August 21, 2014
During debate in the House of Assembly on the upcoming referendum, in yet another display of astonishingly mangled syntax, pronunciation and thinking, Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis spoke of "a quagmire of web".
As is generally the case, Bahamians were left scratching their heads as to what exactly Minnis meant. His performance last week, perhaps the worst self-inflicted wound of his political career, was monumentally, unfathomably and incomprehensibly bad.
Many willing to offer him the benefit of any more doubt were stunned by one of the worst flip-flops seen in Parliament since independence, a flip-flop reminiscent of Christie and the PLP when they abruptly reneged on supporting the referendum in 2002.
After recently attacking the PLP for that staggering about-face, Minnis, without seemingly catching his breath, acted similarly, with his already tenuous credibility crashing to the floor of the House.
He has been roundly criticized for his about-face. His backtracking was not a profile in courage as FNM Chairman Darron Cash would have others believe in his comedic damage control statement issued to stem the fallout from Minnis' latest mega blunder. The week before, Minnis was doing damage control for Cash, who issued a bizarre statement of his own on the referendum. As in past policy debates, the joint performance of the leader and the chairman of the FNM has proven amateurish.
It is telling that they have had to rush to each other's defense over the past fortnight, especially as others in the FNM largely failed to defend either of them.
In a blistering assessment headlined "Does Minnis Speak for the FNM?", this journal editorialized: "Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday came across as a student of the Perry Gladstone Christie School of Leadership. The motto of that school being, 'Speak first, think later and never plan'".
The editorial was perhaps overly generous to Minnis who has conclusively demonstrated that he is largely incapable of deep thought on policy matters, whether in the first instance or later. He has proven incapable of thinking for himself.
One reason that Minnis flip-flops on issue after issue is his lack of core convictions. Because he is generally an empty vessel when it comes to political philosophy, he is easily led by others, often down a primrose path strewn with nettles.
Even worse, he is simply incapable of understanding the complexities and nuances of public policy, so he swings wildly like a weather vane partly detached from its mount in the middle of a storm.
Minnis is a profile in capitulation because most policy discussions elude him. He often is incapable of grasping the issues at hand.
He fails to get the policy correct in the first place because he does not appreciate the implications of his statements or the contours of the debate. With this latest mega flip-flop Minnis has done irrevocable damage to himself.
Minnis does not now, nor will he ever possess the capacity to serve as head of government, especially in light of the stark reality that he does not possess, nor will he ever, the ability to serve effectively as leader of the opposition.
He has dragged the FNM to its lowest ebb since the split in the late 1970s. With his largely non-collegial, non-consultative and highly autocratic style of leadership, he is overwhelmingly responsible for the disarray in his party. He often fails to brief or to adequately consult his caucus, taking unilateral decisions which blow up in his face, with collateral damage to the FNM.
Recall any number of disasters directly related to his propensity to keep much of his caucus in the dark, most especially the matter of proposed salary increases for parliamentarians.
If he is this much of a disaster as opposition leader, imagine how disastrous would be his performance as prime minister. He is liable to make Christie seem like a paragon of competence.
Still, for Minnis to be compared to Christie is damning. It speaks to the deficit of leadership and irredeemable incompetence of both men.
Despite Minnis' mangling, there is a web of confusion and a possible quagmire in the making, mostly the fault of the Christie administration.
Whether the various referendum questions pass or fail, this is a watershed moment for the country in terms of gender equality, the leadership aspirations of a number of politicians, and the reputations and influence of various political, civic and religious leaders.
For its part, the PLP has dissolved into a carnival with all manner of sideshows. There was the sideshow of Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller who claims he initially spoke out of ignorance. No surprise there. Still, he has climbed aboard the equality train, whether out of late conviction or quick convenience.
Labour Minister Shane Gibson claimed that he hadn't seen the referendum questions and must not have been paying attention in the House when they were read. What might one glean from this of his interest in gender equality?
Then there was the onslaught by PLP backbenchers, with Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins, Marco City MP Greg Moss and Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells at open war with their party. The internecine warfare in the PLP at times pitted Cabinet members against backbenchers, with Moss and Gibson respectively, and Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez trading barbs with Rollins.
The lead photo in this journal the day after Minnis' flip-flop was of Christie, head bent, eyes shut, with locked hands pressed against his forehead. What was running through his mind? Was he remembering how he abandoned Bahamian women and pulled the rug from under the FNM in 2002?
Despite having a well-earned black belt in flip-flopping, Christie seemed stunned as Minnis' demonstrated why he so quickly earned his black belt in the same art.
In stark contrast to the disastrous performance of Christie and Minnis, Long Island MP and FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner has demonstrated leadership on this issue. She has been clear, calm and consistent.
In her contribution to the House debate and in the media she has proven articulate and passionate, demonstrating a complex of leadership skills Minnis lacks and which Christie has failed to show.
While Christie and Minnis often seem prone to following certain public opinion, Butler-Turner appears to be the type of leader who is prepared to take on the task of moulding and shaping public opinion in pursuit of a desirable goal.
She articulated early and cogently the principles at stake: "What we are debating is this: whether to allow all Bahamian parent-citizens, regardless of race, creed or sex, to pass on - as a fundamental right - citizenship to all of their children regardless of the circumstances of their birth."
Butler-Turner understands the politics and policy involved in the debate, seeking to forge consensus in various quarters while not losing sight of the end goal.
She has demonstrated good judgment and competence, proving that she has the mettle and leadership skills necessary to serve as leader of the opposition and as prime minister.
Butler-Turner also spoke of the "cowardice and gross opportunism" displayed by Christie in 2002. Christie is now seeing some of that same opportunism displayed by some of his opponents, but not by Butler-Turner.
Sir Milo Butler's granddaughter is demonstrating courage and conviction forged in steel. While the spine and brains of some appear not to be connected, Butler-Turner is demonstrating that she has a strong mind connected to an equally strong backbone.
She can be fiercely partisan in a contest of ideas and leadership, a necessary feature of our political system, but she can also be bipartisan when required in the best interest of the nation.
While Christie and Minnis have faltered terribly, Butler-Turner is winning praise across the political spectrum and throughout the country for her leadership and astuteness.
An editorial in The Tribune and a letter to the editor in that journal on Monday past noted Butler-Turner's leadership.
The letter writer praised: "I salute Loretta Butler-Turner for having the courage to stand by her convictions and not to capitulate to political pressure on the question of equal rights for women.
"Mrs. Butler-Turner's decision to rise above the political fray and to work with the government and the Constitutional Commission to iron out any anomalies in the bills before the House took guts.
"She is to be commended for displaying a level of political maturity not often seen in the country."
If the referendum passes, it will be in large measure because of the leadership of Butler-Turner. If it fails, it will be due in part to Minnis' blundering, incoherent and unfocused leadership.
The main architect of a failure to pass the amendments will be that of Christie who, by what he did in 2002 and by his performance today, may end up being written into history as one of the greatest barriers to gender equality in an independent Bahamas.
o firstname.lastname@example.org, www.bahamapundit.com.
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August 20, 2014
The chaplain at the House of Assembly, in one of his opening prayers last week and as a prelude to the continued debate on the equality of women and the proposed bills to amend The Bahamas constitution, said "Christianity has liberated women".
I found and still find this statement, at minimum, to be very interesting; more appropriately, deceptive. But mostly, in my mind, leaning more toward being very far from the actual truth.
No doubt this prayerful, elderly man, bless his heart, who has probably been a stalwart member of the Christian church for a long time, believes wholeheartedly that his proclamation is indeed reality.
No doubt others, especially those of the Christian faith, and the particular variety of Christian who is Bahamian, also believe strongly in the precursor to the chaplain's prayer.
But, being as I am, I immediately identified the irony in this declaration, thinking of all the women who have thus far sworn to high Heaven that they will not vote at all or will vote "no" to all of the amendments in the scheduled November 6 referendum on the full equality of Bahamian women and men in the very document that establishes our liberty. And that does not account for the Bahamian women who have chosen not to pay any attention whatsoever to this issue.
So, are these Bahamian women who deliberately ignore or intend to oppose the amendments really liberated?
These very same women - the fish and fritter-fryers - who organize the church cook-outs, prayer sessions, fundraisers, visits to the shut-ins, church fairs, praise and worship events, on and on. They are those who have taken the lead on these functions for years, cannot or will not see any inequality of any kind between themselves and men of the Christian church, because on the surface there is none.
Faults and defaults of the Christian church
The inequality of women to men in Christianity, especially the kind of Christianity adapted in The Bahamas, reveals itself in the deep rituals of the Christian church. It shows up, in particular, in the Christian principles which govern marriage.
It is an insidious inequality, which exists within the origins of the church's doctrines and, if you never had cause to examine it, you might find yourself persuaded that the notion of the inequality of women in the Christian church is unfounded. After all, Jesus the Christ, the man upon whose life of goodness the people of the time based the entire Christian religion, allowed women to wash his feet. He often came to the aid of women, in ancient biblical stories. But the question today is not whether or not these stories were good or real.
The question is: how did such a good man and character, or the representation of one, become the poster child for a worldwide following that saw fit to relegate women to subservience?
How did all the kindness that Jesus would have displayed to and for women end up as mental and emotional bondage for women throughout the many centuries that followed, even until now and even in the gut of the Christian church?
How do you preach (anything) in the name of Jesus and beat or curse your wife behind closed doors, perhaps even in front of them or publicly, whether you're the shepherd or the sheep?
How do you preach in the name of Jesus and have sexual relations with one, two or 10-plus other women in your congregation, whether you're married or not?
How do you preach in the name of Jesus and impregnate a girl or woman, who is 1) not your wife, and 2) a member of the "flock" you are meant to guide? (And "flock" they must be for blind obedience).
How do you preach in the name of Jesus and sexually molest the (altar) boys or girls left in your care?
How do you preach in the name of Jesus and kill hundreds of newborn babies of unwed mothers and dump them in a ditch to be hidden away for eternity?
How do you preach in Jesus' name and then torment the woman who became a wife to you, because she has a mind of her own and needs beyond you or yours, with a level of independent thinking you find threatening to your position as a man or as the man of the house?
Proof and history
The question of equality of women and men is not something to give answers to by fishing out scriptures of women heroes from the bible or any other literary, historic or religious text; it is a question of recognizing two sexes of human beings who have very unique functions and are as important as each other, because neither one of them could survive human existence, were it not for the other.
As knowledgeable and as modern as we are as a species, it continues to remain difficult, damn near impossible, to see what is before our very eyes. There would be no life on Earth without the 'partnership' of women and men. But, for the Christian church, this partnership, which tends to amount to ownership, must occur only via the process of marriage, where a man takes a woman to be his wife and a woman takes a man to be her husband, and together they swear, for all eternity, never to yield to the natural inclinations of the human species, knowing all along this cannot be done by mere humans.
Now you might introduce those human inclinations and weaknesses and the Garden of Eden and creation story here as the basis of all the allowable female-male imbalances in Christianity. Because Christians are taught that, in that same garden, Eve went and did something awful and therefore the doom of the world (to come) is assigned to her "disobedience".
That right there is the fundamental principle of female/male inequality in Christianity.
Because, if you believe, having been taught since you can remember yourself, that there were no problems in the world until women came along, that woman was a gift to man, an afterthought, a pleasure center, who did something horrible and caused the world to pay for it forevermore, then no doubt it is most likely that you will grow up into an adult who believes a woman is secondary to or less than a man. And, you won't even be aware of it, because it's so ingrained in your belief system.
