November 07, 2013
Comment is free, but facts are sacred. - C.P. Scott
Last Monday's National Review in this journal was, disappointingly, intellectually lazy, glib and disingenuous. For a putatively senior reporter, the commentary proved surprisingly sophomoric and superficial.
While one may disagree with some of the analysis of various National Reviews, the weekly feature is generally well written and of a certain standard. Last week's "Getting Bahamians back to work" was substandard.
The writer indulged the logical fallacy of the false equivalence. One underlying thrust was essentially the tiresome refrain that all politicians and politics are generally the same.
Here we go again. It is the same disingenuous meme regularly dispensed by some who swap prejudice for fact-finding.
When this sort of thinking is entertained by academics at COB, journalists and others, it is disheartening, it plays to certain prejudices, it encourages cynicism and it is antithetical to informed debate.
The writer avers that since, in his view, both the PLP and the FNM made wild promises at the 2012 general election, the PLP's failure to fulfil certain promises may be dismissed. What a breathtakingly illogical leap!
A journalist for the British Guardian, who so breezily furnished a U.K. governing party with such a speedy pass, despite its failure to adhere to core promises, especially just 18 months into its term, would be met with responses by readers and colleagues ranging from the incredulous to the laughable.
The writer thumped: "After all, the FNM made plenty of wild promises of its own." Note the word "plenty". Having made this declaration, the writer offered no examples of wild promises to substantiate his basic claim, much less his assertion of "plenty".
This is typical of the false equivalence. The writer made a misleading comparison by making "an unqualified sweeping statement" without offering examples of the equivalence, rendering his comparison unsustainable.
Curiously, though he detailed examples of the PLP's "wild promises", he failed to note the obvious: The FNM did not make the very same promises.
Much of a political journalist's task is the art of comparing and contrasting the policies, politics and personas in the public arena.
The writer utterly failed to compare and to contrast the promises made by the two parties. It was shoddy and profoundly lazy journalism. He might take to heart this advice from the UK's Guardian Editor C.P. Scott in 1921: "Comment is free, but facts are sacred."
The FNM, unlike the PLP, did not repeatedly hype bogus claims of jobs created on its watch. It is telling that the PLP did, refusing to apologize and restate the correct numbers, despite being confronted with the facts.
The FNM did not outlandishly promise 10,000 jobs in the first year were it re-elected. The PLP did. Into year two the unemployment rate has risen even higher than it was during the Great Recession.
The FNM never promised to double the national investment in education. The PLP did. The Christie administration has now cut the education budget.
One feature of the false equivalence is when someone, like the writer in question, falsely equates one record with "being [essentially] equally egregious", notwithstanding the facts.
The jobs promised by the PLP and the promise to double the national investment in education alone, were of such an order of egregiousness that there is no comparison with the more pragmatic promises made by the FNM.
In terms of comparing and contrasting two given entities and in spotting a false equivalence, one has to look at orders of magnitude.
Adding up the costs of the election promises of the two parties will quickly reveal the stunningly false equivalence between the FNM's and the PLP's promises.
The PLP's promise to double the investment in education would amount to close to half a billion dollars - for one year alone. Over five years this would amount to $2.5 billion.
Fifty-one percent of BTC was sold for approximately $200 million. It is unlikely that C&W would sell BTC for less than half a billion given its investment in the company thus far.
One leading healthcare expert advises that the comprehensive NHI plan the PLP offered would cost at least $400 million in the first year with rapid growth as utilization ramped up. Others have suggested first year costs at $500 million.
These three promises would require expenditure of approximately $1.5 billion in a single year. Even spread out over successive budgets, these costs would be prohibitive. For context, the entire annual budget is less than $2 billion.
Given these three promises and the many others it made, the PLP would have needed considerably more money than the FNM needed to fulfil its pledges. There is no equivalence here.
Appearing on Jeffrey Lloyd's talk program the writer complained that he found reading the FNM's manifesto hard going. If that rather straightforward document proved difficult for him, perhaps it is unsurprising that he lacked the inclination or ability to total up the costs of what was promised by the two parties.
Perhaps he should be given assignments that are less taxing for him, with less difficult reading, and requiring less insight, analysis and detailed work.
Even for a cub reporter or for a non-Bahamian coming to work in the country as a journalist, last week's National Review would be unacceptable.
A point of pride for the FNM and Ingraham is that the party generally delivered on promises made in election manifestos, so much so that the FNM consistently produced a record of accomplishments fulfilled after a term in office and prior to an upcoming election.
The 2012 election was no different, with the FNM adopting the theme "We Deliver!" intended as a stark contrast to Christie and the PLP's poor record of failing to live up to many promises made in its 2002 platform and repeated in two Speeches from the Throne.
Just as there is superior and inferior journalism, there are degrees of accomplishment in politics. All politics and politicians are no more alike than all journalists and journalism. For example, the Cable 12 evening news is a far superior broadcast than competing evening news programs.
Christie is the grand promise maker and talker, given to making outsized and even outlandish promises. Ingraham is generally a gradualist, given to making specific promises rather than broad ones such as doubling the national investment in education.
While the PLP again promised National Health Insurance for this term, Christie is now saying that he will see if the country can afford such a promise, one that he initially made in 2002, more than a decade ago.
Ingraham advised that he would lead a new round of healthcare reform in stages, having launched reform in his prior consecutive terms. In its last term the FNM introduced a prescription drug benefit, expanding it in stages.
The FNM promised in its next term a more affordable national catastrophic health insurance plan in tandem with the private sector, which is not the same as the more expensive and expansive NHI the PLP proposed.
On healthcare alone, the National Review writer could have factually reported the differences in the approaches of the two parties.
Good political journalism includes in-depth analysis of policy issues, revealing the differences between political parties while providing character sketches of political leaders.
Sadly, instead of insight and analysis, readers are often treated to asinine generalizations and lazy reporting laced with glib remarks such as, "But hey, that's politics isn't it?", as if such supposed cleverness is dispositive.
Such a throwaway line is no more serious than a politician responding to this National Review piece and snickering, "But hey, that's journalism isn't it?"
In the heat of the last general election the PLP proposed an ambitious mortgage relief program that was likely untenable and highly criticized at the time. Many desperate homeowners believed the promise.
In response, Ingraham temporized, eventually offering something he considered feasible and affordable. The FNM likely lost votes as a result of deciding on a more moderate course. The PLP won, its grand promise never materialized, dashing the hopes of many.
Here was a clear and compelling difference between the PLP and the FNM, a fact inconvenient to some given to lazy thinking.
Recall another sweeping generalization made by the writer: "Bahamian politicians will say and promise just about anything to attain power and keep it."
Despite the fact that there are a host of examples to refute such a broad claim, such as the one just offered, the writer could not resist indulging in hyperbole.
The mantras of "A plague or pox on both your houses" and "Both sides do it" are the refrain of some who, from their perches, fuelled by cynicism, anger and various prejudices, tend to loathe the political class.
A good journalist, while not in the arena, is close enough to the hurly-burly to appreciate that while sometimes both sides do it and a pox should at times be placed on both houses, many times there are clear differences of degree and kind that should be reported diligently and fairly.
o email@example.com o www.bahamapundit.com.
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November 06, 2013
The Bahamas will join other nations across the globe this month to recognize International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The UNiTE campaign, which promotes the conclusions that were agreed by members of the 57th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women held in New York, March 2013, is aimed at drawing more attention to the menace of violence against women.
The consensus among other things is that violence against women is a global phenomenon and constitutes violation of the enjoyment of our fundamental human rights. It has been further established that violence against women is rooted in gender stereotypes; historical and structural inequality in power relations between women and men are a factor and the problem encompasses physical, sexual and psychological harm.
The U.N.'s UNiTE campaign employs and encourages several strategies that can and will increase the level of awareness of violence against women. One such initiative is Orange Day, which is celebrated on the 25th day of every month. This is against the backdrop that violence against women should not only be celebrated on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which is celebrated on November 25 each year. The objective of Orange Day therefore is to ensure that this vital topic is engraved in each calendar month of the year.
The UNiTE campaign promotes activities such as wearing something orange, or forming a cross on your body or taking a picture and making it your FB/Twitter profile picture on the 25th of each month. Additional efforts involving the writing of letters to members of Parliament to request of them actions aimed at ending sexual violence against women and girls should also be explored.
The efforts of local public, private and non-governmental bodies in educating the populace on this social ill must be applauded. It is noteworthy to state that the Zonta clubs of Nassau will later this month be launching an initiative to bring greater awareness to this ill that impacts many women and girls across the globe.
Engagement of the whole community
Statistics reveal that an increasing number of youth and adolescents are subjected to violence not only in their homes by family members and/or close family friends, but also in their personal relationships with their partners. It is imperative therefore that young people are involved on a large scale and educated at the earliest opportunity.
A national campaign aimed at engaging our young people should be explored. An initiative which seeks the input of young people on how violence against women and girls can be prevented and addressed will be helpful in this regard. Additionally, the involvement of our students via competitions in various schools, as well as civic and religious organizations, will sow seeds in their young minds to the betterment of our country.
