July 24, 2014
With all the talk of value-added tax (VAT) and huge deficits and the need for revenue, there needs to be more talk about curbing expenditure, cutting costs and reducing the size of the civil service. We have a largely inefficient public sector that is draining the public purse and everyone has dodged this elephant in the room for far too long.
There has to be public sector reform which addresses inefficiency and wasteful spending. For those who ask why I didn't speak about such things when I was in front line politics, the truth is when you are so caught up with trying to appease the voters, you sometimes make decisions that are wrong for the country because of political expediency.
I can speak more freely as I am not currently seeking public office nor do I care about popularity or opinions of voters. I leave that for the politicians who oftentimes are more concerned about re-election than doing what is best for the country.
We cannot tax ourselves out of the financial mess the country is in. We have to consider reducing public expenditure. This also means no freeloading government jobs, eradication of non-essential consultancies, open and transparent tendering processes, a willingness to be candid and honest with the electorate and a commitment to a zero tolerance approach to corruption at any level it exists in the public sector. If politicians have to face prosecution and be imprisoned for doing wrong, we have to move forward and ensure that justice applies to all regardless of title.
The belief that the political arena is the solution to all of our problems is a misguided one. The private sector has to step up to the plate to increase investments and create opportunities as the public sector improves efficiency. Timelines must be set and deadlines met for all matters related to public services. This requires a paradigm shift in the thinking of our people and a behavioral change in all that we do.
I know that for many, this trend of thought is utopia and you don't wish to hear about it or do anything to change. Simply put, you love the pork barreling that allows you to live off the sweat of your fellow citizens because you do not care. Many simply don't want to do what is right and are quite content with pretending in church every Saturday or Sunday while you plunder the public purse and sink us into deeper financial ruin. And while there is enough finger-pointing to go around, the buck must stop with someone. Why not let it stop with you? Why not start to make a difference and live up to the tenets of honesty, decency and integrity to help the public sector reduce expenditure?
Notice I am not referring to any personal moral agenda as our personal lives are just that, personal. I am specifically focusing on bringing public sector expenditure down to a level that is needed to keep our country operational. What has been the impact of public sector reform in The Bahamas? Has there been an analysis by every government ministry, department, government corporation and authority to determine what can be outsourced completely to the private sector? Have we had a review of the public sector to see how we can reduce expenditure by five percent? What services can we give up in the public sector to reduce our deficit?
When we drill down on those budget allocations, what amount is being padded to facilitate politics as usual? Are the quantity surveyors analyses for all projects accurate? Are the financial audits of the government entities up to date and are recommendations being monitored and implemented on a month-by-month basis by department heads, directors and permanent secretaries?
Are we prepared to ensure that government vehicles are parked at 5 p.m. and only essential services are operating government vehicles after normal working hours in an effort to reduce fuel costs? What percentage of accidents of government vehicles occurs after hours and who is paying the cost for those repairs?
Taxing the Bahamian people when there is inefficiency and wastage in the public service is like filling a cup with water while there is a hole at the bottom of the cup. It's simply not going to work and a Freedom of Information Act needs to be brought into effect right away to assist the public in monitoring how its funds are being spent. Why should you and I have to wait for the "garbage can" receipt of information from persons in the public sector who only leak things when they get upset?
And what about whistleblower's legislation? We need to bring legislation that protects persons who report wrongdoing in the public sector. Do we have a complaints commissioner or ombudsman office? The excuses for not having these things in place are as old as the history of The Bahamas. We must not tolerate this slap-happy approach to governance because there is nothing that is good about such a thing. I once heard a Bahamian statesman say, "There is nothing good about the governance in the Bahamas." I can't say that he is entirely correct, but I also cannot say that he is incorrect.
We have much work to do to make this country better and it requires people who are not intellectually deficient. This country cannot take chances with nonsense when it comes to the key decisions that will affect us eliminating the deficit spending which is literally killing you and your children and your grandchildren. Before this generation can have a start in life, inflationary costs will wipe out the investments intended to improve their education. Is this The Bahamas that we want to march on with? I am of the view that we have a lot of bright and credible persons in the government and opposition alike who can make a difference. Time will surely tell!
o John GF Carey served as a member of Parliament 2002- 2007 and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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July 24, 2014
Pope Francis has met privately with a Sudanese woman who arrived in Italy after escaping a death sentence in Sudan for refusing to recant her Christian faith...
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July 24, 2014
Yesterday, Prime Minister Perry Christie and his governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP)...
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July 24, 2014
Prime Minister Perry Christie either has an irrepressible sense of humor or he dwells mostly in the realm of make-believe and delusion.
With a disastrous do-little term from 2002 to 2007, in significant ways an even worse two and a half years in his current term, having at minimum doubled-down on the mistakes of his last term, Christie declared that he has learned from his previous tsunami of mistakes.
By this benchmark, when might he learn from the mistakes that he's now racking up on seemingly a weekly basis? Perhaps, conservatively, by 2022?
This is not the first time, nor is it likely to be the last, of Christie addressing the same entrenched pattern of outsized mistakes that bedevil his administrations. He pleaded similarly at a PLP convention during his last term, then continued to repeat the same mistakes.
In opposition from 2007 to 2012, Christie again offered a mea culpa, promising to do better if re-elected. And yet here we are again in terms of the same mistakes, yet another admission of mistakes, and a promise to do better.
For himself Christie is no longer the prime minister of second chances, he is the man of third, fourth, fifth chances and counting. No one is perfect and leaders will make mistakes. Yet, Christie keeps repeating the same grievous mistakes, perhaps some unwittingly and some quite wittingly.
The clarifying problem is that Christie appears not to appreciate the differences between mistakes on the one hand, and habits and patterns of error on the other. It is Christie's entrenched poor habits and patterns of governance that have caused him to lose credibility among the vast majority of Bahamians, most of whom did not vote PLP at the last election because of a loss of trust in Christie.
Christie is so accomplished at make-believe and artifice that he often seems to believe his own fantastical propaganda. He brands himself a "great democrat" while leading an administration allergic to transparency and accountability in areas ranging from the awarding of contracts to conducting a National Intelligence Agency with no legal foundation.
Christie today is like a wizard whose verbal incantations, bag of magic tricks, spells and talismans have begun to fail him, no longer mesmerizing audiences, most of whom long ago saw through the make-believe.
So Christie grows more dramatic and more desperate in his increasingly failing bid to cast a spell over the public imagination. Now we are told to expect "dramatic economic developments" in the next 18 months.
Recall that Christie said much of the same in his last term. Remember those billions and billions of dollars in investments that never materialized. At some point we were up to approximately $20 billion in possible foreign direct investment.
Let's not forget all those anchor projects all over the country which never materialized, remaining mostly in the overactive imagination of the prime minister.
It would be a useful exercise to review the number and nature of "new" developments which are a continuation of projects already underway by past FNM administrations.
Recall too that Christie solemnly promised a mortgage relief program that disappeared in a puff of smoke and mirrors excuses soon after the PLP returned to office. He promised to double the national investment in education. Instead he cut public investment in education. Another promise bites the dust.
At an event earlier this week, the 'Talker-in-Chief' seemed stunned as to why scores of Bahamians no longer buy his overcharged and preposterous rhetoric: "I don't know why people don't listen to me and understand when I speak of optimism as to the economy, and when I go to a budget communication and I speak specifically about what is happening in The Bahamas".
Christie has broken so many pledges that when he actually fulfills a pledge many Bahamians are stunned. He has offered so much fluff that it is difficult to know what to believe of what he says.
Even as the government failed to institute a mortgage relief program and more homeowners lost their dreams and homes, Christie looked into his crystal ball and said that he saw a wonderful new world on the horizon.
Not to be outdone, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis says that the Ministry of Works alone has already helped to produce those 10,000 new jobs he promised. If Christie deserves an "LOL", Davis' claim evokes an "LMBO", a Bahamianized version of a popular online abbreviation.
But back to the "wizard-in-chief". Consider the ongoing disaster that is the Leslie Miller saga. With the trauma that Miller caused Christie and the PLP during their last term, one would have thought that the prime minister may have learned his lesson about the current BEC chairman.
First, Miller caused extraordinary fallout with his claim to have viciously battered a former girlfriend. Christie's non-response on the highly sensitive issue of domestic violence made matters worse.
Now Miller has acted quite improperly while serving as chairman. He owed huge sums to the corporation. He is reported to favor certain PLP cronies, allowing them to run up huge bills at BEC.
He paid a part of his outstanding bill in cash in contravention to corporation policy, while claiming that he didn't know that what he was doing was wrong. The payment now appears to be under investigation.
Yet for endless weeks the prime minister remained silent, only seemingly breaking his silence because the Miller matter and Christie's studied silence are doing great damage to Christie and the PLP's standing.
