Opinion

A reset of the Quiet Revolution: Towards a new path

January 22, 2014

We have just marked (and for some, celebrated) the first national Majority Rule Day. Due to the lackluster treatment of the holiday, the significance of the journey to 1967 and the bravery of the faces of the Quiet Revolution must be understood and shared so as to gain a national understanding of why we should pause and reflect on that path in our nation's struggle.
Much can be said about the successes and failures of our nation in the post-Majority Rule era. There is no denying that we have made tremendous progress. Since then, the majority has maintained control and has dominated the national political landscape.
This is a singular success of 1967. However, for many, 1967 was (correctly) more than just about the darts and arrows of party politics, or about Pindling for that matter. It marked the culmination of a revolution. Like most revolutions which generally focus on the overhaul of a system or the removal of dictatorial regimes or practices, the Quiet Revolution was grounded in a movement towards the upliftment of a people; of the institutionalization of equal rights and the charting of a national course for the collective advancement of a people, without boundaries, borders, fear or favor.
The truth too is that 1967 was not a struggle to attain black-power-like dominance. This may be startling in light of the fact that there was a prevalent culture of class and race inequality.
The Bay Street oligarchy -- the minority -- was the reservoir of both economic and political power. They "ran things" and in so doing they held the keys to the future of the majority. However, one glaring and compelling evidence of the cross-race movement that gripped the march to 1967 is the fact that the founders of the Progressive Liberal Party -- Henry Taylor, William Cartwright and Cyril Stevenson -- were not men of the negro race (arguably they were mulattoes). However, given the class-race culture in the islands at that time they would have enjoyed a pass to enter the socio-economic sub-middle-class.
Understanding 1967 and the magic of the revolution perhaps requires us to be in the bodies and minds of the Exumians and their heroic leader, Pompey. It is to be on the Burma Road revolt at the height of the fight for social justice. It is to join the marches with the suffragists. It is to stand with Clifford Darling and the taxi union in their push for fair standards and practices. It is to hear the voice of Milo Butler as he bellowed out the unfair and discriminatory treatment of working Bahamians. It perhaps is also to stand with Etienne Dupuch and Gerald Cash in their fight in the legislature for the passage of an anti-discrimination resolution. And it requires us to think of what led young minds like Lynden Pindling, Arthur Hanna, Orville Turnquest, Paul Adderley, Arthur Foulkes, Spurgeon Bethell, Oscar Johnson and Warren Levarity, and many others, to organize and join the "people's struggle" to take on a system that held political power for decades by standing as candidates in the 1962 general election.
The fight of the "majority" was not simply a mission for the further "emancipation" of the former slaves. It was a movement deeply embedded in the spirit of the uniqueness, talent, industriousness and sheer discipline of our history, culture and people. Its central focus was the "final" liberation of the Bahamian soul.
The truth therefore is that 1967 and the ushering in of the first black Bahamian government was a victory for the creation of a more fair and just society. The myth that must be dispelled is the simplistic notion that the revolution was for the majority, being limited to the blacks.
The revolution was larger than that. It did not have a singular or non-representational agenda or concentration. It was a fight to usher in a sacred sanctity for the natural evolution of the Bahamian spirit. Its embodiment of a communal vision was expressed in the early days of the Citizens Committee which recognized that those blessed to live on these shores were not ordinary but were destined to be a great people, no matter one's color, creed, religious and political persuasions, abilities and gender.
Simply put, it was a broad social "movement" that saw its constituents as all Bahamians, blacks and whites. It was not discriminatory (whether direct or reverse), but rather progressive and inclusive. It was not class or race conscious. It was liberal and forward thinking.
In today's analysis of the events that lead to 1967, we must broaden our appreciation for its purpose and value to the development of The Bahamas. It freed a once dormant spirit and it ushered in a push towards a new socio-economic platform that saw the advancement of many Bahamians of the post-1967 generation. It is therefore undeniable that it has its singularly success in the many thousands of faces of Bahamians who advanced far beyond the boundaries of poverty.
The revolution was also transformative, yet in some areas of national life, we have lost our way. We appear (now) to place less emphasis on ensuring the creation of a nation that trends towards common goals and aspirations. We sometimes give the "air" of being a people without direction and focus, and with little national priorities. In areas of our national lives mediocrity is the order of the day. We are devoid of the old values that cemented our "village". There is an absence of a "collective" national vision. The nation appears to be stagnant and there is a growing sense of hopelessness. Our national leadership seem to enjoy a deficiency of nationalism and we appear to be lost, lacking an agenda towards the further modernization of this nation state. We have lost our progressive edge.
We need to press the reset button to recreate that sense of national purpose, unity and singular call to arms. Our nation's detour of that purist path must cease and we must restore that once compelling national psyche housed within us.
We must also abandon that elitist attitude that we have achieved all that abounds. We must embrace a new political dispensation that restores us to the paths trod by the revolution. This begs for a recognition that the revolution's message is relevant and necessary in today's "modern" Bahamas.
It appeals for a national recommitment to the core and sacred principles of that glorious era so that the new and growing "minority" can be freed from the chains that enslave them. These are the "new" chains of institutionalized poverty, rampant social dislocation and disorder, a glass ceiling that deprives them of social promotion, a system that appears to be ignorant of their plight, struggles and way of life and a society which is shrinking in intellectualism and dynamism.
There is no denying the reality that the tenets of the 1967 revolution can find much space in the modern Bahamas. We have not outgrown her core principles. We should still cry out for bold and progressive leadership which is glued to the idealism of social justice, equality and economic liberation.
We must fill the vacuum for an agenda and plan that is holistic and nationalistic and that has at its core the creation of a society grounded on the foundational pillars of shared prosperity and community. That sense of community though is not restricted to an egotistical definition of national heritage and identity. It is an all-embracing journey that ties together the virtues of productivity, industry, integrity, knowledge, love and peace transcending a narrow interpretation of who is Bahamian.
The modern revolution must find root in the development of a cosmopolitan society that has no boundaries, no barricades, no social or economic discrimination or segregation, and no lofty height that could not be attained by the hard work, sustained commitment and discipline of the masses. It must be a pedestal for the souls of the liberators of the 1967 revolution.
Our work is not yet complete. We must find our voices and courage to stand firm to secure the dreams of the future generations of Bahamians. Our country must be restored to that nobler path of prosperity, peace and love.

o Raynard Rigby is an attorney-at-law and former chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party.

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The march to Majority Rule, Part III

