passion for social justice.
As the Colony of the Bahama Islands entered the first year of the new decade of the 1960s, the United Bahamian Party (UBP), the political wing of the white oligarchic economic elite, was at the height of its power.
The largely merchant class gerrymandered and corrupted the political and governmental process to maintain social, economic, political and racial dominance.
In 1960, a young Warren Levarity, a son of Grand Bahama, challenged the UBP on that island in a hotly contested by-election. He was David! Goliath never knew what hit them. Before the end of the decade, Levarity helped to usher in the first majority rule government.
Initially it seemed that the UBP had won the 1960 by-election, though quite unfairly and through various schemes. However, the courts eventually declared Levarity the winner.
Many in the hierarchy of the PLP had been convinced that the seat was unwinnable. The UBP never imagined that it could lose the seat. But Levarity, possessed of a shrewd analytical and political mind, knew that things were changing in the country. His victory emboldened and bolstered the PLP.

Committed
Levarity was a committed progressive and was committed to the struggle for racial and economic equality. Having returned home as a trained accountant he could easily have worked as a professional with the Bay Street elite, eschewing any involvement in the struggle for majority rule or playing it safe like others who only ran for the PLP after it became easier to do so.
But Levarity's mixture of idealism and conscience propelled him to join the struggle quite early. He was a founding member of the National Committee for Positive Action (NCPA) along with Sir Arthur Foulkes, Jeffrey Thompson, Eugene Newry and others.
The NCPA was an advocacy and activist group which helped to radicalize the PLP, providing the party with ideas, strategy and a program of nonviolent direct action.
It was said of Levarity's political mind, that he could "see the play", like a chess master watching the various strategies and movements of allies and opponents alike.
Following the 1967 victory, Levarity became minister of Out Island affairs in the first PLP Cabinet. He spearheaded efforts to bring an array of basic infrastructure to many of the Out Islands. His efforts significantly contributed to the PLP winning many of those seats as a part of its 1968 landslide.
Levarity, like Sir Arthur Foulkes, was dismissed quite early from Sir Lynden's Cabinet. The ostensible reasons for the firings masked Pindling's more likely reasons, including to appease backbenchers hungry for Cabinet appointment and to rid himself of colleagues pressing for action.
Quite early in the PLP's tenure in office there were mounting concerns about the increasing lack of collegiality and the growing cult of personality surrounding Sir Lynden Pindling. There was alarm over a number of policy decisions at odds with the party's progressive philosophy.
There were originally more dissidents than the eight who finally left to form the Free PLP and then the Free National Movement. But when the vote of no confidence came, some of the more insistent critics of Sir Lynden and the direction of the PLP, buckled in their convictions and their courage, absenting themselves from the House chamber with dubious excuses.
Warren Levarity, along with the seven other dissidents, courageously opposed Sir Lynden at the height of his power. He was to pay a heavy price for his convictions. Like many others, Sir Lynden set out to destroy him.
Those who opposed Sir Lynden were branded and targeted as traitors. Sir Lynden's court and cult of personality, greed and power include some who are still alive and who were among the most vicious.

Outcasts
The brothers who helped secure the Second Emancipation were treated as outcasts and enemies, one of the greater shames of the PLP and of that era. It is a shame and a disgrace which the PLP and certain others have never fully acknowledged.
While entreaties were made to various dissidents to return to the PLP, with promises of favors and financial rewards, none of the Dissident Eight returned. Sir Lynden and his political hatchet men made it impossible for a number of the dissidents to find work, to access scholarships for their children or to receive various private or government contracts.
Still, they did not buckle. One dissident captured the convictions of some of the others: "We were prepared to die rather than return to Pindling's PLP." Because of this brand of courage and sacrifice, our democracy is secured through a vibrant two-party system. The country owes much to national heroes like Warren Levarity.
He agitated early against the marginalization of Bahamians at Freeport by the Grand Bahama Port Authority. He battled in opposition and in government to secure various rights for Bahamians at Freeport.
He was a man of vision, issuing as early as 1967 a white paper on local government. Like many other progressive measures to deepen and broaden Bahamian democracy, the idea was scuttled by Sir Lynden and the PLP. It would take decades, until the advent of an FNM government, for local government to be introduced.
In paying tribute to Levarity, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham noted: "His challenge of his party's leadership and direction cut short his political career but contributed in great measure to the creation of the democratic system we enjoy today. For this reason alone, The Bahamas owes Warren Levarity a tremendous debt of gratitude."
Deputy FNM Leader Loretta Butler-Turner offered: "Warren Levarity was a man of enormous courage who sacrificed much and early for the cause of freedom and democracy. He championed inclusiveness and collegiality within the FNM and within government, a cause that endures.
"Our greatest acknowledgement of his legacy is to continue his good work within the FNM and within the country. The great work that he undertook and accomplished lives on..."
As the nation mourns its great losses this week, we might remember the good work of those we have lost, including others like Yvonne Isaacs, a meritorious council member of the FNM, a strong advocate of women's rights and another of those early freedom fighters who stood against the abuse of democracy. May they all rest in peace.

o frontporchguardian@gmail.com, www.bahamapundit.com.

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Whether it is Ebola or natural resources, Africa is the genesis of civilization

November 12, 2014

In some western media news reports, Africa is always portrayed as the Dark Continent with backward people, but with the present spread of Ebola on the continent, there is a great health concern globally. The so-called advanced, civilized countries cannot function economically without the natural resources from Africa. Therefore, if the Ebola virus spreads throughout the entire African continent, the industrialized countries will suffer financial losses. They need the natural resources from Africa for manufacturing purposes and large profits.
However, on the other hand, there is scientific and historical proof that life began in Africa and all people of the world originated from Africa. But in this present era of our history, Africa is still being exploited by the rich countries of Europe and Asia, while the majority of continental Africans are suffering due to various factors, including traditions that the Africans are not willing to give up.
As a person of African origin myself, I sometimes feel the Africans' pain and suffering. However, the African continent is very big and the people have diverse cultures that keep them divided, while those of us in the diaspora are as divided in a similar way. However, it is a fact that when people are united, they cannot be defeated. Unfortunately, we as African people globally are the least united among all the different races and, for that reason, we are divided.
In terms of religious practices, apart from traditional African spirituality that we have deep within us, we find ourselves involved in the conflict where the major religions of the world are vying for control. In addition, while we find ourselves religiously divided, we think that the religious belief that we embrace is more important than race. For example, we can see the bloodshed and violence in Northern Nigeria, Somalia and the Central African Republic, where continental Africans are killing each other based on religious differences.
In addition, although we are divided as a people, we still have that African spirituality mixed up in the adapted religions that we follow willingly or were imposed on us by our colonial masters. On the African continent, there are African people who do not identify themselves as Africans because of their religion. Some of them claim to be Arabs and Jews, while denying the African DNA that makes them racially black African.
On the other hand, in some parts of the African continent, the situation is horrible, due to manmade destruction, when big foreign business corporations get involved in the exploitation of natural resources. Other times, the destruction is created by tribal conflicts that some Africans are not willing to abandon.
However, the interesting thing is that whatever is happening on the African continent will always affect the entire world. Africa is the cradle of human civilization and it has a vast amount of natural resources. Without the natural resources exploited from Africa by industrialized countries such as Britain, United States, France and China, the world economy would be different and there would be no United Nations control by the European Union and the United States.
Additionally, whenever there is some kind of new disease in Africa that becomes an epidemic, most of us, as people of African origin, always think it is some kind of biological warfare being spread on the continent by scientists from the developed countries. In addition, although we are the least united as a race, this is the only issue we always share a common opinion on. Most of the time we tend to believe that our former colonizers are still conspiring against us. We are still suspicious of our former colonizers because of the Atlantic slave trade that took place for 400 years.
In conclusion, presently as Ebola takes a toll on a few countries in West Africa and some persons who became infected traveled from the infected areas in Africa to Europe and the United States as healthy carriers, the disease is creating a sort of worldwide panic. People are frightened that Ebola will spread globally and kill hundreds of thousands, as in the days when smallpox was an epidemic. However, those countries that are very much advanced in medical science and creating vaccines for diseases that can stop a worldwide epidemic, are sending some of their best doctors and scientists to those African countries, to treat those who are infected patients with the disease and to stop the virus from spreading. Therefore, whether it is good news of natural resources or bad news about Ebola, Africa is always the beginning of everything. The African continent is the genesis and every other thing outside Africa is an exodus from Africa, like Ebola.
o Hudson George has a bachelor of arts degree in social science from York University, Toronto, Canada. He has been writing since his early teenage years and now contributes letters and articles to a number of Caribbean newspapers.

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Myles Munroe: A great Bahamian leader departs

November 11, 2014

It was the day that was set aside to remember the fallen and those that gave their lives so that our liberties may be sustained. Many marched on Bay Street and down Parliament Street to gather at the Garden of Remembrance to pay tribute to the heroes that fought and those that paid the ultimate price on the battlefield. The mood was sombre and so were the attendees at this annual event.
As we transitioned from the commemoration of this event and the new week beckoned, The Bahamas was shaken in grief and sorrow by some shocking news. The news and social media were overwhelmed with discussions about a plane crash that had occurred in Grand Bahama. It was indeed an emotional roller-coaster for many Bahamians as we heard initial conflicting reports that one of our greatest and most illustrious sons had been killed in the fatal plane crash. We all hoped and prayed that this was a mere rumor but alas it was confirmed that Dr. Myles Munroe had been killed in the plane crash.

A leader of leaders
Born in Nassau, Bahamas in 1954, Myles Munroe was an internationally-renowned leader, a bestselling author, a respected lecturer and teacher, leadership mentor and life coach as well as an adviser to governments and corporations. It is not surprising that he died on his way to the Global Leadership Forum under the theme "Leading change in a globalized world through principled innovative leadership". A well lettered Bahamian with degrees in fine arts, education and theology, he held a master's degree in administration and received several honorary doctoral degrees. Munroe also authored or co-authored over 100 books with many bestsellers among his pieces.
The life of Munroe was dedicated to the empowerment of people and the grooming of leaders in all spheres of life, ranging from politics to religion and the corporate world. He led leaders and provided them with sound counsel to confront the challenges of leading in a changing world. The genius of his ministry was also shown in the diversity of his followers and this was displayed in the number of nationalities represented within his local congregation at the Diplomat Centre.