Christie says he will order a probe into the matter. Considering past probes Christie ordered, we shouldn't hold our breath for results or follow-up. For easy reference see Mohammed Harajchi and Peter Nygard.
Still, considering what is unfolding with Miller this term, what exactly is the mistake from his last administration which Christie has learned? Meanwhile, Christie is working furiously to convince himself of something which few believe: "There is a fundamental difference between this time and 2007. The difference is I knew the mistakes I made in 2007 and I'm going to ensure, whether I'm there or not, that this grouping have learnt from those mistakes."
The main reason that "this grouping" will likely not learn from their mistakes is because this prime minister lacks control of most of his Cabinet, is loathed to discipline them, is largely incapable of leading by example, and is often ignored by his colleagues.
The quote was reported in The Tribune even as the headline in The Nassau Guardian the same day was a stinging rebuke to Christie's claim and to his leadership. The matter concerns the open disrespect for Christie by much of his Cabinet, a replay of his previous term in office.
Once again, Christie has not learned the lesson of a wayward Cabinet, which helped to defeat his government the last time. Here we go again.
This time it was the deputy prime minister, which is not a constitutionally mandated post, noting that he still needs to review the improper signing of a letter of intent by Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works Renward Wells, despite Christie reportedly having already requested the former's resignation.
To state the obvious, it is the prime minister who causes the appointment of ministers and parliamentary secretaries. Yet here was Davis talking about conducting his own investigation, which the works minister seemingly wants to press quite hard. One can only wonder why.
There appears to be more to the Wells story, seemingly entangled in the vortex of conflicting interests and the Christie-Davis struggle for power. Meanwhile, Christie's lose grip on his Cabinet continues, resulting in a government of wide scale dysfunction and questionable actions.
By example, the matter of the nolle prosequi granted by Acting Attorney General Jerome Fitzgerald to a former client of Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, while she was out of the country, remains deeply disturbing.
Still, Christie's ministers know that they have little to fear of him by way of discipline, so they generally run their affairs and their fiefdoms as they wish, with little accountability to the prime minister.
Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe presses the gambling and gaming issue as he will, with Christie often left to play catch-up. So it goes from ministry to ministry with all manner of collective irresponsibility and little oversight.
This is precisely what helped to defeat Christie the last time. But instead of mostly blaming his ministers, as he did previously, he has no one to blame but himself, both now and back when.
Christie says that he's learned from his mistakes. If so - and that is a highly questionable proposition - his learning curve is as steep as Mount Everest.
To complete the metaphor: Christie seems still at the foot of the mountain, still procrastinating, researching and appointing committees to suggest to him how he might climb Everest even as his time is running out, with the patience of most Bahamians long ago exhausted by a failing performance in which only Christie and a few diehards may still believe.
o email@example.com, www.bahamapundit.com.
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July 23, 2014
Fuming and trying hard not to cuss, I dialed Guardian Radio hoping that, at six minutes to 9 a.m. when the show was about to end and I should have really been walking out my door to get somewhere for the same time, I could still get through to say my piece on the topic. After seven busy signals, I finally broke into the conversation and the producer sent me straight to air. I was so incensed, I only greeted the host and forgot to bid a good morning to the co-host and guests in-studio.
You see, when I am really angry or extremely impassioned, all my words fight for simultaneous, rapid expulsion. When this happens, I can only do one of two things: whisper or holler. There's no middle ground for my volume, once I am infuriated. Yet, on that morning, I managed to maintain my composure just long enough to whisper the necessary words in the few minutes of talk time remaining on my favorite talk show, before the whisper became a roar.
I was so excited that this particular radio station, heavily laden with male presenters, was bringing a program that was women-focused to the air waves. And, I was told that the new host they were interviewing on the morning show was experienced and 'no-nonsense', so I was looking forward to the possibility of honest and sufficiently uncensored conversations about women's issues. I could even become a 'chronic caller', because I have so much to say already.
But, that morning, I was stumped and stunned at the fact that the women representing in the studio had already submitted to the negativity and ignorance of one ridiculous caller who was clearly anti-woman and didn't think the new show should even exist. Why he takes the time to call Guardian Radio on a regular basis when he's so displeased with the station's shows must be something logical only to a certain Bahamian mindset.
In spite of his inane accusations, the women, in the moment, had allowed this man to bulldoze them, in an attempt to be politically correct, when they should have instead stood their ground and taken him to school on this issue.
He accused the new show and host of being feminist, but it was clear he does not know the definition of the word, and/or is himself not a feminist. What should have been clarified for him immediately following his remark, and with great pride, is that the show was entirely feminist and intended to be, as its tag line suggests: 'From a woman's perspective'.
Who are the feminists?
What Inane Caller and many others do not understand is that feminism is not an undesirable thing. A feminist is not a bad type of person to be, and, for the sake of the mass improvement of our world, everyone should be a feminist. A feminist also does not equate to a lesbian, though I'm sure some lesbians are feminists, as they should be by their own definition. And feminists are not inherently male-bashers.
Feminists are female, but they are male, too. Many triumphs have been won for women because of the commitments of men to women's causes. In actuality, there are many men, sadly, who are more feminist than some women, and who will fight on behalf of all women when women themselves will lie down and be trampled on instead of standing up for their own rights and equality.
A feminist is any person who supports the full equality of females and males anywhere in the world.
So, I'm thinking, if this rascal caller wanted to use the word 'feminist', he really ought to have learned the definition of it first. And I'm disappointed that my fellow women and men in the studio did not preconceive this challenge before the show opened and developed their game plan on how to rebut it.
I'm further disappointed that all in studio did not own up (sooner) to the title of feminist while simultaneously educating the uninformed caller on a matter about which he was distinctly misguided. They fell into his trap within a matter of seconds, and it is a setback which requires an immediate and convincing comeback.
When you're fighting this battle for womankind, in Bahamian culture or anywhere else, you have to come out swinging - not viciously, but boldly, and you have to be ready to punch back against the onslaught, because you are already identified as a biased troublemaker and negative people will begin this conversation by throwing blows at you.
It's no secret to anyone, male or female, that women, by virtue of their gender, are marginalized in every society of the world, obviously some far worse than others. The ways in which this injustice happens in India, for example, may be very different from its manifestations in Iceland. And the treatment of women in New Zealand may be quite unlike the treatment of women in The Bahamas. But just because a woman isn't being sexually or physically assaulted, getting raped or beaten, it doesn't mean she's not being discriminated against, or that her needs, hopes, ambitions, desires and opportunities are not being smothered or reduced to second class importance.
Cultural deficiencies, low expectations
The very manner in which our Bahamian/Caribbean/Western society is structured creates the distinctions between men and women, which, for decades and centuries, we have observed and continue to observe as norms and which in turn create root biases and the reduction of the status of women, particularly in contrast to men.
(Bahamian) men are taught that marriage to a woman gives them ownership of that woman. They are conditioned to believe that men are meant to possess a wife, a family and a household, and be in charge of them all, such that the man is the apex of the home, and his meals must be prepared, and he must be waited on, and his clothes and his house must be cleaned by the wife (or the daughters or the maid, also female). And all of this is because it is the way it was 'intended to be'. As long as you have a religion that is based in Christianity, as the majority of Bahamians, Afro-Caribbeans and Westerners do, a man is always first, or at the top, and the woman is relegated to second position, from where she should support the man no matter what.
Why do we think, then, that women are continually regarded as the lesser gender of humankind? In spite of the work they do in their families, communities and countries, their leadership and contributions to progress are not as respected as the leadership of men. And it is such an established norm that women themselves propagate it.
For what other reason could a Bahamian man feel so correct in saying "How much more rights do Bahamian women want or need?"
Well, sir, if you're not a (Bahamian) woman, chances are you ain't gonna understand this here hustle.
The way a man perceives a woman's life is based on his perception of his own life and what society tells him is the woman's role in it. And if everything remains in place just as society has taught him (and women) it should, in the way that brings him the most comfort, pleasure, opportunity and success, then what else do you think he's going to say about his dominion?
To inform and to educate
I'm looking forward to the success of the new women-driven radio show, because I desperately want women in The Bahamas to have a more united and resilient voice in their own country on the issues that impact upon them most and to have a stronger hand in turning their own lives around for the best, not the better.
But it has to begin with each individual woman having a rehabilitated mentality about her purpose in life.
If you understand it, then let no one else misunderstand it: every person who is in support of women's equality, empowerment, protection and success is a feminist. Let's discontinue the misrepresentation of the English language that suggests the word 'feminist' is a dirty one, particularly when we don't know the definition of the word or can't respect its connotative value. And, when we do know the correct definition and the supreme value in the word 'feminist', let's make sure that we all embrace it and own it fully, especially when challenged, because if we're ever going to get anywhere with our efforts to improve the individual (mental, emotional and physical) conditions of all women in The Bahamas, we have to first own our individual feminist identities.