January 20, 2014

History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future. - Robert Penn Warren
As we noted in parts I and II of this series, the march to Majority Rule in The Bahamas can be characterized by two words: sustained struggle.
On January 10, we quietly celebrated the first public holiday to commemorate the day that Majority Rule came to The Bahamas in 1967. It was a life-changing event that catapulted the lives of many thousands to unimaginable heights. Last week we reviewed three important milestones in the march to Majority Rule that helped to create the framework for the attainment of that achievement: the by-election of 1938, the Burma Road Riot of 1942, and the Contract beginning in 1943. This week and in the final week in January, we will continue to Consider This...what were some of the major milestones that contributed to the centuries-long march to Majority Rule?
The 1950s were decisively transformative on the march to Majority Rule. It was a decade that witnessed the formation of the PLP in 1953, the 1956 Resolution on Racial Discrimination in the House of Assembly and the 1958 General Strike.
The formation of the PLP
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was established in 1953, following an attempt by the Citizens' Committee to actively address some of the rampant discriminatory practices by the white Nassau elite. The Citizens' Committee, formed in December 1950 initially protested the government's refusal to let Bahamians view three films: "No Way Out" (starring Bahamian actor Sidney Poitier), "Lost Boundaries" and "Pinky" all of which addressed societal injustices. Many of the members of the Citizens' Committee, which was led by Maxwell Thompson, Cleveland Eneas, and A. E. Hutchinson and whose members included Jackson Burnside, Randol Fawkes, Gerald Cash, Kendal Isaacs, Marcus Bethel and other prominent personalities, suffered brutal discrimination and many of its members were deprived of the ability to earn a living by the Bay Street oligarchy as a result of their social activism.
In October, 1953 the PLP was formed by Henry Taylor (who would become the third Bahamian governor general in an Independent Bahamas from June 26, 1988 to January 1, 1992), William Cartwright and Cyril Stevenson with a platform that responded to the challenge by Rev. H. H. Brown that: "The Progressive Liberal Party hopes to show that your big man and your little man, your black, brown and white man of all classes, creed and religions in this country can combine and work together in supplying sound and successful political leadership which has been lacking in The Bahamas."
The PLP made bold progressive promises for a more equitable social structure including equal opportunities for all Bahamians, better education, universal suffrage, stronger immigration policies, lower-cost housing and the development of agriculture and the Out Islands.
In the early days of the PLP, its members were subjected to abject ostracism and victimization by the white elite, including the loss of jobs and bank credit, as well as canceled contracts. In 1955, Lynden Pindling and Milo Butler emerged as the leaders of the party, appealing to the black masses to mobilize in advance of the general elections of 1956. The party also attracted Randol Fawkes, the founder of the Bahamas Federation of Labour in May 1955.
The general election of May 1956 was the first to be fought by an organized political party. The PLP won six seats in the House of Assembly, four in Nassau and two in Andros. That election significantly accelerated the march to Majority Rule. In March 1958 the white oligarchy formed themselves into the second organized political unit, the United Bahamian Party (UBP). The UBP would later disband and its members would join forces with the Free National Movement (FNM) in 1972.
The 1956 Resolution on Racial Discrimination in the House of Assembly
In the wake of rampant racial discrimination that prevented access for black people to hotels, movie theatres, restaurants, and other public places, H. M. Taylor, the chairman of the PLP, whose platform vowed to eliminate racial discrimination in the colony, tabled a number of questions to the leader of the government.
Moved by this and in light of his own disgust with racially motivated practices, in January 1956, Etienne Dupuch, the editor of the Nassau Tribune and a member of the House of Assembly for the eastern district, tabled an Anti-Discrimination Resolution in the House of Assembly. During his passionately eloquent speech on the resolution, the speaker of the House of Assembly ordered Dupuch to take his seat, threatening, if he refused to do so, that he would be removed from the chamber by the police. Dupuch responded: "You may call the whole Police Force, you may call the whole British Army...I will go to [jail] tonight, but I refuse to sit down, and I am ready to resign and go back to the people." The speaker abruptly suspended the House proceedings.
Although the resolution was supported by H. M. Taylor, Bert Cambridge, Eugene Dupuch, C.R. Walker, Marcus Bethel, and Gerald Cash, it was referred to a select committee, effectively killing it. However, the following day, most of the Nassau hotels informed the public that they would open their doors to all, regardless of their race.
The 1958 General Strike
The General Strike began in January 1958 after several months of tension that arose because of the government's plans to allow hotels and tour buses that were owned by the established white tour operators to provide transport for visitors to and from the airport, at the expense of predominantly black taxi drivers who made a large portion of their living transporting tourists between the new Windsor Field (Nassau International) Airport and downtown hotels. To allow the hotels and tour companies to supplant the taxi drivers would severely curtail the ability of black taxi drivers to earn a decent living.
The government learned that the taxi drivers would vehemently protest this arrangement when they blockaded the new airport on the day it opened. On that day, nearly 200 union taxi drivers stopped all business at the airport for 36 hours, showing their determination to protest the government's plans. Negotiations on 20 points ensued between the union, represented by Lynden Pindling and Clifford Darling, the union's president, and the government for the following eight weeks, but broke off after they could not agree on one final point.
On January 11, 1958 the taxi union voted for a general strike and the next day the General Strike commenced with the cessation of work at hotels, which was supported by hotel and construction workers, garbage collectors, bakers, airport porters and employees of the electricity corporation. The strike lasted until January 31 and prompted a visit to the colony by the secretary of state for the colonies who recommended constitutional and political and electoral reforms which were incorporated into the General Election Act of 1959. Following the General Strike, male suffrage was introduced for all males over 21 years of age and the company vote was abolished.
Undoubtedly, the General Strike accentuated the ability of effective reform that could be achieved by the peaceful mobilization of the black majority.
Conclusion
Next week, we will review the decade of the 1960s and discuss how the Women's Suffrage Movement, the 1962 general elections and Black Tuesday culminated in the eventual attainment of Majority Rule with the general elections of 1967.

o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & 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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The harsh effects of being less well-off

January 18, 2014

Throughout the Caribbean, people feel less well off. The only people who may be exceptions to this general sentiment are those in Guyana whose per capita income (now US$3,410) has increased in recent years. But even in Guyana, the per capita income level is so low -- higher only than Haiti (US$760) in the Caribbean community -- that any perception among the majority of doing better is marginal.
Unemployment has risen in several countries affecting families across the board. They either have less collective income or those fortunate enough to be employed have to contribute to the survival of those without jobs.
Disposable incomes for all have declined as higher costs for utilities and higher income and value added taxes devour increasingly larger portions of wages and salaries.
Again with the exception of a small number of countries, the decline in real family incomes has adversely affected the construction industry with a decelerating effect on economies. The construction of individual homes or housing schemes is a provider of jobs and has a multiplier effect on economies stimulating economic growth.
Because of tight constraints to make ends meet, families are less willing to take on mortgages that they might be unable to repay. In any event, banks and other financial institutions are themselves reluctant to lend for anything but projects that have the most secure collateral. Many of them are already holding mortgages and loans that are in default of payment by their customers. They are finding difficulty to recover their money even if they repossess properties.
Businesses, faced with contracting domestic markets in several Caribbean countries, have also been wary of investing in expanding existing businesses or creating new ones. Hence, they too are making no contribution to industries such as construction, and they are treading lightly in incurring additional debt and in taking on more employees.
A serious consequence of all this is a shrinking middle-class in many Caribbean countries and an enlarging poor and near-poor. A grave consequence is the increase in violent crime by some who are most deprived - probably linked to drug trafficking and addiction. In the past, Caribbean countries have been most concerned about the negative impact of such violent crime on foreign investors, but the problem has escalated to distress local communities. A big growth industry in the Caribbean is security services and it will grow even more in the adversity of the present economic circumstances.
Yet while Caribbean countries individually are in this grip of economic and social hardship to one extent or another, collectively the region is rich in real terms, both in natural and human resources. If the resources of the Caribbean community were harnessed for the benefit of the region as a whole, a halt could be brought to the current decline and a process of steady improvement could begin. There is, however, a reluctance to do so. Instead there is a resolute insistence by governments to deal with the problems in a national context only - a major component in most cases is beseeching and borrowing.
Well-minded advocates for "national solutions" even suggest that to look at regional options is "time wasting" and "distracting". But, those who advance this argument have not explained how the majority of small Caribbean economies would overcome their physical smallness; the smallness of their domestic economies; the severe restraints on raising money on the international capital market to build much needed infrastructure; and their individual lack of capacity to bargain in the international community for better terms of trade, credit, and investment. Even Guyana, Belize, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, with their bigger size and greater natural resources, cannot by themselves overcome these obstacles.
To overcome them, resources need to be combined for a common good; production needs to be integrated to make best use of resources - human and natural; sovereignty needs to be pooled both to bargain more effectively and to become attractive to investors and to international lenders.
It seems that many governments of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are not ready to collaborate to make themselves more competitive in production; more attractive for investment; and more worthy for credit. Therefore, perhaps the time has come for a smaller coalition of willing countries to embark on such a course separate and apart from the rest of CARICOM countries. In doing so, none of them would be required to give up their nationhood or national control of their borders; their culture; their legislatures; their taxes or their local environment.
Not all decisional areas raise issues of the same political prominence in every country. It is possible to separate out some on which action might move ahead by countries that are willing to participate. In other words, a coalition of the willing could establish a more customized approach, based on interests and capacities. Such an initiative, while bringing benefits to the participating states would help to re-build confidence among the Caribbean people through the demonstration that regional integration makes good sense.
Among the collaborative enterprises that the "willing" could consider are specific areas of investment in one or more country to which the participating states could stand as joint borrower, joint owner and joint beneficiary. These could focus on energy, value-added manufacturing, food production and tourism.
Individual Caribbean countries may not be considered acceptable risks for loans and investment, particularly in today's market, but a combination of them would be an attractive proposition. Not many areas of the world offer the backing of a wide range of commodities and services that the Caribbean has: bauxite, manganese, asphalt, oil, gas, sugar, rice, nutmeg, coffee, cocoa, a variety of fruits, flowers, animal, poultry, fish, forestry, gold, diamonds, tourism, financial services, and the potential for geo-thermal and solar energy.
Each country has resources but, by themselves, except for oil, gas and gold, they are not sufficient to attract major investment or to provide access to capital on the international market. And even in oil, gas and gold, capital investments are less attractive when the risk is being taken in one country alone and where only one government is the borrower or acts as guarantor.
Of course, governments must devise national solutions to all their problems, not only the economic ones. This calls for innovative ideas; for practical plans and creative management; and for implementation capacity. But, Caribbean governments are fortunate in having a further string to their bow - regional collaboration. Both paths should be pursued simultaneously.
There is nothing to lose, and there would be a good shot at curing some of the ills that now befall each country without exception.

