August 02, 2014
I have not visited Kuala Lumpur as yet, but I am a fan of Malaysia and its neighbor city-state of Singapore. I have often featured in this column my admiration for the fact that Malaysia and Singapore might be the only nations in the world that systematically applied the concept of development as prescribed by Ernest Renan.
A strong army that teaches the virtues of civism and serves as a tool for the government in its nation-building process, a government that prevents the practice of nomads in the homeland by investing in strong institutions and excellent infrastructure everywhere and fostering the building of a consensus to help those left behind, these are the techniques that put Malaysia in the front line of emerging countries.
The coup is so much more encouraging since both Malaysia and Singapore are Muslim countries. It was not supposed to be such. Muslim countries, in general, are hotbeds of internal conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites, between Christians and Muslims, between autocratic leaders and the young population seeking education, jobs and self-realization.
Malaysia was pursuing its peaceful and non-eventful life to its zenith until one of its Boeings, Flight MH370, vanished from planet Earth on March 8, 2014, with no trace in the sea or in the ground. The search is still on, in spite of the fact that more than four months have revealed no important debris clues that could lead to a path of resolution.
Now Malaysian Airlines is again on the front page of global news these days, with some 300 people dead, another Boeing, Flight MH17, having been shot down on July 17, 2014, by a missile allegedly pointed by the insurgents against the government of Ukraine supported by the Russians.
It was a routine flight from Amsterdam, Holland, on that Thursday when the Malaysian Airlines flight left for Asia seeking a route that would lead to its destination in a safe but fast way. Permission was sought and received to fly over Ukraine. Suddenly a missile hit the plane. According to the best explanation, it was done by Rambo freedom fighters under the influence of separatists backed by Russia.
I am crying for Malaysia in spite of the fact that most of the victims of the first incident were Chinese travelers and Dutch citizens were the most prominent victims of the second tragedy.
Malaysia could fit the description of the destination where Christopher Columbus was trying to get to when he sailed by accident to the Western Hemisphere in 1492. It had porcelain and spices in quantity. The strait of Malay that forms a giant lake that links Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia with Malaysia, is now one of the most active and most successful regions of the world. Collectively they are called the Asian Tigers.
While the British established the West Indies Company in the Caribbean, they established around 1786 the East Indies Company in the Malaysia region. They imported Chinese and Indians to Malaya to mine the plantations of rubber and pursue the exploitation of tin. It had been a British possession until the Japanese expansion that took control of the land in 1942. The defeat of the Japanese in World War II brought Malaysia back under the protectorate of the British. On August 31, 1957, the Federation of Malaya took birth under the leadership of his first Prime Minister Abdul Rahman in the leadership style of Prime Minister Lee of Singapore. He set out to create a nation hospitable to all "which is blessed with good institutions forged and tempered to perfection by successive British administrations".
Malaysia has a market but strongly directed state economy using a five-year plan system that corrects or implements the minus and the plus to bring the country from a per capita GDP of $8,100 in 2009 to $17,200 in 2014. With a population hovering around 30 million (29,768,915 people in an area of 329,847 square kilometers), the country has moved effectively from a commodities led economy in rubber and palm oil to a multi-sectoral economy that produces electrical goods such as solar panels and other technology products, as well as services, mainly in medical tourism. It now has a plan to be a completely self-sufficient industrialized nation by 2020. This plan is advancing so well, the targeted date has been shortened to 2018.
I am crying for you Malaysia, because the omens against you may seem to threaten derailing your path towards self-economic independence. Akin to the brand Singapore, the brand Malaysia mixed with the experience in Turkey might be the best cocktail for recovery in the countries that emerge from the Spring Revolution in the Arab world. Whether the gods are sailing with Malaysia or not, this troika should press forward to make a bloc and spread the gospel of hospitality for all as the best formula for development.
The raging fire in the Gaza strip, the demonstrations in Cairo or Tripoli can find a suitable fire-fighting agent if they can align themselves with the governments of these three countries to get the ABC that peace in the land starts with the value of each citizen on the land, whether Shiite or Sunni, Christian or Muslim, Jew or Muslim.
In the meantime, oh Malaysia, as a Christian, I will pray to St. Michael and St. Dominic, and also to St. Christopher that you shall sail into continuous glory with no more international incidents over which you have no control and for which there are no clues as to why they must fall into the land of the hibiscus.
o Jean H. Charles, LLB MSW, JD, is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: email@example.com and followed at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti. This is published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.