An ambassador for
The Bahamas
The extent to which Munroe impacted the lives of people around the world will never be fully comprehended. However, one thing is certain: he was a man who represented his country well around the world for several years. He did so with grace, intellect and pride while preaching about the Kingdom of God and teaching principles for living an effective life. He was a household name from North America to the Far East as he put The Bahamas on the map as he made his voyage through life.
It was not unusual to meet persons from different countries who knew him because of his teachings and books. His gift made room for him and brought him into the presence of kings and rulers across the globe. In recent times, Munroe's travels across the continent of Africa were chronicled and reported in the local media. Who would have known that this was his final tour of a continent that embraced him like its own? It was only fitting, therefore, that Munroe was awarded the Silver Jubilee Award for providing 25 years of outstanding service to The Bahamas in the category of Faith, honored with the Order of the British Empire and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his contribution to leadership development in Peru and other emerging Latin American nations.

Activism and advocacy
In the final months of his life, Munroe made the news for a number of his utterances on matters of national importance. While there were proponents and opponents of his views on matters such as gambling, the referendum on gender equality, immigration and crime, he remained resolute based on his convictions.
In hindsight, one can only wonder whether he had a premonition of his imminent death and wanted to leave his beloved country with some food for thought. Indeed his words will not be forgotten in a hurry, and it behooves leaders across the archipelago to consider the wisdom of the words he said. Munroe will be remembered regardless as a man who stood up for what he believed, even when it was unpopular and when he had to stand alone. Bahamian leaders will do well to emulate this trait and make decisions in the national interest of The Bahamas, especially decisions that will impact generations yet unborn.

A tragedy unfolds
The Department of Civil Aviation reported that a Learjet 36 left the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) for the Grand Bahama International Airport at 4:07 p.m. carrying nine passengers. It was further reported that the vessel crashed while making its landing approach with no survivors from the incident.
Myles Munroe exited this world with his soul mate and beloved wife by his side, symbolizing a bond that was so deep that even death could not separate them. In a twinkle of an eye, our celebrated son and his colleagues in ministry was no more; his candle was blown out long before his legend ever will.
The story will now be told by those of us who were privileged to experience the wisdom and teachings of one Myles Munroe. It will be said that death snatched him from our hands prematurely though we know that death is one certainty in life and our mortality makes this inevitable. The interpretation of this unfortunate event as a national tragedy by many is inconsistent with the ideology of the late leader. One of his famous quotes is that "The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose." Munroe lived a purpose-driven life and was sure of his assignment which he discharged to the best of his abilities to the end.

A fitting farewell
It is yet to be seen how a grateful nation will honor one of its sons and entrench his name in our nation's history books. Here was a man who was clear on his assignment and on his purpose in life which he exemplified daily. In an interview some time ago, Munroe stated: "I was born to transform followers into leaders and leaders into agents of change". There is no doubt that The Bahamas is in need of agents of change at this juncture in its history more than ever before. There is no bigger way to honor the legacy of this great son of The Bahamas than to commit ourselves to the service of our God, humanity and our country as true agents of change.
We bid farewell to a leader and teacher. We celebrate the life of a mentor and patriot and pay homage to an ambassador extraordinaire who firmly believed that The Bahamas was the best little country on this side of heaven. He often said that God lives in The Bahamas, and we pray that his soul rests in perfect peace in the bosom of his Lord. He will be greatly missed and we can only hope that those he has left behind will carry on from where he left off. Indeed in the words of 2 Timothy 4:7, Munroe has fought the good fight, he has finished the course and has kept the faith.
Adieu, Dr. Myles Munroe.

o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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Transforming public transportation - can we do it

November 07, 2014

I'm not sure how bad public transportation is in other Caribbean countries, but in The Bahamas it is a cause for consistent public ire. Even the public bus drivers complain about each other; how they cut each other off in traffic, how they steal each other's customers and how some buses go outside of their route to cream off passengers.
In The Bahamas we call public buses "jitneys". The more emotional of us elongate the word jitney and prefix it with a few other choice and colorful words. Some of us even use special hand and finger signals to waive to our favorite bus drivers. How nice!
My previous next door neighbor has a fleet of buses, and daily he complained about the mess and the abuse he took from other bus drivers, passengers, other vehicles that he shared traffic with and all else road-rage worthy while he downed more than his fair share of "adult-sodas" at the local public house.
Of course, he had to be whisked safely away after a few hours of lamentations induced by his adult soda of choice. Thank goodness that he is an owner now and not a day-to-day driver anymore. Because one can only assume that the consumption of too many adult-sodas would leave any man struggling with too much sugar in his blood stream, which may make him unsteady during the day, to say the very least.
Anyways, for my case, and while I write about important things (at least I like to think they are important), I also like to take the time out to whine and moan about certain matters because I can. Because I'm the one penning this and not you, I just have to express my feelings on the public transportation fiasco we have in New Providence that public bus drivers are at the core of.
Just last week I was "trapped" behind one of those buses traveling on the Prince Charles Highway heading east. I am being bitterly honest when I say this: the bus driver stopped at least seven times in the space of a half of a mile before I was able to get around him.
Some of these "stops" were no more than 100 yards away from the previous stop. Some even shorter.
Why all of the continual stops and starts? Why cause me to forget my prayers that morning and turn into a bitter, angry and spiteful man before my next stop? Why are these bus drivers doing this to me!?
I wrote something on the miasmal mess of public transportation a little while back, as well as highlighted a way in which we can solve this problem. The article was widely shared around The Bahamas and other national and regional sources.
Back when that previous article was written, New Providence was then also dealing with a major road development project that multiplied the problems of transportation times 10,000. So, not only were the roads a mess, we had to deal with the same herky-jerky chaos that we normally deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Unfortunately, while funding was "reportedly" provided for the upgrade to the public transportation system through a very small part of that road development project, with the project officially coming to an end, we are left with the same problem of a lack of a coordinated and carefully planned public bus system.
The major reason why The Bahamas has a lack of movement on a unified public transportation system was that the bus drivers don't want anything that opens the door to them losing their particular routes. Of course, this left in place the status quo of everyone poaching off of everyone else's routes. So, I guess the status quo of some of someone else's route is better than the possibility of no route at all.
The second problem regarded building a stakeholder model that made sure everyone could play a major part in the unification of a public bus system and sensitively transitioning out those that didn't want to be a part of it. Of course, from the onset, and with so many drivers, this would never have flown under any other manner than the one I presented earlier and will reiterate and elaborate on later in this article. It's just human nature to keep one bird in the hand. This is before we get to the politics of it all, both national and personal rivalry.
The third, and equally important problem, was the lack of leadership on the matter. A lack of leadership born out of a void of will to get it done. For all things considered, it isn't an easy task putting public bus drivers in the same room, let alone having them coalesce around an idea as heavy as unifying and organizing the public transportation system so the country can benefit.
An attempt to create a model for the public bus system was done before by a private group a few years back. The group designed a new route, with a fleet of new buses, and this was touted as the solution to the public transportation mess. However, what it did was create another fleet of privately owned buses to add to the already nightmarish confusion. That's just what it is. Truth!
We deserve better than this. We can do better than this!
Going to back what I had originally posed earlier, I will add value to the first opinion and build around it.
For one, creating a unified system isn't undoable. The main concern for the individual bus drivers and licensees is with regard to supplementing their salaries during the transition, particularly for the drivers and licensees that don't want to be a part of the new and unified system.
Just to say: construction, purchasing of new fleets, corporate modeling, staffing and traffic planning is a given. This is just what needs to take place as a result of an initiative such as this. This isn't where the rub is if the overarching idea is to create a singular, unified bus system.
The rub comes when we do not take into consideration the bus drivers and licensees that may lose income as a result of phasing out the mess we have now into a newer, organized and workable system.
What should happen is that we find a way to provide an estimation, over time, of what it costs individual bus drivers on a yearly basis and what they stand to lose in income during the transition into a unified bus system. If the average bus driver makes $25,000 per year, and the project should take two to three years to complete, then that is anywhere between $50,000 to $75,000 pay out. Whatever loan, guarantee or financing option is undertaken, this should be factored into the financing agreement.
Sure, it takes money to do all of this in addition to paying bus drivers out. But if the end goal is to have a singular, unified bus system, then after the bus system takes effect, paying off the financial obligations from a public monopoly would be straightforward and stable.
The second issue is with regard to the bus drivers and licensees that do not want to be a part of a unified bus system, and do not want to stop public bus services. The solution to this is to expand the industry for public bus charters with a no bus-stop requirement, and have them work as private and public charters.
For example, allow them to have licenses where they can organize arrangements with corporate offices, schools and governmental agencies for charter services. The charter service would be designated office to home charters, with a mixture of regular bus-stop drops and privately marked off-road stops in residential areas.
This would cut down on the public nuisance that bus drivers create through their frequent and annoying stops in the middle of the roadway, while at the same time providing for a working public bus system in addition to making the streets more organized, safe and user-friendly.
People would have to walk a few yards to their particular stops, but walking to an identified stop is what we should be doing in any event. Let us not lose sight of what is right and proper.
All in all, I feel the end result should be on the table regardless of when and if public consultations and discussions start with regard to finding a solution for public transportation - the end result being a one bus system country. No more, no less.
o Youri Kemp is president and CEO of Kemp Global, a management consultancy firm based in The Bahamas. This article was published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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The FNM leadership race and the narrative of politics

November 06, 2014

Both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were successful politicians, in part because they understood the power of narratives and storytelling. They weaved their individual life stories into the broader narrative of the American experience. The stories political leaders tell and how they tell them reveal character and vision.
Where someone begins a narrative reveals a great deal about their understanding of history. Oftentimes narratives begin at a place convenient to the storyteller, with an omission of details by those revising the narrative to suit their version of history. Watch carefully how a story is told.
Videos released by FNM leadership candidates Dr. Hubert Minnis and Loretta Butler-Turner tell two very different stories about character and leadership styles and their appreciation and understanding of FNM and Bahamian history. The respective videos are markedly different in tone and substance.
A video previously released by Butler-Turner was upbeat and positive. It was less about her and more about her vision for the FNM and the country. She evoked the memories of the party's founders and recognized the successful leadership of Hubert Ingraham. She told a more expansive and inclusive story.
For his part, in a somewhat dour and petulant video plea released this week, Minnis peers into the camera and offers his particular version of reality and why he should be elected leader at the upcoming FNM convention: "Because it was I who inherited the Free National Movement after its greatest defeat. I inherited an organization where people did not really want to be a part of because it was deflated at that time and in fact individuals were running away. I inherited an organization where we had in excess of a million dollars in bills.
"It was I who brought individuals together to help bring that bill under control. It was I who held the party together in spite of the insults and negativity that may have been inflicted and thrown at me, but in spite of that I persevered because it was my responsibility as leader to hold the party together to prepare the party for the battle that we knew would eventually come and now we are battle-ready."
From the very first line, Minnis' version of events is self-serving, arrogant and historically skewed. The loss in 2012 was not the FNM's "greatest defeat".
The 1977 loss of the opposition forces under the banners of the now defunct Bahamian Democratic Party and the FNM was a greater blow, as was the 2002 defeat, when the FNM was nearly wiped out in New Providence, save for a single seat.