As one Bahamian of Christian origin recently asserted, "Bahamian men need to take their rightful place in society". Where is that place, you ask?
Apparently, men lead; women follow. That is the rule of Christianity. Is this liberation?
The chairman of the Constitutional Commission remarked in an interview that "if these bills fail, we will find ourselves left in the company only of Muslim countries that don't believe in equality."
In other words, the only thing worse than blind Christianity, in its disregard of/for women, is Islam. And with that I might be inclined to agree.
It may never have been the intention, but today it is certainly the condition that Bahamian Christianity is the cause of Bahamian misogyny.
Who, predominantly, wrote the Bible? Men. Whether they were inspired or uninspired, they were still men. So the obvious expectation is that the Christian Bible would be at least a little slanted in the direction and favor of men - men in leadership and men in power. And as I write, now, or ever, I must constantly remind myself that it is okay to write "female/male", "woman/man" and "madam/sir", in that order, even though I, too, was once subjected to the indoctrination that the man should come first, even in writing.
Political cloak and shield
I wonder how many people realize why Hubert Minnis' position has changed regarding the bills to amend the constitution so that it affirms the full equality of women and men in The Bahamas. Women, especially those who vote FNM, those who have never voted and those who are not yet victims of religious brainwashing need to understand this.
Minnis' position has not shifted because it is a simple political tactic. His position has not shifted because the official opposition is still angry with the governing party for thwarting their referendum of 2002, wherein they brought the same issues of equality to the people. Minnis' position has not shifted because he thinks that, so long as there is more definitive language inserted in the fourth bill, gay marriage will be at all possible. His new position has nothing to do with his personal view that women and men should be regarded and defended as equal in all respects of the law and citizenship.
The real "red herring"
The new and sudden position of the leader of the opposition is a result of pressures from the most influential group of Bahamian activists, who stand to lose the most in the argument of female/ male equality, or stand to gain the most from its failure: the Bahamian Christian Church.
And that is the same institution that leapt to the fore on the gaming referendum, but slept through the 2002 equality referendum, and still continues to slumber.
It is not a stretch to imagine that the Christian Church is not fond of foreign, male spouses rewiring the thinking and perspectives of Bahamian women on their role in marriage, because, after all, the Bahamian man (according to the Christian Church) leads the home. To put it bluntly, if traditional marriages don't take place with the man in the ruling seat, the Christian Church goes out of business.
Nor is the Christian Church fond of endorsing the 'illegitimate' (more discrimination) children of Bahamian men, who are either unmarried or who are married and conceive children outside of their marriages. Because, in spite of the fact that it is already common practice in and around the church, it is still an abomination to them, something worthy of keeping secret and worthy of rebuke.
If a Bahamian man can be indirectly endorsed to have children outside of marriage, he can no longer be the reliable head of the church, and if the Christian doctrine of "no sex before marriage" or "no sex outside of marriage" cannot be upheld, marriage will no longer be popular, and the Christian Church goes out of business.
With all that said, is it not particularly revealing, then, that the two constitutional amendments Minnis now takes greatest issue with are the two that pertain to marriage? Who upholds marriage in the society, a concept and practice at the very center of the church itself?
What a surprise.
In the end, you cannot legislate what people choose to do with their lives. However, you can legislate that their fundamental human rights are all inherently protected in a country's constitution, regardless of their wise or poor choices.
No one truly expects that amendments to our nation's constitution will immediately end the misogynistic thinking of Bahamian men and women, but it's a very good and valiant start.
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August 19, 2014
RELIGIOUS Leader Dr Myles Munroe said yesterday that while he supports the upcoming referendum on gender equality, the government should have "left the date open" and "let the people decide" when they are ready to vote rather than set a fixed date...
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August 19, 2014
As one listens to public commentaries on the new hot topic of gender equality and the upcoming referendum, it is almost impossible to refrain from saying "Here we go again". This is because we have developed the habit of inserting politics into every debate and creating confusion among the populace on matters of national importance.This week, we begin our dive into the supposed issues highlighted in the debate for gender equality, in general, and equal rights for women, in particular. This review will conclude with the real issue that underlies the opposition to this progressive initiative.The parliamentary circus A circus is often characterized by the performances of actors and artists seeking to entertain their audiences who would have paid for their services. The Parliament of The Bahamas is supposed to be a place of honor where honorable men and women sit to represent their constituencies, debate and pass laws for the benefit of our people. It was therefore disappointing on Wednesday last week to see the parliamentary caucus deteriorate into a circus and members of Parliament transform into actors seeking to entertain their perceived audiences.What made the performances of the Bahamian drama kings more disturbing was that they chose a critical subject and debate as their avenue for performing, to the displeasure of Bahamians. They saw this as an opportunity to settle political scores, seek brownie points and grandstand at the expense of Bahamian women and men that have been discriminated against for decades.The return of the all-knowing commentators Outside of Parliament, the self-proclaimed experts and self-appointed legal luminaries on all matters in The Bahamas could not wait to commence their so called in-depth analyses and intellectual discussions on the issues associated with the four bills tabled in Parliament to rectify an obscurity that should never have been enshrined in the Constitution of The Bahamas in the first place. The thought legends in their own minds have begun their campaign to play on the emotions of Bahamians and create hysteria on a simple initiative aimed at granting Bahamian women the same rights as the men of this nation and more broadly address the issue of gender inequality in our constitution. The effectiveness of one synonym over another has also been revived as a weapon in the armory of persons that oppose a progressive effort. The question arises at this juncture as to whether there are justifiable reasons to fear or oppose leveling the playing field between the men and women of The Bahamas by amending our constitution.A binding referendumThe debate has resurrected actions and inactions of persons and political parties in relation to referenda in the past. While some old wounds have been reopened and bitter memories revived for different reasons, the biggest risk we face is allowing the past to cripple us and drive us to miss an historical movement in our commonwealth. No matter how hard we try and how much some persons deny the motivation behind their actions, it is obvious that political forces are at work and posturing in the name of conviction is alive in this debate.The upcoming constitutional referendum will be binding and the government is legally constrained to abide by the results or outcome. Hence, no one should use the government's actions in the past as an excuse to relinquish their right to shape the future and destiny of our beloved country. Such an action can be deemed unpatriotic and unfair to generations of Bahamians yet unborn. Whatever the position taken on the questions posed, all Bahamians should cast their votes for the sake of future generations; we owe them that much.Restricting access to citizenshipIt is often said that people fear what they do not know. While this could be understood in general terms, the danger comes when persons that do not know fail to educate themselves on matters they are ignorant on, but act like they have the requisite knowledge and seek to spread their ignorance among the populace. Indeed Confucius said it best when he stated that "true knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance". Sadly, we are all guilty sometimes of being too proud or reluctant to admit the limitation of our knowledge.This seems like the only logical way to explain the fallacy being spread in certain quarters on the proposed amendments to Article 10 of the constitution. The authors of confusion in this regard are suggesting that this change is designed to allow Bahamian women to instantaneously pass citizenship to their foreign spouses without any controls, checks and balances. In actuality what is being proposed is to grant Bahamian women the same rights as their male counterparts in relation to the acquisition of citizenship by their foreign spouses subject to paragraph two of the said article, which is aimed at preventing marriages of convenience. More specifically, Article 10 currently reads:"Any woman who, after July 9, 1973, marries a person who is or becomes a citizen of The Bahamas shall be entitled, provided she is still so married, upon making application in such manner as may be prescribed and upon taking the oath of allegiance of such declaration as may be prescribed, to be registered as a citizen of The Bahamas:"Provided that the right to be registered as a citizen of The Bahamas under this article shall be subject to such exceptions or qualifications as may be prescribed in the interests of national security of public policy."It is obvious that due process, including a formal application for consideration by the government, will still be required and the Cabinet's approval is subject to the conditions stipulated in the constitution.Paragraph two of Article 10 provides that a foreign party may be denied registration for citizenship if there is satisfactory evidence that the marriage no longer subsists, the marriage was entered into for the purpose of enabling the foreign partner to acquire Bahamian citizenship, the parties have no intentions of living together after the marriage or the foreign party was convicted in another country of an indictable criminal offense involving moral turpitude.This is only right to ensure that persons do not enter into the sacred institution of marriage for the wrong reasons and particularly just to obtain Bahamian citizenship. The weak and vulnerable vesselThe public discourse to date has also revealed the unfounded and insulting view of certain individuals among us that Bahamian women are not only emotionally vulnerable when compared to our male counterparts but also unwise and gullible, stopping short of expressly stating that we are stupid.These persons are seeking to perpetuate the myth that we - the women of this great country, are not only incapable of making our own decisions but are prone to making insensible choices particularly in the selection of our spouses. This is shameful, disappointing and unfortunate in a country that has relied on its strong women for every major feat in its history.The words of the late Dame Doris Johnson echo through time to the present in response to men who diminish the strength, fortitude and wisdom of the Bahamian woman.We are mothers of men. Several Bahamian men can attest to the fact they were nurtured and raised by their grandmothers, mothers or other mother figure. How could one question the endurance and might of the individuals that carry life for nine months and thrive in the midst of adversity? Do they consider these women, their mothers, wives and daughters as weak-minded?How does one define the working mothers and wives that help to keep the home together while contributing to the upkeep of the family? The only encouraging news here is that persons with such a mind-set appear to be in the minority and the prime minister has indicated that he does not have a similar view.o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to email@example.com.