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August 01, 2014
For most persons in the Bahamas, the talk of value-added tax (VAT) has been more of a nightmare than a pleasant discussion. Questions continue to surface because there is a distrust of the proponents for VAT. Do we really need VAT? Can we not implement another process which addresses the need for revenue generation without imposing a VAT? What about curbing expenditure and taking meaningful steps to assure the electorate that expense reduction is a part of the tax reform being touted.
Having done a study on the taxation system of the Cayman Islands, I am able to say that the indirect taxation model that is employed both here in The Bahamas and in the Cayman Islands has been working and is workable for the future. With this premise, in order to effectively eradicate deficit spending, we need revenue but we also need expense reduction. Expense reduction is the part of the equation that many seem to forget and/or wish to ignore. Revenue generation and the search to find ways to increase this part of the equation is not sufficient if we are going to address our financial challenges as a country. If it is that we have a revenue generation problem then finding creative but sustainable ways of generating revenue is the first step to the solution.
To assume that international agencies are the only solution providers when it comes to running the finances of our country is nonsensical at best and depressing at worst. Moreover, having seen the decline of the Jamaican economy over a period of 30 years with all of the involvement of the international agencies suggests to me that the solution for fixing our country's problems cannot come from the outside but must come from within. After all, it is us who will bear the brunt of the financial realities. Moreover, it is my generation and the generation after me who will suffer from any adverse consequences with respect to VAT.
We must be adamant in ensuring that we do not idly allow this to be forced on us because some external groups says so. The Turks and Caicos Islands rejected VAT. The Cayman Islands does not have VAT. Why must the Bahamas adopt VAT? We can do better than that.
When I did my master's degree in finance and studied taxation models, I realized very quickly that the indirect taxation model that we employ can work, contrary to what many would have us to believe. The fact is that Bahamians do not want VAT. Let's just stop pretending that it is ok. From the feedback that is in the public domain, there is a dominant view that VAT is being forced upon Bahamians.
Let's be more serious and efficient in collecting the taxes that we now have outstanding before looking at adding more. How many businesses are in arrears that should pay? This has to happen. Why should the masses be penalized because of the few? It is unfair to the majority of the Bahamian people to be saddled with VAT when there are workable alternatives which technocrats refuse to review or accept because of the international agenda being driven by them. The sovereignty of the Bahamas is at stake when the few impose their views on the many with far reaching detrimental effects.
If all Bahamians were to be honest when coming through Customs and paid their duties so that as a young sovereign nation we could have revenue to take care of our expenses, then we would probably not be at this point, watching VAT debated in parliament. While the government needs to do its part in collecting taxes, we as citizens have a responsibility to do our part and be honest and pay our fair share in order to build better schools, roads, parks and hospitals.
If 200,000 Bahamians travel to Florida or anywhere overseas annually and currently enjoy $600 in duty exemption, I am sure they would give this up to contribute an additional $120 million in revenue to the government. Further, if we looked at our work permit system as a source of revenue generation, which would also allow for an increase in foreign workers similar to Cayman, Bermuda or the British Virgin Islands, the potential for substantial annual revenues would be tremendous and the spin-offs in spending in the community would be beneficial to Bahamians. What percentage increase at the port could the Bahamian population afford that would provide the revenue needed while eliminating the call for VAT?
Sustainability is a key component and so this brings me to expenditure control. There has to be a reduction policy on expenditure in the public sector if we are going to be serious about eliminating our deficit. The Bahamas needs to have balanced budgets and we need to move in the direction of having surpluses. Is this doable?
The same level of aggressiveness with revenue generation must be exercised on expense reduction. It is no longer OK to do what is politically expedient or what is internationally directed when there are realistic alternatives to implementing VAT. Have we commissioned our economics professors at the College of the Bahamas to do a study that would support us using an alternative? If we believe in Bahamians we must start listening to what the Bahamian people are saying. Do not assume for one minute that they are stupid. With the addition of VAT there will be a need to add government services. What is the cost associated with this and doesn't that add to the deficit? Could this expenditure cost an additional $30 to $40 million in Social Services costs?
VAT will add to the cost of living and this is a fact. Wouldn't an alternative plan that has a lesser effect on cost of living be better for all of us?
