The carnival: An opportunity lost

February 05, 2015

Given its record from 2002 to 2007, the PLP's 2012 general election slogan, "Believe in Bahamians", was highly effective, though disingenuous. The degree of disingenuousness is highlighted by the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, a parody and simulacrum that is of dubious economic or cultural value.
The insistence on the carnival represents a lost strategic opportunity. We should have utilized our resources to seed, create and develop a host of indigenous cultural experiences and the heritage tourism sector.
Instead we are distracted by the planning for and debate over an extravaganza, the value of which is highly questionable, though the debate may have the silver lining of focusing on the direction we might take.
To better understand the carnival festival fabrication is to grasp the mindset of Prime Minister Perry Christie. Some years ago after returning home, Christie enthused that he had learned from a visit to a Caribbean neighbor state what a wonderful talent and treasure we have in historian Dr. Gail Saunders.
Saunders was already the author of several books and a scholar celebrated at home, regionally and internationally. Her prodigious work at the Department of Archives over many decades helped to preserve and catalogue invaluable archival material.
Decades before the Clifton heritage site seized the popular imagination and became a political battleground, Saunders was working to study and protect its ruins and artifacts.
She is one of the foremost authorities on Bahamian history, who worked tirelessly over many decades to preserve artifacts and historic documents, reasons for which this writer previously recommended her for knighthood. Yet Christie, who had been in political life for decades was surprised at what a treasure is Saunders. It speaks to his mindset.
During the 2013 Christmas Junkanoo parade Christie rushed with the Valley Boys under the theme "From China to The Bahamas", donning the costume of a Chinese emperor. But The Bahamas' prime minister did not have his costume made locally. Instead he begged the Chinese ambassador for a costume, "Made in China".

That he begged the envoy for a costume is unbecoming of a prime minister. That he outsourced getting his Junkanoo costume to a foreign country and government is near inexplicable. It speaks to his mindset.
Christie is the master of glitter-laced ideas which often turn out to be hairbrained, rash and giddy, rather than thoughtful and deliberate. He often seizes on a flashy idea, commits the government, and then something proverbial hits the fan, splattering, making a big mess, stinking to high heaven, an idiom which means "of very poor quality" and potentially ending up on a dunghill.
The Christie administration is paralysed by a pattern of ineptness from BAMSI to the carnival: Come up with an idea not well thought out, do plenty of public relations and talking to justify a poorly conceived idea, throw millions of dollars into the scheme, hire plenty of cronies and then cross your fingers and hope for the best.
From its inception, Christie's culturally counterfeit carnival caper was poorly conceived, with little serious thought given to matters of economics and culture, matters which are interwoven, including one's philosophy of economic and cultural development.
By his adoption of this carnival, Christie has again demonstrated that his mindset is regressive in areas of economics and culture and that he is not a forward-thinker.
Christie was vehement in branding the extravaganza as "carnival". There was to be no mention of the name Junkanoo. Instead we were to mimic a foreign concept and then sell and permanently brand ourselves under the rubric of a cultural form not authentically Bahamian. Only under great pressure did he relent to appending the name "Junkanoo".
The fact that the name was added as an afterthought speaks volumes and shows that the PLP's slogan about believing in Bahamians was election gimmickry. Once in office the government imported a foreign cultural concept instead of further nurturing and developing indigenous forms of cultural expression.

What Christie seemed not to get and still seems not to understand are the messages that he is sending to Bahamians, especially our children and youth, about our culture and history.
One message: "Since them foreigners don't know what Junkanoo is, let's tell them we're having carnival." We have seen this sort of song and dance before.
It turns out that by one report more Americans seemed to have heard about Bahamian Junkanoo than carnival in Trinidad and Tobago. Perhaps for foreign marketing purposes our southern Caribbean neighbor might wish to brand their carnival with the name Junkanoo.
How far will Christie go to enable the exploitation of our natural and cultural heritage for money that may actually make us poorer in significant ways and pollute the heritage of both.
Do we really want to pollute our pristine waters in a rush to drill for oil? And why are we risking polluting our history with a carnival concept potentially damaging to the integrity and development of Junkanoo?
Christie boasts that he may be "a defining prime minister". If he enables the pollution of our waters through oil drilling and helps to harm the cultural integrity of Junkanoo he may be defined in a manner not of his liking.
In falsely marketing our heritage to others we rob ourselves of something essential about our culture and history. The slave trade did that to us in previous generations. Are we now to be the authors of our own loss of identity and amnesia?
In comments on the carnival the Christian Council overreached on a number of points but in significant ways it did not go far enough. History and cultural context matter.
Carnival was born in Roman Catholic countries in the Americas as a prelude to the fasting and self-denial of Lent. Human beings are highly inventive and can be perversely practical: One imagines that if Lent was to be a season of repentance, penitents wanted something for which they might repent.
Before a season of fasting and denial, erupted an approximately week-long festival indulging a cornucopia of appetites and carnality in a highly sexualized bacchanal fuelled by libations and abandonment.
Junkanoo developed as a different sort of "freedom" festival with slaves and their ancestors enjoying time off from work at Christmastime and New Year's, occupying the space of commercial and political power in a celebration of a sense of and a longing for freedom.