Sir Ronald Sanders is a consultant and senior research fellow at London University and a member of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group appointed to recommend ways to reform the Commonwealth. Responses to: www.sirronaldsanders.com

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Saving the Caribbean

January 17, 2014

I have cultivated tough hope for CARICOM to reach its majestic ideal. Today, this promise is more likely to be fulfilled two generations in the future. Wreckage of spirit is creating an economic and social catastrophe -- unprecedented and unseen. We are bypassing resurrection for decay. The magnitude of our malady is overwhelming. Without an alternative vision, we drown in doom.
January is still with us and already feelings of newness are replaced with horrific stories of crime. We can never gain in police interventions what we've lost in moral values. Twenty fourteen is beginning to dish out collective punishment for supporting politicians who ignore our best talent for lackluster recruits from foreign lands.
Mismanagement and missed opportunities have weakened our ability to take advantage of international trends to make the Caribbean the best place in the world to do business. I think we have subconsciously accepted, little, less and least by avoiding innovative exploration of inside-out solutions to regional development.
For all this, we pause to ask ourselves how to open doors to restricted resources? How do we escape deprivation of choices for a better future? I am thinking about thousands of young people and elderly folks who are hungry and destitute. I am thinking about the dwindling middle class and the wealthy few whose disconnection is stirring wishes for brighter days. I am thinking about small minded leaders who use half of the country to maintain power and leave the other half outside national productivity.
Prudence sees this challenge as a mindscape of unnatural disasters that can ease our troubling. The dance for free and cheap things continues.
Yet am I deeply concerned that healing voices, most sincerely, continue to plant seeds that help our young people never give up on new possibilities for human empowerment and regional advancement - personal, ethical and collaborative. As I travel and listen to so many who are fearful, incarcerated and humiliated, and come face-to-face with mental oppression that dehumanizes our region, caring turns into a radical search for pragmatic solutions.
These solutions must resist self-rejection and neat notions of inferiority -- notions that we have mindlessly enshrined as edifying thinking.
I agree the Caribbean colonial struggles are both harming and charming us. They should also alarm us to brutal global forces. These forces no longer permit us to piss in each other's faces and survive -- without bringing untold torments at our doorsteps.
In the midst of this heartless misery, we feel validated only when "foreign experts" are paid millions to import strategies that were never intended for our victory. Oh, how we justify this imprisonment with delusions of mainstreaming our ambitions. Monkey doesn't have to do what monkey sees. Try not to fool me with eloquence: "My nose knows what it knows."
To free the Caribbean from these negative mental traditions transmuted to us -- and summed up as foreign is superior and excellence is imported -- we have to unleash speed and energy. Speed to open up ourselves to the Caribbean's glory and potential, and energy to establish environmental approval of local ability.
When shall we learn to accept that Caribbean wealth -- concrete and intangible -- does not belong to everyone else across the world, other than island people?
When shall we understand that competence, daring and conscious leadership constitute sources of economic and social prosperity for everyone? Not empty prestige for a few.
These broad concerns have been seducing my intense attention. They are stirring passions for a liberating democratic vision and an inclusive thriving economy. But this vision must be sustained by moral courage and infinite integrity. If such courage and integrity reminds us of our shortsightedness and engages our enormous capacities, the common good will flourish.
I believe that regional self-esteem is partly the answer. Perhaps we are too satisfied with selecting, electing and erecting toxic leadership. Perhaps we praise dysfunctional actions that covertly and overtly discard and discredit us. Maybe we have fully accepted the myth that poverty is okay because we are okay.
I relish reparations for undermining ordinary island talent every day and every night. Who will pay for this magnificent insanity that screams for self-confidence?
We need a magnetic dignity that gives our young people economic and ethical support to achieve greatness. Our religious spaces, homes and communities ought to sustain self-worth. Behaviors that make mincemeat of our people's aspirations and force Caribbean talent to live in foreign places must go. We have to stop squeezing out the lifeblood of indigenous creativity. It can penetrate the world and be effective at home.
What does this tradition of putting down ourselves signify in 2014 and beyond for 'Caribbeaners'? Solving this could generate powerful dividends.
The remedy cannot be more education -- experiential and academic -- that reinforces these callous arrangements. We need favorable response from each other to stimulate Caribbean intelligence and social action. Our self-value and interpersonal successes cannot be separated from models of support and nurture. These models should socialize us in attitude and values suited for self-love, change, and regional progress.
We can discover unknown vacancies when we don't expect what we already know. True. Uncertainties cannot be erased. Yes. We have a long walk to economic freedom, acceptance, and spiritual maturity. This journey requires enlightened followership, actionable leadership, and clarity of purpose.

o Dr Isaac Newton is an international leadership and change management consultant and political adviser who specializes in government and business relations, and sustainable development projects.

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Defining a solution to crime

January 17, 2014

The annual crime statistics were released on Wednesday by Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade, who revealed that while overall crime is down eight percent, murders and sex crimes are on the rise...

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Minnis: Govt is blocking bid to table hanging bill
Minnis: Govt is blocking bid to table hanging bill

January 16, 2014

FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis claims that the government is attempting to block the opposition's efforts to table a bill drafted by the party, that if passed would give the Court of Appeal the sole power of sentencing murderers to hang...

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Christie's and Davis' troubling statements on crime

January 16, 2014

With public confidence in the Christie administration's responses to crime and its causes low and ebbing, especially after the carnage in Fox Hill several fresh weeks ago, the two most senior men in government seem stuck in a quicksand and quandary of denial and delusion.
Soon after Prime Minister Perry Christie publicly undermined Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade, Deputy Prime Minister Philip "Brave" Davis dismissively underplayed the severity of crime. This week Christie made other comments which leave many wondering where the prime minister's mind is on crime.
Quicksand is "a place or situation into which entry can be swift and sudden but from which extrication can be difficult or impossible". Having breezily touted that it had many of the answers to crime, the PLP is now caught in the quicksand of overpromising, with the party sinking under the weight of its pandering and unfulfilled promises.
Christie's address at the opening of the 2014 Bahamas Business Outlook again demonstrated his colossal failure "as prime minister", including his abysmal failure to lead on the crime front.
As the country wrestles with economic and national insecurity we are faced with a crisis of leadership at the heart of government. Christie does not have the capacity to lead, yet there is more than three years left in a floundering and mostly failed government.
With domestic and international attendees seeking guidance from the head of government, Christie went off-script, was rambling and unfocused, at times unintelligible. As usual he talked big in terms of his government's plans. Such talk so often results in little to no action.
In another bout of self-adulation and self-congratulation, Christie patted himself on the back for being such a hard worker, the sort of praise best left to others, especially in light of how arguably most Bahamians actually view his prime ministership.

In denial
The haunting concern for many is that the prime minister seems to be in denial about his failures, unable to address them, while deluding himself on what a good job he's doing
Christie's penchant for endless gab is legendary. Now he increasingly seems not to think before he speaks, making reckless statements sometimes bordering on the bizarre. Christie's rhetoric is alarming and deeply troubling.
The Tribune reported: "Prime Minister Perry Christie expressed concern over his own personal safety as he expanded on the government's toughened stance against violent crime in the country, specifically in his own constituency."
Christie was possibly trying to demonstrate empathy with a public deeply anxious about crime. If so, his statement had the opposite effect. He made matters even worse in terms of public confidence.
In what should have been a major headline, The Bahamas prime minister announced to domestic and international audiences that he feels unsafe, despite the fact that he enjoys 24-hour police protection including quite often outriders accompanying him around New Providence.
This was yet another slap at the Royal Bahamas Police Force, a reckless statement by a prime minister whose judgment is seriously in question. He used the megaphone of his office to inform potential investors, foreign governments, the international media, cruise lines and other tourism stakeholders that he personally feels unsafe.
Perhaps Christie's statement was not a headline because many journalists, who may have thought this was just Christie being Christie, often do not take his comments seriously.
Because many foreign observers may not know better, is there no one who can rein in a prime minister whose out-of-control rhetoric risks doing great harm to the country?
The Tribune also reported: "'There is something', he (Christie) said, 'that is supposed to happen as a country automatically as a response, a team of people go in and talk. Those are the things happening now that I'm not going to apologize for it. I'm raising hell for it, and talking strongly about it, what must be in place. I want you to know this. I don't care what the position is'."
What is he blustering about? What exactly does he want us to know - that he's actually not telling us? If he is referring to sensitive internal matters he should exercise better judgment and remain quiet. Instead he left his audience totally baffled.
Referring to a survey he indicated his administration would take in response to crime, Christie was reported to have said at the forum:
"Go to every house in every constituency, begin with mine and I'm not talking about no random survey. Every house, tell me who's blind, who's deaf, who's dumb, who's not working, who's smartest in class. I am not going to allow the country to compromise on this."