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July 23, 2014
The composition of the modern Bahamian family is a stark contrast to the Bahamian family of yesteryear. Traditionally, this family was described as "nuclear" and consisted of a mother, father and their children. Today, the average Bahamian household would include at least one of the following: a divorced spouse and/or stepchildren, a common law relationship or a single parent/child relationship.
For reasons appearing below, it is important to examine, even if briefly, the importance of preparing a will for the new model of Bahamian families.
Importance and formalities of a Bahamian will
A will is the document that sets out in writing a person's intention as to the distribution of assets on his/her death. A will "speaks" beyond the grave.
In order for a Bahamian will to be probated in The Bahamas, the will must: (i) be in writing; (ii) be signed by the deceased person; (iii) be signed by and in the presence of two independent witnesses (who are also in each other's presence at the time of signing); (iv) appoint an executor who is of sound mind and is at least 18 years old.
A new will should be executed after any significant life event, such as a death of a spouse, separation, divorce or remarriage.
Inheritance laws of The Bahamas
The Inheritance Act of The Bahamas 2002 ("the act"), section 4, sets out what happens when a person dies without a will, or with a will that does not comply with the formalities set out above.
If a person dies without a valid will and leaves:
o A spouse only - the spouse takes the entire estate;
o A spouse and child(ren) - the spouse gets one half and the children share the remaining half;
o Child(ren) only - the child(ren) take(s) everything;
o No spouse, no child(ren) - the grandchild(ren) of the deceased person take the entire estate;
o No spouse, no child(ren), no grandchild(ren) - the parents of the deceased person take the entire estate.
Please note that while this article examines a few of the survivor case scenarios, section 4 of the act should be referred to for more family scenarios.
Modern families and the Inheritance Act
Again, it should be clearly stated and understood that the terms of a valid will shall take precedence over the provisions of the Inheritance Act. This is why a deceased person's wishes should be clearly and properly laid out in a will.
As it relates to the importance of executing a will, below, I briefly highlight the five most common inheritance case scenarios encountered in practice, which clearly demonstrate the importance of making a proper will:
o I am currently a single mother, with minor children. What will happen to my home (purchased in my name only) if I get married and then die without a will, leaving my husband and my children?
If you die without a will, your husband will get 50 percent of the home (less any unsatisfied mortgages thereon) and your children will get 50 percent. If the children are minors, their legal guardian(s) - in most cases the surviving parent - will be responsible for managing their interest in the house until they have attained the age of majority.
o I am a divorced father of two who recently remarried. My new wife also has a child from a previous relationship. What will happen to the property currently owned by me if I die without a will?
If you die without a will, your current wife will take 50 percent of your estate and 50 percent will belong to your children. A stepchild is not considered your child for the purposes of the Inheritance Act unless the child is legally adopted by you.
o I am a middle-aged man with adult children from my first marriage. My first wife died and I have now married a middle-aged woman who also has adult children. Our matrimonial home is owned by me. Will her children have any right to my house? Will my adult children be able to evict my wife from my home on my death, if I die without a will?
If the property is held in your name only, your wife, under the provisions of the Inheritance Act, will acquire a 50 percent interest and your children will be entitled to the remaining 50 percent. Your new wife's children would not normally have an interest in your home. However, please note that once your estate has been properly administered, your wife will be able to distribute her interest in your home to her beneficiaries, who in all likelihood will include her adult children.
Section 24 of the act provides your widow protection from eviction. Under this section, your widow would have a right to occupy the residence enjoyed as the matrimonial home at the time of your death until she dies, remarries or otherwise makes any agreement with your children to surrender her interest. However, also note that this section allows for any person or entity with an interest in the matrimonial home, which is adversely affected by your widow's occupation, to make application to the court for the relief or buyout of her interest.
o I have been in a common law relationship with a man for 20 years. He is still legally married as he never obtained a divorce from his wife. We have acquired substantial assets together. Some are in his name only. What will happen if he dies without a will?
Simply put, the Inheritance Act does not recognize common law relationships. Therefore, any property owned by him solely would belong to his estate, which will not include you. If he is married and never formally divorced, his wife would take 50 percent and his surviving children (including his children with you or any other woman) would share the other 50 percent equally. Any children claiming to have been fathered by him, would need to provide proof of paternity such as a birth certificate, affidavit of birth or any other evidence of paternity as accepted by the court. You would acquire 100 percent of any assets you both owned as joint tenants. But, you would probably have to seek court assistance for any asset contributed to by you, but where your name does not appear on the title deed(s) to the asset.
o I believe that my husband may have children outside of our marriage, what will happen to the assets owned in his name solely?
If he dies without a will, you would take 50 percent and his surviving children would take 50 percent of his estate. This would also include children fathered outside your marriage. The child claiming to be your husband's would need to provide evidence that your husband was his/her father. In most instances, this would mean by presenting a birth certificate or affidavit of birth which confirms your husband as the father. There are certain limited cases where other forms of evidence may be allowed by the court in trying to prove paternity of the child, but you should consult an attorney to discuss your options.
These are only a few examples of inheritance issues that face the modern Bahamian family, but they do demonstrate the importance of executing a will. If you have any questions concerning the scenarios outlined above, or obtaining a will or amending a current will, please consult a qualified Bahamian attorney to obtain advice specific to your family's needs and circumstances.
o This article does not constitute legal advice. If you need advice on the issues raised in this article or otherwise, you should consult a qualified attorney. Carlene Farquharson has been with the law firm of Alexiou, Knowles & Co. since October 2006. She is currently the resident attorney in the firm's office in Marsh Harbour, Abaco. Her areas of practice are conveyancing, estates/probate, company and compliance/regulatory procedures. She holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Acadia University, Canada; a master's degree in legal studies from the University of Bristol, England; a certificate in bar vocational studies from the University of the West of England and an international diploma in money laundering and compliance procedures from the University of Manchester, England (in conjunction with the Bahamas institute of Financial Services).
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July 22, 2014
Haiti and The Bahamas are neighbors currently in quite different circumstances. The Bahamas has the highest GDP per capita in the Caribbean...
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July 22, 2014
The level of involvement of the populace in matters of national importance is at an all-time high in at least the last decade. This participation has been accompanied by a renewed spate of activism and advocacy by Bahamians from all walks of life, across the archipelago. In the midst of this renaissance, it is important that we maintain our civil liberties, never lose respect for the fundamental rights of all persons and uphold the Christian values upon which our nation is built.
Of equal importance is the need to remain focused on the things that matter while avoiding distractions based on trivial matters. The popular saying that not all that can be counted counts and not all that counts can be counted is ever so true in this regard. The important topics of focus by interest groups in recent times have included the Freedom of Information Act, the environment, violence against women, fiscal prudence and equal economic opportunities for Bahamians, just to mention a few. While some of these matters require the government's attention and/or action, the question arises as to how much we can do to advance the public discourse and bring them closer to actualization. We focus this week on gender equality.
Should this be up for debate?
The circumstances surrounding the inclusion of provisions that discriminate against Bahamian women in our constitution are well documented. As a Bahamian woman reflecting on this in 2014, it is extremely difficult to understand or justify the reasoning for making us less equal to our male counterparts. It follows, therefore, that any argument against rectifying this disparity will be hard to articulate and will be almost impossible to compose without reference to practices that are contrary to social justice, equality, fairness and fundamental human rights.
The question then is what are we going to be debating or arguing about in relation to the proposed constitutional referendum to right this wrong and address an issue that is long overdue? Unfortunately, and as with any topic of national importance in The Bahamas, we shouldn't expect this to pass without some unnecessary or contentious points being inserted into the discussion; but then again that is the beauty of democracy.
History suggests that we should act
The only and last referendum held to address gender inequality in The Bahamas was held in 2002; five years after the Free National Movement (FNM) had promised during its 1997 election campaign to improve gender equality in The Bahamas. The results of the referendum held on February 27, 2002 showed that between 63 percent and 71 percent of Bahamians voted no to the five questions put to the populace. Specifically, 66 percent of voters voted against the removal of gender discrimination from our constitution.
The blame for the results and failure to achieve the objectives of the referendum has been ascribed to the role of the opposition at the time, the rushing of the referendum and linking the referendum to the general election. The government, including the official opposition, will do well to learn from that experience by keeping politics out of the debate, not holding the referendum late in the current term and providing ample time for preparation.