Rewriting history
Does Minnis not know this history or is he rewriting history to serve his own interests? The video continues in this vein. He speaks of the debt after the 2012 loss and notes that he brought it under control. Reportedly that debt is still large and not "under control".
During the just-over-one-minute video Minnis narcissistically says "I" or "my" seven times. There is little sense of "we". Ours is not a U.S.-styled presidential system. Minnis did not inherit the party, though he may have thought so as the leadership was handed to him without a contest.
In the self-absorbed video presentation there is not a single word of appreciation, acknowledgment or gratitude to his parliamentary colleagues and others who worked to keep the party together after its loss, including the work done by many during the North Abaco by-election.
Though he may have his differences with the party's deputy leader, Loretta Butler Turner and the other FNM MPs have worked diligently in the House of Assembly and in their constituencies on behalf of the party. Minnis has not single-handedly kept the FNM together.
Recall Butler-Turner's defense of him in the House of Assembly when police tried to physically remove him. Rarely has he reciprocated such support for his deputy.
In the video there is no appreciation shown to the party's Finance Committee and other groups like the Torchbearers or Women's Association. Minnis does not speak to the needs of the party or the country. Instead, his argument for why he should be leader is based on a skewed and selective reading of what has transpired since the 2012 loss.
After the loss, many FNMs rallied to the party, including former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, Minnis' political mentor. Even before the Abaco by-election, there were mounting reports of FNMs being alienated by Minnis' non-consultative, highly secretive one-man band leadership style.
After the Abaco by-election Minnis further divided the party with ungracious comments toward Ingraham. Instead of unifying the party and building a team, Minnis kept his colleagues, including his deputy leader, in the dark on a host of issues.

Responsibility
He infamously failed to consult or advise several colleagues on the proposed increase in salaries for parliamentarians and that of the leader of the opposition.
In the ensuing firestorm, he pled ignorance and failed to accept responsibility, a pattern that characterizes his leadership. Similar to Prime Minister Perry Christie, Minnis rarely accepts responsibility for his mistakes and gaffes, though, as his campaign video demonstrates, he is more than happy to claim all of the glory.
Another pattern of Minnis is that of playing the victim: "It was I who held the party together in spite of the insults and negativity that may have been inflicted and thrown at me."
Politics is a rough-and-tumble venture. In Britain, Labour Leader Ed Miliband has been under unrelenting scrutiny since he took over as leader following the party's defeat in 2010.
Miliband has endured severe criticism within his party and from the press. This is the nature of having the top job. One is constantly tested. Tough leaders don't whine and complain like school boys or girls.
Minnis so often indulges in self-pity as he plays the victim. Imagine how he will wither from assaults by the PLP. Much of the criticism is justified.
The recent lead story in the National Review in this journal was by an independent observer. His critique was similar to that of many others within and outside of the FNM, especially of Minnis' inconsistent leadership and chronic flip-flopping.
By example, Minnis has said of term limits for a prime minister: "This has always been my position simply because everyone reaches a certain level when they would be maxed out, suffer from brain drain and become stagnant."
This is highly disingenuous. Minnis supported Hubert Ingraham for four terms. It is not just the flip-flopping that is a pattern. There is also a disturbing pattern of disingenuous comments that continues to shred his credibility.

Undermine
Even as he plays the victim, casting himself as a sort of choir boy above the fray, Minnis eagerly indulges in political machinations and craftiness. One imagines that the campaign to undermine his deputy in all manner of media just happened to appear out of the blue.
Minnis has in many ways endured much less than Butler-Turner who has seen attacks on her character and integrity. She has been attacked over her weight and for being a woman - attacks men do not have to endure.
When Butler-Turner responds to such attacks with a fighting spirit, and not self-pity, she is branded with all manner of unkindness. But when a man responds in a fighting spirit, he is said to be tough and strong.
Handed the leadership of the FNM, Minnis had an extraordinary opportunity to unite the party. Yet he became a non-inclusive, self-entitled leader who thought that he was above criticism. This style of leadership is overwhelmingly responsible for any division or lack of party unity, as the leader sets the tone for the party.
There was tremendous goodwill toward Minnis at the outset. Though he seeks to keep playing the victim and blaming others for the loss of confidence in his leadership, the dwindling of that goodwill is overwhelmingly his fault and not that of FNMs loyal to the party first and foremost.
Those FNMs who rallied to Sir Kendall Isaacs as Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield stepped down as leader, knew that the party was more important than any one leader. Those who criticize Minnis are not disloyal to the party.
Instead most of them want a stronger FNM and simply believe that he lacks the wherewithal to unite the party and defeat the PLP. His claim that the party is battle-ready is patently false.
The party was barely ready to hold a convention, with many constituency associations still not up to speed following the 2012 loss, yet another failure of Minnis' leadership.
The sad thing about Minnis' video is his ingratitude to the FNMs who came before him, and his lack of appreciation for the stellar record of the party over three terms led by Hubert Ingraham, one of the more successful prime ministers in the modern Caribbean.
By making the broader narrative about him, and not the party and the country, Hubert Minnis has revealed the kind of leader he would be. It is not the kind of leadership the country needs or that the party deserves.

o frontporchguardian@gmail.com, www.bahamapundit.com.

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Haiti, the land that sprouts artistic talent like wild flowers

November 05, 2014

For its small dimension of 10,700 square miles - the size of the state of Maryland in the United States - Haiti has a disproportionate number of artists that could make it the preferred bank of artistic production in the world.
If you miss the extravaganza of Artisanal en Fetes produced this year and every year on or around the last weekend in the month of October, pencil your calendar for next year. Do visit Haiti around that time, and head from your hotel to the magnificent ground of the historical cultural park of the Canne a Sucre in Port-au-Prince, happily protected and preserved by the Auguste family under the umbrella of the Auguste Foundation.
Row and row of a diverse variety of artistic production will surprise, amuse and bemuse you for two days. I have observed this year the first day did not have the usual big crowd seen every year. Upon inquiry, I was told there was an international soccer game featuring Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Messi of Barcelona as opponents, paralyzing any other activity in the country.
It might also be the entrance fee of 300 gourdes, or $6.50, at the entrance. Haiti, like the rest of the world, is experiencing a retraction in money circulation. For the majority of the Haitian population, art is so much part of the daily life experience that paying for the privilege of seeing and buying art is not in the ballpark.
I am always amused that entire walls filled with valuable pieces of art on display in different parts of the capital remain untouched during entire nights without being the prey of thieves or hooligans.
Looking for an explanation of why Haiti and its people are so prolific in art production, I have to look at the small mountain enclave disputed by both Pakistan and India, named Kashmir, or Peru, where the artistic production could rival the one from Haiti. The reason might be the splendor of the mountains in both countries suspire inspiration and perfection that make man become closer to his divinity.
I have mentioned recently in one of my columns that the Haitian government has found a way that reminded of the American GI works whereby the artists are hired to fill the exterior walls of the houses with murals that will make the capital city a moving museum worth visiting and admiring like the Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral destroyed by the earthquake.
It was a rendezvous for art connoisseurs all over the world who came to pay tribute to a Hougan peasant priest, who produced pieces of art worth millions of dollars.
The artistic talent compensates for the lack of material by seeking and using discarded material such as used tires to produce ornaments for the light poles or a calabash for the night light table fixture.
This artistic capacity was lying dormant in the country until a conscientious American objector chose to make his amends in Haiti by pulling together all those who knew how to hold a brush. The Art Center created by DeWitt Peters that started in 1944 with its own endowment of $2,000 became a Mecca where all the Haitian artists, who produced primitive pieces that were not considered art then, became world-renowned painters of the dimension of Hector Hippolyte and Philome Obin.
Is it pure coincidence or a reminder that this year represents the 70th anniversary of the full explosion of Haitian art that a major exhibition will take place at the Grand Palais in Paris from November 14, 2014, to February 15, 2015? It will include all the genres represented in Haitian art for the past 200 years, portraits of the founding fathers, spiritualism, including voodoo ceremonies and statutes of mystical saints, romanticism and modern art.
Some 45 years ago, the Brooklyn Museum of New York undertook a major Haitian art exhibit that included a live voodoo ceremony. I had my education in voodoo and in Haitian art in that exposition. It might be time for the trustees of Brooklyn Museum and the Haitian side to consider paying homage to DeWitt Peters and to his contribution to Haitian art in organizing de nouveau a giant exhibit in 2019 for the 75th anniversary of his shepherding the art renaissance in Haiti.
The Haiti economy, as well as its artistic output, has been in decline for the past half century. As such, a Haitian painting, in spite of its artistic value, cannot command the same price as a painting made by a black or Caribbean artist.
A country's art is in direct correlation with its standing on the scale of its financial worth. I have often dreamed of a monthly art auction in different cities of Haiti where the aficionados would come from all over the world in their private jets to bet on significant art pieces that would make the most talented Jean Michel Basquiat lost too soon in our world blush with pride.
For this dream to become a reality, Haiti will have to stay put and stop its practice of continuous political convulsion. Its government must also engage in the culture of wealth creation for a larger portion of the population.
In the meantime, from Santa Fe to Philadelphia, the iron pieces that could adorn the adobe homes or the wall of any garden space should be a fixture that all can and should afford. That ornament alone will increase the selling as well the appreciation of your piece of real estate.
In the end, Haiti will revive from its political and economic swamp. Buying its art pieces now is a sure investment that will bring a smile to your face now and a walk to the bank later
o Jean H. Charles, LLB MSW, JD, is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: jeancharles@aol.com#mce_temp_url# and followed at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti. This is published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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Confronting the immigration problem