Who will listen to the ordinary Bahamian? I know we all like the pie in the sky talk so when one hears of oil exploration in the Bahamas or the potential for salt production in Long Island or an increase in aragonite production for revenue, that too sounds good. Truth be told, if it were that easy it would have been done a long time ago. I think the sobering reality is that we must start with proper studies being done by Bahamians which include and take into account what the majority of Bahamians want. If it is that they want VAT, then VAT it shall be. As for me, I can say I don't support it nor do I accept that it is the only logical way forward.
o John Carey served as a member of Parliament from 2002-2007 and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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July 31, 2014
At a commercial bank a woman in her 20s pulled into a parking space clearly reserved for the disabled. When told it was a handicapped spot, she breezily responded, "I know," sauntering into the bank, leaving two toddlers in the car who should not have been left unaccompanied.
She knew that parking in the handicapped spot was illegal. She didn't care. It suited her convenience.
Near the Mall at Marathon a man made a slow and illegal U-turn. The turn was slow because he was chatting on his cell, with one hand on the steering wheel and the other one glued to his telephone.
At a fast food outlet, while standing on line to be served following a swim at the beach, a young woman in her 20s loudly asked her teenage female friend whether she had washed her genitals, using colorful language referencing the female genitals.
While quite a number of the motorists on New Providence are considerate, a large number treat the roadways and parking spaces as their personal space, self-absorbed and indifferent to the needs of fellow motorists.
Many haphazardly pull into parking spaces in a manner which blocks another motorist from also parking. Others pull into spaces clearly marked "no parking".
The self-absorbed excuse often used to justify such selfishness and blatant disregard: "I'll be right back." Translation: "To hell with you, this suits my convenience." And, "My needs are more important than yours."
Watch for it: Most people drive the way they think. Most of the road rage is not by considerate drivers. Watch also how other shoppers maneuver their carts through a grocery story. Some ensure that they are not blocking others while some invariably obliviously block the aisles as if they are alone in the store.
At a popular grocery store, a young man left his trolley in the middle of the aisle with no care as to needs of other shoppers. At the checkout, instead of politely pushing his trolley through, he abandoned it in front of the cashier's stand, waiting for someone else to return the cart he used.
What do these and other stories of incivility, public rudeness and self-absorbed habits suggest? Here's another case to consider.
Go to Queen Street downtown and observe Bahamians lined up to get a U.S. visa. The line is orderly, there is little noise and Bahamians are on their best behavior. Why is this? Context and group norms matter, as well as social rewards and sanctions, more of which later.
A dear friend's sister who saw two of her students on the line, remarked at how well-behaved they were, somewhat in contrast to how they sometimes act when in class. Their response: "We know how to behave."
Why do many of the same people who blatantly disregard various civilities at home, near instantly observe such civilities when overseas? What is the switching mechanism in which we can turn on and off certain kinds of behavior depending on the social context?
The introduction of seat belt laws took quite some time with successive governments worried about the backlash from a large number of Bahamians. Yet many of these same people quickly buckled-up when they traveled to the U.S.
Though a good number of Bahamians still refuse to wear seat belts or wear them intermittently, the police, charged to help monitor compliance with the new law, were surprised at how quickly a large number of Bahamians were buckling-up.
Bahamians are by and large not cigarette smokers, though there is a troubling push to market locally assembled cigarettes to the public, promoting it as fashionable.
We have largely eschewed smoking as a social habit, which speaks to the power of group norms in positively or negatively sanctioning various habits. We are however, heavy drinkers.
Long Island is a telling study in social norms. In contrast to many government-operated high schools in New Providence and various Family Islands, there is an expectation that students will graduate with a diploma and with a certain minimum grade point average.
It isn't just a matter of classroom sizes. Schools in the Family Islands with small classroom numbers often do not do as well as the Long Island schools.
Long Islanders - parents, teachers, staff and the wider community - expect their school children to graduate. There is also peer pressure not to be left behind. It is unfashionable to leave school without a diploma.
Yet here on New Providence, in the government-operated school system, there is little to no stigma attached to a low grade point average or failing to leave school with a diploma.
A friend tells of attending various social occasions at Long Island with residents usually standing in line waiting their turn to be served, noting that at New Providence and various other islands there might be chaos and line-jumping.
When walking into a bank or office Bahamians routinely say, "Good morning" or "Good afternoon", a civility which appears not to have lost social currency.
Why do we observe some civilities, norms and mores while ignoring others? The proximate answer has to do with what is tolerated. At the same grocery store referenced earlier there is an area at the front of the store on the outside clearly marked "no parking".
Those inconsiderate shoppers too lazy to park in properly designated spots flout the sign partly because they know that there will be no consequence for their actions. Security personnel at this and other businesses routinely fail to ask those parked illegally to remove their vehicles.