A Roman Catholic nun who spent decades teaching in The Bahamas described what she saw as the theology of Junkanoo, paralleling the ringing of the church bells before mass and the ringing of cowbells during Junkanoo as invitations to celebration by communities of the faithful seeking freedom, redemption and communion.
She remained a Junkanoo enthusiast and said that she had never heard a musical instrument as celebratory as the goat skin drum.
Junkanoo is an essential part of the history of struggle and transcendence for slaves and freed slaves in The Bahamas, a cultural expression which helped unite various tribal groups into one people.
No other country in the world has preserved or developed Junkanoo as has The Bahamas. It is associated with no other country as much as ours, done with so much operatic brilliance.
The brilliant Trinidadian carnival artist Peter Minshall has visited The Bahamas on several occasions and enthused about the unique qualities of Bahamian Junkanoo, including the creation, design process and production of costumes, and the amount of work done by hand. He has spoken of the magic of Junkanoo.
It is this magic, spirit and ethos that we should seek to preserve and share with a global audience, not in one big extravaganza, the main attraction of which will be a pop star or two from overseas.
The most baffling part of the entire carnival fiasco is the strategic opportunity being lost. There has never been a prime minister more closely identified with Junkanoo that Christie. Many hoped that this time around that he and his advisors would have utilized and fostered Junkanoo and other forms of cultural expression to launch an intensive focus on Bahamian culture in all forms.
Many wished that he would seek to make this a part of his legacy. Instead he has done the opposite, managing to alienate the very cultural community who dared hope for so much more.
Instead of models of cultural and economic development which may significantly boost the domestic creative economy, including the heritage tourism sector, the government opted for models that fail to fully utilize the native genius and entrepreneurial talents of Bahamians, whom they boasted at the last election that they believed in so much.

Note: It has come to the attention of this writer that an individual or group appears to have created a Facebook account in the name of this column, and is making friend requests and sending out scurrilous and false allegations in an attempt to besmirch this column.
Such vile behavior is indicative of the mindset of certain individuals who continue to use lowbrow means because they are unable to succeed on their own merit. One can imagine the creator of such a fake account, especially given certain commentaries made in this column.
This matter is being referred to the relevant authorities for appropriate action. This columnist is in no way associated with this fake page and readers are advised to deny any friend request and to report any spurious information sent out by this page to the police or other relevant authorities.

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

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The grand deception - part 1

February 04, 2015

The failure of the economy of Grand Bahama remains a mystery to most people and the question is often asked as to how one of the largest islands in The Bahamas, situated only 85 miles and 45 minutes away from the largest economy in the world, with an extensive modern infrastructure, a deep water harbor, thousands of acres of land, abundant fresh water and miles upon miles of the most beautiful, untouched beaches in The Bahamas could fail to succeed.
No doubt, many politicians and their acolytes have made fortunes in Grand Bahama and so have the constant procession of foreign front-men who have come to this country with little or nothing in terms of personal wealth but who, after having established alliances with Bahamian politicians, have been the beneficiaries of lucrative licenses and government contracts and have become rich.
This three part series of articles on the economy of Grand Bahama are offered by me to the Bahamian public as a means of starting a mature and meaningful discussion on the systemic developmental obstacles which we face throughout our Commonwealth, the effect of partisan political gang warfare in enabling and sustaining those developmental obstacles and the psychological and democratic choices which we must make if we are to address those developmental obstacles and mature our democracy.
If we want to change our country we must change how we think and what we do.
If we do not change how we think and what we do, we will not only fail to change our country but the dire social and economic issues which now confront our country will no doubt increase.
This three part series in relation to the economy of Grand Bahama will address the following issues:
o That all material decisions of the Grand Bahama Port Authority Limited ("the GBPA") in respect of the business development of the City of Freeport are, and since 1968 have been, subject to the control and oversight of the government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas with the result that repeated statements by successive governments of The Bahamas that they are and have been powerless to direct the development of the City of Freeport and, by extension, the wider Grand Bahama community, have been untrue. The repeated failures by successive governments of The Bahamas to redirect development of the City of Freeport for the benefit of the citizenry of The Bahamas have been a gross dereliction of duty.
o That the real property tax exemption under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement which will expire on August 4, 2015 will only expire in respect of non-Bahamians (such as the shareholders of the GBPA) who own land in the City of Freeport and will, even after its expiration, continue to exist in respect of Bahamians who own land in the City of Freeport with the result that any extension of that real property tax exemption under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement would be wrong and indefensible as amounting to a tax break for rich non-Bahamians in the City of Freeport in the face of recent significant tax increases upon poor, working class and middle-class Bahamians in the City of Freeport and throughout The Bahamas.
o That the provisions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement should be brought to an end and a democratically elected municipal government for the island of Grand Bahama should be established (as the first of other such municipal governments to be elected in other developed islands and regions of The Bahamas) with all attendant powers to administer and control the island of Grand Bahama, inclusive of the powers under the provisions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, with power to raise, hold and disburse municipal government funds.
This article, therefore, is the first part of those three instalments and relates to the rights and powers of the government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas to administer and control the City of Freeport under the provisions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement.