November 03, 2014

After decades of ignoring the menace of illegal migration by successive administrations in The Bahamas, the new immigration policy announced by the government came into effect on November 1, 2014. While the immigration policy could have been more comprehensive, it is a good start and a welcome development after years of burying our heads in the proverbial sand or, put another way, kicking the can down the road on this important topic. It is encouraging to see the government take the bull by the horn on the subject matter, which always invokes mixed emotions and reactions from the populace.
The new immigration policy comes on the heels of the procurement of vessels and equipment by the government to enhance surveillance and patrol of our borders by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. If this is an indication of the government's commitment to addressing the immigration fiasco, then we should expect positive results in this area in the months and years ahead. This article builds upon the "The immigration fiasco" series published in The Nassau Guardian in February 2012.
The urgency of the moment
It is often said that desperate times call for desperate measures. This popular saying applies to us at this juncture in our nation's history in the aftermath of the Great Recession and in the midst of the sluggish economic growth we are experiencing. The government is confronted with a high deficit and high debt-to-GDP ratio. In closing the fiscal gap and addressing our monetary woes, the government has developed a fiscal consolidation plan, which involves the curbing of government spending and the implementation of value-added tax next year. This is being implemented at a time when we have a high unemployment rate; particularly among the youth of The Bahamas.
The problems created by illegal migration in The Bahamas are far-reaching and put enormous drain on the public system including healthcare, education, national security and social services. The menace of poaching in our waters and the employment of illegal migrants in businesses in The Bahamas further complicates a sensitive issue. It is therefore incumbent upon a government that truly cares about its people to act prudently to ensure that The Bahamas is not seen as a nation that does not take this matter seriously. In relation to the new policy, it is simply unacceptable for persons who are in The Bahamas illegally to feel at ease without fear of being apprehended by the authorities. Illegal immigrants should not be comfortable breaking our immigration laws while not expecting to face the consequences.
Commentaries and reactions
There seems to be overwhelming support for the government's new policy on immigration after advance notice was given to the general population prior to implementation. It is also true that certain individuals and interest groups, albeit in the minority, have taken exception to the enforcement of the new policy and the laws of our country. While many have applauded the government and minister responsible for immigration for this bold move, others have condemned the same. It is important for the government to continue with its effort, as we can only achieve the desired results if we are consistent in our approach and unwavering in our commitment to address this vexing issue.
In the midst of this discussion, which is expected to continue in the coming months, the government must remain resolute, being cognizant that it is virtually impossible to please everyone by decisions being made. Additionally, policymakers should be open to suggestions and ideas that can enhance the existing policy. The litmus test for any government in choosing whether to proceed with any initiative is and should be national interest assessment. Decisions ought to be born out of love for the country and should be aimed at benefiting the entire populace.
The contradictions in our debate
Over the years, Bahamians have demanded action from the government in dealing with illegal migration to our country. The feedback from the Bahamian people as expressed privately and through diverse forms of media has been consistent insofar as the need to place more emphasis on turning the tide on illegal immigration in The Bahamas. However, in spite of this rhetoric, several Bahamians have been equally guilty of accommodating illegal migrants either for personal or economic gain by employment.
The mantra adopted by some Bahamians in this discourse seems to have been, "Do as I say but not as I do". In other words, it is fine for the government to implement and enforce appropriate immigration rules as long as they are not impacted. This double standard and paradox has been apparent in the reactions and criticisms of the recent clampdown on persons residing in The Bahamas illegally. It is high time we began to put our country above ourselves and take a stand for that which is right for the sake of generations yet unborn. The Bible puts it best: "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways". It will be interesting to see in the coming weeks how many Bahamians will be found aiding and abetting illegal migration.
Concerns and questions that linger
Despite the ample notice given by the government prior to the effective date of the policy, the reality is that a number of Bahamians will still not be in possession of a valid passport; especially Bahamians who do not travel or who do not intend to travel out of the country in the near future. Will a voter's card be deemed acceptable in lieu of a valid passport? This seems like the only other alternative, as a national insurance card is not widely accepted as a national form of identification and does not confirm that a person has the right to be in The Bahamas legally. It is expected that our law enforcement officials would have been properly briefed on acceptable protocols and permissible identification documents. This discussion also raises the controversial topic on the implementation of a national identity card and the civil liberty concerns that arise as a result.
On our part, as law-abiding Bahamian citizens and legal residents, how tolerant and understanding are we prepared to be during this process? Will the government still have our support when we or our relatives and associates are questioned by immigration officials and asked to provide the requisite form of identification? It is inevitable that some of us Bahamians will find ourselves in the middle of this exercise as law enforcement officers will not be able to tell at all times whether an individual is a Bahamian or legal resident. The implementation of this new policy will no doubt test our patience and the amount of sacrifice we are prepared to make for the common good of our country.
Keeping the objective in sight
Nevertheless, in the midst of this exercise, we must not lose sight of the ultimate objective of the new immigration policy which is simply to enforce our laws, guard our sovereignty and ensure the sustenance of our nation for years to come. This policy which the government has indicated will be enforced in a humane manner, must not be construed as what it is not. The world is a global village and with globalization comes the movement of people. Migration is a global phenomenon which is inevitable and essential for development of any country. Hence, we as a people do not oppose or deny the important role of foreigners who have come here legally to help us build and develop our nation. Rather we seek to uphold and enforce our laws to sustain our way of life and maintain our standing among the community of nations as a country that is serious about law and order.
The recent and anticipated crackdown on illegal migration should also not be interpreted as an exercise aimed specifically at one nationality albeit the statistics may show that, historically, there have been more illegal migrants from one country than the others. It is our expectation nevertheless that our law enforcement officers will continue to approach their jobs with the utmost professionalism and treat all foreigners and migrants in our midst with the dignity and respect they deserve. None of this debate and enforcement exercise should create the perception that we deem ourselves superior to persons of other nationalities.
Regardless of nationality or origin, we are all God's children and must not forget to be our brother's keeper, even as we work together to rid our country of the scourge of illegal migration. The level of the public debate must also be elevated and all forms of malicious, racist or hateful statements aimed at foreigners should be condemned vigorously by us all. This is only right in keeping with the preamble to our constitution which inter alia reads: "And whereas the people of this family of islands recognizing that the preservation of their freedom will be guaranteed by a national commitment to self-discipline, industry, loyalty, unity and an abiding respect for Christian values and the rule of law..." The underlined words say it all.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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The Caribbean needs national consciousness awakening

November 01, 2014

I submit that national consciousness and awareness is the quintessential sector of the new economy. I will attempt to demonstrate how that consciousness, which I speak of, positively affects our nation's economy.
It is that consciousness that will encourage us to eat what we grow and grow what we eat, for instance. If we do so, our food import bill will be significantly reduced. The agricultural sector will experience sustainable growth and development, because farmers will have a ready local market for their produce.
Additionally, it would afford our poultry and livestock farmers the opportunity to invest and expand their production, because our people would understand that, when they go in the supermarkets, they will not purchase any imported chicken. We will buy our own and if we do not have, we'll be prepared to do without. That is the level of consciousness I am talking about.
Moreover, there is no pressure from government, no breach of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. We are simply making a conscious effort to eat what we produce and, by so doing, we are only eating healthy. We will do more with our bananas, breadfruit and ground provisions.
Macaroni pie will be replaced by yam pie, potato salad by breadfruit salad, cranberry juice by coconut water and the list goes on. Of course, what I am articulating is nothing new. Every government, past and present, has spoken about it. Only the Revolution Government (1979 - 1983) made a valiant effort to implement. How did they attempt to do so?
The PRG tried by raising the consciousness of our people. That consciousness does not stop at our table. It extends to our clothing. We will wear more of our clothes by our local designers. This will give rise to the development of more cottage industries and the sustainable development of our creative industry, which is a billion-dollar industry globally.
It's the same for our music. The more local music we play and purchase, the more our local musicians will be able to work on their music full-time, because they know there's a ready market. Grenada does not have a proper copyright regime; but, if it did, with all the foreign music played in Grenada, thousands of royalty monies would have been expatriated to the U.S.A.
The picture is similar with an examination of local television and radio. With three television stations and more radio stations per capita than anywhere else in the world, local content remains woefully lacking; as such, the Grenada economy does not benefit as it should.
Now, I am not advocating a total local diet, or total local wear or entertainment, or that we live as "cavemen" - far from this. We have to share of the things of the world, as much as we invite them to share with us. All this consciousness will do is to engender a more significant economic consumption of things local. The Americans have done so successfully.
Americans know that their cars, for example, are not the best. Yet for all, they drive around in their Buicks and Chevrolets with great style. They are proud of everything American. And, when the French get them annoyed, they rename French fries to freedom fries and there is no problem with that.
Of course, in America you will find cars from other countries prominent on the market as well. Most developed countries have that mentality. The Germans are world-famous for their automobile engineering, but that does not mean you will not find a Toyota in Berlin, or a Mercedes in Tokyo, despite the fact that the Japanese love their local brand vehicles.
The fact of the matter is that for industries to thrive, local support is critical. In most developing countries, there is an attitude to shun locally-made products and, in Grenada, we are no different. That mentality needs to change if we are to develop. To a great extent, Jamaica and Jamaicans - more than anyone else in the developing world - have done more than others to change that mentality and attitude.
Jamaicans love their music, food and culture. They have a strong influence on other cultures in the world. So much so that when a young Grenadian artist sings a good song, he automatically speaks as a Jamaican.
When developing countries were shipping their athletes to the U.S. for training, Jamaicans were confident and conscious enough to train and develop their own and to telling effect. They now dominate the world in sprints. I cannot rationalize this high level of consciousness with the "bleaching of the black skin culture", but Jamaica, by and large, is a good example of national consciousness. ?
In the 1960s and 70s there was the black consciousness movement sweeping through the world. It did a lot for black people; from civil rights in the U.S.A. to independence in Africa and the Caribbean; to educational and employment opportunities for people of non-white origin.
We need a national consciousness to sweep through the Caribbean islands, this time to awake our people from their slumber. Could you imagine Caribbean children having Halloween parties in the Caribbean?
o Lawyer Arley Gill is a magistrate and a former Grenada minister of culture. This is published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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Employment 'pre-nups'

October 31, 2014

It's usually not the first thing most of us want to think about when starting a new job, or hiring a new employee, but it's actually one of the most important things to consider to avoid difficulties if, and when, the employment relationship comes to an end. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American worker holds 10 different jobs before the age of 40; and The Bahamas is not likely to be much different, so it's clearly something we should plan for. Do you know how much you would be owed if your employer decided to dismiss you without just cause? And how much would an employer need to pay if the relationship is not working out?

What if there is no agreed termination clause?
Except for those contracts which last only for a set period of time, most employment contracts run indefinitely. However, those contracts which do not specify how they are to be brought to an end can still be ended at common law by either the employer or employee giving "reasonable notice". (There is no need for either party to give notice if the other party has been guilty of a major breach of contract.) But what is "reasonable notice"? The answer is that it depends on the facts of each case, and ultimately the aim is to figure out how long it should take the employee to find a similar job elsewhere using reasonable efforts.
In 1985, the Court of Appeal in the Royal Bank of Canada v. Cambridge decided the specific factors a court should weigh, including the age of employees, the length of their service with the employer, their responsibilities/job description, experience, status, training, qualifications and their chances of alternate employment. This goes to show why a notice clause is so important - the assessment is subjective, and in many cases it can be very difficult to predict what a court or tribunal would consider to be reasonable, so neither side can be sure whether they are paying or receiving the correct amount.