Schools should also be encouraged to give themes to certain events. In addition, civic society and the religious community must also take their rightful roles in the fight and host seminars, presentations, panel discussions on violence against women, particularly organizations/groups geared toward women. More importantly, advocates against violence against women should make every effort to visit schools and give lectures to educate our future leaders and stem the perpetuation of this evil.
Corporate Bahamas also has a vital role that it can assume in the fight against violence against women and girls. Corporate leaders and human resource professionals can endorse Orange Day on the 25th of each month and host seminars, lectures or training sessions on pertinent topics like sexual harassment in the workplace and issues that impact women. Staff should be trained to recognize signs of violence against women and understand laws and company policies regarding the same and to identify and address security issues, including the safety of women travelling to and from work and on company-related business.
It is incumbent upon corporations to implement robust policies that address matters of sexual harassment and other issues relating to women, thereby establishing a zero-tolerance policy toward all forms of violence at work, including verbal and or physical abuse and sexual harassment.
Spreading the message
All hands must be on deck and all forms of media employed to spread the message that all forms of violence against women will not be tolerated in our Bahamaland. In this regard, social media is an effective vehicle as persons of diverse age groups utilize this tool for personal, business and networking purposes. Hence, an effective public relations strategy using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others to share information on the negative impact of violence against women on our society and sensitizing users to the importance of Orange Day will be invaluable.
In addition to social media, other forms of communication such as e-mail and text blasts, writings and letters to the editors can be utilized to educate the public. Talk show hosts can also commit to hosting shows that are dedicated to discouraging violence against women and entertaining victims and/or advocates in the fight against domestic violence to help sensitize the public.
A call for advocates
Advocacy will no doubt form a major part of a successful campaign and will provide the platform for greater education and awareness on the issue of violence against women. It is a known fact that many victims of domestic violence suffer in silence and are afraid to speak due to fear, shame, embarrassment and the uncertainty as to whether their stories will be accepted. Nevertheless, advocacy is important in this fight and those who are survivors and are strong enough to tell their stories must do so with boldness and courage.
There are multiple conventions agreed by the United Nations that seek to end all forms of violence against women. We must ensure that the relevant conventions are adopted and confirm that local legislation is in line with international human rights standards to provide adequate protection for women and girls in state custody and care.
Supporting the cause
It is imperative that steps are taken by the government to support education, sensitization, training and strengthening of the capacity of public officials and professionals to address the issue of violence against women and girls. In particular, officers of our police and defence forces who come into contact which such victims on a regular basis should be well equipped and trained to handle these matters.
The public and private sectors should work together to ensure that sufficient safe houses aimed at providing protection for women and children who fall victim to this disease are available in The Bahamas. The absences of such havens make the decision to leave an abusive relationship more challenging for victims.
In the final analysis, domestic violence is a social issue that impacts all areas of society, every class of men, women and children regardless of their social positions. It is a topic that does not receive a vast amount of airplay in the media unless reported in the form of a homicide when it is unfortunately one more victim too late. We must join the fight to rid our society of this ill that is not unique to our borders but continues to impact the lives of many emotionally, physically, psychologically and mentally, among others. We encourage all Bahamians to support the Zonta clubs as they take the lead in providing greater awareness to ending violence against women.
o Comments on this article can be directed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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November 05, 2013
Though independent from Britain for 40 years, the history of The Bahamas and the Bahamian people hardly started in 1973. Insufficient effort by successive governments to preserve the physical remnants of our heritage has led to mounting ignorance about our past...
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November 05, 2013
Vulgar! It means rude, impolite, bad mannered. Vulgarity often times is used to describe certain aspects of Caribbean culture, not least is the "whine''.
Whine is defined by a Caribbean dance expert as the thrusting or rotating of the pelvic girdle in a rhythmic pattern. This must be distinguished from the English dictionary's definition of "whine'', which refers to a long cry of complaint or pain.
In the context of Caribbean culture, whine is a genuine regional dance form. It is the natural way in which Caribbean people dance to the calypso or soca rhythm. It requires no teaching or no formal learning at a school of dance. It's as natural as our language rhythm or cadence of speech.
Unlike other genres of music that inspire the feet - such as "salsa'', "kweyol'' and "tango'' - the dancing of soca music inspires the rhythmic movement of the waistline, more than any other body part.
In many African societies also, similar movements to the soca whine are well known; synonymous with the continent is the African gyration of the waist and the "tumbling'' of the posterior part of the human anatomy to the drum and musical instruments. As an African descended majority, it is safe to say we inherited many ancestral traits.
It is bizarre that other peoples who were transplanted to the west have tried to hold on and perpetuate their motherland culture. The Jews, for example, have done that; so, too, have the Chinese and East Indians.
Africans, however, have either had their culture banned, such as their language and religion, even up to the mid-20th century prohibition of the Shouter Baptists; or we ourselves have tried to distance ourselves from or to ridicule our own African-based culture.
Generally, the culture of Western Europe idealizes "thin'' - thin women, thin waists and so on. On the other hand, the culture of black people - in Africa and in the Caribbean - is not shy about celebrating "big'' - big hips, big bottom, and the curvature of our women.
That celebration reaches fever pitch when we see it "roll''. That is the simple truth. It brings unbridled joy to the men folk in our society.
It is also cultural, the way we dance with partners as well. We hold on to each other and dance in harmony with our partner. Again, it is the same body parts that are summoned into action. In essence, we "whine'' up on each other (what Americans call twerking) from either the front or back of our partner. This way of dancing is natural to us. It is neither rude nor sinful.
At a recent music awards' ceremony, some Americans expressed outrage at Miley Cyrus "twerking'' with Robin Thicke on stage. In response, CNN broadcaster Piers Morgan wondered aloud what the fuss was about. He said he had travelled to the Caribbean and seen that kind of dancing from Jamaica in the north to Guyana in the south.
Now, the other motion that goes with whining is "djuking''; this may be referred to as the forward thrusting of the pelvic area. Men and women alike can be seen "djuking'' rhythmically, while whining to the same calypso or soca music.
Frankly speaking, this whining and "djuking'' action is not too distant from the motion that we associate with the act of sex. To me, this is where the gray area emerges; leading to claims that whining is vulgar. Let's be clear, all societies have moral thresholds and sex is a very sensitive issue. For us sex is a private act by consenting adults.
Moreover, it is best if these adults are married; we do tolerate adults out of wedlock, though. It is forbidden under law for persons under the age of 16; morally, they should finish school and be above the age of 18.
So, suggestive sexual acts in public are frowned upon. But it so happens, as I have discussed, whining and "djuking'' are cultural forms for us. Therefore, there can be a thin line that divides what we think is vulgar or what is not.
However, whining or "djuking'' in and of themselves are not - and cannot be seen - as vulgar. Nonetheless, it can be said that with some add-ons and embellishments, one's performance can be classified as vulgar based on our moral threshold.
Another relevant issue is the age at which children, especially girls, should get involved in public dance whining. Ironically, in formal dance shows here in the Caribbean, if a young girl were to whine on stage she would be applauded. However, if she were to repeat that same performance on the streets, it's likely to be frowned on.
My view of this is that if you agree that whining is a genuine dance form, then I don't think that the age should be different from someone aspiring to be a ballerina. Our culture is not inferior to that of other societies; but, subconsciously, we do treat the cultures of others as superior to ours.
The paintings we cherish are the works of European artistes like Rembrandt and Michelangelo. In music, many look up to and refer to Tchaikovsky's "classics'', as if our own musicians like Sparrow, Kitchener, Bob Marley, Arrow, Wizard and Ajamu have not created classics.
Clearly, the European artistes are good. But, it should not blind us to the excellence we have here in Grenada and the Caribbean in the arts - created and established by our authors, musicians and dancers.
The largest exposition of regional ingenuity and creativity is the hosting of CARIFESTA that was recently held in Suriname, and the celebration of the various annual carnivals - from Trinidad and Grenada in the Eastern Caribbean, to Haiti and Brazil, to Miami, London, New York and Toronto.
The carnival package combines different cultural elements, particularly song and dance.
Whining is an established dance form in the Caribbean. We should respect it as such.
o Arley Gill, a lawyexr, is a former Grenada culture minister. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
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November 04, 2013
I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. - Thomas Jefferson
Last week, we addressed our dysfunctional banking system and highlighted the frustration that so many persons from all sectors of society experience with banking in The Bahamas. We received many comments on that article, some of which recounted the irrationally intense inspection and extreme examination to which they are subjected when conducting business here at home. Therefore, against this backdrop, we would again like to Consider This... why has banking in The Bahamas become such an ordeal and so dysfunctional and, more importantly, what immediate remedies are required to reverse this?
In a column earlier this year, we described some bureaucrats as "enemies of the state" whose common characteristics we described as:
1. Regulators who never had a job in the private sector and, if they did, never excelled in their jobs and therefore returned to the public sector, were promoted to senior positions, and ultimately morphed into super-bureaucrats whose primary objective is to frustrate and obfuscate.
2. Regulators who have never taken the risk of starting a business because they did not possess the entrepreneurial acumen or an understanding of how things operate in the "real business world".
3. Regulators who have never had to produce a payroll for their staff because they work for institutions where their salaries are guaranteed by the state.