The Hawksbill Creek Agreement
When we speak of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement we are in fact speaking about the initial agreement which was signed on August 4, 1955 by the then Governor of The Bahamas (by virtue of the authority which was vested in him under the provisions of the Hawksbill Creek, Grand Bahama [Deep Water Harbour And Industrial Area] Act, 1955) and of the subsequent amendments to that agreement on July 11, 1960 and March 1, 1966 by virtue of the provisions of similar statutes which were enacted in 1960 and 1966.
All three of those statutes, and the agreements which were executed pursuant to them, may be found at http://laws.bahamas.gov.bs/cms3/legislation/consolidated-laws/alphabetically.html or by googling "online Bahamas statute law".
The starting point is that the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, in effect, vested administration and control of the Port Area in the GBPA to the exclusion of The government of The Bahamas except pursuant to the provisions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement itself.
At the time of their execution the Bahamas was a colony and although there may have been some debate at the time as to whether the colonial government had power to do what it purported to do, that debate has been put to rest (see Bancoult, R [On The Application of] v Secretary of State For Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2008] UKHL 61, [2008] 4 All ER 1055 paras 49 - 51). The colonial government clearly had the power to enact legislation as it did in 1955, 1960 and 1966 to authorize the signing of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement.

The effect of the Cuban Revolution on the Hawksbill Creek Agreement
History is more than an account of old facts. Many times an understanding of history can provide great clarity to subsequent and current events.
The original intent behind the Hawksbill Creek Agreement in 1955 was for the government of The Bahamas to receive the benefit of the construction of a basic city infrastructure in exchange for allowing the GBPA to construct and operate a deep water harbor, to license ancillary businesses around that deep water harbor and to sell land to persons who thereby became attracted to the City of Freeport. Regrettably, that business model was not a success for the GBPA.
Meanwhile, on November 25, 1956 Fidel Castro, accompanied by approximately 80 other insurgents including Che Guevara, set sail from Mexico for Cuba to overthrow the corrupt Batista government. Much of that corruption was centered around foreign investment in casinos in Cuba. After more than two years of fighting by the insurgents, and popular up-risings among students and the general population in Cuba in support of the revolution, the Batista regime was overthrown on January 1, 1959 and a revolutionary socialist state was established in Cuba under the leadership of Fidel Castro. Foreign investments in Cuba were confiscated.
The effect, therefore, was not only to end the Batista regime in Cuba but also the creation a demand for another casino destination in the Caribbean within close proximity to the American coast.
It is, therefore not surprising that the GBPA thereafter commenced negotiations with the colonial government of The Bahamas which culminated in the signing of an amendment to the Hawksbill Creek Agreement on July 11, 1960 providing for the bonded import of goods without the payment of customs duty under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement to be extended to "places of... amusement, entertainment and sports" and for the GBPA to be allowed to license not only the types of businesses that were initially envisioned around the operation of the deep water harbor but, thereafter, to also to be able to license "all lawful businesses, utilities, professions, undertakings and enterprises of every nature".
The results were startling.
On January 11, 1964 the Monte Carlo Casino was opened in Grand Bahama and by 1966 construction of the International Bazaar was completed. The Kings Inn Hotel was expanded by 350 rooms and the 614 room Holiday Inn and 12 storey Oceanus Hotel were constructed in Lucaya. Between 1964 and 1966 the population of Grand Bahama almost doubled from approximately 4,700 to 8,500. Total air and sea arrivals to Grand Bahama increased from 26,000 in 1963 to 204,000 in 1966 and 332,000 in 1968.(see "An informal History of the Grand Bahama Port Authority Limited, 1955 - 1985" by Jim W. Baker: http://www.jabezcorner.com/Grand_Bahama/Informal4.html and "Pindling, The Life and Times of the First Prime Minister of The Bahamas" by Michael Craton).
The City of Freeport was booming and the impetus for that success for the majority of Bahamians was not based upon the success of the industrial sector but upon the success of a new vibrant, fun, gaming-oriented tourism sector.