How does an agreed notice clause avoid this uncertainty?
A notice period agreed between the employer and the employee avoids this difficulty altogether, because in most cases a court or tribunal will simply follow what the parties have previously agreed, rather than try to assess what is "reasonable". Having this knowledge usually prevents disputes because each side can easily predict how much money is at stake and, of course, if there's no dispute then legal costs can be kept to a minimum.

What effect does the Employment Act 2001 have?
The Employment Act contains, among other things, provisions for the ending of employment contracts by the giving of notice, the period of which is calculated based on whether the employee was a manager/supervisor or line staff, and the length of his or her service. The Court of Appeal in 2006 (Deveaux v. Bank of The Bahamas) interpreted the act as setting a minimum standard below which employers cannot go. On that occasion the Court of Appeal also decided that this minimum standard does not prevent the employee from still making a claim for "reasonable notice" if he or she thinks they would do better under the "reasonable notice" requirement of the common law, with the risk of being liable for their own legal costs (and possibly their opponent's too) if they lose.

Recent developments: Betty K. Agencies v. Fraser
A recent case in the Court of Appeal has thrown into doubt whether an employee can still resort to the common law when it comes to a claim for notice and seems to run contrary to the decision of the same court (differently constituted) in Deveaux v. Bank of The Bahamas. In Betty K. Agencies v. Fraser, a case decided in September 2014, it was argued that the Industrial Tribunal had failed to take into account the factors set out by the Court of Appeal in Royal Bank of Canada v. Cambridge in order to determine what notice would have been "reasonable" to terminate Frazer's contract. The court disagreed, and decided that the period of notice for terminating an employee was "statutorily established" by the Employment Act. This suggests that the Court of Appeal is now interpreting the notice provisions contained in the Employment Act as overriding or replacing the common law.

The present state of the law
Although the Betty K. Agencies v. Fraser might seem to have created more certainty in the employment relationship, the existence of two apparently contradictory decisions at the Court of Appeal level has created a situation whereby the courts of first instance (i.e., Magistrates Courts; Industrial Tribunal; Supreme Court) can arguably choose which authority to follow: Betty K. or Deveaux. Litigants cannot be sure which approach the courts will take, unless and until the point is taken to The Bahamas' highest court - the Privy Council. There is therefore still good reason for both employer and employee to agree right from the start how the contract can be terminated.

o This article does not constitute legal advice. If you need advice on the issues raised in this article or otherwise you should consult a qualified attorney. Richard Horton is a partner at the law firm Alexiou, Knowles & Co. and has been practising civil litigation in The Bahamas for 10 years as a registered associate, having been called to the Bar of England & Wales in 2002. Richard represents and advises clients in a wide variety of matters, but has a particular focus on employment/labor matters and admiralty matters.

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A renewal of patriotic sentiment in Haiti

October 29, 2014

I was in Cape Haitian recently, and I was surprised to find the magnificent and huge cathedral of the city filled like an egg by school students for the commemoration of the death of King Henry Christophe, who ruled the northern part of Haiti from 1806 to 1820.
It was not a national holiday but a local one, spurred on a son of the city, who passed away few days before this celebration. Henry Christophe, who was born in Grenada but migrated to Haiti at a young age, was a combatant at the battle of Savannah and helped the United States win its independence from Great Britain.
He became general in chief of the indigenous army that battled colonial French soldiers until they left the country. On the death of Haiti's founding founder, Jean Jacques Dessalines, Christophe ruled the north of Haiti with a progressive but iron hand.
The Citadel Laferriere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the royal palace in Milot, are two signal edifices that he left for posterity. The commemoration of his untimely death on October 8, 1820, was the manifestation of regained patriotism that I have not seen in Haiti since I was a lad in the 1960s.
I have also observed, in Cape Haitian as well as in the capital, several schools, mainly the private ones, engaging in the daily exercise of saluting the flag before the beginning of classes. It is a first in a country where the democratic fiesta went all the way to the other side, as the government cannot conduct its business in peace without demonstrations by opposition groups claiming they are promoting democracy.
Haiti, as in 1804, has been a pioneer in democratic revolution, rebuffing the dictatorial regime of the Duvaliers on February 7, 1986. The Philippines, Poland, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Honduras, the satellites states of the Soviet Union, the Arab Spring of Tunisia and Egypt, etc., were all replicas of the people's movement initiated by Haiti some 25 years ago.
But, in Haiti, as well as in the rest of the world, the democratic revolution did not bring much democracy. Haiti sunk into the militarism, and the illiberal democracy of regimes that cared little about the welfare of its people. The sentiment of nationalism was relegated to a corner, where each one was there for self, as President Rene Preval exhorted: "Swim to get out on your own".
Patriotism is the glue that links people of the same country together. Political crises often break that glue. It took some 25 years for Haiti's citizens to openly affirm love for their nation. It was totally strange for high school students to find themselves submitted to a formal flag raising in the morning. They are not accustomed to such a public demonstration of love and respect for their own country.
The new minister of education, Nesmy Manigat, who insists on quality education, might have some bearing on the new flamboyance. He has recently published the results of the official exams, school by school and county by county. As such, to retain their pupils, the directors and the teachers must try harder in providing a culture of learning and leadership beneficial to the students and to the nation.
Patriotism and nationalism might be the true solution to the internecine wars raging in the Middle East as well as in Africa. The reverence for the founding fathers and the willingness to continue together building and improving the legacy of the ancestors should serve as a reminder that there can be no fight between the children of the same nation.
The sentiment of patriotism in the United States, as well as in the rest of the world, is often clouded with the veil of xenophobic fear and passion. It remains that cherishing one's country, embellishing the house bequeathed by the founding fathers is key to peace, harmony and prosperity.
The experience of democracy in nations newly liberated from the horror of dictatorship has been a failed one because there was not enough international support in fostering le vivre en commun. Apart from Poland, Chile and Slovenia, there are very few success stories to frame and give as a model either of the Soviet bloc, the Arab Spring, or plain capitalist countries such as the Philippines or Haiti.
We have, instead, people from the same country, brethren from the same womb, killing each other because they are either of different tribes, different religions or different political affiliations.
The renewal of patriotism might be the new tool that can be utilized by the international community to heal Iraq, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo or Mali of their internecine wars. Apart from the military supply of killing tools to defeat the insurgents, funding for working on the grey matter of these citizens might lead to faster peace and prosperity in a world where conflict and war is a common staple.
o Jean H. Charles, LLB MSW, JD, is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: jeancharles@aol.com #mce_temp_url#and followed at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti. This is published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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Old soldiers never die

October 28, 2014

The phrase "old soldiers never die, they just fade away" comes from an old army ballad which was popular with British soldiers during World War I. The lyrics, as recorded by Eric Partridge, read: "Old soldiers never die, Never die, never die. Old soldiers never die, they simply fade away. Old soldiers never die, Never die, never die. Old soldiers never die, young ones wish they would."
Earlier versions of this military song could be construed as complaints from soldiers on their living conditions in the barracks with intrinsic humor which poked fun at army life and career soldiers. However, the phrase gained much prominence and popularity after it was quoted by Douglas MacArthur - one of the most decorated and revered soldiers in American history - in a farewell address before a joint session of the U.S. Congress on April 19, 1951. This piece looks at this popular saying using the word "soldier" figuratively to represent the Bahamian patriots in the generations to which they belong within the Bahamian context and the socio-political landscape that is shaping up rapidly before our very eyes.

The anatomy of a soldier
The members of the armed forces of any nation are vital in the protection and preservation of the liberties of the people of that country. They are expected to be individuals of integrity and impeccable character, which are prerequisites in the upholding of the rule of law. These individuals are held to a high standard in their deportment and dealings with people in our society. Additionally, we expect them to exude physical discipline, perseverance and mental toughness in order to effectively discharge their duties.
The challenge faced by most old soldiers is that having been at the top of their game for so long and having built their lives around their craft, they have to confront the reality of departure and having to leave the scene to pave the way for the younger soldiers. While it is a known fact that even the best soldiers will eventually have to retire and confront their mortality, they struggle to come to terms with the inevitable decline in their fame, prominence and relevance with the passage of time. It is a difficult position that requires fortitude and great character but one which we must all ultimately reach in our lives; hence the importance of building a good legacy. The younger soldiers for their part are often anxious to take on the reins of power but spend little time training and preparing for the roles they long for. The song inherently highlights the impatience and enthusiasm of young soldiers as they wish that their older counterparts hurry off the scene. Alas, this script is played over with different casts from generation to generation in our country.

The Bahamian soldiers
It is common practice for civilian Bahamians to refer to one another as soldiers not because they are a part of the armed forces, but they do so in recognition of the fighting and determined spirit of the average Bahamian. We are built to survive, and the zeal to conquer every challenge we face is part of our makeup as a people. The Bahamian soldiers are diverse in terms of gender, backgrounds, fields, professions, political divides and race albeit we all share a common loftier goal.
The expectation of the Bahamian people is that the people that lead us in the government as well as the public and private sectors have and display the qualities of a true soldier. We expect them to have courage with empathy, self-pride with humility, be respectable but respectful and speak but have the wisdom to listen. The standards we hold them to do not seem to be unreasonable or unrealistic of people that have embraced the call to serve.

The young and old soldiers
The last line of the lyrics of the referenced army song could be interpreted in a number of ways. The story of combats and statistics on casualties of wars will often show that young men and women determined to serve their nations and die for a worthy cause have been massacred on the battlefield.
There is indeed great honor in this sacrifice, and the world will forever be indebted to them for risking their lives daily so that we may keep ours.
The role of the older servicemen and women in preparing and guiding the willing youth of this nation as they embark on their voyage of service is extremely important. Having been through the wars and being familiar with the perils of the battlefield, they have a duty to preserve the army for future battles as they journey to their twilight years.
While old soldiers never die but just fade away, what is the destiny of the young soldiers? Will the young soldiers be allowed to die figuratively speaking? In other words, while casualties in the battlefield of politics, public service, religion and commerce are inevitable, the old soldiers should not abandon their role to guide, mentor, teach and protect where necessary the young soldiers with minimal experience.
George McGovern said it best when he stated: "I'm fed up to the ears of old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in." For the sake of our country's future, young soldiers should not be deployed to wars that are senseless or designed to lead to their demise, thereby crushing their hopes and aspirations.