4. Regulators who are often privy to the personal wealth of individuals whom they regulate and are jealous of those successful individuals. Consequently, instead of assisting such persons, their myopic regulatory perspectives and practices often achieve the intended effect of thwarting the progress and advancement of the persons whom they regulate, sometimes with a damaging effect on domestic output.
We can now conclude that enemies of the state do not exclusively occupy the bureaucratic halls of government. They also now reside in the halls of some of our financial institutions. Let us review some of the comments that we received on last week's article.
Real life examples
One writer observed that, 50 years ago, the highest aspiration of a Bahamian bureaucrat was to be seen to protect the interest of the Crown. That writer continued that "perhaps, for some bankers, the commercial bank's head office, has now replaced 'the Crown', and that we have not yet found our own interests worth protecting?"
Could it be that some of our bankers have assumed the role of gatekeeper, sacredly protecting their jobs by imposing excessive banking procedures on our citizens while scrupulously protecting the interest of their new masters in the banking sector? Have they become so myopic in the execution of their duties that our bankers are so terrified of the Central Bank, which in their view has morphed into the modern-day Gestapo of the banking industry? Can the characteristics of "enemies of the state" now be accurately applied not only to some regulators, but also to the regulated banks?
Another writer observed that, several years ago, he went into a commercial bank to open an account with what he thought was all the necessary information. He was compelled to make a second visit because he was required to produce his passport. This individual is an extremely prominent person who is known to virtually every school child in The Bahamas, but the bank asked him to prove who he was by requiring a passport with which he was advised he had to personally return to the bank. That same person observed that he heard that it is easier for a Bahamian to open a bank account in Miami than here at home.
This is a fact of which this writer has first-hand knowledge and is true of many Bahamians who have U.S.-based bank accounts. The aforementioned writer further commented that the OECD (which has imposed unreasonably stringent requirements on our banks) is very hypocritical and unfair and that its purpose is to crush small states like ours who dare to compete in the banking industry. Hence their demands for standards they do not themselves adhere to.
A bank compliance officer's perspective
We also received commentary from a former bank compliance officer. He indicated that we should also consider the perspective of the bank compliance officer and the precarious position which compliance officers find themselves in discharging their daily responsibilities. He noted that the compliance officer has a statutory responsibility (via legislation) as gatekeeper and very often becomes the "fall guy" in these organizations when things go wrong. However, the compliance officer has no statutory protection which explains why they often appear to act in a very dictatorial fashion. It is purely a matter of survival and job protection. To sum up, banking has evolved into an activity with an insidious split personality.
The writer continued that the sales or organizational perspective is: "Let us book whatever business we can no matter how questionable it may be, because, at the end of the day, if anything goes wrong particularly from a regulatory perspective, we can always blame the compliance officer." However, from the compliance officer's perspective: "I have personal commitments, I need this job, and there is no one watching my back. Therefore, I cannot take any chances."
Without a doubt, the Central Bank over-regulates the banking sector. We are aware of an instance in which persons from two different regulators simultaneously performed an examination of a well-established offshore bank. The group of regulators numbered nearly 50 percent of the total amount of employees that the bank had, or one regulator to every two employees. That, in our opinion, approaches the definition of insanity.
The fallout for our financial services industry
Banks that operate in The Bahamas have left, are leaving or are seriously considering leaving The Bahamas and relocating to other jurisdictions like Panama and elsewhere, partly because of the over-regulation of some of those institutions.
We need to urgently adopt a more sensible - and less draconian - approach to commercial and offshore banking and the regulation of those institutions in The Bahamas, if we want to retain and develop that sector. We have to strike the right balance in fulfilling our anti-money laundering mandate, while adopting reasonably practical procedures regarding the way we conduct banking business in The Bahamas. Failure to do so will result in a contraction of the sector, with increased unemployment of our second economic pillar and the concomitant loss of high-paying jobs.
In addition, we must encourage the establishment of more Bahamian-owned banks that are not dictated to by their foreign masters. This will empower more Bahamians to have greater ownership of this sector and will also result in considerably more banking profits remaining at home.
Twenty-first century banking practices in The Bahamas are in urgent need of reform. Failure to do so will result in the gradual evaporation of a sector that presently accounts for at least 20 percent of our gross national product. We need to recognize that this is a problem, address it and fix it because the potential fallout is real and could be catastrophic for the future of not only this sector but our national development.
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 email@example.com
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November 04, 2013
"We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology."- Carl Sagan
Any 21st century leader knows that competency in science and technology is crucial to effectively manage a nation. The Bahamas, while independent and sovereign, is a part of a global community and daily that community becomes smaller and smaller as a result of the inter-related processes designed to make our lives easier.
As we continue the quest for technological advances in our government ministries and corporations, we must realize that this state of readiness means more than paying utility bills online and accessing Bahamian law on one's computer, tablet or smartphone. It's replacing outdated vestiges of our colonial past and using systems which make our society do things quickly and efficiently. Tech savvy in the new Bahamas means government services and assistance online; accessible computerized education for all; medical and healthcare innovations on virtual platforms; expanded opportunities in financial services. This is all possible when we, in the new Bahamas, deploy the best technology tailored to work in tandem with our specific demands as a small island nation.
A high-tech Bahamas means all citizens being the beneficiaries of systems put in place by an effective government which utilizes its resources in a sound, smart and prudent fashion. The new Bahamas cannot function with antiquated, semi-functioning government ministries and corporations that seem afraid or, in large measure, cash-strapped to embrace technology.
Stagnant government agencies can be greatly enhanced through the use of technology. You will hear no rebuttal from any citizen who has had to endure the sometime less-than-stellar approach to customer service at various ministries and corporations. The latest scientific know-how and automation of some services will result in improved efficiency in governmental agencies. With the utmost regard for the human element, and not seeking to place anyone on the unemployment line, we must have a dialogue about technology and its ability to alleviate the problems of our bloated, challenged civil service. Seconding and shuffling human capital are no longer solutions in the new Bahamas. We must have a monumental shift in our collective thinking.
I know we are ready because Bahamians are a resilient people. The recent, depressing, unemployment statistical report further highlights the need for a competent leader to identify and define employment opportunities that will be created by embracing technology. Venturing way beyond the tourism track, we can bring the world to us. Why can't we become the Silicone Valley of the Caribbean or a Singapore of the region? Our people can be trained/retrained for careers in technology-driven businesses. As an added bonus, we can exact a rapid turnaround as we don't have the challenges of industrialized nations - i.e., having to re-tool factories or refit machinery.
After years of merely studying the challenges, I affirm my goal of acting on the decades of dialogue with the promise of remedying the problem.
A revamped civil service, equipped with the right technology to get the job done, means applying for services and licenses online, speeding up the time applications are processed and granted. Technological advancements equate to less hassle and inconvenience. Accessing some government buildings, especially in the downtown area, can be vexing and a colossal waste of time - add that to wading through mounds of paperwork which may not have been archived properly. Orderly, effective governance in the new Bahamas is when all facets of society are able to access government services in cyberspace. The days of carbon paper, rulers and long lines must cease.
I stand proudly on the record of fantastic strides made at the Ministry of Health during my tenure as minister. Far beyond applying robotics in surgical procedures, my approach to tele-medicine started innovations within the healthcare system, helping to manage the network of medical facilities spread across these 100,000 square miles of water. We've merely scratched the surface, as tele-medicine has endless possibilities in the new Bahamas.
After 40 years of independence, we have yet to fully dust off the colonial shackles and trek toward the 21st century Bahamas.
In our vital field of education, it's almost laughable, if not ironic, that our greatest expenditure - the Ministry of Education, Science & Technology, has not seen substantial pace, nor risen to the occasion to embrace science and technology. In the new Bahamas, marrying the two will mean more than a few white boards and computers. Additional teacher training will be necessary to better equip teachers with the skills to use the new and emerging technologies as teaching tools. It means equipping each and every classroom from pre-kindergarten to college with the necessary technology to produce students ready to handle a 21st century world. It means making distance learning accessible through the use of technology and media. An improved Bahamas Learning Channel must provide all the benefits of education available to students in the capital, in a cost-effective way. The days of transporting teachers from other countries, worrying about burdensome salaries, exorbitant room and board costs is so yesterday.
Using science and technology in education mean that the student in New Bight, Cat Island or United Estates, San Salvador can access the same expertise available to New Providence boys and girls with a mere click of a mouse, a tap on a tablet or a swipe on a smartphone.
Online education must be a reality in the new Bahamas. Imagine attending The College of The Bahamas in a virtual environment. Imagine bringing tertiary education to the masses by making it more affordable and accessible. Picture a National Online Tutoring Program, partnering our retired educators with techie teens, bringing about improvements in our national grade point average. Under my leadership, we shall embrace technological advancements and not be afraid of the unknown.
Additionally, the new Bahamas must be a place where we positively capitalize on our worldwide presence in the financial community. By placing our investments and financial services on a more technologically proficient level, greater numbers of Bahamian professionals can participate in the global financial arena. Legislation to make all these possibilities a reality can only happen with a leader at the helm who's committed to do the job and not just talk about it.