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August 19, 2014
The best rationale why sex should be added to Article 26 of the constitution as a prohibited category of discrimination by any law, as the fourth bill provides, is offered by Justice Brennan of the United States Supreme Court in the case Frontiero vs. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973): "[Our] nation has had a long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination. Traditionally, such discrimination was rationalized by an attitude of "romantic paternalism" which, in practical effect, put women, not on a pedestal, but in a cage... It is true, of course, that the position of women in America has improved markedly in recent decades. Nevertheless, it can hardly be doubted that, in part because of the high visibility of the sex characteristic, women still face pervasive, although at times more subtle, discrimination in our educational instructions, in the job market and, perhaps most conspicuously, in the political arena. Moreover, since sex, like race and national origin, is an immutable characteristic, the imposition of special disabilities upon the members of a particular sex because of their sex would seem to violate 'the basic concept of our system that legal burdens should bear some relationship to individual responsibility'."Since sex, like race, is an immutable characteristic, Article 26 of the constitution should be amended to prohibit the making of any law that discriminates against any person either of itself or in its effect on the basis of sex. That is what the fourth bill is about. It is not about sexual preference, which is an entirely different ground, as demonstrated by the Privy Council in the case Nadine Rodriguez vs. Minister of Housing et al (2009) UKPC 51. As a matter of constitutional practice, discrimination on the basis of sex, meaning treating a woman more or less favorably than a man, is treated differently than the ground of sexual preference. In fact, bill three removes the discrimination against unwed Bahamian men who are prohibited from passing their citizenship to a child born to a foreign woman. Therefore, the issue of sexual preference, or sexual orientation, should not be imported into the fourth bill before the House of Assembly, as it is neither a ground proposed by the Constitutional Commission nor a part of the fourth bill before the Parliament. As we approach the referendum on November 6, we should learn some lessons from the relentless efforts of the United States to remake its constitution to correct omissions of the past and to reflect changing circumstances, contemporary expectations of its citizens and evolving international obligations. The constitution of the United States, adopted in 1789, is the oldest written constitution in our hemisphere. As a living document, the United States constitution is given new meaning and vitality under ever-changing conditions through Supreme Court decisions and formal amendments. It extends its protection to all persons in the territory of the United States, citizens rich and poor as well as aliens. In establishing a national government, the United States constitution sets up three branches and provides mechanisms for them to check and balance each other. It balances central federal authority with dispersed state reserved power. It protects the citizenry from the government and gives the power of judicial review to the judicial branch of government.The imperfect nature of the original United States constitution is very apparent from a brief historical review. In 1789 when the constitution was founded, African-Americans were still in slavery and, as legally defined property, were not considered as full citizens. However, there has been a continuous process of correction and remediation, through constitutional amendments, judicial decisions, legislation and executive measures to create a more perfect democracy in the United States, as the society moved from an agrarian to an industrialized nation and assumed international obligations under international humanitarian law. The first 10 amendments of the United States constitution were passed in 1791. The 13th Amendment, adopted in 1865 immediately after the Civil War, abolished slavery. The 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, gives citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States and guarantees due process and equal protection of the laws to all persons in the United States. Bahamians who have children in the United States, such as the parents of Sir Sidney Poitier, were and are the beneficiaries of this provision. The 15th Amendment, adopted in 1870, guarantees the right to vote irrespective of race, color or previous condition of servitude. Up until 1971, the United States constitution had been amended 26 times.Similarly, our sister Caribbean countries have also been trying to bring their constitutions in line with the shared expectations and aspirations of their contemporary societies. Constitutional reviews have been undertaken and amendments proposed or effected, for example, in Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago have totally replaced their independence constitutions. Two week ago, the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago passed the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 to limit the prime minister to two terms, to recall parliamentary representatives outside scheduled national elections and for a run-off poll in any constituency where contestants fail to secure more than 50 percent of votes cast.After 40 years of constitutional practice in The Bahamas, it is now time that we correct the discrimination against women in our constitution and to ensure that the constitution conforms to the demands and expectations of contemporary Bahamian society and the evolving humanitarian norm of non-discrimination. Further, one way of avoiding the recurrence of such historical errors in the future, as occurred in 1972, is to adopt recommendation 28 of the CEDAW Committee which requires that, "The state party [The Bahamas] adopt temporary special measures, such as quotas... to increase the number of women in political office and public life and decision-making positions."Beyond the referendum, I recommend that we implement affirmative measures to remediate the lack of female representation in the top public offices in The Bahamas. It was the lack of consultation with women and the absence of female representation at the Constitutional Conference that allowed subject discriminatory provisions to be inserted into the constitution in 1972. Therefore, we need to ensure that more women are represented, commensurate with the Bahamian population, in the Parliament and Cabinet so that we have the benefit of the collective wisdom of all of the Bahamian people inform the making of public policy in the future.The removal of these remaining vestiges of discrimination against women, contained in our constitution, is not only the responsibility of Bahamian women. I assume that no Bahamian man would want his mother, wife, sisters or daughters to be disadvantaged in a democratic Bahamas. Therefore, all Bahamian men have a duty to safeguard the human rights of every person in The Bahamas, including the right of women to equality of treatment, by voting in favor of the four bills, as amended in the legislative process, on November 6.The template of the Bahamian suffragettes should inform us during the upcoming referendum. The powerful lesson of that template was summed up brilliantly by Janet Bostwick when she said that, "Women suffragettes showed us that, in order to bring about significant change, we must accept sometimes that the cause is bigger than the individual, than a party, than any of the things which divide and separate us and that much can be accomplished when we unite."o Alfred Sears is a noted attorney, scholar and political figure who served in several Cabinet posts between 2002 and 2007. He currently serves as the chairman of The College of The Bahamas Council.
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August 18, 2014
Unlike most Caribbean Constitutions, the nationality provisions of the Bahamian Constitution discriminate against Bahamian women, as is reflected in Articles 8 and 9 in particular. Under Article 8, a child born outside of The Bahamas after the 9th July, 1973 to a Bahamian father, inside of a marriage, shall become a Bahamian citizen automatically at the date of birth. Whereas, under Article 9, a child born outside of The Bahamas after the 9th July, 1973, to a Bahamian mother married to a non-Bahamian father, is not automatically a Bahamian citizen at birth. To become a Bahamian citizen, such a person must:
1) make application upon attaining the age of eighteen (18) years and before the age of twenty-one (21) years to be registered as a citizen of The Bahamas;
2) renounce or make a declaration with respect to any other citizenship;
3) take the oath of allegiance to The Bahamas;
4) make and register a declaration of her/his intention to reside in The Bahamas; and
5) have been born legitimately.
Even after fulfilling these five requirements, such a person can still be denied citizenship on the basis of national security or public policy. These disabilities on a child born outside of The Bahamas to a Bahamian woman married to a non-Bahamian husband constitute invidious discrimination, when automatic citizenship is conferred at birth upon the child born outside of The Bahamas to a Bahamian father married to a non-Bahamian spouse.
Further, Bahamian women are treated less favorably than Bahamian men in granting Bahamian citizenship to their respective spouses. Under Article 10 of the Constitution, any women who marries a person who wishes to become a Bahamian citizen after the 9th July, 1973 shall be entitled to be registered as a Bahamian citizen, provided she makes an application, takes the oath of allegiance or makes a declaration and that there is no objection on the basis of national security or public policy. No such requirement is demanded of foreign spouses of Bahamian men.Ironically, also discriminates against unmarried Bahamian men, who are not able to transmit citizenship to their children; whereas, unmarried Bahamian women can transit Bahamian citizenship to their children at birth.
Further, the Bahamian Constitution does not protect a woman from a law that discriminates against her on the basis of sex.
However, Article 26 of the Constitution prohibits the making of any law, which discriminates on the basis of race, place of origin, political opinions, color or creed.
These discriminatory constitutional restrictions on the right of a Bahamian woman to transmit citizenship, I submit, reflect stereotypical and traditional male perception of the role of women and are contrary to contemporary international humanitarian law.
When examined objectively, these restrictions cannot be justified on the grounds of natural law, contemporary constitutional practice, international human rights law or democratic practice.
Under natural law, a progressive interpretation of the Bible would not support these restrictions. The Preamble of the Bahamian Constitution, in part, provides that the people of The Bahamas "recognize that the preservation of their Freedom will be guaranteed by a national commitment to Self-discipline, Industry, Loyalty, Unity and an abiding respect for Christian values and the Rule of Law." One interpretation of Christian theology, it may be argued, is that, rather than female subordination, the Risen Christ showed a gender preference when he first revealed himself to Mary Magdalene before he revealing himself to his male disciples. However, it is the common fatherhood of God, in the Christian faith that establishes the equality of men and women. The acceptance of Jesus Christ as the basis for salvation, irrespective of one's gender, also establishes the principle of equality between men and women. Historically, portions of the Old Testament of the Bible were used to justify the discriminatory treatment of women and the enslavement of African people. Dilip Hiro, in the book Black British, White British, shows how portions of the Old Testament have been used to justify the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Eric Williams in Capitalism & Slavery, demonstrated, in compelling detail, that the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade was an economic institution for the benefit of Europe. Walter Rodney in the book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa marshals, in magisterial fashion, the historical data to demonstrate how the rich social, economic and political development
process of the African continent was interrupted by the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and subverted into a pattern of underdevelopment for the benefit of Europe.
In support of the economic institution of slavery, religious, philosophical and pseudo-scientific justifications were developed to support this cruel and exploitative institution. Dilip Hiro shows that, through religion, philosophy and pseudo science, slavery in the Caribbean and the Americas was justified by asserting that Africans were the descendants of Ham, the black son of Noah condemned being "hewers of wood and drawers of water" and made a moral equivalence between the black skin of Africans with Satan; David Hume, the British philosopher published an essay "Of National Characters" in 1753 arguing the inherent inferiority of the African; and Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in his book the Origin of Species published in 1859 was used to justify European dominance as proof of the survival of the fittest. Today, we are still dealing with the legacies of this racial ideology that was preached, taught and propagated for 400 years to justify the exploitation of Africa and the Americas to fund the industrial revolution in Europe and European global empire. While the European empire, built on the profits of slavery, has been decolonized, the racial ideology still persists.
Similarly, many of the stereotypes of the role of women in society are also rooted in portions of the Old Testament of the Bible to justify male dominance and the inferior treatment of women. Traditional notions of male dominance are also justified by reference to many other religions and traditions to support honor killing of women, female circumcision, denial of education for girls and the confinement of women and girls to the home. All of these practices, including the discriminatory provisions of the Bahamian Constitution, offend the global bill of human rights and norm of non-discrimination. From a Christian perspective, how can one justify treating women less favorably than men, when both claim a common fatherhood in God and equal right to salvation through an acceptance of Jesus Christ?
These discriminatory restrictions against women cannot be justified under the evolving constitutional and international humanitarian law.
The liberal philosophy of John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Emanuel Kant establish that both men and women, as rational beings, prefer to exist, on the basis of equality, in a social contract rather than in an Hobbesian state of nature. Based on these liberal ideas, the world community has affirmed global democratic representative governance and the norm of non-discrimination, linking human rights and peace in the global order.
Since the Second World War, the evolving global norm of non-discrimination and women, with respect to the acquisition and transmission of nationality, is grounded in Article 1 (3) of the United Nations Charter that states that its purpose is to promote and encourage "respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion."
Further, it is also grounded in Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948; in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966; the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1965; and in Article 9 of the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women ("CEDAW") of 1967 which provides that "1. State Parties shall grant women equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality. They shall ensure in particular that neither marriage to an alien nor change of nationality by the husband during marriage shall automatically change the nationality of the wife, render stateless or force upon her the nationality of the husband. 2. States Parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children."
Countries, upon acceding to CEDAW at Article 2, agree to condemn all forms of discrimination against women and to "embody the principle of the equality of men and women in their national constitutions . . . to ensure, through law and other appropriate means, the practical realization of this principle."
The Bahamas acceded to CEDAW on the 6th October, 1993, with reservations to Articles 1, 2(a) and 9. For the past 21 years, The Bahamas has not been in full compliance with the provisions of CEDAW because, in part, of the aforesaid discriminatory provisions in the Bahamian Constitution.
The non-compliance of The Bahamas with the provisions of CEDAW was the subject of our country's fourth periodic report to the CEDAW Committee.
In July 2012 Minister Melanie Griffin and a Bahamian delegation appeared before the CEDAW Committee at the United Nations to explain the current indefensible discrimination against women in The Bahamas. While the Committee commended The Bahamas for such measures as ensuring universal and equal access to education, the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act, the Trafficking in Person, the Committee expressed concern that the Bahamian Constitution and national legislation do not contain an explicit definition of discrimination in accordance with the CEDAW. CEDAW, at Article 1 defines "discrimination against women" as "any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field."
Further, the CEDAW Committee recommended that The Bahamas withdraws its reservation to Article 2 (a) of the Convention and integrates the principle of equality of women and men in the Constitution.
Therefore, the four Bills before Parliament and which, if passed by the requisite majority, will be the subject of a constitutional referendum on the 6th November is an effort to implement the recommendation of the CEDAW Committee.