A national debate
on the generations
There is a common commentary all across our archipelago of islands on the divide and disparity between the new generation and old generation. This discourse focuses on the knowledge, wisdom, ethics, discipline, commitment, loyalty and strength of both generations.
It is not unusual to hear words such as "they don't make them like that anymore" suggesting that the new generation lacks the fundamentals of their ancestors and predecessors. The discussion sometimes omits the reality that a person's age does not make him or her a part of a new generation; the individual's ideology does. An often ignored part of this discussion is also the difference in mind-set and information available to the generations.
Interestingly, the older generation of today were also at odds with their predecessors and had fundamental disagreements on how they felt things should be done. The ultimate goal should be the betterment and improvement of the status quo in the interest of our commonwealth. Change is a prerequisite if we are to experience continuous progress in our nation; hence, change is a perpetual process requiring real agents of change in every generation.
As Albert Einstein rightly stated, "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". While approaches and methodologies adopted to enable our nations' progress may differ in an information age which features technology and unparalleled innovation, personalities and egos must not supersede the national interest. We must keep our eyes on the prize for a common loftier goal.
The legacy of the old soldiers as they fade away will not be defined solely by their exploits or victories on the battlefield but also by the condition or state in which they left the army. Was the army better upon their departure when compared with their enrollment?
The swan song of the old soldiers
As MacArthur addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress, he sought to chronicle his service to the American people and to defend his position in disagreeing with President Truman. The records suggest that the speech was well received and was indeed a masterpiece as it was reported that he was interrupted by 50 ovations.
The five star general who stated in his memoir, Reminiscences, that he "learned to ride and shoot even before he could read or write--indeed, almost before he could walk and talk" ended his famous speech by saying:
"I am closing my 52 years of military service. When I joined the army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all of my boyish hopes and dreams. The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished, but I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that 'old soldiers never die, they just fade away'. And like the old soldier of that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty."
As the old soldiers of The Bahamas pass the baton to their successors and the new generation of leaders, will they leave enough young soldiers on the battlefield to carry on with the fight? Will the old soldiers fade away with dignity and serve as statesmen and stateswomen while our country benefits from their insights and wisdom or will they leave a weak army with few wounded young soldiers and discredited veterans behind? As for the younger soldiers, have they learned from the old soldiers what to do and what not to do?
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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The open society and its enemies

October 27, 2014

"We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure."
- Sir Karl Popper
Recently, Government House issued a document entitled "Procedures for members of the media", announcing that, effective immediately, "the governor general would not give interviews", and that "interviews with persons or groups making courtesy calls at Government House will not be permitted inside Government House or anywhere on the premises". This policy stands in stark contrast to the open access that the media enjoyed for decades at Government House.
Therefore this week, we would like to Consider This... Is this recent decision to muzzle the press at Mount Fitzwilliam a sign that there is a resurgence of elements who, in bygone years, were viewed as enemies of the open society?
A historical perspective
Government House is often referred to as "the People's House" - a term that characterized the openness that was encouraged by former governors general. There were many occasions where the press was welcomed to interview persons who attended national events such as the swearing in of Supreme Court justices, ministers, senators and persons paying courtesy calls on the governor general. Such occasions afforded the press an opportunity to interview persons who were willing to provide commentary on the event of the day or other important matters. It also provided the press an opportunity to speak with the governor general on matters of national importance.
The new policy
In addition to the already stated changes, the dictum from Government House also observed: "When state or other social functions are held at Government House, members of the media will not be permitted to conduct interviews with guests, or staff members. Photography may be allowed under the direction of the press liaison officer.
"During state events like the presentation of credentials by foreign diplomats, opportunities for photographs will be managed by a press liaison officer assigned to the media. Bahamas Information Services in consultation with the secretary to the governor general will inform the media beforehand of the liaison officer assigned so that their presence is facilitated."
Open versus closed societies
Throughout history, proponents of the open society have critically opposed such actions by the power elite. One such person was Sir Karl Raimund Popper (1902 -1994), an Austrian and British professor at the London School of Economics, considered one of the most influential social and political philosophers of the 20th century. His seminal work on the topic was entitled "The Open Society and its Enemies".
Popper is best known for his critique of totalitarianism and his defense of freedom, individualism, democracy and an "open society" - a society in which the citizen is not only free but encouraged to constructively criticize the political directorate, oppose demagoguery and to embrace progressive, rational thought and public policy. Popper doggedly opposed totalitarianism, fascism, romanticism, collectivism, and other kinds of reactionary and irrational ideas.
Popper observed that authoritarian societies are hostile to any public criticism, which deprives the planners of needed feedback about the impact of their policies, which further undermines the effectiveness of utopian engineering. He wrote that "the open society is one in which men have learned to be to some extent critical of taboos and to base decisions on the authority of their own intelligence."
The implications of the new rules
The implications of the new "no interview" rules from Mount Fitzwilliam are enormously far-reaching because any attempt to muzzle the press in a democracy cannot contribute to an open society. Only the enemies of the open society would embrace and support such an ill-advised and ill-conceived policy. These rules are anathema to the Bahamian political culture of openness, access to and freedom of the press, as well as freedom of expression. What better place to dispense information on national issues of public policy in order to inform Bahamians than the People's House?
The "no interview" rules are insulting to the high office of governor general who is - and ought to be - free to make public comments on important national issues. At a time when we are inundated by the adversities in so many quarters of Bahamian life, is the public really well-served by a governor general who is muzzled from commenting on the wonderfully inspirational developments and personalities who positively impact our daily lives?
This policy offends most Bahamians. Should politicians, diplomats and citizens be prohibited from speaking to the press regarding activities that are held within the precincts of Government House?
A "no interview" policy is also offensive to a free press. It suggests that the press is incapable of professional discretion and propriety. If there are those newcomers in the press who perhaps are not familiar with the protocol of Government House, would it not be better to teach them about those rules instead of banning them altogether? Additionally, if it is inconvenient or inappropriate for the press to interview dignitaries in some areas of Government House during a function, certainly the People's House is big enough to provide a suitable space to conduct interviews.
Finally, it demonstrates an unwarranted degree of insecurity by those who crafted such an ill-advised and ill-conceived policy.
A throw-back to an earlier time
It can be convincingly argued that this "no interview" policy is a throw-back or return to an earlier time in our historical development when a degree of openness in public life was discouraged, when persons were not free to express themselves about matters that are important to our national development. This "no interview" rule is an unfortunate development in our political culture which should be reversed in the interest of fostering a more open society.
Conclusion
We should never forget the Hitlerian policies which inaugurated its authoritarian, Nazi regime by muzzling the press. We should never recoil from taking positive steps to enhance a free press in our fledgling democracy.
We should not remain silent about this retrogressive step, but, rather, we should remember the inscription at the foot of the Statue of Liberty which reminds us that, "We do not choose political freedom because it promises us this or that. We choose it because it makes possible the only dignified form of human coexistence, the only form in which we can be fully responsible for ourselves."
At all times, we must do everything within our power to build and maintain an open society and to unabashedly expose its enemies who would seek to curtail our freedoms and, once again, attempt to send us backward as we strive to move our nation to the future.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.

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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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Productivity versus busyness

October 23, 2014

Government workers are lousy, lazy and dreadfully incompetent. They come to work late, don't produce results that meet what you asked or paid them for in a timely manner, plus they take three-hour lunch breaks and then leave work more than a half an hour before their scheduled knock off time.
Employees in the private sector want more money for doing nothing at all. I mean, where do they think this is? Don't they see that I'm the boss and I know it all? What work do you do around here?! How dare you ask for more than $200 a week? For what you do? Are you kidding me? You want us to raise the minimum wage to what?
This is what you hear across the board when we talk about labour, work and employment in The Bahamas. You hear the same cries even in America and Canada. No doubt the calls are all the same across the Caribbean and Latin America too. But, in the Caribbean's case, is it all true? Or, is it just misguided anger?
In The Bahamas, the most recent strike actions in early September from the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and their related sub-unions have garnered some attention from the local and international media. The courts granted an injunction to the government to put a halt to this action that the government felt was illegal, however the discontent was already in the air and certain concerns were placed before the Bahamian people with regard to these labour matters. Matters that will most likely be addressed, but at a later date.
This strike action prompted this author to review an IMF Working Paper read a few months ago. Published on July 1, 2014, the paper analyzed labour market issues in the Caribbean.
I must say from the rip that I'm not in favor of labour unions striking on a whim. I'm not appreciative of their particular matters being rejected totally out of hand either. I'm also not wholeheartedly in agreement with the IMF's paper, even though the work produced gives impetus to framing a separate debate and from that debate begging particular questions to be asked and other matters to be raised.
My position on this entire affair, learning from the work produced by the IMF, is strictly to bring to the attention of the public a parallax position that may be seen as distorted or an aberration of the original issue. But, a part of the issue it is, even though one may feel it too distant or unrelated.
For instance, we're all not lazy loafs, unskilled and unprofessional and choose to spend our time drinking rum, smoking marijuana and taking days off because we can. And, on the other side, we are not mean, maniacal and spiteful policymakers that want to hog up all of the money for ourselves and leave the workers to eat cake! This type of language and sentiment is unhelpful.
In this spirit moving forward, the IMF paper went into great detail to collect, collate and analyze data on labour market trends in the region. Some data were more readily available, and others sparse or simply unavailable. In either extreme case, there was enough to extract a rich number of inferences from the dataset and the subsequent correlations it brought to the fore.
One theme that's prominent throughout the paper is: employment output-elasticity. Or, in other words, the extent to which employed persons' (hired workers or laborers) output (the amount, rate and level they are productive based on how and what they produce) is elastic/inelastic (negatively or positively responsive to external and or internal determinants and/or shocks) to the extent to which it impacts, or is impacted by, GDP and/or GDP growth determinants in the macro-economic sense, or in the micro-economic sense, basic company performance indicators: the bottom line and the inputs or variables that affect the bottom line.
One thing that jumps out is the correlation of employment elasticity of The Bahamas, being the lowest correlated point observed in the dataset, with Jamaica being the highest. Simply put, with any change in real growth through cyclical periods, Bahamian employment is least likely to be impacted in any significant way.
This is a very interesting outcome from this study and says a great deal about the Bahamian economy. For starters, it lends credence to the idea that we are over-saturated with entrenched workers in many areas of our economy, particularly the services and governmental sectors. A lack of employment-skills dynamism and services diversification is and was always a factor in Bahamian labour and employment dynamics.
This also gives the perception that it doesn't matter whether one person is employed on a particular task, or 10: The same level of output will be evidenced in our GDP estimates and other output and growth indicators. Essentially, we are doing the very little we are expected to do with an over-saturation of workers in those areas.
In Jamaica's case, it's the exact opposite. Which leads to another interesting piece of information brought out by the working paper: The distribution of elasticity of employment over time.
Without being too technical, the second method used is a regression model to pinpoint the rate at which growth and employment were evidenced over time.
The policies that spurred these dynamics could not be explained in the paper, but highlighting the lowest correlated over time in Jamaica and the highest correlated over time in Trinidad and Tobago, the authors did make mention of the Trinidadian government implementing employment growth initiatives that were independent of regular cyclical periods.
Further to all of this, Caribbean countries that utilized their natural resources, like Trinidad and Tobago, were seen as countries that were able to control the dynamics of employment and employment output outside of the regular business cycles and other related cyclical periods.
Further solidifying this observation was the statement that, over the last decade, real growth has been historically low, generating low employment growth. During 2002-2012, average real growth ranges from 0.62 percent in the Bahamas to 4.7 percent in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Bahamas has not utilized a great deal of its natural resources in a nationalistic sense, while Trinidad and Tobago has. Neither has Barbados (due to a lack of natural resources to exploit) to any large extent but Jamaica to a larger degree, both countries being on the sub-side of opposite ends of the spectrum.
While it has been reported that, over the medium term, real GDP growth is projected over the entire country set, one must ask the question based on this analysis is: Where will this growth be seen? Which sectors will be at the lead of this growth? Also, based on the sectors identified for growth, will this truly impact the labour market in a substantial way?
Knowing what we know now, removing constraints to innovation and investment is also a policy recommendation for the region. This is key to being able to open the doors of opportunity for development-led employment growth, but also keeping our citizenry employed with worthwhile endeavors and in a sense, not going on labour strikes and other forms of disruptive behavior.
Whatever happens as a result of these factors, natural resources are critical to impacting employment growth and managing employment elasticity. In fact, this was the key inference suggested from the paper.
Labor unions in services-dominated countries must be cognizant, particularly in non-resource rich and natural resource producing countries, that labor input at the widest margins does not significantly impact real GDP growth. And from this author's estimation, an over-saturation of employees may harm growth if this study is launched into another study that pinpoints the effects of labour and employment saturation.
I must also caution that, over time, if counter-cyclical measures aren't put in place to satisfy labour and employment demands, regardless of the benefits negotiated through the various labour unions in conjunction with the government, strikes and other work-related disruptions will become more severe and protracted as the years progress.
o Youri Kemp is president and CEO of Kemp Global, a management consultancy firm based in The Bahamas. This article was published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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Collective responsibility: The Bahamas' prime minister is not chief executive