The constitutional referendum
The prime minister had stated last year that the government will be proposing amendments to the citizenship provisions of the constitution and an expansion of the definition of discrimination in article 26 of the constitution to remove the existing bias against women in the supreme law of our land. These comments came in the aftermath of the presentation of the Constitutional Commission following nine months of meetings and consultations across the archipelago. Hence, the question is not if, but when.
There is no doubt that the government has a lot on its plate and is challenged to find sufficient resources to address the myriad of issues the country is confronted with. While this is no justification for the inability to adhere to the timelines established to address this important matter to date, the populace should become more actively involved in ensuring that this dream becomes reality.
The various stakeholders in this regard must individually or in concert commence the awareness campaign ahead of the eventual conduct of the referendum. We cannot and should not wait for the government's education to start educating the public. In the same manner we stand together on other matters affecting women, this is a clarion call to unite in spreading the message against gender inequality to ensure that the actual referendum, whenever it is held, is nothing more than a formality. The government on its part should engage the various stakeholders, including civic groups, not-for-profit organizations and the media to assist with the education campaign as soon as possible.
The movement must continue
Based on the results of the 2002 referendum, it is apparent that some Bahamian women voted against amendments that would have given them as equal rights as those belonging to their male counterparts. This is difficult to comprehend but more importantly highlights the importance of raising awareness and keeping politics out of the debate this time around.
In conclusion, the journey to true gender equality in The Bahamas will not and must not end with favorable results of the upcoming constitutional referendum. Amendments to our constitution to make us equal "on paper" and by law to our male counterparts will not mark the end of the struggle for gender equality for Bahamian women; rather, it will be a good start for real equality in all spheres of our society, ranging from political representation to the corporate world.
An appreciation for our history and the socio-cultural factors that have influenced the current ideology on gender in The Bahamas is important if this movement is to survive and thrive. In this regard, the publication "Engendering the Bahamas: A Gendered Examination of Bahamian Nation Making or National Identity and Gender in the Bahamian Context" by Dr. Nicolette Bethel is instructive and a good read for Bahamians as a whole and Bahamian women in particular as we continue on this voyage.
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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July 19, 2014
My father just celebrated, on June 28, his 102nd birthday. I have the privilege of being his caregiver in Haiti, as all my five brothers and sisters had to continue their nomadic lives in the United States.
I am watching a proud man (he was chief civil court judge in Port au Prince Haiti) losing his ability to be self-sufficient in his daily chores. Between bouts of reciting complete poems of Virgil or Athalie of Jean Racine, there were times when he did not know who I was and when he wanted to receive no visitors.
I came back on Saturday, July 5, from the national funeral of Professor Lesly Manigat, the former president of Haiti, a moving ceremony when President Michel Martelly, paying homage to the widow of the late president, urged the Haitian people to bury the hatchet and work for a Haiti that shall become hospitable to all in the spirit dreamed of by Lesly Manigat all his life.
My 24-year-old daughter has just had a surprise party for her birthday. I remember as if it was yesterday when she was a baby, holding her in front of a painting because I had read this exercise would render your child very smart.
These three vignettes all lead to my elaboration of the concept that life is finite while the patrimony, the children and the good works constitute the indefinite part of life. This essay is an ode to the class of 2014 as it is being sent off on a new path in its journey on this earth.
The days pass but they are part of a continuum that will lead one to a death certain, which is the finality of each one of us. Having been created in God's image, we aspire to being eternal, yet mortality is our lot since the transgression of Adam and Eve in eating the forbidden fruit.
The story of my father and the death of the Professor Lesly Manigat indicate that life is short; we have to take advantage of each day to root a family that will prolong our lives on this earth. The patrimony transmitted by the parents must be enlarged before it is bequeathed to the next generation and the accumulation of good works must be accelerated because, after all, time is ruthless to those who procrastinate.
The trilogy of prolonging our lives through our children, enlarging the received patrimony and multiplying good works should be the business of each one of the graduates.
I remember while in graduate school of social work at Columbia University, the students, who were mostly women, wanted to succeed in their professional lives before settling into matrimony. My empirical survey 40 years later indicates that most of these women did succeed in their professional lives, but have failed miserably in forging a family.
Lesson one for the young ladies (as well for the young men): build your family as soon as you can. I have made the empirical observation that those women who have children early in their lives look younger later as they age. The building of a genealogy requires a next generation made by the children of each member of the family or the grooming of the nieces and the nephews by those who are childless.
The patrimony is the accumulation of assets transmitted by the parents and enlarged by the children. I have seen parents and children of today competing to deny each other the strength of the multiplication of human resources and the full energy of the young and the wisdom of things seen and done by the old.
The concept of patrimony is the roadmap to wealth creation. When a family stands together behind the legacy of the grandfathers, abundance arrives early because each link in the chain offers a guarantee to the other links, so that swimming in the raging sea, they will all ride with the waves; thereby creating a family tableau worthy of framing.
Finally, graduates of 2014: according to one of the best futurists that I know, by the name of Emil Vlagki, the future of the world will be a bleak one, unless you endow yourself with the best education possible, beyond your college degree as such. Graduate school should be one of your objectives; armed with your higher degree, practice creativity and flexibility: abundance and satisfaction will be your lot for the rest of your life, enriching yourself and your nation.
Life might have a finite aspect, but following this path will lead you into infinity in this earth and certainly beyond, fulfilling the goal set for you by the creator: "Bring me the sacrifice of your time and watch to how abundantly I bless you and your loved ones"[Psalm 73-23.24]. Continue this intimate journey, trusting that the path you are following is headed for Heaven.
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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July 18, 2014
Having celebrated The Bahamas' 41st anniversary of independence, there are many realities that face each citizen. Today there are thousands of Bahamians who are unemployed. There are thousands who do not know where there next meal will come from. There are thousands of Bahamians who are unsure of their future. Yet amidst such uncertainty, there is great hope for a bright future.
When we stop believing in ourselves and allow those who would seek to destroy us to control our mental state, we become hopeless. Oftentimes, people look to politicians and expect that their success in life will be based on what the political directorate does. This creates an atmosphere of dependency and is counter to what independence should be about for us all. The Bahamian today has to be a productive and focused individual if he or she is to enjoy the benefits of an independent Bahamas.
Our success as people is not measured in material things. It is measured in the contribution that we make to uplift. The continued work of those who try to instill pride in others is admirable and is to be encouraged. We have to push or pull each other to achieve greatness. The Bahamas must have a plan that is longer than this generation. The previous generation mapped out a strategy and plan that has now materialized 41 years later.
We have the opportunity as citizens to take this country forward and ensure that it grows and moves beyond a typical Caribbean state. This requires ingenuity and innovation. It also requires the next generation to step up and take their rightful role as leaders and substantial contributors to the growth and development of the present and future Bahamas.
The thought of seeing a Bahamas that embraces technological advancements while implementing science is one that breeds optimism. When we can have more of our citizens becoming involved in private sector growth and public sector reform, this gives cause for being hopeful. Today's Bahamians are more educated and more advanced than the independence era generation. We have a great task ahead of us to accomplish even greater things. It means that we must be resolute and convinced that our responsibility as the beneficiaries of the independence movement is to achieve even more and create an even better Bahamas than we inherited.
With all the expectation that many have for the next generation, how is it possible to accomplish these things given the challenging state of affairs? Quite frankly, no one person has the answers to all of these issues but collectively if we put our heads together we can find the answers and implement the solutions. We need a more peaceful and tranquil Bahamas. Maybe with the advancement of our country post-independence we forgot from whence we came and took it for granted. If we analyze our country over the past 41 years, we see that in various households a lot of things happened that created a Bahamas that today is far from perfect.
In spite of the realities that paint a picture of sadness for some, we must still be focused and committed to lifting our people to a brighter and better future. The bloodletting and savagery of our present is not a reflection of who we can be and who we really are as a people. However, from the outside looking in, it may appear that this is who Bahamians have become.
Contrary to what others may think of The Bahamas today, there is hope for a country that loves more. The Bahamas must truly believe in Bahamians and ensure that Bahamians are given opportunities to succeed in every sphere of life. This is no easy task when balancing between the interests of external influences and the needs for national development. However, as a matter of unity in our belief that it is Bahamians who have the most to gain from a better Bahamas, we can have hope in a hopeless world.
What is it that you want for yourself? What kind of future do you want for your children? These kinds of questions provoke so many responses. For those of you who were around 41 years ago, is The Bahamas today better than it was under the British? It is for you to determine that through your actions and in your thoughts.
Thankfully, our country is not at a crossroads. We left that point on July 10, 1973. We are now on a path to development as a young country. We are a young country and that is a fact that should give us all hope. It means that we are growing and learning and our citizens are becoming more astute. Those who take the people of The Bahamas for granted should know there is no mistake that the people cannot reverse. Our country is alert and not as lost as some do believe. For a country that has less than 400,000 people, we celebrated our 41st independence day knowing that we have a great hope in a hopeless world.