Big idea
This is classic Christie, a so-called "big idea" that is easier to announce than to fully realize. A survey of the kind that the prime minister indicated would be quite an undertaking. Think, for example, of the massive undertaking that is the decennial census.
What is the purpose and scope of the proposed survey? Exactly what sort of data is being collected? How are the questions being designed? The retrieval of the data is another huge undertaking in terms of a public education program, training those doing the collection, getting people to respond to certain questions and a host of other issues.
Does the government really intend to survey every household? If so, why? And exactly why is Christie's household to be interviewed?
From Christie's list of matters the survey may ask, it is clear, that like the initial announcement of a Bahamian Mardi Gras, that little has been thought through, as is often the case with the grand pronouncements he makes.
A statement by DPM Davis on crime being overplayed was another troubling example of how out of touch are certain senior members of this administration.
Last Wednesday, The Guardian's Royston Jones Jr. reported: "Despite being robbed at gunpoint in his home last month, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis said The Bahamas is not 'as dangerous as it is made out to be'.
"Davis was responding to a question from The Nassau Guardian about the security upgrades at his West Ridge home following a December 8 armed robbery."
Davis was quoted: "We do have pockets of young men who have lost their way and are wreaking havoc, but I think it is all confined within what I call groupings."
The reporter did not fail to note the discrepancy between Davis' recent statement and one made just some months ago. As reported: "His (Davis') claim that The Bahamas is not as dangerous as it is made out to be came months after he declared that 'no one is safe from crime' in The Bahamas.
"Davis made that statement after one of his police aides was shot in eastern New Providence..."

Fertilizer
For the man who promoted the very public and gratuitous display of crime statistics at various roundabouts in order to score political gain to say that crime is overplayed is more than garden-variety hypocrisy. His statement is an orchard of hypocrisy fuelled by noxious fertilizer.
As for those pockets of young men who have lost their way and are wreaking havoc, supposedly "confined" to certain "groupings", they regularly leave their confines in order to rob, maim, rape and assault residents throughout New Providence, including invading and robbing the home of the acting prime minister.
The Tribune reported on what was stolen from the DPM's home, including "jewellery worth $93,000, a jewellery box worth $200, Baraka gold jewellery worth $700, an opal top wallet worth $450, a Royal Bank credit card ... " and $2,953 from Davis' wife.
Bahamians are relieved that the incident was not even more serious. How is one robbed of jewellery and cash worth approximately $100,000 and then suggest that crime is overplayed? Perhaps those of us who have been victims of crime are simply not as "brave" as the DPM.
Guardian Business Editor Allison Lowe reported on the concerns of "Jim Walker, partner at Walker and O'Neil, a Miami law firm" who represents "clients injured or assaulted on cruise ships around the world."
Guardian Business reported: "Walker called the recent armed robbery of then-acting prime minister, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis in his home, a 'real wake-up call' which would not have gone unnoticed by cruise lines.
"'It fascinates me that the acting prime minister was robbed at gunpoint - it's unbelievable to me. It's deeply disturbing because you'd assume you would take far better protection of your honorable leaders than some teenagers coming on shore with flip flops, so what does that say?' said Walker."
What does this say indeed about the mindset, incoherence and incompetence of this administration on matters of law and order?

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

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Improving our education system

January 16, 2014

Two of the indispensable ingredients necessary for a child's successful education are a home life conducive to learning and good teaching in school. Improving the quality of family life is a rather complex matter, admitting no easy or short-term solutions...

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Lynden Pindling: A transformative leader and national hero

January 15, 2014

The Lynden Pindling International Airport is a facility that the nation can justly take great pride in. It is a testament of what can be achieved, by way of strong and purposeful collaboration between a government and private sector interests.
The partnership between the Airport Authority and the Nassau Airport Development Company in the development and management of LPIA has proven to work successfully. It is a wise formula which the government should use in the upgrading and management of all the major airports in the Family Islands.
The same principles which exist at LPIA should be considered for those government corporations which have placed heavy financial demands on the public treasury. I am thinking particularly about Bahamasair and the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas. The more than $30 million of public funds spent annually in subsidies to those corporations could be much better spent on the education of the nation's children.
The opening of LPIA was also a grand occasion when all Bahamians were called upon to reflect on the life and contributions that the late Sir Lynden Pindling made in shaping our beloved Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
For those Bahamians who are too young to have any memories of Lynden Pindling, this is a ripe time for our nation to erect a living memorial for his eminent stewardship of our nation state during its formative years. It is Sir Lynden's pre-eminence which has earned him the honor to be hailed as the 'Father of our Nation'.
As we reflect on the life and times of this great Bahamian son, I salute him for his passionate and caring leadership, his pragmatic philosophy and his vision that guided the march to the 'Quiet Revolution'.
Every nation has its heroes. There is no nation that has attained greatness without recognizing the existence of some of its citizens whose life's journey propelled them to trod the streets of greatness, of personal sacrifices for the good of the people and who at great odds, labored to usher in periods of transformation.
Greece has Socrates and Alexander; Rome, Caesar and Agustus; Germany has Bismarck and Adenauer; Britain, Alfred, Nelson and Churchill; India has Ghandi and Nehru; America, Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and King; Africa has Shaka, Nkrumah, Kenyatta, Nyerere, Awolowo, Lumumba and Mandela.
The Bahamas has its list of heroes. They are those who fought for our liberation, sometimes putting their lives on the line. They are those who have given of themselves for the greater good. They are those who are admired for their selfless deeds and noble qualities. They are those who are spoken about with pride. They are those whose life's work has been the transformative spirit throughout our archipelago. Their names have been given and should be given to schools, public buildings, airports, harbors, streets and parks.
Our heroes are freedom fighters like Pompey, Walker, Butler, Fawkes and Darling; they were educators like Dillet, Young, Francis, Coakley and Bethel. They were entertainers like Munnings, Taylor, Chipman and Butler; and the list goes on.
Lynden Pindling is a most worthy hero for Bahamians of every strata, social and economic. He came from ordinary Bahamian stock and rose to the pinnacle of political dominance. He was deeply involved in the people's struggle for their rights and their liberation. He fought to give voice to the oppressed. He was a part of the people's extraordinary journey. He led us to majority rule when we achieved political emancipation on January 10, 1967. "What a glorious day." He brought about an expansion of our economy and ushered in an educational revolution that saw thousands of Bahamians obtain university degrees.
Sir Lynden understood the importance of tourism to our economy, so much so, he served as minister of tourism on two occasions. He knew that it was from tourism that The Bahamas would realize the additional funds to invest in increased educational opportunities, health care and vast infrastructural improvements. He recognized the importance of the New Providence airport as the principal gateway to The Bahamas and brought about improvements to it. He also saw the need to expand and build other airports in the country, in our remotest Family Islands.
Lynden Pindling supported the establishment of The College of The Bahamas, the Central Bank and the National Insurance Board, and was passionate about extending benefits to the aged and the indigent. He established the Royal Bahamas Defence Force to protect our borders and our rich marine resources. He upgraded the Royal Bahamas Police Force into the fine organization it is today.
Sir Lynden was also an ardent supporter of the 'Bahamianization policy', implemented by Arthur Hanna. This policy is credited with unleashing the untapped potential of thousands of qualified Bahamians and gave meaning and purpose to their training, enabling them to assist in the building of the modern Bahamas.
Lynden Pindling also believed that if we were to improve the quality of life for all Bahamians, then the structure of Bahamian society must change. He stressed and saw the benefits and importance of remolding our society and transforming it into a 'Bahamian Nation'. He realized that only as an independent nation could we fulfill our destiny as a great people.
Sir Lynden challenged Bahamians to be greater or better than they were. Sharing his ever expanding 'dream' of a Bahamas which would be envied. A shining example to the world. He encouraged us to fight for the changes we wished to see. That was good advice then and it remains good advice today. He knew The Bahamas suffered when its citizens were indifferent about the affairs of state.
Lynden Pindling's leadership skills, which was shaped by his patriotism, character, discipline, intellect, courage, tolerance and timing made the difference during several crucial periods in the country's history. He interacted with Bahamians and foreign personalities with grace. His shrewdness and his sharpened faith were evident when he played a major role in freeing from prison, after 27 years of incarceration, the great African hero, Nelson Mandela.
He was not aloof or dismissive. He was available to all and was responsive to their concerns.
I believe that in time all of his fellow citizens would come to appreciate all that he achieved for the nation and that much of what we enjoy and take for granted, and all those things which make us proud to be Bahamian, are due in large measure to the intellect, stellar leadership, work and vision of the man that we acknowledge as the 'Father of our Nation'.
As we look back to darker passages and in these difficult days ahead, we pause to say, "To God be the Glory, great things He has done".
We acknowledge that our work is not finished, for the struggle to build a better, just, safe and fairer Bahamas endures; and, as we continue the work, all Bahamians can draw inspiration from Sir Lynden and all those noble Bahamian sons and daughters who have gone to harvest their eternal reward, and those heroes who are still with us.
I salute a grateful people who show appreciation and gratitude for the leadership of one of our 'finest sons'.
May we preserve warm thoughts of Lynden Pindling. May God bless his memory. And, may God keep us in unity, peace and love in this country he served so well.

o George A. Smith is a real estate broker and consultant. He served in Parliament from 1968 continuously for 29 years, was parliamentary secretary to the prime minister in 1972 and 1973, and was a member of the delegation at the London talks on independence in 1972.