New generation Bahamas functions best when its institutions and citizens welcome new ideas, novel strategies and cutting-edge methodology with open arms. I again pledge my commitment to leading this pivotal charge for much-needed change.
o Dr. Hubert Minnis is the leader of the Free National Movement and the official opposition.
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November 02, 2013
"A government of the people, for the people and by the people."This famous statement that we find in the speech given by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg on Thursday, November 19, 1863, will remain forever a yardstick for every government on the planet on how to conduct the business of the state in promoting good governance for their people.
I am inspired to use this Lincoln reference in setting the stage for the op-ed this week, because I am observing a profound crisis in this world these days. As we celebrate the dead, on this November 1st, in the year of the Lord 2013, may the ghost of Abraham Lincoln invade the world leaders of today to scratch their feet at night as to take off the zombies and the demons that paralyze their actions for the common good!
The New York Times reported last week the story of a bookstore owner and editor in Egypt who told his countrymen and the world that he is closing shop, because he cannot wait until he dies to start enjoying happiness. He is seeking a friendlier sky where the pursuit of happiness is the business of the citizens and of the government. Later in the same week, it was reported that most of the young people of Italy are jumping ship because unemployment is so high that finding a job is out of the reach of most.
Yet strolling down the beautiful Madison Avenue in New York City recently on a superb autumn morning, I could not be but jazzed by the creativity of the Italian artisans and the Italian designers that flank both sides of one of the finest street in the world with boutiques and venues where the rich and the famous feel at home.
I have missed in Haiti this year's Artisanal en Fetes the yearly extravaganza of artistic production crafted by Haitian artists in all types of genre. It was produced recently by the old and venerable Nouvelliste of Haiti, the equivalent of the New York Times in that island nation. I was told the production was superb but the buyers were a few.
There is a glut in this world where the business of wealth creation for all is not a primacy for the policy makers. The zeal of the competition between East and West before the demise of the communist apparatchik has died down. It did left empty promises, false pursuits, and just plain absence of leadership in leading a bloc that would sustain growth, jobs, and prosperity for the rest of the world.
Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, who is stewarding the European bloc, has engaged her fellow leaders in a pursuit of austerity that should have ushered in prosperity. It has produced instead, only inequity. Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy are enduring misery as a staple of life not as much as Congo or Mali or Zaire, but for those citizens who are used to a modern and custom quality of life, the austerity measures are rotten, useless and counterproductive. President Barack Obama of the United States is engaged in a protracted internal strife with the Tea Party branch of the Republican Party. It gives him no room to maneuver and to bring about 'yes I can' solutions to endemic problems such as black youth's lack of proper formation and education and sophistication, repatriation of the machinery of industry into America, excellent health care for all and leadership in steering the third world into good governance.
Vladimir Putin is too comfortable in being prime minister for life and steering Russia and its few remaining satellites into state leading capitalism a la China. It is too much a higher striving that he prefers instead installing in Russia a pseudo kleptocracy as a more desirable and more achievable way of life. One is wandering where Marx is and where is Engels, who have inspired so many and have forced the world to think in terms of communal well being.
Xi Jinping, the newly minted Chinese leader, is confident enough not to rock the boat of the capitalist system while leading his vessel of state capitalism. But he is not aspiring to nor elaborating over a philosophy of life that will inspire his own people as well as the rest of the world that his third way of economic and social principles is a novel and better genre to ride the sea of life than the naked capitalism or the defunct communism.Shinzo Abe, the new leadership in Japan, is promising that he can revive its economy and incubate the rest of the world's growth locomotive stalled by heavy debts and myopic vision. We have been there before; the Japanese fade did not last long two decades ago.
Again this year, the Mohammed African prize could not find in the whole Africa one single leader that deserves the coveted crown for past excellent or even mediocre leadership to hand over five million dollars for good services rendered to their own people during their governance. A similar prize for the leaders of the West Indies would be also off the rack, for lack of suitable takers.
The Lula and Chavez legacy in Latin America, albeit substantial, is too pregnant with social welfare and nominal subsistence falling short of systematic personal wealth creation traction. The inequality in Latin America is still crying out, as such the family dislocation is de rigueur, with a cohort of migrants seeking better skies in the United States, which is itself suffering its own high unemployment.
The yet still bright spot in the world is that portion of East Asia around Singapore as a leader star. But Lee Kuan Yew, who did not mince words to tell the naysayers to go to hell, has not found in his son Lee Hsien Loong the same courage to lead the world with the slogan that well being for all is within range if only one cares to make it a public policy.
On the spiritual side, the Muslim world, without one world Caliphate to teach the true moral of the Koran, is still governed by the hooligan spirit that havoc can be created at home and abroad as long as ten virgin girls are promised and delivered upon occasioning criminal death on casual innocents. The Catholic Church has at least and at last a true leader in Pope Francis, who tries to bring back the flock into the Christian mode. Will he have the courage to bring the Church into soul searching on why most of the Catholic countries (Latin America, Congo, Philippines, Haiti) are a hotbed for mafia like culture where dissension, inequality, misery, bad citizenship, corrupt leaders and alienation are the lot of many? On the cultural side, the former colonialist nations such as France and Belgium (and to a lesser degree Great Britain) must institute a soul searching mechanism to find out why most of the former colonies now independent countries (the entire French Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Haiti) are confronting so many problems in their quest to become true nations hospitable to all their people?
A government of the people, by the people and for the people is what the world is crying for today! Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and followed for past essays at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti
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November 01, 2013
In recent years the Caribbean has been placed under a considerable amount of pressure to comply with the international regimen on intellectual property rights. This is in no small part the result of World Trade Organization requirements that signatory countries to its agreements must also become TRIPS compliant.
There is also little question that the pressures result from the movement of a world economy which is now heavily based on the creation and use of technologies that are based on the Internet and the digitization of information.
In this situation, data becomes a totally pliable commodity and the demand for multimedia products continues to expand at a breathtaking rate. Along with this comes the demand for greater protection of the intangibles which fall into the category of intellectual property.
Some governments worldwide place prime importance on research, development and innovation as essential components of national development, prime examples of which may be found in countries such as India, China, Singapore and South Korea; this list is by no means exhaustive of countries engaging in this kind of activity. Caribbean countries on the other hand have yet to explore the possibilities of research, development and innovation and are on the receiving end of developed technologies and all of the demands and restrictions which come with them.
This is an issue which I have explored in the WIPO Journal 2012 and which is wide open for much further discussion and debate. It suffices to say at this point that this lack of attention to an area of endeavor of such great magnitude leaves the region in a position that is weak and disjointed and subject to the whims and fancies of international power brokers in the area.
As a means of compensating for this insecurity, several countries within the region as elsewhere have tried to comply with international regimen on intellectual property rights such as the TRIPS agreement and have begun to implement legislation that fits the requirements set out under it to the point of going over and above them in what are called TRIPS-plus arrangements. The conception of these countries seems to be that life will become much easier for them in their abilities to access much-needed resources and that the international community will deal with them in a more reasonable and lenient manner.
There is no indication, however, that developed countries are at all interested in the issues that concern developing countries to the point of offering any concessions in this area. The constant debates and battles to be heard in negotiations at international fora such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization are a clear indication of the disinterested attitude.
Developing countries that attempt to comply with these arrangements without careful consideration of the effects on their societies have all but signed their collapse into a chaotic policy and legislative abyss. There are several examples of countries in the developing world that have fallen into this trap, Kenya is one such example. The Kenyan government has led Africa in the area of IPRs and has put laws in place to comply with IP regimen, only to find that its lack of policy planning has caused it to have to revisit its laws and to do patchwork correction. According to a study done by Dr. Patricia Kameri-Mbote, there is little indication as yet of the extent to which these laws have contributed to Kenya's national development.
The creation of legislation which deals with IPRs and compliance with the international regimen is a complex task which must be approached from both scientific and social perspectives and it must investigate the deep-rooted needs of the societies for the development of their human resources, the preservation of culture, and economic and social advancement. This means that policy frameworks and policy must be developed which come from an understanding of the unique circumstances which envelop each society, and legislation planned to suit.
Caribbean countries that are intent upon legislative compliance must consider whether their short-term goals of appearing to be up to date with international rules will at all benefit the longer term viability of their economic and social development. It cannot be over-emphasized that the leadership of CARICOM is quintessential in the creation of Caribbean intellectual property policy guidance for its members.
o Abiola Inniss is a leading analyst, researcher and author on Caribbean Intellectual Property and the founder of the Caribbean Law Digest Online. She is a law teacher, alternative dispute resolution practitioner and presenter who has written extensively on Caribbean IP law and other areas of Caribbean law. Among her publications are two books on law, one on public speaking, several articles, issue briefs, academic papers and book reviews. She has lectured and presented papers in the Caribbean and the United States on Caribbean intellectual property, reviewed conference papers and conducted research. She is currently reading for a PhD at Walden University. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
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October 31, 2013
At long last January 10 has been designated as a holiday to celebrate majority rule, an accomplishment for which the Christie administration is to be congratulated and which was appropriately marked by a public signing of the act.
As an aside, it may have made sense for the government to remove the Whit Monday holiday as it introduced the new holiday.