It is with a great sense of pride that many of you represent all of us in spheres of life within and outside of The Bahamas. This gives us all hope. The Bahamas that the independence generation championed has the potential to be much better than they envisioned. Regardless of your political view, do you have hope in a hopeless world? It will require people who have hope to move this country forward to a place where opportunity abounds for all Bahamians.
As we all determine what role we will play in the further growth and development of the Bahamas we have examples from the independence era that 41 years ago ushered in The Bahamas that has evolved today. While you journey through life in The Bahamas, make your mark and let your contribution count to making us a better and brighter Bahamas.
o John Carey served as a member of Parliament 2002 to 2007. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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July 16, 2014
That Perry Christie was never his own man in the PLP was dramatized in his decision in recommending the appointment of the widow of Sir Lynden Pindling as governor general, thereby kowtowing and extending the cult of personality of the Pindling era. For fear of political retribution he perhaps dare not have appointed another.
Kowtow is the westernized term for kau tau in Cantonese or koutou in Mandarin Chinese. The term refers to an act of deference in which one prostrates, kneels or bows to another, "so low as to have one's head touching the ground".
At the swearing-in of Dame Marguerite, we were not simply witnessing the elevation of an individual to the essential constitutional post of governor general. We were more probably watching the emergence of a new potential center of political power for the Pindling Dynasty.
So it was last week that the head of government seemed almost like a supplicant to the incoming head of state, beseeching her to act in a nonpartisan and non-political manner. It proved embarrassing for a prime minister who may have grudgingly recommended her appointment.
Christie spent so much time extolling the virtues of past governors general and pleading with her for neutrality, that his praise of her seemed less than fulsome, almost second hand. Curiously, much of the support by PLPs for the appointment has been either grudging or defensive in nature.
At a 2012 general election rally, Dame Marguerite was in full political swing: "I want you to get behind your leader, my leader, Sir Lynden's chosen successor, his only rightful heir, the Right Honorable Perry Gladstone Christie... Perry's the man. Let's march with our leader and on May 7 let's all see that we vote PLP. I know that's what Sir Lynden would want us all to do."
While quite a number in the PLP are famous for their sense of entitlement, the Pindlings seemed to have more of a sense of ownership, as if the party belonged to their imperial court, with outer rings of supplicants and fawners. That Dame Marguerite believes that she deserved to become governor general speaks to an unmistakable mindset.
Notice the dynastic language and the sense of ownership, as if the party is a Pindling franchise: "only rightful heir" and "chosen successor", akin to the Juan and Eva Peron mindset in Argentina.
That mindset is one of, 'Look what we've done for you. We made you, now repay us with obedience and deference'. When Hubert Ingraham, Dr. B.J. Nottage and others did otherwise they became persona non grata.
Christie was on the outside for a brief spell. But eventually he was redeemed, with the Pindlings supporting his leadership of the PLP for a number of reasons, a primary one of which was their belief that he was controllable and would be held accountable to the dynasty.
With Christie boldly claiming that he would swim through vomit to get back to the PLP, the Pindlings knew that this was their man. In many ways they have been proven correct. He not only recommended her knighthood some years ago. Now he recommended her becoming head of state, still a bewildering choice to many.
During the 2002 general election the party propagandized that it was a new PLP. That was only an outer coat of paint on a party still mired in the bad old ways of the PLP, ways that have returned with a vengeance during this current term of office.
When Sir Lynden retired from the House of Assembly, he gave a moving farewell. But there was something missing. Sir Lynden offered the stylized form of apology of, 'If I offended anyone'.
Such apologies, lacking in specificity, never fully capture the gravity of wounds inflicted on others. The Pindling reign was often malicious and brutal, destroying lives, separating families, and with wide scale victimization. Many of the wounds inflicted by that period have resurfaced.
In coming to terms with the Pindling legacy, credit must be granted for the many accomplishments. Likewise, there must be an acknowledgement of the brutality of the reign.
What so disturbs many about Dame Marguerite's appointment is that it appears that the excesses of the Pindling era are somehow to be whitewashed, with those excesses now vindicated and rewarded. Though up until last year Dame Marguerite seemingly could not bring herself to speak of the FNM's accomplishments in office, last week she called for national unity.
Such unity necessitates first truth and then reconciliation. The problem is that there has never been a truthful acknowledgment of the damage done to so many Bahamians during the Pindling reign. And there has never been any semblance of a fuller remorse and apology for the grave excesses of the period.
The notion of 'let's forget about all of that and move on', will not wash. We have heard this cry of amnesia throughout history.
In the idea of restorative justice and the Roman Catholic sacrament of reconciliation, there is first a coming to terms with the wrong inflicted on others. There is then the basis for greater mutuality with those wronged.
There is no genuine reconciliation absent a confession of one's wrongdoing, which is why Richard Nixon could never come close to redeeming himself in the eyes of the American people for the crimes he committed while in the White House, including the Watergate scandal and other abuses of power.
Dame Marguerite's appointment is the most controversial in an independent Bahamas. Her main reason for being recommended seems to be that she is Sir Lynden's widow, and that though she has contributed to the national good, those contributions did not rise to the level of recommending her appointment.
Scores of Bahamians do not believe, given her history, that at this point she will now somehow be nonpartisan. She may well use her new office overwhelmingly to favor PLPs with token signs of unity. The country will wait and see.
There are already troubling signs in terms of personnel at Government House. If inquiries begin to be made of the political affiliation of any staff member, we are in dangerous territory. The mere asking of such affiliation would intimidate staff members.
There will be respect afforded Dame Marguerite because of the office she holds. But it is not likely that she will win hearts and minds if she acts as if she is extending the Pindling reign, dividing the country into us against them.
One sign of progress would be an effort by Dame Marguerite to begin to acknowledge the grave errors and excesses of the Pindling years. This may be wishful thinking, for the PLP today seems to be generating all manner of excess, under the misrule of Perry Christie.
The Pindlings were correct: In not the most flattering ways, Christie is Pindling's heir and successor.
o email@example.com, www.bahamapundit.com.
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July 16, 2014
If you've seen a photo of me, other than the one posted here every week on this column, you're thinking "where is this vanilla-skinned woman going talking about black Bahamian beauty?"
Hold that thought.
There was a time in history, not even so long ago, when I would have been considered too black to be white in some countries. And, yes, in some other countries, I would have been too white to be black.
This need to identify racial differences was driven by ignorance. Today, it still is.
People were then, as some still are now, unfamiliar with others who looked nothing like them, and they built their prejudices and judgments, and eventually hatreds, on their differences, fueled further by the human need to be right or to be best, and by the many intolerances of their parents and others before them who perpetuated this kind of thinking.
Now, after decades, centuries of racial mixing, when greater knowledge and less ignorance should exist because of greater exposure between countries and cultures, the separations continue.
The need to see and keep people in color blocks stems from an individual's need to feel more comfortable about her or his position with respect to that other person. People long to fit in, be understood and loved. And if there are any perceived threats to them fitting in, being understood, or being loved, or the chance they might be considered unworthy of these things they long for, then they immediately begin an internal campaign to challenge the things and people they regard as threats to their comfort. From the comforts of racism to the comforts of relationships, this applies across the human experience.
The mere fact that everything always comes down to black and white, black or white, black versus white, is a lingering disturbance, but I have heard the question asked recently, "is The Bahamas racially divided?" "Do black Bahamians hate white Bahamians and vice versa?"
Maybe I'm not the one to answer this, because no one ever knows what I am. (Insert laughter here.) But when you hear Bahamians make serious racial slurs, in either direction, they're just being one of two things: ignorant or hateful. And when you have a conversation with them, you find that the story goes a bit deeper, usually back to some personal experience that left them with emotional or mental discomfort, or something more psychologically invasive like a full-fledged mental (re)conditioning inflicted by 1) their own people, or, 2) an outsider.
A while back, I met a little girl at a private school sports meet. I should say, more accurately, she met me. She was about five years old. And I guess she gravitated towards me because she wanted to have a conversation about something that made her uncomfortable, and she was looking for some resolution.
She told me that she wished she was white. I told her that she should never say that or feel that way because she was beautiful... and she really was. But, of course, being who I am, I had to find out more about why this child, at five years of age, was already on this road to self-hate.
Every reason she gave me for wanting to be white was superficial, or mostly aesthetic, and in the end I concluded that her dilemma stemmed from the fact that she didn't want to look the way she did because someone had, along the way, told her or shown her that her skin color made her inadequate.
Now, because I grew up in The Bahamas, my own experience reminded me that it was likely that the other little kids who looked just like her could have had a lot to do with this little girl's interpretation of herself and the low self-esteem that would arise later on because of it, affecting, quite possibly, every part of her life and her outlook on life.