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Taking it to the people
Taking it to the people

January 13, 2014

How do Bahamians feel about the death penalty? ...

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The March to Majority Rule, Part II

January 13, 2014

History is for human self-knowledge... the only clue to what man can do is what man has done. The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is. - R.G. Collingwood
As we noted last week in Part I of this series, the march to Majority Rule in The Bahamas is a story of a sustained struggle.
On Friday past, we observed the first public holiday to commemorate the day that Majority Rule came to The Bahamas on January 10, 1967. It was a life-changing event that catapulted the lives of many thousands to unimaginable heights. Last week, we highlight two important events that helped to create the framework for the achievement of Majority Rule. This week and for the remaining weeks in January, we would like to continue to Consider This...what were some of the milestones along the centuries-long march to Majority Rule?
This week we will consider three important milestones, namely the by-election of 1938, the Burma Road Riot of 1942, and the Contract beginning in 1943.
The by-election of 1938
In July 1938, shopkeeper Milo Butler decided to contest a by-election that was called for the Western New Providence seat, facing multi-millionaire, Harry Oakes who was not even in The Bahamas for the election, allowing Kenneth Solomon to manage his campaign.
The Bay Street Boys worked hard to derail Butler's campaign, even getting his credit stopped at the Royal Bank of Canada. At the polls, in front of police who were stationed there, Oakes' representatives flagrantly distributed money and liquor to buy votes.
When Butler realized he was going to lose his deposit, he announced he would lodge a protest against the bribery and, the day after the election, he and his supporters went to the Colonial Secretary's Office to voice his grievances. Butler drafted a petition to the governor calling for the enactment of the secret ballot, the creation of an election court of appeal and a fairer representation of the black population on all public boards and in the civil service.
Although rumors about a major riot proved to be false, Governor Dundas took the threat very seriously and became convinced that the secret ballot was the very least that should be done to defuse the situation. Taking the governor at his word when he announced that he would dissolve the House of Assembly and call a general election where the secret ballot would be the central issue, the House immediately addressed the issue.
In June 1939 an act was passed for a five-year trial period for the secret ballot in New Providence. However, the 'Out Islands', where one-third of the voters resided, returned two-thirds of the members of the House and the Bay Street Boys didn't want to tamper with that winning situation, so the secret ballot did not come to the Islands until 1949.
The Burma Road Riot
By 1942, the majority of Bahamians, most of whom were black, suffered under tremendous social, economic and political conditions. A miniscule minority of white Bahamians were engaged in the retail and wholesale trade, the real estate industry and the professions. The sponge industry had recently collapsed and tourism in the islands, albeit in its infancy, and the construction industry were adversely affected by the beginning of World War II. These combined factors significantly contributed to the abject poverty in which the vast majority of Bahamians lived.
When the United States entered the war in 1941, the British and American governments decided, in order to aid in the war effort, to enhance the existing Oakes Field Airport in New Providence and also to build a new one in the western Pine Barrens of New Providence, later called Windsor Field that would evolve into today's Lynden Pindling International Airport. Both airports were worked on by the American firm, Pleasantville Incorporated, providing jobs for Bahamians, who worked alongside American workers.
The British Governor of The Bahamas, the Duke of Windsor, and the American government had secretly agreed that Bahamian workers would be paid at local rates, four shillings per day, while their American counterparts earned more than twice as much. Although Pleasantville Incorporated was willing to pay higher wages to Bahamians, this was done because the Duke was concerned that Bahamian workers should not get used to such high wages since local employers would not be able to match that kind of salary once this job ended. Bahamian workers resented this untenable situation but did not have a formal vehicle to redress the wages and working conditions disparities.
The Bahamian laborers complained to Charles Rodriguez who headed the Labour Union and the Federation of Labour. Notwithstanding his efforts to address the disparities, because they were not resolved in a timely manner, Bahamian laborers assembled on May 31, 1942, demanding equal treatment. On June 1, they congregated at the main Oakes Field office of Pleasantville and, armed with cutlasses and clubs, marched to the Colonial Secretary's Office. Failing to obtain satisfaction, they rioted up and down on Bay Street, damaging and looting stores there. A curfew was established but the riot continued the following day. By the time the riot ended, five persons were killed and many more were wounded.
In the aftermath of the riot, the Duke of Windsor appointed the Russell Commission, which, along with a committee appointed by the House of Assembly, determined that the riots resulted from the inequitable disparity of wages between the Bahamian and American workers. The Russell Commission also determined that the riots were sparked by the absence of social legislation as well as economic difficulties and political inequities.
Burma Road is not a street in The Bahamas. The Burma Road Riot was named after a place Bahamians knew from the newsreels of the day: the 717-mile mountainous Burma Road that linked Burma (now called Myanmar) with the southwest of China. Built by 200,000 Burmese and Chinese laborers and completed by 1938, during World War II, the British used Burma Road to transport materiel to China before Japan was at war with the British. In 1940, the British government yielded to Japanese diplomatic pressure to close down the Burma Road for a short period. After the Japanese overran Burma in 1942, the Allies were forced to supply Chiang Kai-shek and the nationalist Chinese by air.
The Contract
Following the Burma Road riot and the layoffs after the completion of the airbases, the Duke of Windsor, worried about further unrest, negotiated with the American government for Bahamian laborers to work in Florida to alleviate the rampant unemployment here and to fill the United States' manpower shortage that resulted from the war. The 1943 agreement became known as "the Contract" or "the Project".
Individual contracts were executed for each worker, and stipulated the terms of employment, including a deduction for amounts to be sent back to their families in The Bahamas and an agreement not to be discriminated against on the basis of their color, race, religious persuasion or national origin.
While the 5,000 Bahamian laborers, mostly unskilled males, initially worked on farms and plantations in Florida, given the severe manpower shortages in other states, many Bahamians were transferred as far north as New York and as far west as Indiana. Generally, workers spent six to nine months in the United States and then returned The Bahamas. Some abandoned their contracts and others never returned to The Bahamas, sending for their families to join them in the United States, thereby accounting for the presence of many Bahamians who still live in the United States.
The Contract was transformative in many ways, primarily exposing Bahamians to overt, institutionalized racism in America. The workers returned with an unwavering determination that racism and discrimination like that would have no place in their Bahamas.
Conclusion
Next week, we will review the roles played by the formation of the PLP in 1953, the 1956 Resolution on Racial Discrimination in the House of Assembly and the 1958 General Strike, all of which fuelled the march to Majority Rule.

o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & 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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Perry Christie's disastrous leadership on crime

January 09, 2014

Firepower battled with fireworks to ring in New Year's with a combustible combination of bloodletting and retaliation premixed last year erupting with undiminished frenzy in the new year.
January is considered "the door to the year" taking its name from Janus, in Roman mythology, "the god of the doorway".

What then Opposition Leader Perry Christie described in 2011 as "the tsunami of violence" surged through the doorway of the new year threatening another bloody 12 months.
This is not only in New Providence, 2014. It was also in the city of Chicago, January 2013 as reported by the Associated Press (AP).
"The year did not start promisingly, with more than 40 homicides recorded in January, including that of 15-year-old honor student Hadiya Pendleton, who was gunned down a mile from President Barack Obama's South Side home," the report stated.
"...The city, which ended the year with a 16 percent drop in crime, saw the numbers of violent crimes, including robbery, aggravated battery and criminal sexual assault drop significantly -- some by double digits-- as well as drops in burglary and motor vehicle theft."
AP also reported: "Chicago's Police Department said Wednesday that after leading the nation in homicides in 2012, recording more than 500, the city last year listed the lowest number of killings since 1965, and saw its overall crime rate fall to a level not seen since 1972.
"By the end of 2013, the city had recorded 415 homicides, 88 fewer than in 2012 and 20 fewer than in 2011."
AP further reported: "In Chicago, the police also said the number of shootings fell 24 percent from 2,448 to 1,864 between 2012 and 2013, and the number of shooting victims dropped from 3,066 to 2,328 for the same period.
"Further, the department said every police district in the city saw a reduction in crime and all but four of the city's 22 police districts saw the number of homicides either fall or remain the same as the year before."