In 2000 The Bahamas demonstrated the political will and bipartisan collaboration in complying with its international obligations when the Parliament, in record time, passed a compendium of over 20 pieces of legislation to become compliant with the 40 Recommendations on anti-money laundering and the 8 special recommendations on combating the financing of terrorism of the FATF. Today, The Bahamas must demonstrate equal political will and bipartisan collaboration to amend its Constitution to become fully compliant with its international obligation under CEDAW and provide women with a fundamental right not to be discriminated on the basis of their sex.
I recommend a yes vote on the proposed four bills, as will be amended in the course of the legislative process, in the upcoming referendum in order to make our country compliant with its international obligations under CEDAW and to secure the dignity and equality of our mothers, sisters, spouses, daughters and all women in The Bahamas.
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August 16, 2014
In 2002 voters in The Bahamas rejected a national referendum "to change the constitution to eradicate language that made men superior to women" - as the February 12, 2012, edition of The Nassau Guardian framed the issue. I was so shocked and dismayed that I wondered aloud if we were vying to become the new Taliban paradise, given that the United States had just bombed to smithereens the one that thrived in Afghanistan.This is why I am not at all surprised that a toxic mix of political ignorance and moral outrage is bedeviling the Bahamian government's attempt to hold a second referendum to do the same. Specifically, for almost two years now, the government has been trying to move a series of bills through Parliament before putting them to a referendum. As The Guardian reported (on October 3, 2013), these amending bills are primarily intended to:o Amend the citizenship provisions of the constitution to achieve full equality between men and women with respect to the acquisition and transmission of Bahamian nationality; and
o Expand the definition of discrimination in Article 26 to include discrimination based on "sex" as a prohibited ground so that women would be able to enjoy the same level of protection from discrimination that men already enjoy.Never mind the reasonable interpretation that Article 15 already grants women the fundamental rights and protections this referendum purports to grant, with its express provision that every person in The Bahamas is entitled to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual - that is to say, has the right, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinions, color, creed or sex [to] life, liberty, security of the person and the protection of the law [etc.].In any event, the government appointed a Constitutional Commission that waged a year-long "public education campaign" to impress upon voters the existential importance of codifying these amendments. Unfortunately, political mischief and religious dogma have so undermined this campaign that the government seems poised, yet again, to postpone the enabling referendum, which is scheduled for this November. If it does, extraneous objections, of one form or another, will have postponed it for the fourth time, given previous postponements, from June 2013 to November 2013 to June 2014.To appreciate a little of the pettiness involved, consider that members of the ruling party championing this latest effort are from the same party (the Progressive Liberal Party) whose members betrayed the effort in 2002 referenced above. And, presumably as payback, members of the opposition party maneuvering to betray this year's effort are from the same party (the Free National Movement) whose members championed the effort in 2002. In other words, it has been and remains more about petty party politics than women's rights.
Given this tortured background, I submit that if the ruling PLP was serious about ushering in gender equality, it would have done so by an act of Parliament instead of pursuing this fraught process of amending the constitution. Not to mention that it offends all notions of fundamental rights for the government to be putting to a national vote whether or not Bahamian women should enjoy the same constitutional rights and protections that Bahamian men already enjoy.Mind you, the constitution of The Bahamas does not expressly discriminate against women (for example, the way the constitution of the United States discriminated against blacks) such that constitutional amendments would be necessary to correct an "original sin". It just does not include "sex" in Article 26, along with "race, place of origin, political opinions, color or creed" (as it does in Article 15) as a personal attribute that should not give rise to any form of discrimination. This is hardly the forum to delve any further into constitutional provisions, especially given that minds far more brilliant than mine can interpret them differently -- as members of the U.S. Supreme Court demonstrate with distressing regularity these days. Therefore, I shall suffice to proffer that, because the constitution does not expressly prohibit equal rights for women, no act of Parliament granting women those rights can be deemed to alter or violate it. In fact, it is instructive that the Equality Act of 2010 did not violate the constitution of the United Kingdom, and the Fair Pay Act of 2009 did not violate the constitution of the United States. No referendum was needed in either case. Perhaps even more instructive is that the United States has been trying since 1923, to no avail, to amend its constitution (with an Equal Rights Amendment) to guarantee equal rights for women. Yet acts of Congress over that time have slowly but surely redressed every case where the laws of the United States discriminated against women, such that nobody can gainsay that American women enjoy more equal rights than women anywhere else in the world today (more famously, acts of Congress did the same with respect to civil rights for blacks. They would still be living in Jim Crow America if their equal rights were dependent on a national referendum). Meanwhile, apropos of the specter of postponement or outright cancellation, here's the ominous, and arguably predictable, note the government sounded just days ago:"Whether we have a referendum or not, the prime minister has always said that we would not go to a referendum without general agreement between the parties... "If it becomes clear for us that there is not unanimity, then we will not proceed with the referendum" (as reported in The Nassau Guardian, August 9, 2014).Ominous, and arguably predictable, because this is akin to the Obama administration declaring that it will not proceed with a bill granting women unqualified rights to abortions...if there is not unanimity between Democrats and Republicans. Duh.What's more, there's a very high probability that voters will reject this latest referendum too, if it were ever held. Nothing telegraphs this quite like the national debate on its ballot questions being hijacked by religious leaders hurling ignorant fulminations about equal rights for women being dependent on what the meaning of "sex" is.I doubt, for example, that those voicing the loudest objections are even aware of the differences between "sex" (biological/sex organs) and "gender" (cultural norms/masculine, feminine). Gender is the more debatable term. But the irony is that this referendum would have been less controversial if the proposed expansion of the definition of discrimination included discrimination based on "gender" instead of "sex" as a prohibited ground. As it stands, people are clearly reading into the term "sex" an expansion of the constitutional definition of discrimination based on "sexual orientation", which would provide LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders) the same level of protection from discrimination heterosexuals already enjoy. Not that there would be anything wrong with that, of course.But the prevailing absurdity of this whole exercise is brought into eye-rolling relief when one considers that even the U.S. Constitution (as amended) does not prohibit discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation. This is why legislatures have been enacting laws to redress these omissions on a state-by-state basis - based on local religious and cultural norms.Alas, such norms in The Bahamas militate against our pandering parliament following suit by enacting LGBT laws, let alone our homophobic people doing so by passing a referendum. More to the point, in a country where church leaders proselytize homophobia as an article of faith, this misreading of the language in the tabled bills is spreading faster than the Gospel at Pentecost.
Frankly, one could be forgiven for thinking that this referendum is more about marriage for gays than equal rights for women. In any case, whether by using the word "sex" or "gender", whether by an act of Parliament or referendum, it is a categorical imperative that the laws of The Bahamas provide women the same rights, privileges and protections men enjoy. Period.Accordingly, I urge all Bahamians to support this referendum, bearing in mind that, if only every female voter realized and acted upon her enlightened interest, it would pass in a landslide.
o Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant headquartered in Washington, D.C. This article is published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.
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August 15, 2014
On Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Prime Minister Perry Christie, in a Communication to the House of Assembly, foreshadowed the introduction and first reading of four separate bills to amend the Constitution of The Bahamas "to institute full equality between men and women in matters of citizenship and, more broadly, to eliminate discrimination in The Bahamas based on sex."Prime Minister Christie asserted that the purpose of these four bills is remedial in nature: "The changes to the constitution foreshadowed by these bills will not only help remediate the problem of structural gender inequality and discrimination in our country but will also assist in bringing greater inclusiveness and cohesion to family structures while at the same time ensuring that The Bahamas lives up to its international obligations in these matters."In a mature gesture of bipartisanship, the leader of the opposition, Dr. Hubert Minnis stated that while "there is much which divides us in this place, let us speak with one voice when the issue is equality before the law. Let us Mr. Speaker, speak as one in this place. If we can do so, we will signal to every Bahamian and the watching World our unified commitment to the advancement of Human Dignity in our beloved Bahamas."The four bills represent the culmination of the work that was done by the Constitutional Commission, appointed on August 1, 2012 to review and recommend changes to the Constitution of The Bahamas, in advance of the 40th Anniversary of Bahamian independence.The Commission was chaired by Mr. Sean McWeeney, Q.C. and the members included Loren Klein, a member and technical co-coordinator of the Commission's Secretariat, Carl Bethell, Justice Rubie Nottage (retired), Mark Wilson, Lester Mortimer, Tara Cooper-Burnside, Professor Michael Stevenson, Dr. Olivia Saunders, Michael Albury, Chandra Sands, Brandace Duncanson and Carla Brown-Roker.The commission completed the constitutional review process that had been started by the earlier Constitutional Commission that had been appointed by Prime Minister Christie on December 23, 2002, under the joint chairpersonship of Paul Adderley and Harvey Tynes, Q.C., but which process the government under Hubert Ingraham abandoned after the 2007 general elections.The American legal scholar, Professor Myres McDougal, asserted that a constitution should be "a living instrument, a dynamic and continuing process of communication, practices and decisions. It is made and continually remade in response to the changing demands and expectations of the people under ever-changing conditions. It should reflect not only the shared expectations of the original framers of the constitution, but also those of succeeding generations. It should also reflect the contemporary shared expectations and experiences of community members today."The Bahamas Independence Order 1973, an Act of the British Parliament, provided for The Bahamas to become an independent sovereign nation. The constitution is actually the appendix to The Bahamas Independence Order 1973. The representatives of the Bahamian people at the Constitutional Conference in London in December, 1972 comprised the following individuals: Sir Arthur Foulkes, Sir Orville A. Turnquest, the late Sir Lynden O Pindling, The late Sir Clement Maynard, Arthur Hanna, Paul Adderley, Philip Bethel, George A. Smith, Loftus A. Roker, Cadwell Ambrister, Norman Solomon, Sir Milo Butler, the late Sir Kendal G.L. Isaacs, the late Carlton Francis and The late Henry Bowen. These 15 men are collectively known as the Framers of the Bahamian Constitution.As I will demonstrate, it was an historical error not to have included any women at the Constitutional Conference of 1972 in either the delegations of the Progressive Liberal Party or the Free National Movement. Further, It was also an historical error not to have consulted with Bahamian women and their organizations on the issues of nationality, given the obvious discriminatory impact on them and their children of the nationality provisions agreed to in London. These omissions on the part of both political parties is particularly striking, given the prominent and decisive role that women had played in the affairs of both parties and the struggle for majority rule. These omissions also require that we engage in a national reflection on the persistence of the singular male perspective in the Bahamian body politic, legacies of the politics of colonialism and the merchant elite who dominated politics in The Bahamas until 1967.Prominent Bahamian women in the Progressive Liberal Party included Effie Walkes, the unheralded strategist of the dramatic Black Tuesday incident, whose role in that historical event was captured brilliantly in the documentary, Womanish Ways, by Marion Bethel, Maria Govan and Kareem Mortimer.The fact that Effie Walkes is unheralded even to this day for her role, in comparison to the male protagonists, illustrates this blind spot in the political sociology of The Bahamas. At the time of the Constitutional Conference In 1972 the suffragists Doris Johnson, Mable Walker, Albertha Isaacs, Ethel Kemp, Madge Brown and Althea Mortimer, just to name a few, were still alive.Other prominent women in Bahamian civil society at that time included Jenny Thompson, Janet Bostwick, Judy Munroe, Pauline Allen, Susan Wallace, Telcine Turner, Margaret McDonald, Mizpah Tertullian and Eileen Carron.The lack of female representation on the Constitutional Conference is the more stunning because by 1972 the women suffragist movement had already provided The Bahamas with the template for an inclusive and bipartisan coalition to achieve universal suffrage for women in 1962.The template of an inclusive national coalition for constitutional change existed, according to Janet Bostwick. In her thoughtful essay "Bahamian History - The women suffrage movement in The Islands - then, and now: Women's struggle in The Bahamas", she wrote that the women suffrage movement "reached across partisan lines, racial and social class divides . . . started by a black woman who, after party politics was introduced in The Bahamas, was a member of the UBP, it was embraced by the PLP, it was adopted by women without party affiliation, supported by women of different races and social standing, and it was championed by progressive men."Our approach to the upcoming referendum should be framed in the context of seizing the opportunity to build a progressive national coalition of women and men of all party affiliations, without party affiliation, of different races and social standing to ensure the success of the referendum on November 6, 2014.Because Bahamian women were not engaged in the historical error of 1972, the proposed referendum of the constitution on that date will afford Bahamian women, for the first time in our history, an opportunity to be directly involved in the remaking of our constitution, exercising the hard earned right to vote gained in 1962, as members of the Constitutional Commission, members of parliament and electors, to remediate this historical error.Sir Lynden Pindling, at a colloquium on reform of the constitution convened by Michael Stevenson, Felix Bethel, Raynard Rigby and myself at the College of The Bahamas in June, 1998, presented a paper entitled "Refining the revolution".Sir Lynden, with the perspective of 36 years of an independent Commonwealth of The Bahamas during most of which he was prime minister, implicitly challenged us to correct this historical error of discriminating against Bahamian women and their children when he posed the following question: "While defining the rights of Bahamian citizens for the 21st century, don't you think favorable consideration will have to be given to the question as to whether children born outside The Bahamas to Bahamian mothers and foreign fathers should become Bahamian citizens on the same terms as children born outside The Bahamas to foreign mothers and Bahamian fathers?"