Meanwhile a friend told me that he will never park his car in the lower lot of the main post office and go off to do errands downtown. After his car was twice towed he got the message.
The reality is that many of us often know better. But we are often slack and uncivil and inconsiderate at home because we like it so and more importantly we can get away with such inconsideration with little to no consequence for our poor behavior.
o email@example.com, www.bahamapundit.com.
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July 30, 2014
After emancipation, our enslavement mutated from a 100 percent physically bound condition to a 100 percent mentally bound condition and, like a legitimate mental illness, this psychological deficiency displays itself as hereditary.
We have it and we don't know we have it. We just pass it on from one person, family, and generation to the next, never acknowledging it as it really is. If it manifests itself, we don't get treatment, because we can't or won't identify it for what it is. When it can be identified, we are embarrassed by it or ignore it and call it something else. But, in truth, it is sustained mental bondage.
It is the reason why we can gain freedom from shackles and independence from the European motherland, be left in charge of our own destiny, take control politically, socially, and economically, yet never be in control of ourselves.
We cannot shake this affliction that is the identical norm for countries of like people who have travelled paths the same as or similar to ours. We share such comparable pasts which today exhibit an equivalence of psychosomatic development disorders. And it's not only because of economic inequity.
Certainly, if someone steals your material wealth, it leaves you economically deprived, but the lack doesn't end there.
It seems, as an inheritor of oppression, historic and external or modern and internal, that no matter what you do or have done to begin anew, you still are unable to rise higher than the limitations of your restrained past, because you fail to recognize that you've lost something to that time more important than your material possessions.
You've been dispossessed of your mental and emotional wealth, whether they were stolen by others or squandered by yourself, and those resources take a much longer time to be restored, if in fact they ever can be.
Even after adopting an entire system of government and religious, academic, and social constructs, you cannot enjoy your separation from the world to which you were bound.
You cannot enjoy your separation, because it is illusory. You've never separated yourself from the stronghold of a bound mentality, and transplanting religion, policy, education, and social norms could never remove the remnants of enslaved conditions.
You began a country that didn't really know what it wanted to be so it adapted a template of the only thing you knew: a model from your owner-master that would serve only to perpetuate the experiences of slavery even amongst the freed, a model bound to fail without the prerequisite mental restoration of your people.
You could not and cannot restore your mental wealth and well-being without reconditioning your thought patterns. Otherwise, you have created and will continue to create a system of institutions and formalities which have no real purpose or soon become symbolic of only themselves.
A light show to the sky every year to convince yourself and the world that you are free is but a ritual. If you have never wholly accepted the primary tenet of freedom - complete individual responsibility - as the foundation for all of your development, for yourself, your world, your future, how can you honestly be free?
Freedom, real freedom, is tremendously expensive. You forego many things, many emotional, material, and monetary things, to have it and to keep it. Until you accept these costs of freedom, the burden of true and free living, the challenge of completely invalidating what anyone thinks of you, what anyone thinks you should have, or thinks you should be, you will never understand or appreciate real freedom.
You cannot be free without being responsible, chiefly to yourself, for your actions and for your words.
You cannot be free by a ceremony of fireworks, flag-waving, singing, or reciting.
You can celebrate a political divorce from a mother country, but that split does not automatically equate to freedom.
Freedom is a condition of the mind and of being which requires an acceptance of personal responsibility. Being in control, being in charge of oneself, is accepting and embracing the fullness of responsibility that comes with self-governance.
When you accept that freedom is your own and greatest internal responsibility for the rest of your human existence, then you can begin to be free. And you cannot be independent without being free.
When you relieve yourself and your mind of the limitations placed upon you by others and by yourself, then you take control of your internal freedom. When you take control of your personal freedom, then you can be an independent part of a whole and free country.
When you are a free country, as represented by the strength and durability of your national mentality, then you are free from your dependence on the thinking and persuasions of others. And when you are free of such externally-imposed mental controls, then you can finally be a liberated nation.
July 10, 1973 did not make us free, it gave us political independence from Britain. Being truly free is a personal responsibility and it originates solely within each individual. It is a permanent state of mind as well as body.
o Nicole Burrows is an academically-trained economist. She can be contacted via Facebook at Facebook.com/NicoleBurrows.