Variables
What a difference a year can make. Still, in battling crime, one must be careful in extrapolating from one jurisdiction to the next given the variables and differences between various contexts.
Yet there are comparisons and analogies between what may be needed in The Bahamas and what appears to be working to reduce criminal violence and murder in Chicago, other locales in the U.S. and in some Caribbean states.
Christie alluded to this in a 2011 national crime address he made as leader of the opposition.
He queried: "Did you know that in Jamaica murders are down 40 percent -- ours are up 58 percent nationwide and 69 percent for New Providence.
"What does that tell you?
"It tells you that the tsunami of violence sweeping our nation was never inevitable.
"It tells you an important reason for the escalation of crime in The Bahamas is poor governance.
"This government has been paralyzed, unable to lead on this crucial issue."
Essentially, Christie stressed that effective and competent leadership is critical in fighting crime.
AP reported what Chicago officials believe contributed to the significant double-digit decline in various violent crimes.
"'We are making significant progress by putting additional officers in high-crime areas, using intelligence to prevent retaliatory shootings, moving officers from administrative positions back to the streets,' Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said in a statement.
"The department and other city officials have pointed out that the drop in homicides, shootings and other violent crimes coincides with changes in police strategies, including tactics targeting violent street gangs that are responsible for the vast majority of the city's gun crimes and, significantly, about $100 million in overtime pay for hundreds of officers deployed nightly to high crime areas.
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said that besides putting more officers on the street, various programs for young people have played a role in bringing the numbers of violent crime down.
"At a recent news conference, for example, the mayor said that a record 20,000 young people were involved in the city's summer jobs program.
"'Not one of those kids was affected by gun violence this summer, and I don't believe for a minute that if they didn't have jobs they would be safe,' he said."
While there are many components to addressing the causes and the responses to crime, the state has a central role.

Rhetoric
The government has failed on several fronts, with much of the failure that of the prime minister, who continues to pass the buck, throwing words and rhetoric at the cycle of violence, instead of mustering common sense and workable responses.
Last weekend Christie made this offensive statement, offensive to Bahamians in general and dismissive of the commissioner of police and his senior officers: "I said to the minister of national security, I'm not prepared to have my own legacy, my own reputation, be tied to a total reliance on the Royal Bahamas Police Force and to the leadership of that force."
"My own legacy, my own reputation"? Innocent people are being killed, the criminals seem large-and-in-charge, people are terrified and distraught, and Christie is worrying about his legacy? What a stunningly self-absorbed, imperious and arrogant statement.
Having failed to adhere to benchmarks and promises made in his 2011 crime address, Christie again demonstrated that he is a pass-the-buck leader. Recall those Bahamians still waiting for mortgage relief and Christie blaming others for his failure to act.
Notice that Christie did not generally criticize Police Commissioner Greenslade or his senior command when he was in opposition. Back then it was all or mostly the fault of then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and his National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest.
Now, "as prime minister", nearly two years in office, it is the police who are seemingly mostly at fault. Is this prime minister prepared to be held responsible for anything, ever, including a wasteland of promises he has never fulfilled?
The same bluster, over-promising, incompetence, poor leadership and blah, blah, blah nonsense that characterizes Christie's leadership in other areas is now adversely affecting the crime fight.

Stinging
The very public and stinging criticism of the police by the head of government is a serious affair in terms of governance and public confidence.
National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage also publicly slapped down the commissioner, who criticized the civilian leadership after the robbery of Acting Prime Minister Philip 'Brave' Davis. Nottage recently cooed the commissioner's praises in contrast to Christie's rebuke.
Differences and disagreements between the civilian and police leadership should be settled privately. The public feud between these leaderships has escalated, with the prime minster openly undermining the commissioner.
With these criticisms the course of action is clear. Either the commissioner should voluntarily resign or he should be dismissed if the prime minister no longer maintains confidence in him, which is a clear conclusion of Christie's remarks.
As an aside, the poor state of leadership on crime was dramatized in the robbery of the acting prime minister. Imagine had there been an urgent matter or a national emergency as Davis was being robbed?
Neither the commissioner of police, the commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force nor cabinet ministers, the Cabinet Secretary or our ambassadors overseas would have been able to reach the acting prime minister.
Oddly, Christie also noted last weekend: "To the extent that I am leader of the country, I am going to be intrusive in ensuring that the system that we are operating under is accountable to the people of this country. "
What the devil does he mean, "to the extent that I am leader"?
Every chance he gets he reminds the country that he's prime minister. And, what does he mean that he will be "intrusive".

The term for all of this is called doing your job!
But he has been so lackluster, ineffective and unconvincing on the crime front that he is now ducking responsibility and telling us that he will now do his job, which, given past performance, is highly unlikely.
So there was Christie again last week with the same overwrought, barely intelligible and hyperbolic bluster that few take seriously: "If I have to put a policeman and a police car on every corner, as they do in some countries, we are going to communicate to the criminals in this country that we are going to rout them out wherever they are."
Never mind that it may only be North Korea that has police on every corner, there is action the prime minister can take.
Instead of a self-serving photo-op to visit Pope Francis, Christie might have traveled to Chicago to consult with Mayor Emanuel to see firsthand what is working in terms of effective policing; intelligence gathering, especially before retaliatory killings; more effective action against gangs and immediate and longer-term social intervention strategies.
Christie's blame game on crime has been shattered, most especially by the carnage in Fox Hill. He can no longer blame Ingraham, Turnquest or Greenslade.

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

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Inequality: The new buzz word for 2014

January 08, 2014

Is it a phenomenon signified by Pope Francis I, who made the poor more visible in a world where they were relegated behind the wall of the slums, or the legacy of Nelson Mandela to a troubled world?
The year 2014, I foresee, will be named year of the fight against inequality. I am suspicious of the phrase, 'the year of'. In my old age of 66, I have not seen any impact from either from 'the day of', so well marketed by the United Nations for its multiple days of, or 'the year of' where banners that will be taken down the day after are the most visible signs of the impact of such a focus day.
Haiti, the motherland of inequality, while being the father seedling of hospitality for all, is excellent for those buzz words, being a citizen of different worlds, I suspect Haiti is not alone in parading big terms that in the end are as hollow as a hole.
President Barack Obama, always in the forefront of the right concept or the right speech at the right moment, has already stamped "inequality as the defining challenge of our time". The new mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, ran and won his campaign on the slogan that inequality and the fight against same will be his leitmotif in rendering a more hospitable New York City for all.
He said so at his inauguration speech: "We are called upon to put an end to economic and social inequality that threaten to unravel the city we love."
The new city council leader (in waiting), Mrs. Mark Viverito of Puerto Rican descent, will be as fierce a defender against inequality as the new mayor.
If Haiti was the father seedling of hospitality for all in the Western Hemisphere, New York City was the motherland in America, where blacks and immigrant citizens were deemed worthy of dignity and decent living to become creators of wealth for themselves and for the city.
I have fond memories of the epoch of the 70s when, as a student of social work and community organization at Columbia University, my star teachers such as Frances Piven and Georges Bragger, were luminaries who could convince Mayor John Lindsay that it was in the interest of the city of New York that the new black migration from the south was good for New York, as long as New York was willing to stop its discriminatory practice against the new black migrants.
They jointly and individually "expanded the opportunities for thousands of people who otherwise would not have a chance to participate in the American dream".
New York has been for the last 40 years the shining light in a land where shining sea to shining sea is the manifest destiny.
Under Bill de Blasio, will New York set the model for the rest of the world to unravel a planet that keeps faking to care for the poor? It is a self-defeating practice. The story of challenging the status quo in terms of living comfortably with inequality can be traced to Charles Dickens, who forced the textile industry to stop abusing children and women in working conditions that would shock the conscience of today's civilized world.
There was later Karl Marx, who made the proposition that the fate of the modern proletariat that sells its work force to the bourgeoisie will finally get the upper hand through the socialist revolution.
The socialist revolution came and went via Russia, with no apparent positive outcome for the mass of wretched poor of the earth. Except China has bifurcated the socialist mode for the state capitalism model. It has lifted the fate of inequality to a level that no other nation has ever done in such a short time. Some 800 million Chinese have entered into the bliss of middle class status or the bourgeoisie.
Spurred by Singapore, Southeast Asia has promoted the concept that investing in each human being within the confines of the nation is profitable for the GPA of the country. As such inequality is receding in that region as well as in the Scandinavian countries that have always made hospitality for all a hallmark of their public policy.
Globalization, the buzz word a decade ago promoted by Bill Clinton during his presidency of the United States, has produced alienation and extension of inequality in the world. Whether you pick Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, the United States, the European Union, in particular the southern states such as Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy and going to the north like France, inequality is queen.
Enter Pope Francis I, who was recognized by Time magazine as its person of the year. He is not afraid to tell the Catholic Church in particular and the rest of the world in general that business as usual cannot be continued. I am predicting he will be considered for the Nobel Peace prize for the year 2014.
He is challenging the world to "stop being indifferent to war, violence and injustice". There are echoes in the rest of the universe. Yet, I am not optimistic. In my own country of Haiti, I have seen the Catholic Church taking the reins of power to come to the help of the disfranchised. Some 25 years later, the fate of the poor is worse than during the former dictatorship. I met a young woman recently that I will name Melinda, who told me that she would leave the squalid and sordid home with her child, in the beautiful hills of Port-au-Prince, if only she could find $500 to invest in leasing a decent place, and $500 to start a business that would lead to economic stability.
It is a modest sum to stop inequality for hundreds of thousands who lost their homes due to the earthquake on January 12, 2010, in Haiti. Paraphrasing Francis I, "The excluded are still waiting"; in the United States, the unemployment check will stop coming in the mailbox this month, the food stamp program is being curtailed, yet caviar, foie gras, and conspicuous spending is the norm for those with limitless credit cards.
Will Francis I succeed where Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela have all failed? Rendezvous on January 1, 2015!

o Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.com and followed for past essays at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti.