Yes, there are always some other influences in these circumstances, and with a little more time in this little girl's company I might have discovered more. But, drawing on my own encounters, I was willing to bet that there was something going on closer to home. Someone was reinforcing for her that her brown skin was not as good as lighter skin. I would also be willing to bet that, at present, there is still at least one generation of brown-skinned people who don't know or love themselves as they are, which is mind-blowing to me in a predominantly black country. And the perpetrators? Often ourselves... in the way we have subconsciously adapted the concepts of beauty over many years of being subjected to what we believed to be superior to us.
Sit and listen to the children playing in the streets or on a playground. Children can be so cruel and heartless, and Bahamian children have a special type and method of 'cruelty' when they grab on to the use of certain hurtful words. It is not uncommon to hear them taunt each other about their skin color: "come from here with your black self", "well mudda sick, you look black, boy", or "you so black and ugly."
Where are these children hearing these things and why do they relive them every day? This special kind of thinking comes from a special kind of environment, with a special kind of parent or parents or adults who perpetuate it.
And it makes me wonder, where is the mother's love in this equation? What about my little friend? What would her mother say if she heard her child telling me these things about her skin color preference? Or, maybe, she'd say nothing, because she herself says these things to the child or around the child. And maybe, just maybe, she, the mother, feels the same way about herself.
And I reflect on my own mother.
I was a mixed child who grew up with a predominantly black family. Unless they knew my maternal relatives, the assumption of most people I encountered was that I was white. But my mom never gave me any reason to believe I was different. We never had a need to have a conversation about race... not until I was almost a teenager, and she told me about the idiot (my word) who worked with her who, whenever he saw me, would call me 'Imitation of Life.'
As a child, and at that time, I had absolutely no idea what that meant, but, when I grew a little older and watched the movie by the same name, it broke my heart. The movie itself was sad, but it was even sadder and more heartbreaking to me that someone could label me with such a burdensome title and know nothing about me. And from that moment on I became more aware of racial differences and intolerances, but most specifically the black Bahamian's dislike for self and need for constant comparison, evaluation, and approval.
It never dawned on me that my skin color could make so many people perplexed, and that ranged from shock and speechlessness, to excitement at the novelty, to disgust and jealousy.
As I got older, the comments and questions got more ridiculous. While at COB, I recall another student walking up to me and asking "are you black or white?" And even though I had come to expect it by then, it still always caught me off guard. It never stopped being strange that someone had such a need for an answer to this question that had nothing to do with them.
I started to have a little fun with my responses, just to entertain myself, because surely this was a joke. Sometimes I would say 'both'. Sometimes I would say 'neither'. Sometimes I would ask, "Which makes you feel better?" Of course, on those latter occasions, I would get dead air. I still do this. And if today someone says 'hey white girl', I say 'hey black boy/ girl' and watch their silent, jaw-dropped reactions to the absurdity of the way that sounds.
From the insane comments about my good hair (which, by the way, still happens), to the more foolish comment that I was white and I thought I was better than they were, over the years the racial feedback grew in intensity.
And I remember feeling afire inside, finally deciding that no, I don't think I'm white, I know what I am, but you apparently think I'm white, and are obsessed with labeling me to make yourself more comfortable with your interpretation of me.
In spite of the many mixed babies being born the world over and in The Bahamas, this assumption still holds strong to this day. I think this idea that I and others like me (perceived white) automatically have thoughts of superiority is based more on the fact that those who believe this automatically have thoughts of inferiority about themselves. Clearly, they were then and still are ignorant of my parentage, and it is has never been my concern to explain it to them. But it does starkly reveal the deficiencies in their own parentage which has caused them to see themselves in such a negative light, deficiencies perfected by years of practice being something other than they are.
Through the simple cultural routine of hair relaxing, pressing, and now weaving, to the skin bleaching, I realize that it is ingrained in our black Bahamian women (and men) to deny their true selves and their true beauty.
Could this be what happened to my little friend who wanted to be white?
The (Bahamian) black woman is taught, subconsciously, that her hair must be straighter. Some black women are taught that their skin must be lighter.
And in my years of observing my own culture, I've never known anyone to perpetuate these stereotypes more than the black woman herself, save for a few random exceptions, to fit the norm of societal expectation.
My mum has, since I was a child, worn her natural hair in a low afro. My grammy did, too. It was my norm to see this, and for black women to be this way. They were just being themselves. It was the standard of self-love and self-approval. It was a sincere lack of interest in conforming to those haunting and depleting social norms, something I held on to and have never, ever let go of. If you know me, you know I am a nonconformist in every possible way, and I care nothing about people's opinions of me. And I think that, next to immeasurable love, is the greatest gift my mother and grandmother have given me.
When I look at Mummy, I see a woman of color with natural hair breaking barriers in an enslaved concept of black beauty. And when I see other black women who have done or are doing the same, intentionally or otherwise, I sing a little victory song inside, because there's nothing more empowering for little girls, who one day become mothers of entire nations, to see their own mothers love themselves so completely.
It tells me that they know who they are and they love who they are. It tells me that if they can love themselves this way, their children will be more likely to love themselves in the same way. And if this could happen all around the country, there would be fewer little Bahamian girls telling me and other random strangers that they wish they were white. And they can stop looking at their differences from the perspective of needing to conform or change themselves on the basis of an arbitrary standard of beauty, and more from the perspective of celebrating themselves as they naturally are. And if they can celebrate their many differences even in beauty, then the differences, one day, perhaps won't matter as much.
o Nicole Burrows is an academically-trained economist. She can be contacted via Facebook at Facebook.com/NicoleBurrows.
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July 15, 2014
The swearing in of our new governor general, Dame Marguerite Pindling (Lady Pindling as she is fondly called), marked the end of a tenure, beginning of a reign, but more importantly the beginning of the end of an era.
Our history and identity
It is often said that an individual that does not know where he or she came from cannot possibly know his or her destination. In other words, we cannot move forward towards a common loftier goal without an appreciation for whence we came. This speaks to our history as well as the struggles, pain, tears and triumph that have made it possible for us to come this far while achieving the current level of success we enjoy as a nation.
The tributes to and speech by Sir Arthur captured a minimal yet important portion of our history and his immense contribution to our beloved country. The blessings of technology, media and the Internet have also enabled us to take a sneak peek into the heart of an elder statesman whose love for his country is undeniable. The records show and the history books will reflect the role this giant of a man played in major milestones accomplished by The Bahamas including Majority Rule and Independence. We salute Sir Arthur as he goes into retirement and commences a well-deserved rest.
Ordinary people on the hill
One of the most fascinating aspects of the speeches delivered last week were the references to and accounts of the upbringing and early years of Sir Arthur and Dame Marguerite. They both have stories that capture the essence of the Bahamian Dream for which they have fought. It is a dream that ensures that a Bahamian is not discounted from progress or success due to their ethnic background, race, social status, gender, religion or political affiliation. A vision of a better life for all Bahamians that are willing to make sacrifices and pursue success.
The story of Sir Arthur's early days on the remote island of Inagua in a family with limited resources and his ascension to Government House gives renewed hope to young Bahamians. How could we forget the story of the barefoot girl from Andros, Dame Marguerite? Recounting her voyage to and arrival in Nassau, she often references with genuine innocence her amazement with the Nassau of several decades ago. The origins of these two great Bahamians did not however discount or disqualify them from getting to the zenith of political power in our country. This alone is reason for this new generation to believe and our leaders to emulate their predecessors by ensuring that opportunities are not monopolized by a select few among us.
Authors of the lions' and lionesses' exploits
Prime Minister Perry Christie has highlighted on numerous occasions the importance of recording our history. Quoting one of his favorite African proverbs, he often notes that until lions have authors, the story of the hunt when told will favor and compliment the hunter. In essence, the story of hunting expeditions will often miss the other side of what transpired from the perspective of the lions and lionesses if no one takes the time to document the same.
Christie has been an advocate for the writing of biographies and autobiographies for the new generation and generations yet unborn to appreciate not just their history but in order to enrich our country with the knowledge and wisdom of our national treasures. As a student of history and nationalist, this writer keeps a library of the writings and thoughts of our great sons and daughters. However, it is often apparent from the memoirs of a lot of our past and present leaders that some of their stories and reflections have not been captured in these documents. This reality means that we have missed and will miss a lot of the important chapters of our nations' history unless the lions and lionesses begin to put pen to paper or entertain interviews to document the missing chapters in our history books.