o Alfred Sears is a noted attorney, scholar and political figure who served in several Cabinet posts between 2002 and 2007. He currently serves as the chairman of The College of The Bahamas Council.
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August 14, 2014
To understand why the upcoming referendum is a long shot to succeed is to appreciate how entrenched is sexism and misogyny in the Bahamian psyche, especially that of a large number of men as well as women who have internalized a paralyzing sense of the inferiority of women.And to better understand the idea of male supremacy and privilege, root causes of misogyny and sexism, is to appreciate by analogy the nature and depth of white supremacy and privilege. Imagine the reaction of many Bahamian men, including various MPs and religious leaders, to a white American issuing this racist declaration: "As a white person God made me superior to black people.Black people should not have all the same rights that I have because of the color of my skin. History has shown that black people are inferior to whites."Yet, shockingly, this is the quintessential mindset of many Bahamian men when it comes to women. They may couch their words and even speak glowingly of loving women. But in the end, in questions ranging from full citizenship to marital rape there is a continuum of male supremacy and privilege. In their hearts and in various actions and inaction they believe that they are superior to women. God made it this way and history bears this out.
To extend the analogy, in an imagined mimic of Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller's abusive rage about beating a former girlfriend, imagine a white member of the U.S. Congress saying during the days of Jim Crow how much some slaves enjoyed getting beaten, a sign of how much attention their slave master paid to them.
Imagine if Miller had spoken of beating Haitians. South Andros MP Picewell Forbes would likely not have dissolved into mindless and body-shaking guffaws, and fellow male MPs would have condemned Miller.
Yet, when Miller bragged about his battering a woman, neither Prime Minister Perry Christie nor Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis nor DNA Leader Branville McCartney condemned his sickening boast. In so many other countries such leaders would have roundly and speedily confronted such disgraceful sexism. But not in The Bahamas! Nor, for that matter, did most of the male religious leaders in the country come to the defense of Bahamian women. This collective silence demonstrates the depth of the sexism and male supremacy in the country, from pulpit to Parliament.That depth is such that Forbes initially doggedly claimed that he had nothing to apologize for after enjoying Miller's boast of domestic abuse. He only apologized after being hammered by the press and others.
Had Miller gibed about just any other group in the country, save perhaps for gays and lesbians, he likely would have been severely criticized by Christie, Minnis, McCartney and other men who maintained a stony silence after he bragged about severely beating someone who could be a sister or friend. While race is a social construct rather than a biological reality, an individual is born with certain skin pigmentation. Correspondingly, though there are biological anomalies, we are born male or female. Further, the analogy between race and gender is highly compelling and demonstrative if not necessarily exact. The diabolical nature of racism and sexism is the pernicious belief that a class of individuals is superior because the complexion of their skin is white or because they were born with a penis.
The lie continues: One is born inferior because one has a darker complexion or is born with female genitalia. Racism and sexism are that absurd, and it is an absurdity that has fueled holocausts and genocide, as well as the subjugation of women for millennia.
The lie and the absurdity are purposeful - the domination of one group by another, insistent on their interests and privileges. The absurdity of sexism is captured in this nugget of male supremacy by Leslie Miller: "If my sister marries a foreigner, I expect for that foreigner to take her home to his country and support her. What they bringing him here for? Don't come to my country and take a job from one of my Bahamian brothers."By Miller's absurd logic Arnold Pindling should have taken his Bahamian wife back to Jamaica with the result that Lynden Pindling, whom Miller and others adore, would likely never have become leader of the PLP nor prime minister. Imagine how difficult it may have been for Sir Lynden's mother to get her Jamaican son citizenship after 1973.
The responses of many Bahamian women to the outmoded thinking of men like Miller ranges from the complicit to the baffling. Having previously failed to condemn Miller's remarks about brutalizing a woman, Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin, according to a report in The Tribune, "defended Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller against criticism of his 'personal view' on one of the constitutional amendment bills".Griffin advised: "Mr. Miller has assured me that the view he gave was his personal view, and he respects the rights of Bahamian women in the same situation to be able to make that decision. I'm confident that he supports the bill."His personal view? He is a sitting MP in the governing party. He also bragged of his personal view about battering a woman. Suppose he openly expressed a personal view about disliking white people or Haitians? It is unlikely that Griffin would react similarly in these instances. And when did Miller become such an advocate for equality and the rights of women, before or after he screamed: "That's like beating your wife or your girlfriend every time you go home. You just beat her for looking at her. I love ya. Boom, boom, boom. I had a girlfriend like that. When I didn't beat her she used to tell me I ain't love her no more 'cause I don't hit her. But seriously I had one like that. I had one..."
While the executive chairman of BEC and a union leader representing electrical workers may be on opposing sides of various issues, they are united in a certain form of benighted logic. As reported in this journal the union leader declared: "I cannot trust my daughter and granddaughter to do the right thing... I am not going to put that kind of pressure on them, not with these clowns out there; these lackluster, shiftless, trifling negroes out there. Are you crazy?" So is it okay if a Bahamian woman marries a foreign man who is Latino, white or Asian? Never mind, here we have male supremacy married to xenophobia. Bahamian women need not marry a foreigner to get hitched to "lackluster", "shiftless" and "trifling" men. There are plenty highly irresponsible men here at home, many who often abandon or fail to take care of their children, polygamous to their heart's content, while failing to live up to many of their responsibilities as men. Of note, there are many good Bahamian men struggling to be good spouses, partners, fathers and sons, as well as good citizens. The mindset of the union leader and so many other Bahamian men is that women are not as smart or as discerning or as cunning as are men. Or to put it in the language of male supremacy, "Women are too emotional, stupid, permissive, they can't think like a man."This is a curious mindset in light of the fact that the vast majority of the students at COB are women, that it is overwhelmingly women who pursue tertiary studies overseas, with most of them not returning to The Bahamas after graduation, many because of perceived greater opportunities overseas and quite a number because of the rank sexism in Bahamian society.We are supposed to believe that those many Bahamian men who found brides of convenience are somehow smarter than Bahamian women in choosing a spouse. Judgment in choosing a spouse has little to do with gender and more to do with the ability of an individual, male or female, to decide for themselves whether they choose wisely or not. Equality means that we are on a level playing field in making decisions, however they may turn out. The definition of this is freedom, equality's guardian. Equality means that there should be no superior class when it comes to democratic rights as guaranteed by the constitution.
Next week: The deficit of leadership on the referendum
o firstname.lastname@example.org, www.bahamapundit.com.
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August 13, 2014
She - her body and mind - was once owned by her slave master.She - her body and mind - is now owned by her husband, her pastor, her priest or her political leader. So, what has really changed since the abolition of slavery in The Bahamas, if Bahamian women have dropped one slave master and picked up three more by buying into the belief that the man is head of the woman? The real and unending problem of slavery is the warped mentality it left behind to be further cultivated by the inequity of a superimposed religion, and the layers of tradition and culture that emanated from it.
The very things that define our society, culture and religion, are the same things that break it down, through all of the prejudices and discriminations that go along with them.Is it in the nature of Bahamian women to be owned, controlled and cajoled by Bahamian men? Did our master forefathers do such a perfect job of dismantling our psychology to cause us to think that, for the duration of our visit on this planet, it was/is essential to be someone's property? You - Bahamian woman - you, who like nothing more than to boast about your 'independence', and how you have your own money, pay your own bills and buy your own clothes. You - who tell Beyonce to "preach, gyal", when she throws these lyrics out and her hands up.Perhaps you didn't recognize that, according to Bahamian constitutional law, you are not equal to your Bahamian man, and, therefore, you really are not Beyonce's 'independent woman', who is "always 50/50 in relationships".Perhaps, like many others (including myself until I paid attention and learned differently), you assumed that everything was fine in your Bahamas and there were no issues with the question of your inherent citizen rights and freedoms.Perhaps you (still) don't understand why it's important to be considered in law and in practice as equal to a man, because you've been brainwashed by years of religious tradition and culture which tell you that you are not and will never be because you were never meant to be.The same god you believe in, the all-powerful, ever-present, all-seeing one - the very one at the center of the belief system you hold dear that preaches male supremacy, somehow you think the love "he' has for you is worth less than the love 'he' has for your father, brother, son, uncle and other male relatives or friends. But surely 'he' could not love you equally and simultaneously hold the man in higher esteem, could 'he'?Would a god so comprehensively loving and eternally just ever pick favorites amongst 'his' children?
Why would you ever think that?
Why would that good god that taught all 'his' biblical children to stand firm - be they female/woman, male/man - not inspire the same in you today and every day? Do you think that same god would want or take delight in you being regarded as less than human compared to any man, by being the receiver of physical, sexual, and psychological turmoil and other abusive acts brought on by the mere fact that you are born a female?Because, if so, would 'he' not have to be a pretty violent and hateful god to find it alright for you to be trampled on, to be responsible for the trampling (because it's 'God's will'), and to ultimately infer that you were not worth enough, so that you were trampled on in the first place? What about the comprehensive and equal love for all 'his' children?If you could believe that same god has such a split identity, then surely you must either be mistaken about who or what 'he' is or represents, or 'he' is not what you have been made to believe all along. Which is it?But you and Beyonce stay singing about how you "depend on no one else to give you what you want", and on the other side of that tune you're waitin' around for your politician, priest, pastor and/or partner to decide your fate? Why allow them to decide your fate, when you are the vehicle for their own existences? Why allow them to decide your fate, when they will never take the blame for your fate?