o Gregory Moss serves as the member of Parliament for the Marco City constituency. Part two of this column will be published next Wednesday, February 11.

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Mitchell believes he is King Herod
Mitchell believes he is King Herod

February 03, 2015

Fred Mitchell apparently believes he is King Herod reincarnated. HIs vile and cowardly tactic of seeking to deny children of the right to an education harkens back to the worst excesses of the Pindling administration in its later years...

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'Terribly well' with precious memories

February 03, 2015

History is indeed a puzzle that is made up of several pieces. The picture created by this puzzle emerges and evolves as the pieces are put together by individuals of diverse background, creed, race, religion and gender. The fullness of our history is therefore determined by the contributions and selflessness of persons that take the time to chronicle and document events that occurred in the past based on their perspectives; for they give us yet another piece of this big puzzle called history.
The lacuna and unanswered questions that linger in our history book are results of stories left untold and experiences unshared. It is only fitting that we acknowledge and encourage Bahamians that deem it fit to enrich our national life and add another piece to the puzzle of our history. This acknowledgement is of more importance where the author is one that has lived a life dedicated to public service and diplomacy. This piece considers the remarkable journey of Dr. Davidson L. Hepburn as contained in his memoir "Terribly Well" and the Bahamian Foreign Service as a whole.

An outstanding voyage
Dr. Hepburn was born on December 7, 1932 in a tiny settlement called Douds which is a part of New Bight - the capital of Cat Island, one of the Islands of The Bahamas. One of the main attractions of Cat Island is that it is home to the highest peak in The Bahamas. The height of the attraction of his hometown in hindsight is symbolic of his career and as fate would have it, Hepburn would go on to be arguably one of the most notable and successful Bahamian diplomats in history.
An extraordinary Bahamian that I refer to as the Kofi Annan of The Bahamas (and they do in fact have strong resemblance and as chronicled in his memoir, he has been mistaken for Annan on more than one occasion) provides an insight into the world of diplomacy as he takes readers on a journey across the world from America to Asia covering his diplomatic career and visits to some of the greatest landmarks and historic sites.
Readers get an insight into the personal life of Dr. Hepburn and memories of the simple life in Cat Island that is reminiscent of the age and times in The Bahamas as remembered by a son of the soil, who has today surpassed four score years. Additionally, readers are enticed by a monologue interview which enlightens them about, among other things, Hepburn's love of music, the arts and memories of his melancholy departure from Paris at one stage in his service.
However, it is apparent that besides being a diplomat, Hepburn was also a well-educated man that spent years in the civil service and teaching, thereby earning the honors such as the Order of the British Empire (OBE), Chevalier of the French Legion d'Honneur and Paul Harris Fellow. His story from humble beginnings is inspirational and provides hope for the achievement of The Bahamian Dream. As Hepburn points out in his memoir, he, as a barefoot lad in Cat Island had a chance to represent 193 countries and five associated states on the international front as the president of the 35th Session of the General Conference of the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) - a victory that was hard fought and won, to the credit of The Bahamas and the Caribbean region at large.

The Foreign Service: yesterday, today and tomorrow
While Hepburn provides an extensive account of Foreign Service based upon his experience, the account neither delves into the theory of foreign policy, international relations or United Nations conventions, but rather takes the reader on a personal journey of his experiences. Consequently, the book whets the appetite of persons interested in pursuing a career in the diplomatic corps.
Bahamians are often criticized, justifiably and unfairly at times, as people with a tendency to be insular in our thinking despite the obvious evolution of the world and the far-reaching effects of globalization. While it is important to focus on domestic affairs, we must be mindful that decisions made internationally and by multilateral agencies have implications for our domestic policies. It follows therefore that not only should our foreign policy be clearly articulated and communicated, but the requisite resources must be allocated to this important aspect of government.
Hepburn's account of and observations during his diplomatic career when considered with recent developments in this area confirms the words of Walter Rauschenbusch that "history is never antiquated, because humanity is always fundamentally the same". In this sense, some of the challenges highlighted by Dr. Hepburn still remain relevant today. It is hoped that the recent initiatives announced by the government and the proposed legislation will not only address the challenges, but also help create a clearer career path for current and future Bahamian diplomats.