Passing the baton
And so this piece concludes where it started, the beginning of a tenure which ironically signals the beginning of the end of an era. The prime minister described Dame Marguerite as the last of the freedom fighters. This comment forces us to face the fact that an era is passing away with warriors of that generation exiting the forefront and limelight to retirement and their eternal rest. There is no doubt that they leave behind a rich heritage and legacy due to their commitment to humanity and the Bahamian people.
Our new GG has promised to serve all Bahamians without prejudice or discrimination. This is what we have come to expect from all our distinguished GGs over the years and there is no reason why Dame Marguerite cannot serve without partiality, partisanship or bias. It is encouraging to also see the Free National Movement recognizing its role as Her Majesty's Official Loyal Opposition, congratulating the new GG following her pledge and expressing commitment to seek to unite a divided electorate. We must now move on as a nation and support the GG in the execution of her constitutional duties.
The sacrifices of our founding fathers and mothers, the struggles for equality and fight of the Suffragettes must not be forgotten as the sun sets on the remainder of the generation that made a difference. The new generation must take up the mantle as this is the only way we can properly honor the legacy of our ancestors. We must read their stories and learn from their experiences to build a better Bahamas. More importantly, we must emulate their selflessness and fortitude in the quest to make our nation the best it can be. In doing so, the burning desire to succeed must be driven by deep rooted convictions in equity, equality, impartiality, patriotism and the fear of the God that has brought us this far as a country.
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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July 15, 2014
Bahamians, descendants and friends of The Bahamas, on Sunday gathered at the historic St. Agnes Church...
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July 14, 2014
"Unity is strength...when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved."
- Mattie Stepanek
On Tuesday, July 9, 2014, one day before independence day in The Bahamas, there were several historic moments in Bahamian history. On that date, we witnessed His Excellency Sir Arthur Foulkes demit office as our ninth governor general in an independent Bahamas, four short years after being sworn in.
Several hours later on that same day, the 10th governor general since independence, and the ninth Bahamian, assumed that office in the person of Dame Marguerite Pindling. We should remember that Sir John Paul, a British citizen who served as the last governor of the colony of The Bahama Islands, was the first governor general of the newly created Commonwealth of The Bahamas on July 10, 1973. He held that post for a very short time, only until August 1, 1973 when Sir Milo Butler became our first Bahamian governor general.
Therefore this week we would like to Consider this... What should we expect of our newest governor general, Her Excellency Dame Marguerite?
In assuming office as the governor general, Dame Marguerite embodies a series of firsts for our nation. She is the first Bahamian governor general to attain that post without having served in the executive or legislative branches of government. Without exception, all other governors general have served in either the executive or legislative branches of government, and in some instances both.
In addition, Dame Marguerite is the first spouse of a former Caribbean prime minister to become governor general. The only other similar situation, albeit not quite analogous, was Dame Nita Barrow, the sister of the founding father of Barbados, Errol Barrow, who served as prime minister of Barbados from 1966 to 1976, and who during his tenure led Barbados to independence from Great Britain in 1966.
There is no question that Dame Marguerite has made enormous contributions to the body politic for many decades, primarily in a supporting role as the spouse of Sir Lynden Pindling, the leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and prime minster for 25 years.
And while she has never offered for elective political office, Dame Marguerite has been squarely at the center of politics in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Married on May 5, 1956, Dame Marguerite found herself immediately in the thick of the first political campaign ever fought by the Progressive Liberal Party. Election day, June 8, 1956, saw history made when six members of the fledgling Progressive Liberal Party were elected to the House of Assembly, including her new husband, Lynden Pindling.
Finding herself in a new role as her husband became the leader of opposition business in the House, she immersed herself, along with many other PLP women, in fundraising, which enabled the men to bring the PLP message to the Out Islands, as
well as efficiently and speedily organizing branches of the party.
She also became part of the group of women agitating for the right to vote because, in those days, activism and being a part of the PLP went hand in hand, even for women who were traditionally homemakers. Almost everyone in those days was caught up in what was becoming a national movement toward economic and social empowerment. Being involved in the movement, she became well informed about the events of the day so she could liaise with the women of the party and keep them abreast of what was happening as the party moved forward, toward their goals.
Even as her family grew, Dame Marguerite grew as a public figure, the wife of the man who eventually became the leader of the party. Gifted with natural wit and innate style, she learned how things were done in a more international arena as she represented The Bahamas at the side of her husband, even filling in for him upon occasion. It is also a matter of historical record that the first time she actually stood in for him was to deliver a speech in England on his behalf when Sir Lynden was called back to The Bahamas in May 1980 to deal with the national crisis caused by the sinking of the HMBS Flamingo by Cuban fighter jets.
The family influence
It is well known that Sir Lynden, unless he was away or otherwise engaged in some pressing matters of state, returned to his home almost every day for lunch, where he shared time over the meal, more often than not prepared by his wife, with his family. Friends and colleagues of Sir Lynden have recounted how helpful such a respite was for him, and that, on occasion, when confronted with important national issues, his luncheon sojourns to his family home would provide him with the time to reflect on such issues in a quiet space, which often would allow him to discover a resolution before returning to his office, no doubt aided by the support, insight and advice that he might have received from Dame Marguerite.
As a mother and grandmother, Dame Marguerite also brings to her new assignment a maternal perspective that has been forged not only from her family structure but also from her interaction with thousands in her political life, as can be seen from the nurturing and caring support that she has always provided to her husband and children as well as to her political associates. These life experiences should assist her in becoming an outstanding governor general.
Charitable and civic contributions
For more than half a century, Dame Marguerite has made enormous contributions to the Bahamian community through her involvement in charitable organizations, most notably the Red Cross. Her role as patron succeeded in raising the profile of many of these organizations and directly contributed to increased funding.
Dame Marguerite's new role
Dame Marguerite will no doubt adorn her new office with the same grace, elegance, civility and aplomb as she displayed these past 58 years. Now in her role as governor general, as then, these and other attributes will serve as an important model, especially for the young people of our still fledgling nation.
By her own statements, we know that Dame Marguerite fully appreciates that the central role that she played in the body politic prior to attaining this office will require a radical shift in her political focus and perspective. She now recognizes that such activity and public and private pronouncements will have to be subsumed by impeccable impartiality. She acknowledged this in her first address as governor general that, both in tone and tenor, assuaged the concerns that were publicly expressed in the lead-up to her appointment. We applaud her for seeking to allay these concerns so definitively.
As she executes her vitally important role as head of state and the Queen's representative in The Bahamas, we are confident that at all times Dame Marguerite will remember the powerful words of the father of the nation that as we "look up and move on, the world is watching".
We join with all who wish Dame Marguerite well and believe that she will serve our country with distinction as governor general.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to email@example.com.
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July 10, 2014
For my generation who was born around the independence era, it is amazing to see the development of The Bahamas from childhood to now. For what it's worth, while we were not able to remember or understand what independence meant at the time, we are certainly appreciative of what it means for us today.
In this vein, our Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling has been a strong pillar of support in the development of the modern Bahamas. Whether you agree with me or not, I think she is an absolutely wonderful choice and it brings much pride and joy to thousands of Bahamians.
When we are able to get past the politics which oftentimes blind our good sense, rational Bahamians will conclude that this choice for governor general will augur well for the Bahamas. Our governor general represents the best in us. None of us are perfect but with hard work, determination and a commitment to country, she admirably demonstrates what we can become by God's grace and mercy.
Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling has a wealth of knowledge on the history and development of the modern Bahamas. Her experience is one that will contribute substantially to our further development as a young nation. There can be differences in views of who should or should not be governor general, but when the history of this time period is written and many of us are long gone, the record will reflect that Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling was the right person at the right time for the right position. The pride that most of us share in having Dame Marguerite as governor general comes from the fact that she is an individual of remarkable skill and accomplishment.
The honor to serve our country as the governor general is one that Dame Marguerite has earned. It is unconscionable that there are those who wish to characterize her appointment as governor general as anything less than the result of service with distinction. I would imagine that way back in 1956, it never occurred to Dame Marguerite that in 2014 she would be appointed governor general. It is fitting that God's will is one that man cannot comprehend and the fact that she is our governor general is a testament to the idea that what destiny has in store for you, no one can take away.
It is indeed encouraging that women can aspire to be the governor general. Her appointment speaks well to gender equality in The Bahamas. In a time when there is so much that we can criticize and complain about, we can all agree that the elevation of Dame Marguerite to the office of governor general is a powerful and meaningful fact.
Our governor general has been an inspiration to me personally. In my path to public service, she was an influential figure. I recall on June 12, 1991, when I graduated from the then West Indies College in Mandeville, Jamaica, her message to me as a young college graduate was to come home and make a contribution. I would dare say that she may probably not even remember that day but for a 19-year-old who had just met the wife of the prime minister of the Bahamas, it was a positive and proud encounter.