Unless they are the perpetrators - which they very well could be - they won't be there the next time you get boxed in the eye or lip, punched in the ribs, cussed at, put in a chokehold, slammed in the head with a chair, held at gun-, knife-, cutlass-, bottle-, rock-, or fist- point, raped or molested in the streets or behind closed doors.And, if they're not there for all or any of those incredibly difficult and lonely moments, they certainly won't be there at the simpler but no less important times when you don't get a job, a raise, or a promotion because you have milk-producing breasts, a period, and can get pregnant. And there will be no one there but you to fight your cause.And when you or your loved ones have to stand in fear and loneliness, to deal with the problems that arise because your protections by law and by practice are not fully recognized or exercised, how would you then feel to know you could have made a difference in your daughter's, sister's, mother's, aunt's, friend's or your own life, and been protected, instead of subjected, by your politicians, police, priests, pastors and partners, if only you had made it clear to them without hesitation or reservation that for now and all time beyond now, in spite of our man-worshipped constitutional origins, the law will clearly state that you and all the women you love with the equality of 'God's love' are equal to men as human beings, with equal human rights and opportunities as the men who have, thus far, choreographed your lives in every sphere?
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August 11, 2014
A week after the celebration of Emancipation Day in The Bahamas, it would seem obsolete to have a topic such as the one above. Furthermore, a quick look at the title of this piece would have led a number of readers to form a view on the angle from which this article may have been written.
This commentary begins with reference to a popular saying that an individual is a slave to that which controls him or her. "That", as used in this sense, could be an individual, group of persons, entity, habit, vice or, more broadly, a way of thinking.
In the strict sense therefore and drawing from this saying, slavery has not truly been totally eliminated in The Bahamas but has evolved and now appears in a new form. The danger in this new dispensation is revealed when individuals seek to impose that which has them in bondage on others confirming that misery indeed likes company. This week we consider the role of 21st century slave masters and our quest for true emancipation.
The new slave masters
A new form of slavery that has reared its head in our country of late has been pronounced in the ideology of certain persons in public life or with uninhibited access to the populace due to their occupation. The new-age slave masters are not content with being masters of their enslaved selves but have sought to enslave the vulnerable among us using false teachings and misguided thoughts as their tools.
There is no doubt that individuals should take responsibility for their own destinies and should determine their own future. In pursuing this goal, they will subscribe to certain beliefs and uphold unique values. The worrisome aspect of this accepted notion occurs when a person feels that their thoughts, regardless of how unreasonable, archaic or shallow they are, represent the only truth and anything or anyone contrary is perceived as an enemy. No one but the most high God is omniscient and all-knowing, which means that no human being is the repository of all knowledge.
Shackles revealed in a debate
We had barely begun the celebration of Emancipation Day and a comprehensive debate on the proposed constitutional referendum on gender equality when the chains on the minds of some of our leaders, leadership aspirants and public commentators became obvious for all to see. Here we are at the door of history only to find that there are others that are determined to keep us in the past and maintain the status quo. They have chosen to stand in the way of progress and are determined to keep us in an age of stagnation.
During the course of the debate on the upcoming constitutional referendum, it is normal to expect supporters and opponents of the proposed amendments to make their voices heard. This is not only healthy for our nation but also a beautiful display of our democracy at work. However, persons charged with educating the public and presenting the facts should be careful not to let their personal views, especially when they are grounded in unnecessary hysteria and selfish motives, overshadow a sensible discourse on this vital subject.
Freedom from discrimination
As we consider the meaning of true emancipation, a number of questions come to mind. How can we be truly free in a country that views one gender as being superior to another? This does not suggest that the hierarchy of the traditional family as demonstrated in the Bible should be abandoned, neither does gender equality in this sense oppose that structure.
How can the men and women of this land justify the notion that Bahamian women are lesser human beings than their male counterparts? What argument can we put forward in support of maintaining an environment that discriminates against the mothers, wives and daughters of our Bahamaland?
Can we in good conscience accept the belief among some Bahamian men that we - the women of The Bahamas - are inferior to Bahamian men and are nothing more than property or chattel?
The new generation of Bahamians in general and Bahamian women in particular will not conform to this primitive mindset that seeks to perpetuate slavery in the form of discrimination based on gender in our country. We seek emancipation from an ill that has survived decades in our midst due to the deliberate actions and inaction of our leaders while we the people have accepted the current state of affairs for far too long.
Political aiding and abetting
The political class and politicos in general have been true to their colors over these years of injustice and inequality based on gender. They have played the proverbial football with a matter so critical to the future success of our country to preserve their own interests and further their selfish ambitions. Some politicians have formed an alliance either consciously or unconsciously with the new slave masters to keep the Bahamian people in bondage by adopting a divide and rule strategy. In some instances, it is sad to see that the politicians and wannabes are also the slave masters.
As the debate on gender equality intensifies, it should be made very clear to the masses that what is being generally proposed in simple terms is to grant Bahamian women the same rights as Bahamian men.
The political pundits and surrogates should rest assured that they will have their day and say in due course; they should save their theatrical performances and rhetoric for the election campaign in 2017. This is not the time for seeking political brownie points or pointing fingers. This is the time for action; the time to put our differences aside for a common loftier goal and stand on the right side of history. The time for emancipation from the 21st century slave masters in relation to gender equality is upon us and the time for action is now.
The struggle continues
It would be disingenuous to suggest that the push for amendments to our constitution to give equal rights to Bahamian women is all that is required to emancipate us from the new slave masters. The fight for equity and fairness must not end at the polls but should now be extended into our social landscape and corporate world. Bahamian women must be respected in the same manner as their male counterparts. There must be equal pay for equal work and opportunities should not be denied us because of our gender.
The clarion call for equality and fairness in the treatment of Bahamian women should not be interpreted as what it is not. Bahamian women are not seeking to replace our male counterparts but clamoring for the opportunity to hold hands with them to build our country.
The reality is that greater inclusion of women in nation building can only benefit this country we all love and the new form of slavery stands in the way of our progress as a nation.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to email@example.com.
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August 07, 2014
The subject of value-added tax (VAT) has stirred up quite a bit of discussion on social media and in the public sphere. In fact, the emails which I received were quite enlightening, informative and thoughtful. There were many more questions raised as a result and in this vein I propose to relate some of them today for consideration.
Has the Ministry of Finance been presented with alternatives to VAT? If so, did it do a proper evaluation of them? Will implementing VAT ensure that we improve efficiency and eliminate the potential for fraud with regard to government revenue collection? Why has the government operated with deficit spending for 18 of the past 21 years with the exceptions being 2000, 2001 and 2008? I should add that during the time I served in Parliament (2002 to 2007) this trend continued so I do accept responsibility for not speaking out and challenging my colleagues at the time on it.
To this end, we were either ill-informed or ill-prepared to understand the basic principles of running a government and derelict in our duties because we did not understand that successive governments could not go on spending binges without reaching a day of reckoning which is where we are today.
Why would the current Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Dr. Delisle Worrell, call VAT an anti-tourism tax and the VAT system in Barbados a mess?
Are there lessons to be learned from Barbados? Merton Moore, who headed the VAT Implementation Unit in Barbados, calls it the "Rolls-Royce of taxes; treat it with intelligence, integrity, care and respect and it is likely to reciprocate".
Will the government be bringing the VAT experts from Barbados, which is most similar in economy, culture and population to enlighten the public on VAT?
What spending cuts have been put forward as we prepare to implement VAT?
Clearly, all and sundry are aware that the government needs additional revenue. In fact, the government needs enough revenue to eliminate the deficit spending. This figure is close to half a billion dollars.
What mechanisms are in place to collect the outstanding hundreds of millions of dollars owed to the government now by taxpayers? Does anyone truly believe VAT will solve the economic issues that the country faces? Or will implementing VAT buy time with the international agencies to appear as if we are doing something to address our growing debt and deficit spending?
VAT fraud is a major concern for European countries that are well-developed and have a history of compliance. The Bahamas has a large underground economy, thousands of illegal immigrants who live outside of the law and a history of not paying taxes, and up to $400 million in uncollected taxes. How are we going to collect VAT? Further, there is the argument that every other country that has implemented VAT has used it as a slush fund to enable more spending and borrowing. What makes the Bahamas any different given our track record for running up debt?
Successive administrations have taken the easy way out and chosen to stick their heads in the sand and hope that things get better without adhering to the best financial principles for good governance. Political expedience was more likely a driving factor in the decision making and not fiscal prudence and responsibility as our current state of affairs makes the case for this argument.
The government has been lackadaisical and complacent in collecting existing taxes. Moreover, existing elected officials are setting a bad precedent by being blatantly delinquent on their own existing taxes and financial responsibilities to government agencies and corporations. This does not bode well for setting an example in a democracy nor does it help to champion an argument in support of VAT that is palatable to a majority of Bahamians. Implementing VAT without remedying the precursor is a recipe for lawlessness in the future.
Moreover, if the government is serious about tax reform, it would implement the policies of existing tax collection methods as an immediate priority.
In exploring expenditure reduction, has there been serious consideration given to public service mutuals as currently used in the United Kingdom? Also, would energy sector reform potentially raise a large revenue stream on a recurring basis for the government? How can we afford to give public servants increases in salaries when the government is operating at a deficit? In many countries around the world, governments have reduced salaries of public servants to reduce the recurrent expenditure in an effort to close the gap.
We have an indebtedness issue in the Bahamas. Eighty percent of persons with checking accounts in The Bahamas have a balance of under $1,000. Doesn't this factor into an unsuccessful VAT system reality? Are members of Parliament visiting their constituencies to listen to what the Bahamian people are saying about VAT? If they were, there would probably be a different legislative agenda. Will it be that the $30 to $40 million coming as proceeds of VAT are used through Social Services where a debit card will be issued to persons in need, the pre-qualifier for issuance conducted through Social Services and in a way that is susceptible to politics? If such is forecasted then we know what outcomes to expect. VAT will take at least 7.5 percent out of the economy. Is there a corresponding increase in gross domestic product (GDP) of say 10 percent to compensate? I know that's a big dream given the facts.
The harsh reality for The Bahamas of our current state of affairs is that our national debt has climbed from $1.1 billion in 1993 to approximately $5.2 billion at June 30, 2014. In the past seven years our national debt has more than doubled from $2.5 billion in 2007 to $5.2 billion in 2014. We accept that this cannot continue.
Further, from 2007 to 2014, the GDP of The Bahamas grew by only $1 billion. This means that in the last seven years we had stagnant growth along with excessive spending. Is VAT going to fix this problem? I put it to the ordinary person that VAT alone will not be enough. Moreover, we can find an alternative revenue stream to VAT, along with radical expense reduction and a real commitment to changing our reckless fiscal ways.
The Bahamian people want to see the government succeed but recognize that this means the government needs to operate with either balanced budgets or surpluses. If the current administration is not prepared to find and implement the solutions, which in my view do not have to include VAT, then it will be at their peril and further plunge this country into an abyss of failure the likes of which can be seen in many countries in the region.
o John Carey served as a member of Parliament 2002 to 2007 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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August 06, 2014
Tall Pine MP Leslie Miller's campaign to redeem himself following remarks he made in the House of Assembly earlier this year about brutalizing a former girlfriend were woefully unsuccessful.
Any pretense that he was a changed man in light of those sexist and misogynistic remarks were shattered last week as Miller discussed proposed constitutional changes granting women full equality.
To say that Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller is representative of a bygone unenlightened era is an understatement. His remarks reported in The Nassau Guardian were pre-modern, uninformed about the realities of the 21st century and stunningly unintelligent.