Daring to dream
A review of Hepburn's memoir reveals the very best of the Bahamian spirit, which is indomitable and persevering to say the least as he overcomes setbacks to reach the zenith of his diplomatic career. It is also refreshing to observe the level of importance that he places on his moral convictions and the family structure. Readers will be left with no doubt as to his love for his country and connection to his roots in spite of his travels and successes. An enlightening part of his story is also the insight it provides into the workings of international diplomacy.
Thomas Fuller said it best when he postulated that "history maketh a young man to be old, without either wrinkles or gray hairs; privileging him with the experience of age, without either the infirmities or inconveniences thereof". Current and aspiring Bahamian diplomats will do well to learn from the trials, travails and triumphs of Hepburn. The advantage of having access to his extensive experience is invaluable.

His memoir: our history enriched
The title of Hepburn's memoir is consistent with his usual response when asked about how he is doing. He outlines in his book his struggle with finding a title and his consideration of 'Precious Memories' (derived from one of his favorite hymns) as an option before settling on the current title. While his memoir contains memories that are indeed precious to him, they represent much more to Bahamians and The Bahamas as a country. We are now able to fill a void that would have been perpetuated had he not put pen to paper. As Hepburn prepares for the launch of his memoir and book signing at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Kirk on Friday, February 6, 2015, we salute him for his years of service and thank him for playing a part in writing our history.
It is incumbent upon the rest of us to ensure that the stories that illuminate our minds and add to the completeness of our history books are told. Drawing from the essence of an old African adage, we owe it to future generations to make sure that all sides of the stories of the various hunts reflect the accounts of both the hunters and the lions. Only then will our nation do terribly well, like Hepburn.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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Remembering Deacon Leviticus Adderley

February 02, 2015

"I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
- Etienne de Grellet, Quaker missionary

There are few occasions in our lives when we encounter a person who etches an indelible imprint on our minds, our hearts, and our spirit. That person often exudes a quiet confidence that is devoid of cockiness, with decisiveness, discipline and determination that is not despotic, and a positive sense of purpose that is motivated by an interest in offering a helping hand or a kind word of encouragement precisely when each are needed. Therefore, this week we would like to Consider This... did Deacon Leviticus Adderley personify a Bahamian "man for all seasons"?

His early years
Leviticus Louis "Lou" Joseph Adderley was born in Nassau on March 11, 1933. He was among the early students to attend St. Augustine's College, which was established in 1945 and initially held classes at the Niche, adjacent to St. Francis Priory, and then relocated to its present campus in Fox Hill.
Leviticus Adderley went to Saint John's University in Minnesota after graduating from St. Augustine's College in the early 1950s. During his years at Saint John's, he excelled academically and was an outstanding athlete in three sports: track and field, wrestling and tennis.
Although Lou was not previously exposed to the sport of wrestling before enrolling at Saint John's, he earned a conference championship in 1954. He was an exceptionally talented tennis player, losing only one match in his entire tennis career at Saint John's, during the conference championships in his freshman year.
Lou became the tennis conference champion during his last three years, demonstrating that, with perseverance, hard work and discipline, an individual can accomplish any task that he undertakes.

His return to The Bahamas
Lou Adderley graduated from Saint John's in 1955 with a degree in economics and returned to The Bahamas, accepting a teaching job at St. Augustine's College - becoming its first lay teacher. He served St. Augustine's College for the rest of his life, first as a Physical Education and Math teacher, then as the first lay Headmaster, and finally as President of the Development Council.
Also upon his return to The Bahamas, Lou resumed his membership in St. Bernard's Sporting Club, starring on its baseball and basketball teams. As a founding member of The Bahamas Volleyball Federation, he played with the St. Augustine's College Alumni Association's Volleyball team which dominated local volleyball in the 1960s. He was also the player-coach on the first volleyball team to represent The Bahamas internationally at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada in 1967.
Adderley founded The Bahamas Association of Certified Officials in 1976 and was also a founding member of The Bahamas Association of Basketball Officials, once serving as national interpreter.
In 1982, Adderley was inducted into The Bahamas Amateur Basketball Association Hall of Fame.