Dame Marguerite was born on the same island as my paternal grandmother. She has certainly brought honor to the people of South Andros. The people of South Andros and the entire Bahamas have a lot to be proud of when we examine how far we have come after 41 years of independence. With a governor general who has a record of distinguished contribution to our country having not served in public office, it demonstrates to the ordinary citizen of the Bahamas that he or she can attain greatness.
All of us have a role to play in the growth and development of this country. Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling has made a difference and in her new capacity, will make an even greater contribution to our country.
As I look at the generation of my children who are all under the age of 14; I can project without contradiction that the future is bright when they can look at a role model such as our governor general. She epitomizes to me that the possibilities are endless with God.
I challenge the naysayers to come to terms with the reality that we have a marvelous governor general in the person of Dame Marguerite Pindling. Put the political rhetoric and insulting remarks to rest. Get over your personal choice of what you would have wanted or not wanted. It's important that we support our governor general. She is not the governor general for some, but the governor general for all Bahamians.
Partisan politics is not a detractor to being able to serve as the governor general. However, once in the role, impartiality becomes the standard. Our governor general will be an impartial beacon of light that helps to guide the government and opposition in these critical times. The Bahamas needs a Dame Marguerite Pindling who brings many years of wisdom, grace and elegance. She is deserving of all the honors bestowed upon her and as a people we should be appreciative of what she brings to the role.
We can rest assured that our new governor general will be a continued inspiration in her new role and our country will be better for it. There can be no contradiction in the reality that the governor general plays a very important constitutional role. I am elated to see Dame Marguerite Pindling as the governor general of The Bahamas. The future of The Bahamas is absolutely fantastic and if we continue to move forward with a positive outlook there can be greater things ahead.
o John Carey served as a member of Parliament from 2002 to 2007.
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July 10, 2014
Like Nelson Mandela, Sir Arthur Foulkes embodies the best of his country and the best of the human spirit. At the moment of his release from prison after 27 years of captivity, Mandela felt the swell of anger for the violence done to his country and to him by the perpetrators of apartheid's efficient and vicious brutality.
To secure the freedom of his people and to preserve that of his soul, he resolved to leave any lingering bitterness in his prison cell. He was determined not to allow his captors to imprison his spirit as he emerged from a physical confinement which never succeeded in shackling his hopes and his convictions.
In and out of prison Mandela embodied "Invictus", the Victorian poem of William Ernest Henley:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be,
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears,
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years,
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Sir Arthur, now 86, decided early in his life that he was the master of his fate, the captain of his unconquerable soul. Over an extraordinary lifetime, with a sovereign Bahamas on the horizon, eventually dawning, developing as a young independent nation, he helped to conquer racist minority rule and the misrule and viciousness of the Pindling era.
Sir Arthur refused to be defined by those who plotted to destroy him and his unquenchable witness to freedom and a democratic Bahamas. Anger is described as one of the seven deadly sins. But it is not anger per se that is the sin. The true sin is the poison of unending bitterness and the never satisfied appetite for vengeance arising from undistilled anger.
In the wisdom of Dr. Maya Angelou: "Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean."
What Mandela, Angelou, Martin Luther King Jr., Sir Arthur and other noble souls understood as a classic challenge of the human spirit and of the cause of justice is the enduring and necessary struggle to transform anger into positive and creative action without internalizing bitterness and the bile of revenge.
Bitterness destroys the one who gorges on it, the one who is unable to forgive, the one who is unable to reach for reconciliation, the one who is unable to let go of certain hurt and pain inflicted by others, which often metastasize from anger into rage and all manner of destructive tendencies; a lifetime of crippling feelings, grievances and chips on shoulders engorged to boulders if not released.
It is often easier to conquer a nation than to tame or conquer one's appetites and sprits. The greatest among us are those who are able to achieve both of these, like Mandela, like Mohandas Gandhi, and in his own way, like Arthur Foulkes.
By his early 20s he had moved permanently from Inagua to New Providence, finding employment at The Tribune, during which time he celebrated his 21st birthday. "In the fell clutch of circumstance" of the 1950s under a racist minority government, Arthur A. Foulkes joined the fledgling Progressive Liberal Party.
The British activist Vivienne Westwood bemoans: "Most people don't think change is up to them; they think somehow it will just happen." Sir Arthur eschews such moral indifference.
He knew that it was up to him to play his part. His conscience dictated that he join the struggle and his moral compass pushed him to oppose Sir Lynden, at great cost to him and his family, while others who initially agreed to support the historic vote of no confidence against Sir Lynden buckled and lost courage, continuing to support the Pindling regime even during its blackest days.
The young Arthur Foulkes' political consciousness was radicalized by the discrimination he saw around him, including as a young reporter covering the House of Assembly. By 1958 he was on the council of the PLP, had helped to found the political action group the National Committee for Positive Action soon after the formation of the PLP, and in 1962 at 34, was a candidate for the party in eastern New Providence.
With the bitter defeat of the 1962 contest, in which the PLP lost the election and Sir Arthur lost his bid for a seat, he left a promising journalism career to found Bahamian Times, which proved pivotal in the struggle for majority rule.
Sir Arthur saw himself more as a journalist than a politician. But he knew that he had to take up the cause of politics, employing his considerable writing skills in the interest of the great cause of the day, the liberation of the mass of Bahamians from racial, political and economic discrimination.
Still, to call Sir Arthur a writer is a failure to fully appreciate his gift and his legacy. More fully, he was a public intellectual, having thought through and written more on a vast variety of topics than any other Bahamian save for a few.
He was by some comparison The Bahamas' Thomas Paine, the "English-American political activist, philosopher, author, political theorist and revolutionary", whose writings were, like Sir Arthur's, pivotal to a liberation struggle.
In addition to his journalism and commentary Sir Arthur penned or drafted notable political documents including the famous petition to the U.N.'s committee on decolonization. Sir Arthur's writings were more pivotal to majority rule than any other single Bahamian.
It was the nature of the struggle and of the courage and conviction of Sir Arthur and others that led them to initially oppose as internal dissidents the misrule and cult of personality mushrooming around Sir Lynden Pindling.
Approaching nearly two decades in the vanguard of the struggle for majority rule, Sir Arthur and others like Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Warren Levarity, and Maurice Moore, left their political home and spent a quarter of a century struggling to secure the democracy of which they long dreamed and for which they endured extraordinary sacrifice, charges of treason, the viciousness of Lewis Yard, the denial of jobs and other economic opportunities, myriad assaults on their person and families, and other indignities.
There were also the internal struggle to form and sustain a new political party, the great split between the FNM and the Bahamian Democratic Party and the central and pivotal role played by Sir Arthur and Basil Nicholls to reconstitute and reunite the major opposition forces in the country.
Along the way, attempts failed to woo Sir Arthur back to the PLP with certain favors and appointments. Mandela was similarly wooed. Both refused to trade conscience for comforts.
Sir Arthur and others spent nearly 40 years in opposition fighting for a certain dream of Bahamian nationhood and democracy. In their many decades in opposition they did more to secure our democracy than did many who spent decades in government. Indeed, the former saved our democracy.
The Hon. A.D. Hanna and others have lionized Sir Arthur with the enduring tribute that few sacrificed more for the struggle than did the man who, though once described as "The Man Who Survived" in a Bahamian Review Magazine cover story, might best be described as the man who flourished and who ensured the flourishing of his country.
Sir Arthur contributed extraordinarily as a public intellectual and writer, as a politician, parliamentarian and Cabinet minister, as a diplomat and for the last four years as one of the finest governors general in an independent Bahamas.
Yet he has contributed much more to the Bahamian spirit. He leaves office with no rancor or bitterness despite the viciousness of many of his former opponents including some now in high office. He leaves office deeply beloved, with his integrity unquestioned and having fostered national unity and one Bahamas.
Two of the greater lessons of his extraordinary life and legacy are the examples of resilience and reconciliation. Those who hated what he stood for and who sought to destroy his vision never caused him to hate. "Under the bludgeonings of chance", his head was sometimes bloody, but never unbowed.
Power reveals. As governor general he exemplified a spirit of humility and graciousness, with his words and speeches uplifting to the people for whom he dedicated a lifetime of struggle and, yes, love.
At a flag-raising ceremony in Rawson Square last week a primary school student offered a tribute to Sir Arthur. In his encomium, he thanked Sir Arthur and Lady Joan Foulkes for their hospitality at Government House, especially of young people. That boy of eight or so captured the gratitude of a nation.
In time he will relish that which generations of Bahamians already know: That we enjoyed the great fortune to live during the times of one such as Sir Arthur, a father of the nation, one whom we are proud to call our own and one who has exemplified the better angels of our nature.
o firstname.lastname@example.org, www.bahamapundit.com.
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