"If my sister marries a foreigner, I expect for that foreigner to take her home to his country and support her," he said.
"What they bringing him here for? Don't come to my country and take a job from one of my Bahamian brothers."
In equally poor measure, Miller referenced remarks he said a constituent made about FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner. The disparaging remarks referred to a certain physical aspect of Butler-Turner. Recall that during the last election Miller made a crude joke about Butler-Turner.
All of these comments by Miller should be placed in the context of his now infamous House remarks. They are in the same stream of thought and anachronistic thinking which made him believe that he could speak openly in Parliament about beating a woman, which he found quite funny at the time, playing to his colleagues and to his public persona.
As reported in this journal: "'That's like beating your wife or your girlfriend every time you go home. You just beat her for looking at her. I love ya. Boom, boom, boom. I had a girlfriend like that.
"'When I didn't beat her she used to tell me I ain't love her no more 'cause I don't hit her. But seriously I had one like that. I had one. She used to tell me,' he insisted as other members murmured and chuckled.
"House Speaker Dr. Kendal Major injected, 'We know that you're joking with that.'
"However, Miller said he was 'serious with that'.
"'I tell her I get tired, man,' he continued, laughing. 'My hands hurting a little bit... give me a break.'
"After a comment from a sitting member inquiring whether he was joking, he reiterated, 'I am telling you the truth. One thing I don't do is lie.'"
Now Miller has doubled-down on his sexism and misogyny. Strikingly, he managed to sound like a sexist and a xenophobe in one breathe.
"If my sister marries a foreigner, I expect for that foreigner to take her home to his country and support her."
One can imagine a cartoon of a man grabbing a woman by her hair dragging her into a cave, with the words "Home, Sweet Home" in a frame on the cave wall, as the man roars and brags, while beating his chest, "If she doesn't do what I say, I'll beat her. I is man."
What Miller is saying is that women should do exactly what a man wants. It is the man who has the agency and the will, while women are to be passive. Miller seems to believe that women should shut up and do what the man says, with as little choice as possible.
The fact that women and men are both breadwinners in most of the West and increasingly in other parts of the world today seems irrelevant to Miller. He lives in a world which no longer exists, just like most sexists and misogynists, upset that the era of men subjugating women is fast slipping away.
Miller also seems woefully out of touch with the reality of the modern Bahamas where the primary breadwinners in most families are women. Today scores of Bahamian wives and partners are providing more income for their families than are their male counterparts.
The clearly insular Miller also seems to ignore the reality of globalization, a significant feature of which is the movement of human capital. Today, educated and professional modern couples are deciding together where they want to live and raise a family.
Millions of men around the world have moved to their wives' home countries, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it is the woman who may have a higher paying job or that her home country may afford a family a better quality of life.
Should these men pack up and return to their home countries? Of course, that would be absurd, as absurd as Miller's ranting.
There are many Bahamian men who have moved to their wives' country. Would Miller have them all pack up and return home?
Moreover, there are many fine men who relocated to The Bahamas after marrying Bahamian women. They have contributed significantly to the country in their professions ranging from medicine to the foreign service, and they have been generous in their community service. Should these men also pack up and leave?
What makes Miller's comments even more, to put it politely, befuddling, is that in The Bahamas overwhelmingly more women are attaining tertiary degrees. This is true at COB as it is at tertiary institutions overseas.
A report by the Inter-American Development Bank dramatizes a critical developmental challenge, which Miller's unenlightened thinking will not help.
As reported in The Tribune: "Almost two-thirds of college and university-educated Bahamians have moved abroad to seek jobs in developed countries, costing this nation a sum equivalent to 4.4 percent of annual gross domestic product (GDP).
"The so-called 'brain drain' was highlighted in a newly released Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report, which noted that 61 percent of tertiary-educated Bahamians had left this nation for jobs in Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) member countries.
"The study, 'Is there a Caribbean Sclerosis', which attempts to determine why economic growth in The Bahamas and five other regional nations has been stagnating, effectively suggests this nation is losing its 'best and brightest' minds to other economies.
"This, in turn, has major implications for the productivity, innovation and creativity of Bahamian firms and the wider economy, all areas where it is suggested this nation is not as competitive as it might be.
"The IDB report's authors, Inder Ruprah, Karl Melgarejo, and Ricardo Sierra, summed it up thus: 'The Caribbean countries have lost more than 70 percent of their labor force with more than 12 years of schooling through emigration.'"
This brain-drain which is making the country less competitive and helping to stagnate the economy is made up mostly of women. There is much that needs to be done to attract these women to return home to offer their talents and expertise.
One such measure is the proposed constitutional change. Bahamian women will be able to automatically pass on their citizenship to their children as is the standard practice in the vast majority of countries.
Bahamian women living overseas, thinking of returning home, would not want the added hassle of a potentially drawn-out and cumbersome process to pass on citizenship to their children born overseas.
Bahamian women at home and abroad must largely be appalled by the thinking of Leslie Miller, who jokes about beating women and who seems to think that a woman is a mere appendage to a man, with little to say about where she should live and help to raise her family.
The Tribune story continued: "The IDB study gives no explanation as to why 61 percent of Bahamian tertiary graduates head abroad, although the likely reasons include the fact many of them stay overseas when their college degrees are completed; the narrowness of the Bahamian economy and opportunities at home; and a lack of information about openings in The Bahamas.
"Still, the findings have worrying implications for The Bahamas, as they indicate an entire generation of entrepreneurs and top-level managers may be heading abroad, never to return. And with Baha Mar set to create 5,000 extra jobs, and other major investment projects coming on stream, this nation needs all the top-quality labor it can get."
Leslie Miller and those of a similar view may live in the past as much as they wish, and keep their heads and minds buried in the sands of yesteryear. In so doing, they will not only retard progress for women. Their views may also help to keep the country back in terms of economic growth, innovation, entrepreneurship and the fuller emancipation of women.
o email@example.com, www.bahamapundit.com.
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August 06, 2014
By now, many of us have seen the photographs of Prime Minister Perry Christie and Haitian President Michel Martelly's tender moments with background players V. Alfred Gray and Fred Mitchell. Ah boy, yes we have.
I won't use this opportunity to discuss whether or not the Haitian people are justified in their attempts to flee their country in search of a better life in ours, or if we wouldn't do the same if roles were reversed. That's a lengthier discussion for another day.
I don't want to debate which nationality of people make the best or worst group of illegal immigrants to have in our country, or how many nationalities and varieties there are, or how many different languages we should learn so we can communicate with them.
I don't want to address (yet) the reported $232 million comment allegedly made by Martelly, wherein he is said to have specifically suggested that we take money in that amount, sort used-to-purchase defense force vessels for our border patrol, and invest the sum instead in Haiti's economy, because I have not seen the video clip of him actually saying that.
However, I am more particularly interested in taking a closer look at the behavior of our prime minister (and other ministers of government) at the House of Assembly love-fest during the Haitian president's recent visit to The Bahamas, considering the prevailing reason for his visit.
It would seem to me, notwithstanding the wide and bright smiles and camaraderie of the day between all involved, that such a clowning session constitutes inappropriate conduct for leaders meeting on our country's most vexing, debilitating issue of illegal immigration, which contributes directly to our other plaguing issues of outstanding crime levels and the overburdening and degradation of our health, education and social welfare systems.
Yes, pleasantries and cordiality are expected in the world of politics, even welcome. Amicability of political figures is an important trait, especially for the occasions of diplomacy and state visits in and by all countries. But, in the seriousness of our times, are the jokes and the love-fests warranted?
One 'true, true' Bahamian asked, "Why black folk gatta skin teet so?" Is there anything we don't feel inclined to 'tun up'? Isn't this boyish behavior exhibited by Christie to Martelly misrepresentative and unbecoming of a prime minister sitting on the illegal immigration hot seat?
Does it not send the wrong, maybe worst possible, message to Bahamian citizens, in the midst of a social crisis that seems to have no end or abatement in sight?
These big, grown men engage in hilarity when we have an epic crisis on our hands, with one of them representing the source of the crisis; somehow there is ample opportunity for the biggest, sweetest jokes to be told.
Switching the lens
Do other world leaders conduct themselves in this manner when they meet to discuss their potentially destructive policies and practices on one another's country? When was the last time we saw President Barack Obama and President Enrique Pena Nieto shucking and jiving and balling, in the wake of talks centered on Mexican immigrants' nonstop infiltration of America?
Did Australia bust out laughing with the Indian leaders, when they delivered their 'Do not arrive illegally (by boat) or you will not be allowed to stay' message, in fulfillment of their mandate to properly manage the protection of their borders? Oh, that's right. They didn't. And therefore they don't have the vastly disproportionate illegal immigration problem that we do; they actually reinforce their words with their actions.
So, it's just us, then, with our perpetual 'limin' and 'tun up' sessions, who don't get that the real joke is not realizing that this situation cannot be a laughing matter - at any time.
Digging a little further into the performance, the reported reason for Martelly's visit was, in part, to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would permit trade in produce from Haiti to The Bahamas. Well, in a word, why? What was BAMSI for, again? Was it not created to begin, in earnest, a means of supplying The Bahamas with its own produce, leading the nation to greater self-sufficiency? And isn't BAMSI the crowning achievement of Christie's work? What am I missing? Does this agreement with Haiti mean that BAMSI is already going down the toilet?
President Martelly gave four particular and provoking comments when interviewed in Parliament Square.
Firstly, he told us that Haitians are looking for "a better place to live". We've heard this; even though we continue to hear also that Haiti is not as poor and destitute as most believe it is, and therefore their people should have no real reason for wanting to leave and choose instead to stay and build their country.
Not surprisingly, we want a better place to live, too, starting with our own country, and we're trying to do what we can to make it better before we immigrate to another. But, the thing is, we usually get qualified first before infiltrating a nation and we tend not to squat illegally on other people's land, en mass - at least not illegally anyway - to have a better place to live. Come see us rolling up into Florida and just setting up house and shop with no kind of papers for anything. Say what now? Oh yes - deportation.
Another statement Martelly made was "We (the Haitian government) feel like we're responsible for not doing enough". (But, wait, you are. No?) He elaborated further by telling viewers and listeners how the Haitian government has drastically reduced the numbers of people living in tents since the catastrophic earthquake four and one half years ago, as if it were a special favor. But, sir, removing your people from tents and having nowhere for them to go still points them in the direction of the nearest exit from Haiti. What about that blockade we really need more than produce from Haiti, situated at the northern point of Haiti and other hot spots of sloop departure, to arrest the problem at the source before it becomes someone else's, namely The Bahamas'? Goodness knows, President Martelly, you have enough people to create such a barrier and more still to rigidly enforce it.
The Haitian president also suggested that The Bahamas should invest in Haiti, "creating wealth among Haitians". But it is unclear why he is so convinced that we should, or could; how is the creation of wealth amongst citizens of another country our responsibility or priority above our own? And does the converse of this statement suggest further that, should we not decide to invest in Haiti, then the Haitian government will make no attempts to interrupt the illegal migration of its people to our country?
Our own Bahamian government is barely helping Bahamians to create wealth, real wealth, real ownership, long-term prosperity, for Bahamians. Why should The Bahamas government do it for anyone else first, when their own nation, economy, society is crumbling? This backward approach is precisely the reason for our country's retarded development.