October 22, 2014

Without language, we cannot conceive, understand and communicate ideas and values. It is important that we get our language right. We often get our language and our thinking muddled and just plain wrong in constitutional matters.
Proper language and terminology communicate concepts and principles. In medicine and science, getting concepts and language wrong may be a matter of life and death. Getting the same wrong in constitutional matters may help to weaken the vitality of our parliamentary system within the body politic.
Since independence, the prime minister of The Bahamas has been frequently and incorrectly referred to in the media, by some commentators and even by various politicians, as the nation's chief executive. The constitution confers no such title on a prime minister.
Day after day the local media, mostly the broadcast media, glibly and inaccurately refer to the prime minister as "the nation's chief".
Much of this is due to our relatively recent and limited history of Cabinet government and as an independent country. With the cult of personality and strongman politics of Sir Lynden Pindling we inflated in our political consciousness the actual powers of a prime minister, whose power, in significant ways, is considerably less than those of a U.S. president. Sir Lynden was often called "chief".
Our proximity to the U.S. and ignorance about our constitution has resulted in a misunderstanding of our parliamentary system and Cabinet government and in the repeated regurgitation of factual errors.
We borrow promiscuously from the American political lexicon expressions which are quite misleading when we try to understand and discuss our own constitution which is vastly different from that of the U.S.
Enamored with the drama of the American presidential system, quite a number of Bahamians are more aware of American civics than we are of our own.

Mesmerized
Often mesmerized by the U.S. media's reporting on the American government and the trappings of the U.S. presidency, we sometimes erroneously compare that system with parliamentary democracy absent a deeper appreciation of the origins, history, strengths and potential weaknesses of either system.
Some even don't understand the term republic. One radio talk show host, who is consistently factually wrong and a showman of little substance, recently wrote that he would prefer a republic rather than a parliamentary democracy. For someone who pretends to be intelligent and lays claim to constitutional scholarship, this view is the height of ignorance.
India, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Dominica and many other parliamentary democracies are also republics. We could become a republic and remain a parliamentary democracy. Further, the countries mentioned remain members of the Commonwealth, but not with the British monarch as head of state.
What the uninformed talk show host may have meant is that he prefers an American executive presidential form of government. But, given his ignorance about the various forms of republics, he likely little understands in any depth the nature of the America system of government.
A sign of this ignorance by some is the use of the term "checks and balances" when discussing government accountability. Often, just the term, "checks" is sufficient. But so used are we to aping the language of the American system, that we misapply their language to our system, even when superfluous.
In our system, the prime minister is the most important member of Cabinet and that is why we call him or her prime (or first), and he or she has important constitutional powers including certain powers of appointment.
Still, executive authority under our constitution is vested in the British monarch (Article 71) and is exercised by her representative the governor general. That is why no legislation by Parliament becomes law until it is signed by the governor general.
Further, the constitution gives responsibility for the general direction and control of the government to the Cabinet (Article 72), not the prime minister. That is what collective responsibility means.

'Deciders'
In our system the prime minister is not, as President George W. Bush put it, "the decider". The Cabinet collectively are "the deciders".
When Prime Minister Perry Christie, who should know better, mused about the creation of a standard or coat of arms for the prime minister, he was seeking to compete with the monarch's representative.
He was evincing a curious ignorance and telegraphing a U.S.-style presidential mindset that is foreign to our parliamentary system and the concept of collective Cabinet government. Christie seemed to have forgotten that he is head of a government that is collectively responsible to the head of state, to Parliament and to the people.
Article 72 of our constitution provides that the Cabinet "shall have the general direction and control of the government of The Bahamas and shall be collectively responsible to Parliament".
This is very different from systems with an executive president, such as the United States. All important decisions of The Bahamas government must be made collectively by the Cabinet.
The American president individually enjoys extensive executive authority, authority that has grown dramatically since the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. The repeated assertion that The Bahamas' prime minister inherently has too much power is a red herring.
The U.S. president may engage in certain military actions without the need to get approval from his or her Cabinet or from the Congress, though the president would be wise to consult both. There continues a historic debate about presidential war powers.
In our system, the prime minister must get approval for military action from the Cabinet and for extended military action from Parliament. Recently in the British House of Commons, Prime Minister David Cameron's government got approval for airstrikes in Iraq but not in Syria.
The prime minister's chief responsibility is the coordination and discipline of the Cabinet, where he or she is primus inter pares (first among equals).
A prime minister is expected to provide leadership for his or her colleagues; is responsible for the agenda and conduct of the proceedings of the Cabinet as well as discipline; is responsible for the overall coordination of the government and is the chief spokesperson for the government.
The constitution also gives him or her the authority to make or advise certain appointments, including the appointment of ministers.
A minister, including the prime minister, may bring a paper to Cabinet proposing a certain course of action or policy or project or legislation. A minister may also in certain circumstances raise a matter orally at the table.

Conclusion
Cabinet debates the issue and comes to a conclusion, or conclusions, which is or are then binding on the relevant minister and all of his or her colleagues as well as other relevant agencies of the government.
Once a Cabinet conclusion is arrived at, neither the prime minister nor any other individual minister can legally overturn, reverse or vary such decision. However, the Cabinet can collectively revisit any previous conclusion.
Various prime ministers will be weaker or stronger in terms of leading or dominating a Cabinet. But a stronger Cabinet can restrain a prime minister, and he or she serves at the pleasure of a political party and Parliament and can be removed as leader and prime minister at any time. The same cannot happen in the U.S. system.
There are layers of checks on the powers of a prime minster. A failure to check prime ministerial power lies not in how our system is designed. It lies in his or her Cabinet, parliamentary and party colleagues, which the great Margaret Thatcher learned when she lost the support of her colleagues and subsequently resigned office.
Those who speak flippantly about term limits for a prime minister demonstrate a peculiar ignorance of our system. Such limits, in the words of attorney Andrew Allen, are a solution to a problem which does not exist.
We elect a party to office. There is no direct election of a prime minister. Again, he or she is not an elected chief executive. He or she is a part of Cabinet, in which general direction and control of the country is vested and which is collectively responsible. Should we have term limits on the tenure of service of a Cabinet or ministers minister? Of course, that would be patently absurd.
There are improvements which should and will in time be made to our system, such as how the Senate is constituted. But there is an historic and inherent genius to our parliamentary democracy and Cabinet government which we should seek to better understand and jealously guard.
o frontporchguardian@gmail.com, www.bahamapundit.com.

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High on Ebola, low on chikungunya