His contribution to national development
Lou Adderley had a direct hand in producing many of the finest Bahamian high school athletes during his 44 years at St. Augustine's College.
He also played a significant role in establishing the kind of academic and athletic excellence for which that St. Augustine's has been so well known.
In recognition of his contribution to national development, Adderley was recognized by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

His deeply rooted spirituality
Leviticus Adderley was ordained a Deacon in the Catholic Church and, for the last 10 years of his life, served faithfully at St. Anselm's in Fox Hill, along with Monsignor Preston Moss, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Nassau.
Leviticus "Uncle Lou" Adderley left us on May 24, 2003. During his funeral, Deacon Adderley was lauded by Monsignor Preston Moss "as a good man, a holy man, and there was no need to ask what a true Bahamian man was because we had seen and touched and felt it in Uncle Lou." He was buried in the cemetery at St. Augustine's Monastery.

Honoring his legacy
Later this week, an official delegation from the College of Saint Benedict (CSB) and Saint John's University (SJU) will visit The Bahamas. The delegation, which will be led by Dr. Michael Hemesath and Dr. Mary Hinton, the Presidents of Saint John's and Saint Ben's, respectively, will also include Joe Mucha, the SJU Chairman of the Board of Trustees, three SJU Board Trustees, John Young, the SJU Associate Vice-President for Institutional Advancement and Valerie Jones, Executive Director of Alumnae Relations at Saint Ben's.
During their visit, the delegation will meet with the Head of State, Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling, the Prime Minister, the Chairman and President of the College of The Bahamas and Patrick Pinder, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Nassau.
On Saturday, February 7, 2015, Deacon Adderley will be honored at a Gala Banquet at Atlantis, beginning at 6:30pm. On that occasion, the official delegation, Bahamian Alumni of Saint John's University, the College of Saint Benedict, St. Augustine's College and the wider community will pause to reflect on the immeasurable contributions that Deacon Adderley has made to nation-building.
During the Gala Banquet, the St. Ben's and St. John's Alumni Associations in The Bahamas will officially launch the Leviticus Adderley Scholarship Foundation. The primary purpose of the Foundation is to raise funds to assist CSB and SJU Bahamians who reflect adherence to the high values of Deacon Adderley. An annual scholarship will be awarded to students who demonstrate or develop the capacity to give back to their community with their time, talents and other resources. They will be designated "Lou Adderley Scholars".
The Lou Adderley Scholar will be required to enroll in the academically structured Independent Studies Program at CSB or SJU under the guidance of a professor and will receive course credits for this Independent Study. At the end of the course, the Lou Adderley Scholar will be required to write a paper on an approved specific aspect of Deacon Adderley's life. It is anticipated that this important body of work will ultimately be incorporated into a book or several books about Deacon Adderley.
We hope that the next generation of Bahamians will be positively affected by Deacon Adderley's legacy, which, although he remains with us only in spirit, constantly regenerates each generation by the values that he imparted to those whose lives he touched.
Also during the Gala Banquet, Deacon Adderley will posthumously receive the Colman Barry Award for Distinguished Contributions to Religion and Society. This award was established by Saint John's University in memory of Fr. Colman, a Benedictine monk of Saint John's Abbey, professor of history and eighth President of Saint John's University. As President Michael Hemesath observed, "Fr. Colman's life was distinguished by initiatives designed to enrich the cultural and religious life of society. He was especially passionate about the intersection of culture and religion."
Fr. Barry authored the book "Upon These Rocks" - a comprehensive history of the contribution of the Catholic Church in The Bahamas.

Deacon Leviticus "Uncle Lou" Adderley was a builder of young men and women, a teacher of students, a coach of champions and a defender and living testimony of his faith. Affectionately referred to as "Uncle Lou", he was also a mentor, a surrogate father, an all-around supporter and headmaster to thousands of students who passed through St. Augustine's College, who played sports, who were Catholic and non-Catholic. He was great Bahamian man.
In so many ways, Deacon Leviticus Adderley was unquestionably a Bahamian "man for all seasons". In every aspect of his life, he adopted and embraced the mantra that: "I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
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 pgalanis@gmail.com.