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July 29, 2014
General elections in The Bahamas are normally held every five years at which time the characteristic fanfare and excitement often overshadow the messages of the parties seeking the votes of the electorate. The election season is often viewed as a major event by Bahamians; rallies are perceived by some to involve multiple nights of festivities, jubilation and partying. During this period, emotionalism and slogans tend to drown out the voices of reason, logic and practicality.
It would not be surprising if many readers had already found themselves embarking on a journey to what is referred to by some as the "silly season". This is where this writer pauses to state that we are not in the election season; although it is often said that political parties and politicians are always in election mode, our country is at a crossroads and this is not the time for the promotion of self-interest over the national interest. Politicians and persons with political ambitions on all sides of the political divide should therefore consider suspending their self-promotion and self-centered campaigns for one true campaign - the campaign to create a better Bahamas for all Bahamians.
The critical matters at hand
The Bahamian economy continues to make a slow but steady recovery in the aftermath of the Great Recession. We are faced with a huge fiscal deficit, high national debt, threats of sovereign rating downgrade and an overall fiscal imbalance. The rate of unemployment remains high with youth unemployment at an unacceptable level. The populace is plagued by crime and the fear of crime as certain elements among us seek to jeopardize our way of life and seem to be out to hold the nation hostage by threatening our number one industry.
The scourges of illegal migration and poaching in our waters continue to put a strain on the public purse and drain our limited resources in a challenging economic climate. The challenges faced by our number two industry in the form of international pressures, an evolving landscape for tax cooperation and increasing regulatory burden are well documented. Then we have the decades-long issue of gender inequality that is inscribed in our constitution and discriminates mainly against Bahamian women.
Are we making any progress at all?
The economy of The Bahamas is expected to continue on a path of modest growth in the coming years in line with the global economy, with the exception of few countries whose economies are overachieving. This seems to be the new normal; however, there is reason for optimism in relation to our economy with the materialization of local and foreign direct investment in the coming months. The key point here is that the opportunities they provide must be for both employment and entrepreneurship. Additionally, the GFS deficit has been on a gradual decline as we seek to address our financial woes.
The most recent report from the Department of Statistics showed that the unemployment rate fell from 15.4 percent to 14.3 percent while the number of discouraged workers also fell. While youth unemployment remains a serious concern, the overall rate of unemployment is going in the right direction and the prime minister has expressed optimism that the rate will continue to fall. Our proud sons and daughters of the Royal Bahamas Police Force must be commended for rising up to the challenge in the fight against crime and lawlessness in our beloved country. We cannot deny that their hard work is being felt, and the results of their efforts are apparent throughout the archipelago, although there is much work to be done.
The Bahamas government, acting on our behalf, has invested in vessels for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) to address concerns raised by we the people regarding illegal migration and poaching. While these are long-term investments, we expect results from these purchases and the reinforcement of the manpower of the RBDF.
What about legislation?
Our parliamentarians have a mandate from the people of this country to pass laws that promote social justice, preserve our freedom - in all senses of the word - and, above all, ensure that the said laws are in our best interest as a country. The legislative agenda of any government must be inspired and guided by these basic principles. The bills tabled last week that are expected to pave the way for the November 6, 2014 constitutional referendum meet the criteria aforementioned.
While the proposed value-added tax (VAT) has been the topic of much discussion, analysis, studies and sometimes contention, the VAT Bill and Regulations were tabled in the House of Assembly last week providing for consultation and increased certainty on the details of the proposed tax system. It is encouraging to hear government officials echo the sentiments of the private sector that the current fiscal dilemma we face cannot be addressed simply or solely by generating more revenue. Prudence and financial discipline as well as better tax administration must be a major part of the reform package.
The campaign of all campaigns
Prime Minister Christie made an interesting comment last week in relation to his plans for the next few years and the anticipated general election. He indicated that his focus is on addressing the challenges facing the country, inferring that he is not in election mode or campaigning for the 2017 general election when there is so much work to be done today to better the lives of Bahamians. While undoubtedly he will have to address his future plans eventually, he is right in saying that politics must not supercede the interests, well-being and current urgent needs of the Bahamian people.
Political leaders and individuals aspiring for high office in our country must join the campaign for Bahamians and ditch the campaign for themselves; the movement to wipe every tear from every eye must be everyone's business. We must learn to give credit where it is due and not criticize without merit based on our political affiliations. The current administration has had and will have challenges; however, there have been some initiatives implemented that have been aimed at moving the country forward.
We the employers, the Bahamian people, will make our decision on who to employ at the polls when the time is right. The time is not now and we will make that decision in 2017 based on the actual performance (not the dramatic or theatrical performance) and proposed plan of the government, current opposition party and groups presenting themselves as viable alternatives.