The path towards the creation of the new holiday has been characterized by many fits and starts, and by political machinations, mostly by the PLP, and myopia by the FNM.
Whereas the PLP tended to treat majority rule as the near sole accomplishment of the party, some in the FNM leadership tended to display a curious ambivalence or indifference to the celebration of January 10, 1967.
Majority rule was the accomplishment of a movement that initially found voice within the PLP, energized by the ideas and advocacy of the National Committee for Positive Action (NCPA) spearheaded by men like Arthur A. Foulkes, Warren J. Levarity, Jeffrey Thompson and Eugene Newry.
Soon after the attainment of majority rule, central players in the movement split into two major political parties, with the majority of the men who made up the first majority rule government eventually leaving the PLP to form the FNM.
Initially there was the celebrated Dissident Eight and other less well-known individuals who broke from the burgeoning corruption, abandonment of core promises, and the cult of personality coagulating around Sir Lynden Pindling. They were later joined by many others, including Hubert Ingraham.
Of the departure of the Dissident Eight, Paul Adderley, then leader of the National Democratic Party (NDP), suggested in his party's paper The Observer that essentially the PLP had lost its soul after those dissidents left the party.
That soul included a robust commitment to certain democratic goals which the PLP stymied for a quarter of a century and other goals the party has yet to realize.
As early as 1967, Minister of Out Island Affairs Warren Levarity offered a White Paper on Local Government. It was never to be under the PLP. Local government arrived later during the FNM's first term in office.
For 25 long years PLP governments maintained an iron-fisted monopoly on the broadcast media. This year (2013) marks the 20th year of the FNM's freeing of the broadcast media from state control.
Having been denied office and democratic fair play because of the United Bahamian Party's (UBP) diabolical gerrymandering, the PLP failed to push for an independent boundaries commission during Sir Lynden's 25-year reign.
When the FNM proposed a constitutional amendment that would have created such a commission, the PLP helped to defeat it in the name of "process".
Imagine the howls of derision and of injustice an early PLP would have hurled at the UBP had that party employed the language of "process" to block the creation of an independent boundaries commission.
It is the same self-serving claptrap the PLP mobilized to defeat an amendment enabling the children of certain Bahamian women to automatically attain Bahamian citizenship at birth.
Approaching 35 years of non-consecutive PLP rule, the party that endlessly thumps its chest for the role it played in attaining majority rule has yet to advance full constitutional rights for Bahamian women.
The FNM sought to prevent this injustice at the 1972 Independence Conference, an injustice the PLP elected to maintain for 25 years and counting, which brings us to the foundation of what we celebrate on Majority Rule Day.
That foundation is a celebration of freedom and democracy and a second emancipation for black Bahamians. We can no more ignore the first emancipation than we can the second, out of so-called sensitivity to white Bahamians, as if slavery and the subjugation of the majority of Bahamians should be ignored.
In a circular read to students on Majority Rule Day this year, Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes offered: "On the 10th of January 1967 the will of the majority of Bahamians was freely expressed in a general election based on universal adult suffrage where all men and women of adult age, regardless of property qualifications could vote to determine who would govern them."
On January 10, 1967 the Bahamian people ushered in a new era and a template for democratic change. Amidst increasing calls for violence to end the intolerable rule of a racist oligarchy, the Bahamian people demonstrated a commitment to peaceful and democratic change; a commitment now deeply entrenched in our political culture.
A dear friend tells the story of a colleague visiting from the U.K. during a Bahamian general election, awed at the passion of Bahamians for politics as well as how peaceful are our political transitions.
The visitor marvelled at the consistency of the Bahamian democracy, transitioning from the PLP's initial 25-year rule to 10 years under the FNM and back to the PLP, then ousted after five years, all done peacefully with ballots, and with scant incidents of violence.
This history can be traced in large measure to January 10, 1967, which was a triumph of the right to vote for a party of one's choice, a lesson for both the UBP and the PLP. In the case of the latter, the subsequent lesson was that majority rule did not simply mean the attainment of the right to vote PLP.
In his circular to students in January, Sir Arthur articulated the fuller celebration of majority rule: "That event removed the last psychological shackles from the minds of many; it shattered false notions of superiority or inferiority; it initiated the fulfilment of the promise of universal access to education; it created the foundation upon which to build a society with opportunity for all; it unleashed the hitherto brutally, suppressed but powerful entrepreneurial instincts of a people."
He continued: "It freed many Bahamians from the fear of one another because of differences of color or ethnic origin; it opened the possibility of fully sharing and nationalizing a rich and diverse cultural heritage; and it held forth the promise of a new kind of political culture in which no Bahamian would ever again be made to suffer for exercising his or her right to free association."
There could not be the possibility of racial equality and reconciliation or of one Bahamas without January 10, something Sir Durward Knowles and others have noted.
PLPs and FNMs, black and white Bahamians, all share the triumph of democracy and freedom that is January 10. Both the PLP and the FNM fulfilled various promises of majority rule.
Unfortunately, some in the leadership of the FNM responded to the celebration of majority rule with ambivalence. The FNM had as much a right and a responsibility to create a Majority Rule Day holiday as did the PLP, but disappointingly never rose to the occasion during three terms in office.
Given the founders of the FNM, the party's subsequent history and progressive accomplishments, it was historically myopic for the FNM not to have been the party to create a majority rule holiday. Not only would it have been good politics. It could have been an extraordinary teachable moment for the country.
The FNM could have played a major role in interpreting for younger generations a fuller meaning of majority rule, a greater appreciation of the history surrounding this accomplishment, as well as a broader understanding of a shared patriotism instead of the often truncated and narrower nationalism preached by the PLP.
The ambivalence and indifference of some in the FNM towards the celebration of majority rule proved disappointing not only because it played into the hands of the PLP and its well-honed politics of nationalism.
As disappointing, the ambivalence was another example of the too often defensive posture of the FNM when it comes to celebrating its extraordinary legacy inclusive of the decades before it came to office.
It was FNMs who launched the One Bahamas initiative. And it was the FNM that ensured democratic rule because its founders quickly returned to opposition for another quarter century in order to secure democratic values and convictions that are at the heart of the celebration of majority rule.
To his credit Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis, partly urged on by his Deputy Loretta Butler-Turner, took part in this year's majority rule celebrations.
The FNM allowed the PLP to beat it to the punch in the creation of the new holiday. Yet, moving forward, the party must be less ambivalent or indifferent to a seminal event in the nation's history, an event for which its founders were equally responsible and a legacy to which FNMs and PLPs and Bahamians of other or no party affiliations are equally heir.
o email@example.com o www.bahamapundit.com.
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October 30, 2013
The link between education and true emancipation from economic, social, political and physical bondage was well articulated by Frederick Douglass when he stated that "knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave". While some references substitute the word knowledge with (true) education, the essence of this timeless quote resonates from one generation to another.
As the curtains are drawn on National Youth Month 2013, there is no doubt that the education of an individual is not constrained to the physical classroom in which a teacher instructs a student. In these modern times, the delivery of formal education has become sophisticated to the point that one can pursue and attain a postgraduate qualification from an institution while not being physically present in the country in which the institution is domiciled. In this sense, the barriers to education are often limited to the will and determination to progress as well as access to the requisite resources.
Exposure, education and opportunities
In today's Bahamian society, more and more individuals are taking advantage of higher education both locally and abroad. However, the significant challenge of limited funding still confronts our aspiring young people in their quest to obtain higher education. The preparation for professional success by the Bahamian youth is also impeded by the limited level of exposure that upcoming professionals embrace or are afforded. It is becoming clearer by the day that formal education alone in the conventional sense will not be the sole determinant in an individual's progress and success in life; especially in the workplace. In this sense, the crucial role of opportunity and exposure cannot be overemphasized.
Although many Bahamians have taken advantage of the opportunity to pursue higher education, some still find themselves disenfranchised due to their lack of exposure. A classic example can be found within the financial services and tourism sectors where Bahamians are sometimes deemed not to be adequately qualified to lead key posts within certain organizations. It is not unexpected for institutions and/or their shareholders to protect their investments; however, it is also not unforeseeable that Bahamians with the requisite experience, education and exposure are recruited to fill pivotal roles that would otherwise have required expatriates. Indeed the result of a recent survey by the Association of International Banks and Trust Companies in The Bahamas is a testament to this fact. The survey showed that Bahamians made up 80 percent of total employees, 66 percent of management, 48 percent of executives and 52 percent at the highest levels within the institutions surveyed.
Attainable heights for the youth
The perception that the highest levels of leadership within an international organization, either based in The Bahamas or outside The Bahamas, is beyond our reach but within the grasp of others is nothing but a myth. While we acknowledge the reality is that there are insufficient fully Bahamian-owned businesses within either of the aforementioned sectors to accommodate the Bahamian workforce, our zenith cannot be determined by the ownership structure of organizations within our archipelago.
As The Bahamas continues to evolve and is absorbed into the emerging global village where investment opportunities abound for multinational corporations and international investors, the competition for labor will intensify. The Bahamas must seek to maintain its edge in the global arena and attract viable and sustainable foreign direct investment while ensuring the professional advancement and preparedness of its citizens.