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Human trafficking: The curse of modern civilization

January 30, 2015

The most brazen and notorious crime of modern civilization is human trafficking. It is the brutal curse of human society. It is the loud roar of a speechless obloquy. It is a gross infringement of human rights and dignity, yet human trafficking continues to be applauded with a sacred guilt among aristocrats and capitalists in the United States who depend on modern slavery to enrich their coffers and domain.
But human trafficking must not lie in silence.
Fueled by a vicious insistence for cheap labour and commercial sex globally, human trafficking is continuing to thrive into a multi-billion dollar industry where perpetrators profit from the control and exploitation of others.
According to International Labor Organization estimates, there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. Of those, 5.5 million are children and 14.2 million are victims of labour exploitation.
In response to critics and opponents alike that point to Thai prostitution and the importation of virgin female bodies from Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia as the principle jurisdictions for sex and labour trafficking in the world, new data confirms that the United States is not exempt from sex and labor trafficking structures.
In fact, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, (UNODC) validates that the highest destination countries for human trafficking are Belgium, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Thailand, Turkey, and the United States.
Moreover, if recently released narratives on human trafficking in the United States are correct, then "human trafficking can be found in the Super Bowl, it can also be found in motorcycle rallies in South Dakota, in the fields of Florida, in gangs in California, and in brothels in Washington, D.C."
Most obvious is the fact that human trafficking is leading to a growing illegal market and rising criminality in the United States. Evidence indicates that the proceeds of human trafficking are not only used to finance organized and sophisticated criminal activities, but according to many indications, add to the financing of seditious activities and terrorist groups hostile to United States interest.
Statistics further confirm that "human trafficking affects every country around the world, regardless of socio-economic status, history, or political inclinations. Victims of human trafficking have diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, varied levels of education, and may be documented or undocumented as well."
More to the point, it is also the patterns of conspicuous consumption in the western world that root human trafficking in the world at large, for it is trade and urbanization that characterize development within any capitalist framework. This means that if economic development is a capacity for self sustaining growth, then a profit incentive for labor traffickers to maximize revenue with minimal production costs is created when American consumers buy goods and services from industries that rely on forced labour.
The increasing support given to hierarchical corporate markets in South East Asia by the United States also heightens the demand for commercial sex, among ranking businessmen, thus making it profitable for traffickers to sexually exploit children and adults.
Thus, it must be understood that sex and labour trafficking is a form of modern slavery that not only exists in South East Asia and other countries globally, but also exists throughout the United States as well.
Notwithstanding the fact that poverty is a major drive of the human trafficking industry and that trafficking has now become a sure form of economics when victims are sold by their own families; attention must also be diverted to the political, economic, social and cultural dynamics of human trafficking and the relationship they play with the other in the United States.
When viewed through a socio-economic framework, the scourge of illegal immigration registers labor trafficking in domestic work, small businesses, large farms, and factories in the United States, thereby enhancing the doctrine that "human trafficking is a market-driven criminal industry that supports the conception of supply and demand." The International Labour Organization (ILO) further estimates that 14.2 million people are trapped in forced labour in industries including agriculture, construction, domestic work and manufacturing.
On this note, the clandestine nature of human trafficking, fallacies about its definition and the demand for cheap labour, and high profits must be addressed if the United Sates is to take the wheel as the leader in human rights globally.
In this regard, the compounded sociological theory that "trafficking in human beings is a complex problem rooted in poverty" stands true, but at the same time the sleeping demons of marginalization and the subordination of women, and other minority groups and the insufficient protection of human rights of children are also awakened in the great narrative on human trafficking in the United States.
On that basis, it is correct to say that human trafficking in the United States is a consequence of gender inequality and lack of respect for children, women and minority rights.
In essence, human trafficking subverts the democratic theme, enhances social injustice while at the same time encouraging gender inequality. Unless coercion and subordination of women and children and the well celebrated theme of patriarchy in family and social structures are legitimized or challenged, then human trafficking will continue to augment the perception that people and sexuality can be bought and sold in the United States.
It is further justified that we live in an industrialized society but it is the effects of this very industrialization that encourages human trafficking, thus weakening family and neighborly structures, proving that industrialism is neither a basis for controlling social behavior nor a method for assessing human progress.
If "adequate legislation, a properly functioning administrative machinery and an effective judiciary are the most obvious tools for fighting human trafficking," then the United States has the pertinent legislation and overt policies to control human trafficking. While the efforts of many government agencies and NGOs must be commended, thus far, public authorities provide little or no protection for women, minority groups and children against violence and abuse, choosing rather to concentrate on rigorous immigration laws that force people to reroute to illegal means, and registering them as victims of human trafficking.

o Rebecca Theodore is an op-ed columnist based in Washington, D.C. She writes on national security and political issues. This column is printed with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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The horrendous disaster of Dr. Hubert Minnis