One of the main things we will consider is the position taken on issues of national importance and whether they are in our interest or merely for political expediency. The earliest opportunity will present itself during the discourse on gender equality. Will the government's opponents support and encourage persons to support this progressive move, or will they take a hands-off approach without taking sides in the debate? We will revisit this topic at a later date, but in the interim, this is a call to suspend political campaigns for one vital campaign: a national campaign aimed at a common loftier goal that knows no gender, race, politics, social status or religion - the campaign for a better Bahamas.
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 27, 2014
"A really strong woman accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars."
Over the weekend, the community of Englerston paid its final respects to a wonderful woman, who, for most of her life, resided in the constituency that she so dearly loved. Her name was Rosmal Rosemary Smith Fowler, affectionately called either Rosemary or Fowler, but, more often than not, never by both. And yet to others like me, out of deference to the power of her spirit, she was always Mrs. Fowler. She left us on July 11, and therefore, with her passing this week, we would like to Consider this...What is the legacy of this flower called Fowler?
Her early years
Rosmal Rosemary was born on October 4, 1936 to the late Ronald and Bernice Frazier Smith of Lower Bogue, a small sleepy settlement in North Eleuthera. She spent her early years there, obtaining an education at the Lower Bogue All-Age School and in her church where she learned the principles of Christian life that remained with her throughout her 77 years.
Mrs. Fowler moved to Nassau after completing her basic education and lived with her parents on Ragged Island Street. As was customary in those days, early in life Rosemary Fowler began working at several restaurants and hotels in the capital and on Eleuthera. She married Haywood Fowler in December 1957 and had 10 children.
A deeply spiritual life
Anyone who knew Mrs. Fowler quickly came to appreciate that she was a deeply spiritual person. She loved her home church, the Grants Town Wesley Methodist Church, and was not only an active member there, but was described by its former pastor, Rev. Frederick Kelly, as someone who "could always be consulted and trusted with deeply confidential matters". It was patently clear that those who paid tribute to her during the funeral on Saturday recognized that Mrs. Fowler's value system was prioritized in the order of church, family and political party.
Her political commitment
Rosemary Fowler supported the fledgling Progressive Liberal Party in the early days of its march to freedom, including the achievement of universal suffrage as well as the often frustrating and sometimes painful journey that ultimately culminated in majority rule in 1967 and independence in 1973.
Mrs. Fowler lived all of her adult life in the Englerston constituency, primarily through Podoleo Street. She passionately and uncompromisingly supported her members of Parliament, beginning with Sir Clifford Darling and the Hon. Peter Bethel (both deceased), yours truly and, more recently, the Hon. Glenys Hanna Martin. Mrs. Fowler would often boast that she "was born a PLP and will die a PLP" and that she was "more PLP than [Sir Lynden] Pindling or [Perry] Christie".
I first met Mrs. Fowler during the 1997 general elections campaign when I ran for the Englerston constituency. I engaged her as a full-time employee in the constituency campaign office, and she worked tirelessly during the campaign to ensure that the office was immaculately maintained. In those days, successful candidates were not paid an allowance to maintain a constituency office and therefore, after the general elections which the PLP lost, Mrs. Fowler was ecstatic to learn that she would remain on the full-time constituency office staff. She worked even more diligently to ensure that everything was in its proper place and that persons visiting the constituency office were welcomed and comfortable. Mrs. Fowler was often the first to greet me when I arrived at the constituency office and one of the last to leave, ensuring at all times that her MP was supported in order to assist as many constituents as possible.
Upon being succeeded in Englerston by the Hon. Glenys Hanna Martin, Mrs. Fowler was again retained by her new member of Parliament, proving to be as protective and supportive then as she was to the preceding member. Mrs. Fowler's boundless energy was legendary. Mrs. Hanna Martin recalled that during the 2012 election campaign, she and several campaign workers, including Mrs. Fowler, came to a wall in the area that was being canvassed and Mrs. Fowler was admonished to return to the car because of the impediment that the wall presented. As only she could, Mrs. Fowler, then 75-years-old, jumped the wall just as the other campaign workers did. She would neither be outdone nor left behind.
Mrs. Fowler loved political rallies and party conventions and, although she did not have a car, was always present early and positioned herself up-front and center to ensure that she heard every word emanating from the speakers.