A modernized Bahamianization policy
The Bahamianization policy in its raw form was relevant at the time of introduction and served its purpose at the time it was instituted. The leaders of the day saw the need to improve the economic status of Bahamians and consequently ensured that there was a process in place that made higher paying and more sophisticated jobs available to Bahamians.
Bahamianization continues to occupy an important place in today's context; however, the policy must be further revised and enhanced to address and meet the demands of the 21st century. The policy should address the current needs and dynamics of The Bahamas with specific attention being given to young Bahamians both home and abroad who would like an opportunity to progress in their country.
The policy among other things, basically states that where there is no Bahamian identified to fill a post, a work permit can be issued to a foreign worker with the condition that a Bahamian will be identified for training with a view to filling such a post in the future. This policy has been widely accepted by successive governments, foreign investors and organizations over the years. The reality on the ground is that foreign workers who migrate to The Bahamas usually would have had extensive work experience that extend beyond their home countries in multiple jurisdictions where their employers would have had branches or subsidiaries. They effectively come in to compete with an advantage over the average Bahamian worker.
Discovering the global landscape
In cases where Bahamians have the opportunity to train under an expatriate in anticipation of filling senior roles in future, he/she still more than likely did not have the opportunity to travel abroad and receive sufficient training and exposure outside of The Bahamas. In this regard, it is arguable, that Bahamians who school or train abroad may have an opportunity and advantage to take on leadership roles upon their return home over and above the individuals who have not.
Consequently, more must be done to ensure that foreign investors provide more opportunities for cross-training and work exchange programs across several jurisdictions in which they have affiliates or presence. Within the financial services industry, there is a great opportunity for such an initiative which will not only broaden the exposure of our youth to other cultures but could also yield the benefit of learning an additional language. It is accepted that it is not the responsibility of the organizations to ensure that their Bahamian workers are multilingual; hence, we must take our destinies into our own hands with a commitment to ongoing personal and professional development and advancement.
The future is in our hands
In the final analysis, we must take responsibility not only for our future but for the future of our Bahamaland. While the government must implement policies that create an environment that is conducive for the achievement of the Bahamian Dream, we must be mindful that national borders and barriers are falling with the execution of international agreements. We must therefore be prepared for opportunities at home and abroad; ready to take on key roles globally and export the knowledge and expertise that we have successfully distinguished ourselves in. This writer is convinced that with the right education, exposure and mentoring, Bahamian youth are well equipped for the road ahead and the future is in our hands.
o Comments on this article can be directed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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October 29, 2013
On September 23, 2013, the Supreme Court of the Dominican Republic handed down the decision TC0168/13 in the matter of Juliana Deguis Pierre, 28, a Dominican citizen with four children born in the Dominican Republic, ruling against her and all persons similarly situated.
The ruling stated that those persons born after 1929 in the Dominican Republic of parents who did not have proper documents while entering and continuing to live in the Dominican Republic without legalization are henceforth stripped of their Dominican citizenship. The ruling will be enforced by all the branches of the Dominican government.
While the decision is global, it is of particular concern to some 210,000 Haitian-Dominicans who were born in the Dominican Republic, have received their birth certificates, have been to school in the Dominican Republic, have lived a normal life in the Dominican Republic and have little or no attachment to the Republic of Haiti.
The Dominican Republic, as the United States, utilizes the concept of jus solis as the basis to confer citizenship on people born under the sun of its territory. The only exception to this rule has been children of diplomats accredited to the Dominican Republic who were considered persons in transit.
A 2004 law enshrined in the amended Dominican constitution of 2010 expanded the concept of persons in transit to include not only diplomats but also all persons who enter and remain in the Dominican Republic without proper documents. Their offspring would step outside the umbrella of jus solis and, as such, they could not benefit from Dominican citizenship.
The Supreme Court used a strict framework in rendering its decision in the matter of nationality of who is and who is not a citizen of the Dominican Republic. It sent scrambling the government and civil society, the Haitian and the international community that perceived an ethnic cleansing similar to or compared with what happened in Germany under Hitler, in Serbia under Milosevic and in Rwanda under Prime Minister Jean Kambanda.
E palante que vamos!
The Dominican Republic has been often in the news as a star nation that fits its slogan: We are pushing forward! Its tourism business might be along with The Bahamas a booming industry in the Caribbean. Its economy, in expansion since 2004, is sucking human resources (manual and professional) from Haiti to maintain the push forward. Its balance of payments with Haiti from which almost everything is imported (mostly after the earthquake of 2010) is an enviable position of master/servant. What, for God's sake, did the Dominican Supreme Court have in mind in rallying against itself the wrath of the civilized world in pointing the country as a pariah state that uses the cleansing doctrine to solve other structural problems?
Playing the double advocate
The Dominican Republic, with a population of 10 million people, as the Republic of Haiti, has been absorbing some one million Haitian people in its midst. In spite of infrequent skirmishes, life continues rather smoothly for this migrant population. Some 150,000 attend colleges and upon graduation they find jobs in the hotel industry that prize their command of different languages as well as their demeanor of hard and professional workers. Some 100,000 toil in the sugar cane industry, sometimes as slaves sent by their own government (in the past through a joint governmental agreement). They are now lured by unscrupulous brokers, leaving conditions at home that are inhospitable that make them easy prey for an illusory eldorado in Santo Domingo.
Stan Golf, in an op-ed in the Push, says it best: "The Haitians cut the cane, labor in the most exhausting factories, perform the most grueling work with the least money and much like the Afro-American and the Latinos in the United States they provide the super exploited economic and safety valve against the demands to increase wages."
It is hard for Haiti to blame a discriminatory situation in the Dominican Republic that it entertains itself at home. The living conditions in rural Haiti or in the shantytowns surrounding the cities is, to put it simply, inhumane. With no infrastructure and no institutional buildings in those catchment areas, past governments have been at best callous, at worst criminal, in dealing with their own citizens. A brain surgeon's qualification is not necessary to explain why so many poor Haitians are fleeing home seeking a friendlier sky not only in the Dominican Republic but also in The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominica, Florida and now Brazil.
The ghost of Plessey vs. Ferguson in the Dominican Republic
Homer Plessey was a rich citizen of New Orleans with light skin color. The law around 1892 in the United States and in Louisiana was that persons of color could not ride in the same train car with a white person. Homer Plessey was chosen to test the practice. Upon boarding the train in a white section and informing the conductor that he was a colored person, he was ordered to leave the car and sit in a black only compartment.
He refused, was escorted out and arrested. He later sued all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, where he lost. The court in a seven to one decision upheld the constitutionally of state laws that recognized the principle that in public facilities the doctrine of separate but equal shall remain the law of the land. It was such until 1954 when the decision was reversed by Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.
It is not difficult to envision the ghost of Homer Plessey in Juliana Deguis Pierre challenging the decision of the lower court until the Constitutional Court rendered its decision that stripped all persons similarly situated of Dominican citizenship, in particular its target the Haitian-Dominican community. Will it take 54 years to find the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. of the Dominican Republic so as to bring that nation to reason and into the humanist rationality as proffered by Emil Vlagki in his book "Les Miserables de la Modernite"?
The history of the Republic of Haiti and of the Dominican Republic is intertwined for the last five centuries. The big island or Ayti - land of mountains - as it was called by the Taino, was discovered by Christopher Columbus, on December 5, 1492, who renamed the island Hispaniola. The Spanish conquistadors who came along with Columbus took only 30 years to facilitate the decimation of the Taino population that was estimated at around one million people. It happened because they were submitted to hard labor and because the diseases brought by the Spaniards to the island, such as smallpox, measles, influenza, gonorrhea and typhoid, ran amok in a population not immune to such illnesses.
The richness of Hispaniola lured to the region French buccaneers, who settled first in the small island of Tortuga - la Tortue - before moving to the western part of the mainland. They grew in number and in strength, fighting with the Spanish until the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 settled the issue, granting the western part of the island to France and the eastern part to Spain.
With grueling slave labor imported from Africa, the western part became one of the most prosperous colonial sites of the world, enriching France up to 60 percent of its national budget. The eastern part languished under Spanish rule with only 6,000 inhabitants in Santo Domingo around 1697.
Through the Treaty of Bale in 1795, France took complete control of the island. It was also around this time that Toussaint Louverture came on the scene, defeating the British, the Spanish and later the French to govern the entire island around 1801. The independence of Haiti from France led by Jean Jacques Dessalines in 1804 left the eastern part an open front that could have brought back slavery to the newly independent country. As such, all governments thereafter have sought to fight to maintain control of the entire island.
Under Jean Pierre Boyer, the fourth Haitian president, his governance of the eastern part (as well as the western part) was so callous that the Dominicans organized a war of independence under the leadership of Pedro Santana, Francisco Sanchez and Ramon Malla leading to the liberation of the country on February 27, 1844, from the yoke of the Republic of Haiti.
The nation building process in the Dominican Republic was not a smooth one; dissension amongst the founding fathers led to the reoccupation of the Dominican Republic by Spain and the offer of annexation by the United States. It was again the Republic of Haiti that came to help the Dominican Republic regain once more its independence.