We need our own investors. It's nice to trade when it's mutually beneficial for countries to do so, but we have yet to create avenues within our own country's borders to facilitate industry that is beneficial to our own people, and our own government and wealthy Bahamians don't naturally see fit to invest in us. So, perhaps, let us first put on our own life vests and oxygen masks, then we can help the passengers next to us.
Finally, President Martelly lamented "what is the right formula to prevent" Haitians from risking their lives to emigrate illegally to The Bahamas? But is it really as scientifically difficult as he makes it seem? Is there a special formula, only one formula? If we never take decisive action to stem the scourge, will it ever be prevented?
Flashback to the pirate inhabitants of our Bahamas, who, without the aid of modern technology and with distinctly fewer people to do the job, had effective systems to monitor who landed on the island(s), and stopped such landings before they occurred, albeit by cannon or other fire from fort to sea, or they met their 'visitors' at the shoreline.
With all the intelligence and contemporary tools at our disposal, this issue appears more and more to be an issue not primarily of illegal immigrants' unwillingness to remain in their home country, but rather an issue of a severe and disturbing lack of will on the part of both the Haitian and Bahamian governments to stop this influx which continues unabated after many decades.
Whether or not you sympathize with the plight of illegal immigrants, if you've ever studied some amount of history on any country, step back for a minute and use that bit of knowledge as your looking glass. And even with this knowledge it is difficult to see what's happening as it is happening, unless you observe every moment it develops in historic sequence.
Do you think any of the many peoples of the world who were about to be conquered, outnumbered or wiped out (physically decimated or forcibly relocated) over the span of decades or centuries, ever really saw it coming?
Some might say it's alarmist to think this way, but I say it's historic. It is the story of the Arawaks and the colonizers all over again, except our infiltrators aren't bringing royal gifts from the king or queen to 'trade' with us; they're now asking us to pay for our own demise.
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August 04, 2014
o First published August 6, 2013
The United Kingdom passed an act abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire 180 years ago. The act effectively ended slavery on August 1, 1834; however, due to the apprenticeship program, full freedom never came until 1838, during which time slave masters were required to teach slaves how to work and survive for themselves. This period was intended to ensure a smooth transition for the freed slaves, allowing them to adapt to a life of independence. The magnitude of this event explains the fact that Emancipation Day is widely commemorated throughout the Caribbean annually.
Confronting the shackles on our minds
The phrase "emancipate yourself from mental slavery" was coined by pan-Africanist Marcus Mosiah Garvey and later popularized by Jamaican artist Bob Marley in his rendition of the track "Redemption Song". Through his words, Garvey articulates the notion that human beings are responsible for freeing their own minds from mental bondage, despite having been physically freed by their oppressors. Implicitly, his words admonish us to think for ourselves, take stock of our own reality and draw conclusions on how we can best achieve positive, fruitful and productive results.
In today's society, the media plays a major role in shaping our thought process through music, dance, film, the Internet and other news outlets. Regrettably, the convenience offered by the media and technology appears to have stifled the exercise of our beautiful and indomitable minds, resulting in the average human being unwilling to think for him or herself. In the workplace, some have become comfortable and complacent in deferring to their bosses to think on their behalf. Congregants in religious establishments have, in some cases, also abdicated their prerogative to think or study to their leaders, while the populace seems to be content with the responsibility for government policy and national development being vested solely in our political leaders with little or no input from the people most impacted by the same.
The path to full liberty
The freedom from physical shackles is but a first step toward true emancipation. Indeed, true emancipation is nothing more than an illusion without the emancipation of our minds; mental liberty will only come with a paradigm shift in our thinking. The famous quote that "knowledge is power" holds much message in our quest because the acquisition of knowledge enables us to discern for ourselves and sets us on the path for true emancipation. Further, love for ourselves and clear understanding of our true calling and purpose in life positions us for a fulfilling destiny and an opportunity to achieve set goals through focus, ambition and determination.
It is true that of all the things that men can acquire in this world, there is no guarantee that they will not lose them at some point in time. However, knowledge attained stays with one forever, and despite life's ups and downs and the challenges and losses that we may face, the same knowledge that we attained to achieve some lost possessions can be retrieved once more by applying our knowledge through lessons learned in life either formally or informally. This reality is embodied in the following words of Henry Ford: "If money is your hope for independence, you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability."
Adopted philosophies and boundaries
The passage of the Abolition of Slavery Act paved the way for our physical freedom, a first step in the process of revealing to us that we were not less than our masters, but that we deserved equality. Truly, this is one of the major desires of mankind - equality in all that we do. About 120 years after the abolition of slavery, the journey toward majority rule in The Bahamas commenced. This journey filled with all of its struggles took several decades but ultimately set the foundation for both political and economic freedom. This journey continued until the Bahamian people experienced the rebirth of our nation with the attainment of political independence in 1973. Alas, economic freedom still evades us although we continue our voyage as a people toward this goal.
As we celebrate the 180th anniversary of the passage of the aforesaid act, one cannot help but wonder whether we, the Bahamian people, are enslaved to another's mindset. Garvey had rightly postulated that "the man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind". The next chapter of our history must be written with greater participation of every one of us using the gift of our minds to pull ourselves from a dependent society to trailblazing and independent powerhouses.
The positioning of Bahamians
The next era in our existence requires a sense of pride in being a Bahamian.
Entrenched in this pride is appreciating all things Bahamian and understanding that we are capable of ruling ourselves in all forms and on all levels - that we ourselves are the masters and rulers of our own destiny.
The term 'Bahamians first' must not only be a proclamation, but also a fact and should be evidenced in our policies and programs without destroying the essence of capitalism. This is bearing in mind that there is no other place on Earth where Bahamians can be kings and queens other than in The Bahamas. In this sense, we as the people of this land, and our leaders must work together to renew the minds and shape the destiny and future of successive generations of Bahamians.
The concessions granted to investors should promote economic development and the empowerment of Bahamians. As Bahamians begin to stretch their minds and broaden their thinking, the government must roll out the red carpet to accommodate our ideas and dreams. The government and private sector in partnership will determine the content of our scorecard on economic empowerment over the next 40 years. The Bahamian people have built these walls with their sweat and tears and with minimal ownership thereof; the time to possess has come.
One common purpose
The clarion call to begin the process to free our minds is a general one. However, while we all must play a part in this metamorphosis, our political leaders must be a driving force of this paradigm shift and new environment. The government must effectively communicate its plan to advance the economy, working with the private sector and other stakeholders. Our economic policies and national institutions must be conducive to the average Bahamian progressing and being all that he or she can be. Then and only then will more Bahamians be able to live the Bahamian dream.
The major feats accomplished in our existence as a nation have been made possible due to the cooperation and working together of people of diverse races, backgrounds, political affiliations and social status. Political leaders have also been a part of our past struggles. Hence, the meeting of minds and unity of purpose is important to drive the emancipation from mental slavery and the achievement of economic empowerment for all Bahamians. In the final analysis, we share a common purpose for justice, equity, education, security and equal opportunity for our people. Our shared values are enough to unite us and make true emancipation a reality in our commonwealth. Happy Emancipation Day!
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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August 02, 2014
I have not visited Kuala Lumpur as yet, but I am a fan of Malaysia and its neighbor city-state of Singapore. I have often featured in this column my admiration for the fact that Malaysia and Singapore might be the only nations in the world that systematically applied the concept of development as prescribed by Ernest Renan.
A strong army that teaches the virtues of civism and serves as a tool for the government in its nation-building process, a government that prevents the practice of nomads in the homeland by investing in strong institutions and excellent infrastructure everywhere and fostering the building of a consensus to help those left behind, these are the techniques that put Malaysia in the front line of emerging countries.
The coup is so much more encouraging since both Malaysia and Singapore are Muslim countries. It was not supposed to be such. Muslim countries, in general, are hotbeds of internal conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites, between Christians and Muslims, between autocratic leaders and the young population seeking education, jobs and self-realization.
Malaysia was pursuing its peaceful and non-eventful life to its zenith until one of its Boeings, Flight MH370, vanished from planet Earth on March 8, 2014, with no trace in the sea or in the ground. The search is still on, in spite of the fact that more than four months have revealed no important debris clues that could lead to a path of resolution.
Now Malaysian Airlines is again on the front page of global news these days, with some 300 people dead, another Boeing, Flight MH17, having been shot down on July 17, 2014, by a missile allegedly pointed by the insurgents against the government of Ukraine supported by the Russians.
It was a routine flight from Amsterdam, Holland, on that Thursday when the Malaysian Airlines flight left for Asia seeking a route that would lead to its destination in a safe but fast way. Permission was sought and received to fly over Ukraine. Suddenly a missile hit the plane. According to the best explanation, it was done by Rambo freedom fighters under the influence of separatists backed by Russia.
I am crying for Malaysia in spite of the fact that most of the victims of the first incident were Chinese travelers and Dutch citizens were the most prominent victims of the second tragedy.
Malaysia could fit the description of the destination where Christopher Columbus was trying to get to when he sailed by accident to the Western Hemisphere in 1492. It had porcelain and spices in quantity. The strait of Malay that forms a giant lake that links Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia with Malaysia, is now one of the most active and most successful regions of the world. Collectively they are called the Asian Tigers.
While the British established the West Indies Company in the Caribbean, they established around 1786 the East Indies Company in the Malaysia region. They imported Chinese and Indians to Malaya to mine the plantations of rubber and pursue the exploitation of tin. It had been a British possession until the Japanese expansion that took control of the land in 1942. The defeat of the Japanese in World War II brought Malaysia back under the protectorate of the British. On August 31, 1957, the Federation of Malaya took birth under the leadership of his first Prime Minister Abdul Rahman in the leadership style of Prime Minister Lee of Singapore. He set out to create a nation hospitable to all "which is blessed with good institutions forged and tempered to perfection by successive British administrations".
Malaysia has a market but strongly directed state economy using a five-year plan system that corrects or implements the minus and the plus to bring the country from a per capita GDP of $8,100 in 2009 to $17,200 in 2014. With a population hovering around 30 million (29,768,915 people in an area of 329,847 square kilometers), the country has moved effectively from a commodities led economy in rubber and palm oil to a multi-sectoral economy that produces electrical goods such as solar panels and other technology products, as well as services, mainly in medical tourism. It now has a plan to be a completely self-sufficient industrialized nation by 2020. This plan is advancing so well, the targeted date has been shortened to 2018.
I am crying for you Malaysia, because the omens against you may seem to threaten derailing your path towards self-economic independence. Akin to the brand Singapore, the brand Malaysia mixed with the experience in Turkey might be the best cocktail for recovery in the countries that emerge from the Spring Revolution in the Arab world. Whether the gods are sailing with Malaysia or not, this troika should press forward to make a bloc and spread the gospel of hospitality for all as the best formula for development.
The raging fire in the Gaza strip, the demonstrations in Cairo or Tripoli can find a suitable fire-fighting agent if they can align themselves with the governments of these three countries to get the ABC that peace in the land starts with the value of each citizen on the land, whether Shiite or Sunni, Christian or Muslim, Jew or Muslim.
In the meantime, oh Malaysia, as a Christian, I will pray to St. Michael and St. Dominic, and also to St. Christopher that you shall sail into continuous glory with no more international incidents over which you have no control and for which there are no clues as to why they must fall into the land of the hibiscus.
o Jean H. Charles, LLB MSW, JD, is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: email@example.com and followed at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti. This is published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.
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