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Why crime is a political issue

January 07, 2014

Political parties are elected to government to solve problems. For example, if there are no roads and people have difficulty getting from place to place, members of the electorate want men and women in power who are able to fix the problem and build roads...

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All eyes on 2014

January 07, 2014

The advent of a new year is often marked by festivities and new goals in the form of resolutions by individuals across the globe. The Bahamas and Bahamians as a whole are not exempt from this tradition and practice as we seek to start afresh using the metaphoric blank canvass to paint that which we aspire for in 2014.
On a national level, it seems reasonable to state that 2014 could very well be the most important year in Bahamian history since 1973 - the year we obtained political independence from Great Britain. The subsequent parts of this article help to substantiate the notion that 2014 could be a break or make year for The Bahamas. There is indeed so much at stake and more than ever before, collaboration among all stakeholders will be imperative in this self-defining year. Simply put, all hands should be on deck and not be used in fighting one another to the detriment of our nation.
Constitutional referendum
The report produced by the Constitutional Commission in 2013 recommended among other things that all forms of discrimination against women in the supreme law of our land - the Constitution should be removed. It has been announced and rightly so, that the upcoming constitutional referendum (the first of many) will focus solely on the elimination of this discrimination against the Bahamian woman.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 18, 1979 and ratified by The Bahamas with three reservations on October 6, 1993 describes discrimination against women as "any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field"
It is noteworthy to state that the Free National Movement (FNM) government in a referendum held on February 27, 2002 had sought to address the gender discrimination within our constitution but the majority of the populace had voted against this proposal. The Independence Celebrations Committee under the current Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration last year recognised the struggles and achievement of the Bahamian woman on the 50th anniversary of the women's suffrage movement. Based on the actions of the PLP and FNM governments, it is apparent that they are both in agreement with the need to eliminate discrimination against women in our Constitution. Hence, we do not expect the politicising of this matter, rhetoric on process, excuses on education or plain baloney in the debates leading up to this much anticipated referendum. While education will be important, this is our second shot at this issue and considerable education should have taken place in 2002. Further, the matter is crystal clear and the injustice apparent for all to see.
Fiscal reform
After years of burying our heads in the proverbial sand, we have finally accepted either by choice or force that our current tax system is inadequate and fiscal position unsustainable. In spite of pressures from multilateral agencies and international rating agencies, there is no doubt that the future of our country lies in the balance and urgent action is needed to address our fiscal imbalance.
The public discussion on the proposed Value Added Tax (VAT) system has been predictable but interesting to say the least and is expected to gain momentum in the coming months as we approach the proposed implementation date of July 1, 2014. The private sector under the umbrella of the Coalition for Responsible Taxation (Coalition) has been vocal on this issue and has suggested alternatives to VAT. The Government's position is that VAT is superior to the alternatives proposed by the Coalition and remains our best option to broaden our tax base while increasing revenue.
Ideally, the Government should seek buy-in from the business community and taxpayers in order to encourage voluntary compliance. However, the nature of a consumption tax is one which impacts the consumer and ultimately the bottom line of merchants, retailers and businesses as a whole. Hence, the Government can expect to have a fight on its hand from the business community on VAT. The Government and business community will do well to educate the masses on the urgency of now, the reasons why VAT is the best option at this time and explain in layman's terms the potential impact of VAT on the average Bahamian.
The Government will also have to demonstrate ongoing fiscal prudence on the expenditure side and continue the trend highlighted in the first quarter of fiscal year 2013/14. Regardless of what direction the debate on fiscal policy takes, an overhaul of our fiscal and tax systems will take place in 2014.
Financial services
Our financial services industry is the second largest contributor to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) constituting approximately 15% to our GDP. This important industry, especially on the international side has been under significant pressure in recent times. However, initiatives such as the US Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) which is expected to come into effect in 2014, the revisions to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Recommendations and the move towards increased international tax cooperation and automatic exchange of information are expected to significantly increase compliance costs for industry participants.
On the positive side, opportunities abound for The Bahamas in the areas of captive insurance and funds. We will have to continue to add value to our clients and ensure that we maintain our position as the wealth management jurisdiction of choice. Our service delivery, ability to serve as a one-stop centre and strategic geographic location must be key parts of our message in marketing The Bahamas. The survival and future of our financial services industry will also depend on our innovation, ability to adapt to the changing international landscape and the ease of doing business in this jurisdiction.
Tourism
The opening of Baha Mar in December 2014 will arguably be the most significant event in the tourism sector in years. In the lead up to this opening, it is anticipated that Baha Mar will be hiring thousands of Bahamians; a much needed boost for our economy with a high unemployment rate. The opening of the Reef in Grand Bahama should also provide some relief to the ailing economy of that island.
The proposed Gaming Bill has been described as a game changer for licensed casino operators in The Bahamas. While affected hoteliers are anxious to see the Bill passed in Parliament, the discussion on web shops and the ability of Bahamians to gamble in The Bahamas has been injected into the public discourse on the Gaming Bill which basically maintains the status quo. This comes in the aftermath of a referendum in which the majority of Bahamians that participated rejected the proposal to allow Bahamians to gamble via local web shops. The government will need to navigate through this issue in the enactment of the Gaming Bill in 2014.
Crime
The last but not least of the matters to be considered in this piece which we will be watching is the scourge and fear of crime in The Bahamas. The Bahamian people will be carefully watching whether all stakeholders including political organisations, civic groups and the media will work together to confront this ill within our nation. It has become sheer rhetoric to state that crime is not a political issue albeit politicians have been infamous for using this vexing issue as a political football.
The Government has its work cut out as it assumes the lead in implementing appropriate policies and adopting strategies to subdue this menace to our society and threat to our way of life. In 2014, we must take a stand as a people to bring crime under control in our country by adopting a zero-tolerance approach to illegal behaviour. The Bahamas belongs to us all; as Bahamians we have nowhere else to run to or call home. Let us take pride in our country and work together by taking responsibility for the preservation of our quality of life. Crime is an enemy that threatens our social, economic and political prosperity in 2014 and beyond.
In the final analysis, all eyes will be on 2014; a year of implications of significant proportions for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

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 march to majority rule, pt. 1