The Haitian and the Dominican dilemma
While Haiti in its first constitution stated clearly that from now and for the future all Haitians are black (in spite of the color of their skin), the Dominican Republic has enshrined in its ethos that all Dominican are white (in spite of the color of their skin).
One of the most revered Dominican heroes and presidents was Ulysses Heureaux or Lilis. He was a dark-skinned Dominican, the son of a Haitian father and of a mother from St. Thomas. He ruled the Dominican Republic for decades, building infrastructure and bringing stability to the nation.
Yet the Haitian card is put on the table every time a score must be settled by some politicians. Rafael Trujillo used the card to kill some 35,000 Haitian people around the border of Ouanaminthe and Dajabond in the Parsley massacre to take revenge against Haitians who were supposedly siding with the opponents of his government.
Is the nationality card a new tool crafted by the Dominican government and adopted by the judiciary to enforce the white only ethos for some political game? Haiti has played those two cards and it has failed miserably in both. In spite of the terms of its constitution that all Haitians are black, the light-skinned Haitians have dominated the political panorama for the first 150 years after the country's independence with no apparent nation building results. The rest of the nation's history has seen since 1946, or the last 50 years, the emergence of the dark-skinned Haitians in the sphere of power with similarly dim and poor results for the nation.
In conclusion: Two wings of the same bird
The Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic that occupies the same island named Ayti, by the Taino, or Hispaniola, by Christopher Columbus, are condemned to live together. Whether the two wings will fly in tandem to y palento que vamos - push the bird forward - will depend on the wisdom and the applied policies of the governments and civil society on both sides of the border.
I have often argued for the concept of hospitality for all as defined by Ernest Renan in his formula for building a great nation as the best model for y palento que vamos! The Dominican Republic, in spite of its slogan y palento que vamos, will stall in the long run if it continues to marginalize the weakest segment of its population, the Haitian-Dominican one, as well as the native-born dark-skinned Dominican.
The Republic of Haiti's operation decollage - operation take off - will remain on the ground as long as the majority of its population, rural Haiti and Haiti of the shantytowns, is treated as second-class citizen.
The best course of action for each one of those two nations is to start treating each one of its citizens as a valuable resource. Carthage, London, New York, Singapore and now Shanghai did not use any other method to occupy at a time in world history the status of the premiere city of the globe. They provided the best education to all citizens within their territory, and they incubated all the able bodies to create and produce for their benefit, and for the benefit of the nation, immense wealth.
In following these models, the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti will y palento que vamos huntos! They will be pushing forward together!
o Jean H. Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with caribbeannewsnow.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed for past essays at caribbeannewsnow/haiti. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
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October 28, 2013
The key insight of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations is misleadingly simple: if an exchange between two parties is voluntary, it will not take place unless both believe they will benefit from it. Most economic fallacies derive from the neglect of this simple insight, from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another. - Milton Friedman
Once upon a time, banking in The Bahamas was a relatively pleasant experience. One could meet with a banker, solicit prudent financial advice and, with relative ease, obtain a loan to start or expand a business, purchase a home or a car and even address challenging financial matters facing the customer. But that was a very long time ago and today, that has all changed. Therefore this week, we would like to Consider This... why has banking in The Bahamas become such an ordeal and so dysfunctional?
What has changed?
Following the blacklisting of The Bahamas by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and with the passage of the compendium of financial services legislation in 2000, The Bahamas entered a new banking era, one that was characterized by over-regulation by the Central Bank and a private sector gestapo-like gatekeeper, nominally called the bank compliance officer.
This relatively new bank compliance officer that has recently emerged has rapidly joined the ranks of threats to the progressive development of our financial services sector by imposing extraordinary and often ridiculously rigid requirements on prospective customers, some of whom have had long-standing relationships with their banks. Like many faceless bureaucrats, it appears as if some compliance officers take a delight in thwarting positive bank-customer relationships. Instead of seeking to find a happy medium between due diligence and sensible regulation, the insistence on some of their non-negotiable requirements seems to be a zero-sum exercise. Banking in The Bahamas could be an experience where everybody wins. However, recent experiences have resulted instead in chasing business away from the jurisdiction.
Many persons who bank in The Bahamas have experienced those institutions imposing stringent reporting requirements over the past few years. Long-standing customers complain about banks requiring them to provide excessive information on a regular basis, even though much of the same information requested has previously been submitted. Equally vexing is requiring customers to provide the same information if they wish to open new accounts at the same bank, notwithstanding that they have operated an account or various accounts for many years. Some customers complain that they are treated like strangers at best and criminals at worse just to open new accounts.
This writer recalls a recent frustrating experience of opening a bank account to service a client which took more than a month, despite providing all the information that was requested by the compliance officer at the bank. The client became so frustrated with the constantly changing additional requirements of the Compliance Department that the person gave up on The Bahamas and this writer had to open an account in a major New York bank in order to satisfy the client's needs. It took exactly one week to complete the account opening procedures in New York, the same procedures that took over a month in The Bahamas, and the Bahamian bank still has not yet opened the account. The frustrated client wrote: "I thought that The Bahamas was a very investor-friendly jurisdiction. I simply don't understand why it's so difficult to open a bank account there." The client, a major South American multinational, reputable company with banking relationships all over the world, had intended to transfer millions of dollars to The Bahamas for management here, but that business and those funds will now move to New York. We believe that this experience is replicated many times each week.
It is unfortunate, but reasonable, to assume that these harmful practices are allowed to persist with the full knowledge and complicity of some of the banks whose head offices are located in North America, principally in Canada. While those banks have significantly contributed to the national job market here, they have invested very little in The Bahamas, compared to the enormous profits that they earn in our country. The unfortunate fact is that too many of our Bahamian bankers have become nothing more than glorified paper pushers with impressive job titles but very little authority. Sadly, they seem determined to frustrate their customers, domestic and foreign.
The short- and long-term consequences of the attitude of some compliance officers are that the jurisdiction is fast becoming an increasingly difficult and undesirable place to do business. Considerable losses are resulting from this behavior on the part of some Bahamian bankers. Not only are we losing an enormous amount of banking business, we are also losing legal and accounting fees and government taxes because of the attitudes of some compliance officers in Bahamian banks. In fact, some Bahamian professionals are now advising their clients to incorporate and bank in another jurisdiction and not to conduct business in The Bahamas because of the inordinately difficult and ridiculously rigid scrutiny to which they are subjected. And the word is rapidly spreading internationally.
The implications for our financial services sector are ominous. If we are not careful, we will experience a larger number of banks leaving The Bahamas because of the over-regulation of the jurisdiction and the generally unfriendly attitude of some bankers. This cannot be a positive development. It is therefore critically important to arrest the behavior of some of our banks and to change the harmful attitudes of their compliance officers.
It is ironic that a large Bahamian delegation is presently in the United Arab Emirates on a business promotion trip, encouraging high-net-worth individuals and businesses to establish their businesses here. Therefore, while this delegation is doing all it can to encourage business to come to our shores, here at home we seem to be doing little to make it easy for them to actually conduct business should they decide to invest here. If we are not careful, and if we do not arrest the negative attitude by some of our banks and compliance officers, there will be little need to have a Ministry of Financial Services. Instead of the influx of business that we need, we will experience the exodus of sound businesses from our jurisdiction.
As a part of the global village, we need to remember, in the words of Milton Friedman, the famous United States economist, that business activity, including banking, does not have to be a zero-sum experience where one party can gain only at the expense of another.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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October 25, 2013
The naysayers as well as the poor will be with us until the end of the world. As such, leading the resilient struggle for steadfast pursuit of one's vision towards progress against the myopic doom and gloom of the naysayers will bring in the end, glory and victory.
Socrates, 469 BC, the founding father of ethics, teaching virtue, morality and piety to those who wanted to learn, in spite of his condemnation to drink poison for so-called "corrupting the young", has survived for millennia; his accusers are lost in the night of incognito forever.
Jesus the Redeemer was told by the detractors of his teaching that his power to accomplish miracles could only come from Beelzebub. He was not the Son of God. The church that he has built is still solid as rock today. Yet this same church, riding on the back of the Roman Empire, became so arrogant that it could decide on life or death upon any citizen in matters that have nothing to do with spirituality or religion.
Galileo, 1564 , the scientist who discovered that the Earth turns around the sun not the other way around, was brought before the Roman Inquisition of the Catholic Church to be judged, condemned and put to death. He saved his neck by lying to the princes of the church against his own conviction and his line of research. Yet upon exiting from the court he could not stop from uttering the sentence now famous and immortal "Eppur si muove" (and yet it moves). Pope John Paul II, 350 years later, apologized for the faux-pas of the church.
Abraham Lincoln, 1809, a Republican, in his famous debates against Senator Stephen Douglas, a Democrat, on whether black people were less than human, Lincoln argued the self evident truth that the American Declaration of Independence must also be applied to blacks living then in the country. Douglas, with the support of the then world order, supported the premise that popular sovereignty of the people in one state has precedence over the issue of morality whether a negro is a human being created with all the aptitudes by the divine hand. In spite of the popularity of the thesis at that time, defended by Douglas, Abraham Lincoln's contention survived. A black American citizen, Barack Obama, is now the accepted president of the United States.