She loved her Progressive Liberal Party, never in blind faith, but with a critically maternal perspective, because she believed that it was the organ that provided the greatest opportunity to enable her children and grand-children to participate more fully in the development of her beloved Bahamas.
Mrs. Fowler never forgot the quiet village of Lower Bogue from whence she came. Neither did she ever forget that in her early days in Nassau, her community in Englerston represented a larger version of the village that she left in North Eleuthera.
A lasting legacy
Although she never owned a house or a car, Mrs. Fowler welcomed everyone into her home and could always rely on friends to catch a ride, whether she was going to church, a political meeting or to visit a family member or friend in need of companionship or counsel.
Mrs. Fowler was a rare woman who had the capacity to work tirelessly on whatever task to which she applied herself. She did what needed to be done because it was what had to be done. She demonstrated a level of commitment to her church, family and party that exceeded the expectations of those who sought her assistance. Mrs. Fowler did not have to be asked to undertake a task. It was as if she knew exactly what needed to be done and went about achieving it, and did so without complaining or without any expectation of reward. She was a dedicated and diligent soldier, fighting in her own way for a cause to which she was always devoted.
Mrs. Fowler represented all that is good about Bahamians: ever mindful of the needs of others, unselfish, altruistic and concerned about her fellow Bahamians. She was the personification of so many unsung heroes in cities and settlements strewn across the vast archipelago of The Bahamas. It is persons like Rosemary Fowler who made it possible for so many of our leaders to rise above the noise and fray and to be imbued with the confidence that persons like Mrs. Fowler always "had their backs" in the worst of times so they could forge the best of times.
Mrs. Fowler's contribution and legacy were recognized on Thursday past, when her mortal remains lay in state and she was honored at the Lynden Pindling Center, eulogized by senior party members including Mr. Errington "Minky" Isaacs, chairman emeritus, yours truly, the Hon. Glenys Hanna Martin, the deputy prime minister and the prime minister. Mrs. Fowler would have been extremely pleased by the plaudits that were proffered by those who appreciated her indomitable spirit.
Today's body politic is sadly lacking individuals like Mrs. Fowler, selfless and committed to serving our society in a quiet but profound way. What our 21st century Bahamas needs, especially our political world, is to return to values that shaped people like her, honed her decency and dedication to her beliefs until she shone like gold amidst the brass of the crowd. Mrs. Fowler was truly a quiet hero of the quiet revolution. Simply put: we need more like her. The flower that we called Fowler will truly be missed.
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 26, 2014
I remember the exact date I had my encounter with chikungunya fever; it was on May 1, when I had just returned from the May Day agricultural fair organized every year in Haiti by the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Agriculture. The first symptom was diarrhea, I took it in stride because I figured out a good cleansing of my belly was excellent; its size often interferes with the natural pleasure and enjoyment of life.
When I could not get up, I felt there was something new and unusual that I could not apprehend. I decided it was maybe food poisoning, since I indulged in a new recipe at the fair. It was clear later that I was one more victim of chikungunya.
This epidemic, brought into the Caribbean and the Western Hemisphere via the idyllic island of St. Martin, has created havoc in Haiti. The numbers cited by the Ministry of Health (59,000) do not come close to the reality on the ground. My empirical observation is that close to hundreds of thousands of the population might have been stricken by chikungunya one way or the other. Very few people visited the hospitals or a clinics, since the symptoms lasted three to five days and resulted in minor inconvenience.
It strikes the bones and the joints, disabling the body from standing and doing the most routine tasks of the day. I nursed my chikungunya fever with a potion of sorosi (cerassee) mixed with whisky and rum; I took frequent baths in leaves of calabash. After some good sweating, I was good to go and good-bye chikungunya.
The hiccup came after. Chikungunya, through the remaining symptoms, will highlight the weak parts of your physical system. The aftermath of chikunguya fever is like a colonoscopy that indicates the weak parts of your body that you should pay attention to. As such, my controversial motto is: have your chikungunya fever and live better after!
This advice is dedicated to the diaspora and to all those tourists who were contemplating of visiting Haiti during the religious festival season and having second thoughts of coming down to the magic island because of the fear of being stricken by the insect that discriminates against neither the rich nor the poor.
Anyway, happy chikungunya and welcome to Haiti's fiesta season!
July 15 is the ringing bell of the festival season that starts with the fiesta of the Virgin of Mount Carmel in the picturesque village of Saut d'Eau. The tradition holds that a peasant was visited by the Virgin Mary on top of a tree. She instructed the gardener to tell the priest to erect a church near the tree. The priest took the messenger for a fool and ordered the tree to be cut, so the story would have been stillborn.