January 06, 2014

The journey was very long and fraught with many dangers, trials, abuses, separations, rebellions, revolts, violence, frustrations, successes and, yes, even deaths. - George A Smith
The march to majority rule in The Bahamas can be characterized by two words: sustained struggle.
On Friday, January 10, we will celebrate the first public holiday to commemorate the day that majority rule came to The Bahamas on that date in 1967. It was a life-changing event that catapulted the lives of many thousands to unimaginable heights. Therefore this week and during the month of January, we would like to Consider This... what were some of the milestones along the way on the centuries-long march to majority rule?
Although it is difficult to capture all the important landmarks on the march to majority rule in a single column, and while we acknowledge that there are many unsung heroes of the movement, we want to highlight several important events that should be remembered as creating the framework for the achievement of majority rule as we approach this public holiday.
Early days and accelerated population
When Christopher Columbus and other European explorers first discovered these islands beginning in 1492, they met Lucayans, Arawak-speaking Amerindians who arrived in The Bahamas between 500 AD and 600 AD, originating in the South American mainland, having first settled in Cuba and Hispaniola.
For the next few centuries after Columbus' arrival, Europeans, Americans and those who lived in our islands developed significant trading relationships. When the Loyalists, those individuals who remained loyal to the English Crown during the American Revolution and became refugees in search of a home when the Crown lost to the rebels, fled the new United States, upwards of 5,000 people, including Loyalists and their many slaves, settled in the Bahama Islands, bringing their ideals with them. It was with their arrival that the infamous trade in human cargo - the trans-Atlantic slave trade - reached its zenith here. As was the case in North America and the Caribbean, African slaves were brought to market at Vendue House in downtown Nassau and were subjected to the same inhumane abuses that were experienced wherever the trade flourished.
In these islands, slavery came to be recognized as a perversion, and consequently, there were many instances, both recorded and not, that demonstrated the sustained struggle against this perversion and inculcated a determination to achieve equality in Bahamians. This week, we will review a few instances of different kinds of early rebellion against conditions of servitude that marked the struggle and shaped the Bahamian psyche as it continued to yearn for total freedom.
Uprising at Farquharson's Plantation
Charles Farquharson owned a prosperous plantation on San Salvador, growing a variety of crops including cotton. He is particularly remarkable in Bahamian history as his journal was preserved and, through it, we have perhaps the only look at the everyday life of a Bahamian plantation owner and his slaves. The journal also affords us the bare outlines of an incident on the Farquharson plantation in early 1832 that amounted to an uprising against the brutality of James, a mulatto son of the owner, who was left in charge while Farquharson was in Nassau.
It was when James decided to resort to physical punishment yet again over a minor incident that Farquharson's chief driver, Alick, took exception to this habitual brutality and struck back, hitting young Farquharson with a heavy cudgel before he was dragged off by the other slaves who immediately gathered around the fray in a threatening manner.
Although no more violence is reported, Charles Farquharson faced great opposition as he tried to reason with his slaves the following morning. Unfortunately, when three of the ringleaders were sent to Nassau for trial the following March, more violence was threatened by the Farquharson slaves. Finally, after time spent at hard labor in the Nassau workhouse, all except Alick were returned to San Salvador. Alick, for his crime of not tolerating abuse, was ordered sold and never saw San Salvador again.
Pompey
A few years before the Farquharson plantation unrest, there was the legendary slave revolt in Exuma led by Pompey. It was early 1830 and, with only three days notice, a group of 77 of Lord Rolle's slaves were told they were to be sent to Cat Island. No husbands or wives or any children under 14 were to be separated but they were only given one weekend to pick their pea and bean crops, thrash their corn and dispose of their livestock. Moreover, they would have to abandon fields of Indian corn that had just been planted.
With 32-year-old slave Pompey leading them, most of the slaves involved hid in the bush for five weeks until their provisions ran out. It was at that point that 44 of them, representing nine families and three single slaves, stole Lord Rolle's salt boat and sailed it to Nassau in an effort to personally put their case in front of the governor, Sir James Carmichael Smyth.
Sadly, the slaves were taken into custody and thrown into the workhouse before seeing the governor. The adult slaves were tried immediately as runaways and most of them, including five women - two of whom were nursing babies - were sentenced to be flogged.
Although he had not been kept apprised of the events surrounding this case, when the governor, known for his sympathy towards slaves, found out, he was furious, immediately firing the police magistrate and the two justices of the peace involved in the case. He also ordered Pompey and his group of rebels to be taken back to Exuma.
When they arrived back at Steventon, they were joyously hailed as heroes and subsequently all the other slaves refused to work. This behavior alarmed those in authority over them so they called for military reinforcements from Nassau, telling the governor that an armed slave insurrection was imminent. Fifty soldiers and the chief constable of The Bahamas landed in Exuma during the night of June 20, 1830. The slaves were quiet but not prepared to go to work, saying that they had understood they were to be made free. After a thorough search of the slave houses, the soldiers only found 25 old muskets and very small amounts of powder and shot, putting the idea of an armed insurrection to rest.
However, the soldiers were still worried and decided to march to Rolleville, another slave village, to search there. Pompey knew a short-cut and reached Rolleville before the soldiers, warning the slaves there who hid in the bush. Although only three muskets were found in Rolleville, Pompey was captured and taken back to Steventon where his public punishment of 39 lashes persuaded the slaves to go back to work.
Most of the soldiers returned to Nassau and Lord Rolle's slaves were reportedly left "quiet and industrious" by the chief constable. But Pompey's rebellion was really the first time that Bahamian slaves had resisted a transfer and succeeded, establishing that Bahamian slaves could not be moved without their consent, a major achievement in beginning to establish that slaves were people who had civil rights. The protest that arose when the flogging of the women became known throughout abolitionist circles gave great impetus to legislation, including the bill that granted full emancipation that would finally occur four years later.
Next week in part two of this series, we will look at how some 20th century events continued the march to majority rule, preparing even more Bahamians for the struggle that was begun by Alick and Pompey as they bravely stood up for their rights so long ago.

o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & 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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A case for compensation for climate change destruction

January 04, 2014

Can the countries of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) take international legal action against the states that are warming the planet with devastating consequences not only for their survival, but in some cases even their existence?
This question comes into sharp focus in the wake of the damaging effects of flooding and landslides in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Dominica as 2013 came to an end. The prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, described the flooding and landslides as "unprecedented". He gave a preliminary estimate of damage in his country alone to be in excess of US$60 million.
People who live in the Caribbean know from their own experience that climate change is real. They know it from days and nights that are hotter than in the past; from more frequent and more intense hurricanes or freak years like the last one when there were none; from long periods of dry weather followed by unseasonable heavy rainfall and flooding; and from the recognizable erosion of coastal areas and reefs.
Sceptics continue to deny that these phenomena are in any way related to climate change. But, increasingly, scientific evidence points to human-induced effects of climate change - something that the science-sceptics have not been able to disprove.
Over the last two decades, the Caribbean area has been the victim of climate change even though it contributes the least to the problem. Trinidad and Tobago is the region's biggest polluter at a paltry 0.17 percent of the world's total CO2 emissions. Each of the other 13 independent CARICOM countries emits 0.01 percent or less. The region has become the kitchen sink for the world's polluting countries - developed nations, principally the United States and Japan, and large developing ones such as China and India. The European Union (E.U.) countries taken collectively are also major polluters.
Recent studies give Caribbean countries, including the mainland states of Guyana and Belize, no reason for comfort. The Inter-American Development Bank fears that the tourism industry in the Caribbean - the mainstay of many of the islands - could lose upwards of US$900 million a year by 2050. It also says that flat islands like The Bahamas are particularly vulnerable, and it estimates that, by 2053, climate change will cumulatively have cost the Caribbean up to US$2 billion. Also, the annual income from fishing may be affected by as much as US$140 million from 2015.
The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize has also posted an authoritative report which shows that the Caribbean is particularly at risk for dramatic rises in temperature with damaging effects on sensitive ecosystems that cannot tolerate even small changes in climate if they occur at a rapid pace. The indications are that, if nothing is done to halt the current trend of global warming, Jamaica will be among the first places on Earth (2023) to see a significant increase in temperature from the historical average. It will be followed by Haiti (2025), Dominican Republic (2026), Bahamas (2029), Guyana (2029), and Belize (2034). While these countries are specifically mentioned, all Caribbean countries will be similarly affected to some degree with consequences for agriculture, water, tourism and production.
The problem is real. It is also enormous. While it has been present for some time, its urgency for governments has been overtaken by immediate problems such as contracting economies, high debt, high deficits and high unemployment caused by a combination of factors including poor policy choices. But, the problem is fast becoming one that goes beyond survival to actual existence. What happened in the twilight days of 2013 in Dominica, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are wake-up calls that are echoes of flooding in Guyana and climate events in other parts of the region.
Amid all this, the Inter-American Development Bank says the "region needs to dramatically increase its investment in climate change adaptation and mitigation in the coming decades". But, where is the money to come from in a region that is highly indebted and whose governments are strapped for? So far, the international community has shown little willingness to provide the funding that Caribbean countries urgently need for adaptation to a problem of which they are not the perpetrators but the victims.
Therefore, the idea of taking international legal action against the countries that are warming the planet has substantial merit. The idea was posited a few days ago (December 29) by Chris Huhne a former environment minister in the present coalition government in Britain. He pointed out that in 2013 "a group of small island states threatened by rising sea levels, led by Palau, came close to asking the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion, and the main reason they did not press ahead then was that the scientific case is strengthening by the month". He is supported in this view by Phillipe Sands QC, a professor of international law familiar with the Caribbean.
At the urging of Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, the governments of CARICOM have set up both a regional and national commissions to develop a legal case to seek reparations for slavery. Gonsalves will shortly formally become the chairman of CARICOM. Against the background of the clear evidence of the effect of climate change on the Caribbean, and his own country's most recent experience, perhaps he might consider similarly placing on the agenda of heads of government possible international legal action to secure from the main polluters the financing they have been unwilling to provide despite the ruin inflicted on the Caribbean.
The Caribbean can no longer merely endure the effects of global warming whose evidence is plain to see and whose offenders have been identified by no less an organization than the United Nations. The scientific documentation is already collected. What is needed now is a high-quality team of negotiators backed up by scientists drawn not only from the Caribbean's universities and Climate Change Centre, but such sympathetic and experienced people in the global community who recognize the clear danger to survival of the Caribbean people.

o Sir Ronald Sanders is a consultant and senior research fellow at London University. Send responses to: www.sirronaldsanders.com. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.

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