Speaking about Obama, 1961, he has introduced a universal health care system that should upon taking effect cover everybody residing in these United States. He is facing an uphill battle from a sector of the Republican Party that will not let him win that feat. The United States, in spite of its first-class medical infrastructure, leaves some 50 million uninsured citizens susceptible to catastrophic losses in case of accident, sickness or injury. A perfect storm of budget passing, debt limit and the orderly functioning of the federal government were taken hostage in derailing the Obamacare apparatus.
The state of California, under the effective leadership of its governor Jerry Brown, is proving when the state and federal governments are working hand in hand miracles can happen. The Affordable Health Care Act, in spite of incremental corrective measures that must be entertained, is working. It even forces the system to ameliorate itself and concentrate on preventive instead of curative measures. It is a market-driven reformative concept that should appeal to the Republicans. But the naysayers will not survive in the horizon of time and the light of the future. The Affordable Health Care legislation will take root anyway.
On the other side of the Union, in New York City, another energetic leader, the outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 1942, has confronted the naysayers to promote bike to work or bike to fun in the city. Four months ago, with the support of Citibank, which incubated the program, hundreds of brand-new bicycles were offered to the public at the price of $9 per day returnable anywhere a bike bank could be found. Decried even by respectable media as another antic of a patrician mayor not in touch with the common man, the project has been highly successful.
The people of New York embraced the project with a vengeance. There is even a flourishing bike business, where entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the new fad that bicycling in the city is chic. Going further than Amsterdam and other European cities that preceded New York in the love affair with the bicycle, it is now fashionable in New York to see a whole contingent of bride, groom and guests pedaling to seal the knot for better or for worse to the church and then pedaling again to the party and to the hotel for the honeymoon.
Mayor Bloomberg can have the last laugh of I told you so, to the naysayers; pedaling for life is good for the spirit, the body and the soul.
My last anecdotal story about the naysayers is located in Haiti. There, President Michel Martelly, 1961, has twisted the hands of the diaspora in securing the modicum sum of $1.50 from all the transfers to and from that island nation. The fund, the National Education Fund (FNE), is dedicated to provide basic education to the millions of children of the country who never frequented school before. Since education is the opening door to development in any nation, the opponents of the government refuse to let him win this foray into a neglected wrong that has lasted for centuries.
As such, the Parliament has found all types of delaying tactics in passing the bill authorizing the spending of the money for the program for universal free and obligatory education (PSUGO). Eager to start the project, the government has initiated a parallel school system that needs much correction in structure and in supervision before it can become perfect.
If I have the ear of the government I would forgo reaching the mass of uneducated today to establish a free charter-type program much better than any private or public school in the country, whereby a prototype of an excellent educational system could be developed. It would serve later as a laboratory for the public school infrastructure of tomorrow when the legislature will be ready to give up and pass the law authorizing the expenditure of the fund in the general budget of the republic.
Once again, the naysayers can only lose. Education for all is not only a right; it is an obligation to pass from the ranks of the barbaric to the ranks of the civilized. It is the ambition of all human beings and should be the goal of any country aspiring to become a nation.
The naysayers may seem to be on the winning side today; history has proven as far back as Socrates in 469 BC that their strength is a fleeting one.
o Jean H. Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with caribbeannewsnow.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed for past essays at caribbeannewsnow/haiti. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
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October 24, 2013
O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. - Isaiah 12:1...
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October 24, 2013
Note: This column and the next are dedicated to young Bahamians, white, black and other hues, of varied ethnic and national origin, straight and gay, male and female, and other identities of association or belief, who form a rainbow of possibilities for One Bahamas, who have benefitted from the promises of majority rule and independence, and whose privilege of citizenship is to help to extend these promises and to realize promises partly fulfilled or promises not yet met.
Following the heartbreak and dismay of the November 26, 1962 general election in which the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won the majority of the popular vote, but lost the election, attaining far fewer seats than the United Bahamian Party (UBP) because of gross gerrymandering, key figures in the PLP nonetheless realized that the days of minority rule were numbered.
Having won the majority of the popular vote, the PLP intensified its program of nonviolent direct action and its efforts to heighten the political and social consciousness of the black majority and to defeat the economic and political misrule of a classic oligarchy wedded to white supremacy.
Through its major public communications organ, Bahamian Times, edited by Arthur A. Foulkes, the PLP increasingly and effectively countered the propaganda of the UBP, which had concocted insidious themes such as the party's 1962 election propaganda aimed primarily at black women: "Vote PLP and starve".
Just as the General Strike of 1958 heightened the political consciousness of black Bahamians, especially those living at New Providence, Black Tuesday, April 27, 1965, proved a pivotal moment in the struggle for majority rule, bolstering the opposition to the UBP and radicalizing the consciousness of many more Bahamians, now even more determined to effect political change.
That change, the denouement of a certain stage of the struggle, when the consciousness of the majority reached a historic apogee, arrived on January 10, 1967 when the Second Bahamian Emancipation was ushered in by the mass of Bahamians.
On the evening of the 10th the numbers trickled in from the various constituencies, cut along farcical boundaries largely unchanged from 1962. But this time, on that day, the PLP won not only the majority of the popular vote.
The party tied the UBP 18 to 18 in the number of seats in the House of Assembly, with Sir Randol Fawkes representing the Labour Party winning a seat as did independent candidate Sir Alvin Braynen.
More on the numbers needed to form a government momentarily. But this for now: The political arithmetic on the 10th meant that minority rule was effectively finished.
The masses immediately understood the new arithmetic and the new political calculus. Celebrations erupted that night as soon as the final results were tallied and despite the tie, which some revisionists putatively and incorrectly assumed and assume still to have been an inconclusive result.
Waves of celebrants marched from Over-the-Hill to Bay Street, flooding the precincts of the UBP's political and economic power with songs and chants of freedom and choruses of appreciation for newfound empowerment.
Majestic sounds of cowbells and goat skin drums shook some of the oligarchy's most hallowed grounds, announcing a new era for a mass of people locked out of economic and political power and historically allowed limited access to Bay Street where they were discriminated against and segregated into inferior status.
The celebrations were euphoric, spilling over into a new dawn. Throughout the night car horns trumpeted the victory. There were spontaneous rush-outs throughout Nassau with jubilant crowds gathering at various places such as the Taxi Cab Union complex on Wulff Road.
Now that the change had come, it was time to form a government. There is often the temptation to historical revisionism by some, for all manner of reasons. Yet the facts and reality of certain events often prove stubborn.
Sir Randol, a PLP ally, was part of the progressive movement, running with the full support of the PLP.
It was inconceivable that the firebrand, regarded as being even more radical than the PLP, would betray the movement and support the UBP. His expected support afforded the PLP a majority. The problem was that the party had to elect a speaker.
Had Sir Alvin supported the UBP, there would be a tie of 19 to 19, with another election almost inevitable, a contest in which the UBP would have been slaughtered, as they were in the 1968 general election subsequent to the death of PLP MP Uriah McPhee.
But it was widely known that Sir Alvin was not on good terms with the UBP and that the idea of becoming speaker of the House of Assembly was not unappealing to him. The story is told that when Sir Lynden telephoned Sir Alvin the conversation began:
Sir Lynden: "Mr. Speaker!"
Sir Alvin: "Yes, premier!"
Sir Alvin, who hailed from Current, Eleuthera, grasped the moment and sided with the majority, becoming the first speaker in a majority rule government.
While the formation or the christening of the new majority rule government took place a few days later, the new birth of freedom was ushered in on January 10, 1967.
That new birth of freedom of January 10 was a triumph of democracy, a day of celebration for all Bahamians.
Following the bitter loss of 1962, an election which many PLPs were convinced they would win, especially after women were newly enfranchised earlier that year, a group of men approached Sir Lynden about the party's response to an election they felt that the UBP had stolen by massively outspending the PLP and through outrageously undemocratic means.
These men and others were not prepared to accept the defeat and the continued rule by a racist and greedy oligarchy determined to retain economic and political power by manipulation of the instruments of state and government.
One of the men who approached Sir Lynden was enraged by such a defeat and wanted, in the words of some, "to tear down the town".
Having considered democratic politics ineffective and nonviolent action insufficient, there were those who wanted to immediately march on Bay Street and wreak mayhem.
To his everlasting credit, Sir Lynden, supported by his closest colleagues, quenched the rage and stopped what would have been a disaster for the country, the movement and the PLP. He intended for his party to triumph at the ballot box.
In a circular read to thousands of students on Majority Rule Day this year, Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes, a key figure in the struggle, enthused: "On the 10th of January 1967 the will of the majority of Bahamians was freely expressed in a general election based on universal adult suffrage where all men and women of adult age, regardless of property qualifications could vote to determine who would govern them."
The celebration of Majority Rule Day and the path to an official holiday has been characterized by fits and starts, and by the politicization of the history by some and the hostility and ambivalence of others, most of which has proven deeply disappointing and narrow-minded.
There is the need for a broader understanding of the struggle for and the attainment of majority rule, beyond certain partisan, racial and historically myopic mindsets.
Next week: Towards a shared understanding and celebration of Majority Rule Day.
o firstname.lastname@example.org o www.bahamapundit.com.
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