Our Lady of Carmel was not amused by the Doubting Thomas priest. The pastor was struck by lightning very soon after and the devotion to Mary of Mount Carmel in the village of Saut d'Eau sprung up. In fact, there is plan by the Catholic Diocese of Hinche to erect a Basilica in our Lady's honor. (Donations can be sent to the Bishop Simon Pierre St. Hillien, Hinche, Haiti or via the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia).
I took the road to visit the village and I was very surprised to find the government of Martelly/Lamothe has constructed a brand new paved road leading not only to the mountain village but all the way to the waterfall where voodoo practice and Catholic celebration enjoy a concubine life worth seeing. The waterfall has been redesigned into an enclave set in a park that has no reason to envy any of the state parks that you would visit in the United States, with artists selling and engaging in the live practice of painting your preferred saint. Except you will come back home having been engaged in the frenzy of dancing in the waterfall with a mass of people all excited by the sound of drums and the percussion of the Rara Band.
The pilgrimage continues in the northern part of Haiti in the village of Le Borgne that collaborated with its sister city of Port Margot to organize every year a diaspora ball with the super orchestra Tropicana on July 17. Between Le Borgne and Port Margot you will find the beach of Chouchou Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches on Earth, still unexploited. You can camp there before moving toward Port Margot for the Fiesta of St Marguerite on July 19 and 20.
With no rest in between, be ready to move on July 23 to the town of La Plaine du Nord, where St. Jacques, aka Ogou in the voodoo ritual, will preside over a bacchanal that the Romans in their debauchery could not imagine. Next, on July 24 and 25, Granny St. Ann waits for you in the village of Limonade, where Christopher Columbus built his first settlement in the western hemisphere.
During that time, the city of Cap Haitian can be used as your home base; it is filled with excitement, concert, and dances by the two most popular bands of the country and the region, Septentrional and Tropicana. I visited Cap Haitian recently and I was pleasantly surprised to find a multitude of boutique hotels that rival each other with amenities that will make your vacation a moment to remember.
Cap Haitian is now linked to the capital city of Port au Prince with air-conditioned buses that leave the touristic hub of the north of Haiti at all hours of the day, with a one-way trip costing $20 for the four-hour drive. Port au Prince will celebrate its Flowers Carnival on July 27, 28 and 29. The event has been designed by President Michel Martelly to compensate the capital dwellers for the nomadic state of the National Carnival that takes place in different cities of the country instead of the capital. Imagine Rio and Port of Spain all combined during the summer in Haiti.
Stay for a few days in Haiti to attend the fiesta of St. Marie Madeleine in the picturesque and beautiful mountain village of Marmelade on July 29. There, visit with Patrick Joseph, the legislator for the village of Ennery/St. Michel (all close by); he has built a magnificent hotel named the Village, which is a sensation by itself.
You could take a break, but do come back, because, after a pause of 15 days, the religious celebration starts de novo with the feast of our Lady of Assumption on August 15. Though in honor of the patron saint of the major towns of Haiti, it is celebrated with furor in Les Cayes, where Gelee Beach is the main attraction. You can also choose Petit Goave, the home town of the second black immortal of the French Academy, Dany Laferriere or visit the bustling frontier city of Ouanaminthe. The chain of fiesta will last until September 7, with St. Louis king of France on August 25 in Jeremie and Mirebalais and St. Rose on August 30 in Grand River.
Lingering in Haiti until the beginning of classes or the new work season, do visit Bord de Mer Limonade, where St. Philomena, feted on September 7, has been dethroned by the Vatican but presides anyway with grace and favor under the leadership of my good friend Father Abraham, who converts one hougan/voodoo priest at a time. Bord de mer Limonade has all the characteristics of Negril, except it has not yet been discovered.
Haiti's festival season is a work in progress that only those who have visited the rest of the world could fully appreciate. It is not a tourist attraction. It is alive, it is passionate, it is fulfilling. If stricken by chikungunya, you come back strengthened; participating in Haiti's fiesta season will bring you closer to the human drama that Barbara Enreincheich has called the collective joy in her famous book: "Dancing in the Streets". It is the world as it was practiced in ancient times where communal living and communal pleasure was the norm; you will find it only in Haiti.
o Jean H. Charles, LLB MSW, JD, is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti. This is published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.
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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: email@example.com
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 email@example.com.
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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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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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