October 22, 2014

Since the recent outbreak of chikungunya in the Caribbean, four individuals with close connections who arrived back to the U.S. from the Caribbean region were hospitalized immediately and diagnosed with the virus. In addition, a few medical center employees communicated that they have seen an increase of patients from the region admitted to their medical facilities.
I am not a medical doctor, nor I do I play one on the television; however, based on the recent reports, chikungunya has seen a significant up-tick. On the other hand, an impression is being portrayed that it is under control on these shores.
The leaders must address this issue openly and develop a solid plan before this potential storm, where soon U.S. and other countries well-traveled by Caribbean people will begin to put the medical drone on the region. The drone concept is geared to destroy anything in its path when launched. However, could you blame the U.S. if they cut travel, and begin to set high alerts and screening of passengers from the region?
The recent death of Thomas Duncan from Ebola at age 42, after arriving in the U.S., has created an intensive focus on foreign travelers from many poor and developing countries. Although many believed Thomas Duncan's death while in U.S. care would inevitably send a statement to others to not come, many people are now wondering what the color of medicine is after two dedicated Caucasian doctors who worked in Liberia contracted the virus and recovered. One of the silent tones in the Caribbean addressing chikungunya, I believe, is not the politics of the virus, which is often seen elsewhere - for this region, it is all economics.
Here is why: in most of the region, the economic engine is tourism, and if what has taken place in Liberia is any indication, the fallout could be worse than the economic collapse in 2008 which has left many still sneezing. I begin to wonder if the reason reports of this increasing tide seem a bit hushed up is to protect the tourism industry while many locals are suffering silently. The appropriate business model during a turbulent time is not only to be prepared, but also willing to inform about structural problems. This approach not only builds credibility, but also shows a level of leadership that is lacking today on several fronts.
This is not a call for a reduction of travel to and from the region, or high-level screening at airports; that would be premature at this point. On the other hand, when the local government is slow to educate people, it could be the beginning of a tornado building. Therefore, questions must be asked. Along these blue waters, there lies an undercurrent that can overflow the banks at anytime, and the long-term impact could cripple many lives, both medically and economically.
Managing these issues takes compassion and resources. Recently I saw a Facebook picture post of what appeared to be a sick person from the region who became more victimized as he was scorned because of the appearance of what was believed to be the symptoms of the Ebola virus. Furthermore, when it is reported that a few local doctors are contemplating refusing to report to work in the event of an outbreak due to the lack of medical supplies and other resources, it is troubling.
In today's society, where billions are being spent on wars and politicians' re-elections, it is hard to fathom that lack of resources and awareness, combined with scorn, can leave many more suffering. I hope elected officials, medical personnel and CARICOM step up to educate people and seek help through awareness, because potential problems such as what is occurring in Liberia and other West African countries, where perception is more dangerous than the actual virus, can happen here too.
These islands are unique and sometimes that can be their own downfall because the uniqueness creates a form of isolation. It further limits collaboration, as all seem to be competing for a piece of the visitors' pie. Therefore, competition mutes concerns, while marketing becomes a "them and not us" mentality.
This virus is not just an island thing, and nor is it found only in third world countries. One of my less-informed friends stated that he is going to stop eating chicken and stop going to places where lots of chicken is found.
Education is key: no, you cannot get it from eating chicken or visiting places where chicken is in abundance. The name chikungunya derives from a word in the Makonde language, roughly meaning "that which bends up," reflecting the physical contortions of a person disabled by the disease. Many reports have noted that it was first identified in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in 1952.
According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the first known autochthonous chikungunya cases in the Western Hemisphere occurred in October 2013 on the island of Saint Martin. By March 2014, travelers to other Caribbean islands carried it to: Dominica; the British territories Anguilla and British Virgin Islands; overseas territories of France like Guadeloupe and Martinique; and the constituent countries of the Netherlands Antilles, as well as other areas such as St Kitts and Nevis; the Dominican Republic; and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
An estimated 3.6 billion people in 124 countries are at risk worldwide, such as the many who are exposed to dengue fever. Large outbreaks have also been seen on Indian Ocean islands, in India and South-East Asia, according to the Infection, Genetic, and Evolution Journal. It has also reached Asia and Europe, and North America has seen a few cases recently in Florida.
The National Institute of Health, the World Health Organization, public health departments and infectious disease authorities have noted that chikungunya is a viral disease that is rarely fatal. It is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes.
The symptoms include high fever and headache with debilitating joint pains, swelling and stiffness of joints, muscular pain, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and a rash that can last for several weeks. Normally within four to seven days after been bitten, the symptoms appear.
The mosquitoes become infected when they feed on an infected person during the viraemic period. Today, there are no specific antiviral treatments or vaccines available. However, it also has been reported that commonly used medications include ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, paracetamol, and aspirin. Although there have been reported deaths, the numbers are extremely low compared to Ebola; however, one should not discount it as a storm that will pass soon.
These regions have to debunk the notion that only certain medicines can cure this outbreak, while many studies have been reporting there are no known cures at this time for the symptoms. It is extremely important that people take serious preventive measures such as wearing bite-proof long sleeves and trousers. More information has been published by many health organizations.
It can be extremely difficult to track down all mosquitoes and apply chemical spray on an entire region to reduce concerns.
Today many travelers are still waiting on a concrete government plan on how they are handling the issue in a coordinated effort. If there is one, please post.
Although some awareness has been registered, and governments seem now to be taking steps to mitigate the potential problem, more needs to be done. Nevertheless, can we all be stratified?
As the region continues to attract visitors, it is also important that these visitors receive a disclaimer of this undercurrent taking place. The leaders must make sure that all proactive measures are taken, seek help and resources as needed and stop putting on a good face on such issues with a relaxed attitude. I am still optimistic that all can come together and weather this storm. Moms and I have a ticket ready to land soon to take a break from this upcoming winter.
o Derrick Miller is a trained U.S. Federal law enforcement officer that has been in the criminal justice field for more than 14 years.

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The old boys' network in The Bahamas

October 21, 2014

The phrase "old boys' network" or "old boys' club" is often used to describe an informal system used by the affluent or elite in a society to retain power and money. The phrase is also used to refer to people in a group who have been around forever and exclude others from benefits, privileges, opportunities and conversations.
Certain members of the network simply deem themselves untouchable or above the law while sometimes using incestuous business relationships which may give rise to conflicts of interest to preserve the concentration of resources and influence in the hands of a select few in a country.
This week we take a look at our nation and consider how the network exists in The Bahamas or whether it is merely a myth for our purposes. We go a step further to examine the characteristics and impact of the network on our commonwealth and the potential repercussions for future generations of Bahamians if the network is abused without regard for the rule of law and the masses within our society. Has the network benefited our nation or has it further divided us while perpetuating a culture of entitlement and stymied our progress?

Exclusivity of the network
The Urban Dictionary provides the following commentary in relation to the network: "It is not necessarily purposeful or malicious, but can prevent women and minorities from being truly successful in the business world. It entails establishing business relationships on high priced golf courses, at exclusive country clubs, in the executive sky-boxes at sporting events, through private fraternities or social clubs etc. These are arenas from which women and minorities are traditionally excluded and thus are not privy to the truly serious business transactions or conversations."
While the aforementioned commentary focuses on the business aspect of the network, it applies to other incarnations of the network, from religion to politics. It is interesting to note that women and the minorities that are excluded as noted above constitute the majority in The Bahamas.
It is likewise important to emphasize that this piece does not seek to present the network which has existed from time immemorial and will continue for years to come, as an evil. Rather it seeks to highlight the features of the network and the danger to our way of life when the network is abused to the country's peril.

Versions of the network
The network exists in various forms but ultimately connects its members while excluding the majority of the population. In other words, while the network exists in commerce, religion, occupations and politics, membership in any of the referenced sub-groups will often guarantee access to exclusive benefits.
In The Bahamas, the level of privileges enjoyed by members of the network is often determined by political affiliation, though ultimately the members-only club has nevertheless benefited under different administrations due to the connectedness of those involved.
The existence of succession planning and the transfer of membership by birth ensures that the network survives from one generation to the next and maintains the underlying principles upon which the network is founded.
A new version of the network can hardly be expected from individuals who see no reason to deviate from the mode of operation of the status quo. However, the newer versions of the network (call them collectively Network 2.0) will have to adapt to a country in which the citizenry demand more inclusion, the same opportunities, equality of all before the law and access for all Bahamians.

The network, the average Bahamian and youth
The exclusive nature of the various subgroups of the network in The Bahamas is one that promotes territorial preservation but tends to create generational conflicts. This is not unconnected to the notion held by many that the network is a system that one can only be born into or invited to join. Hence, membership for the most part is limited to persons who constitute both the past and present political directorate or perceived aristocrats as well as their children and people in their lineage.
The "privileged" youth born or deliberately drafted into the network often have and display a sense of entitlement to the positions and openings that have a direct impact on the destiny of The Bahamas. The consequences of such a system is that gifted and qualified people in general and young Bahamians in particular from modest backgrounds without political connections are locked out of opportunities to serve our dear country either in the public or private sectors.
Unfortunately, this exclusion extends to the vast majority of young men who hail from the inner cities of our society. This reality, may be a contributing factor in the level of social degradation and ills that we experience in our nation today.
In rare cases where such outsiders are provided with opportunities to serve on a national level, their tenures are often marked with frustration and much grief as they are held to a standard designed to make them fail.
The silver lining here is that the shifting landscape in The Bahamas is bringing about an awakening and paradigm shift that has not been seen in our country in decades.

The network and women
In relation to women, the network phenomenon is very much alive and at work in The Bahamas as we are challenged to contribute at the highest levels in business, religion and politics. Research conducted in the U.S. in 2012 showed that only 18 Fortune 500 companies had female CEOs; this was a record high at the time. The composition of boards across the globe will also show that women are underrepresented at the highest echelons of decision making.
The picture in the Bahamian context is not very impressive. While Bahamian women have progressed significantly in the corporate world, they often confront the proverbial glass ceiling at the middle management level. Hence, women make up a small percentage of boards and upper or senior management of institutions in The Bahamas.
The United Nations estimates that approximately 20 percent of the parliaments across the globe are made up of women. In The Bahamas, the percentage is a dismal 13.2 percent which demonstrates a disproportionate number of men in political leadership in our country. It is apparent that Bahamian women have been (and continue to be) impacted by the far-reaching power and influence of the network in The Bahamas.

Benefits and dangers
of the network
The network provides access to opportunities for economic advancement and investments not available to the average Bahamian. In the public and private sectors, the commitment and loyalty that exists among members of the network ensures that members are always taken care of and are not subject to the struggles of commoners in The Bahamas.
This is seen in appointments to boards or positions within the private and public sectors as candidates are selected based on past or present personal relationships.
There is a school of thought that supports the approach of appointing persons who have gained enough trust and credibility while demonstrating loyalty over the years. This is deemed to be more important than actual qualifications or credentials.
However, it is important that candidates do not bypass proper protocol and a robust due diligence screening. More importantly, selected candidates must not only be capable, the process of appointment must be transparent to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest.
Additionally, past experience shows that the network has promoted the recycling of the same individuals and mindsets that are way past their time or relevance thereby perpetuating the ideology that "it is not about what you know but about who you know". Membership of the network should not exclude anyone from being subject to the same standards as other Bahamians, proper vetting or scrutiny at the expense of the reputation of the institution concerned or the nation as a whole.

The future of the network
An article printed in The Guardian in the U.K. a few months ago was entitled "Women are rattling the old boys' club, so let's celebrate its swansong". It seems fair to state that any celebration of the demise of the network in The Bahamas by the majority commoners and women that outnumber men on the voters' register would not only be misguided but also grossly premature.
The glass ceiling that places limitations on individuals outside the network will stay intact until the populace demand more from our leaders, not necessarily by inclusion in the network but by equal opportunity for all Bahamians to be all they can be.
The network survives in its current form within The Bahamas because the people have accepted this as the norm and tolerate a system that is not conducive to the achievement of the Bahamian dream. We have consciously or unintentionally accepted the philosophy that holds one grouping superior to another; one that suggests that our destinies are determined by a few people who are God's creatures just like us.
The future of the network and whether it continues to be manipulated to our detriment as a nation will be decided upon by us - the people of this great country. Stay tuned for the concluding part of this piece next week.

o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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