January 29, 2015

In the estimation of a veteran political observer, echoing a chorus of public outrage, "The country is going to hell." To many, if not most, the Christie administration is a basket case of wheeling and dealing and questionable contracts; gross incompetence, woeful neglect of basic issues; massive borrowing and spending with little tangible to show for it; and a plethora of nausea-inducing misdeeds aside inaction, delay and outright failure.
The sticker shock of VAT continues to trouble consumers and businesses, with growing alarm that the government will go on a spending spree rather than seriously address matters of debt and deficit.
The government has failed to reduce the murder rate despite having repeatedly promised to do so. There is dissension in the police force and the minister of national security is blaming the force for the government's failures.
There is chronic unemployment, with unemployment having risen again under the PLP and the unemployment rate higher now than in May 2012 when the PLP returned to office.
From BAMSI to the BEC bidding process to all manner of untendered contracts, there are questions of how, where and why certain public funds are being spent, alongside an arrogant disregard for transparency and accountability. Various ministers have mastered the arts of cupidity and conflicts of interest.
Meanwhile much of the state is poorly or non-functioning with many public amenities unkempt; abysmal service from various agencies because of a lack of oversight; and a general malaise in much of the public sector. Things are going from very bad to much worse. The ill-conceived Junkanoo Carnival festival seems in disarray, haunted by all manner of pitfalls, a potentially expensive fete of dubious cultural or economic value.
Atop all this is an out-of-control Cabinet, giving new meaning to the "all for me baby" philosophy of misrule, farcically led by a globe-trotting prime minister too weak to control his Cabinet but who sees himself, incredibly, as "a defining prime minister".
It is so bad that some audiences are mocking the prime minister, snickering when he speaks, unable to contain their contempt for and incredulity at his empty and stagnant rhetoric full of bluster and boisterousness signifying precious little to nothing.
It should be a field day for the official opposition. It is not. The opposition should have gained tremendous traction. It has not. This should be a banner year for the FNM. It likely will not.
Perry Christie is the most incompetent and incapable prime minister since the advent of Cabinet government. His saving grace: Hubert Minnis is the most incompetent and incapable opposition leader.

In his bid to be elected FNM leader last November, Minnis and his forces spun a self-serving narrative that served him well. It was the whining narrative of the victim, a plea of self-pity that he hadn't really been given a chance despite the obvious fact that he had been handed the leadership without a contest.
Despite the goodwill and help of many FNMs when he was chosen in 2012, a deeply insecure Minnis systematically alienated many who came to his aid. He had a convenient bogeyman, Hubert Ingraham, and bogeywoman, Loretta Butler-Turner, both of whom he demonized and conveniently used as excuses for his litany of failures which primarily account for the failure of the FNM to gain traction.
Though he was the major cause of disunity because of his secretiveness, insecurity bordering on paranoia, autocratic nature and non-collegial form of leadership, he convinced many that the source of disunity lay elsewhere. He excels at the politics of victimhood.
In order to seize greater control of the party he called a snap convention, ignoring certain constitutional procedures. Having won a convincing victory and with much of his slate in place, Minnis now had no more excuses. Curiously, soon after the convention one of his reputed supporters, veteran FNM Frank Watson, said something that surprised many. Watson warned that Minnis had six months to perform or there would be consequences.
After the November victory and the December lull has come the January disaster, with Minnis seemingly making a major blunder each week. If he's this bad at the beginning of the year, the party will be in desperate straits as the months march on.
If many delegates believed that they elected a winner, they have been gravely disappointed. Some said that Minnis' New Year's address was one of his best. If that is the case, no wonder the party is in deep trouble.
During the convention campaign Minnis sought to make a virtue of his inability to master even the basics of the English language and grammar and to speak with some fluency.

We are being asked to believe that one of the basic requirements of political leadership, to be nominally articulate and to speak coherently, are irrelevant. Dr. Minnis is not merely a disaster in terms of speaking. He is also clearly incompetent when it comes to thinking through the most basic policy ideas. Speaking is not his only problem. He's not much of a thinker.
The New Year's address was painful for many Bahamians to watch. It was clumsy, lacklustre and devoid of passion. It failed to inspire, an essential task for leaders.
To quote one senior media figure, "Not only did he seem incapable of reading much of the text, there were also questions of how much he understood what he was reading." His bumbling address was the least of his problems.
Next came the disastrous march on the Bank of the Bahamas (BOB) and Christie's subsequent assault on Minnis in the House of Assembly, both of which have been painful for FNMs.
Any view that an inarticulate leader who can't think on his feet will easily be elected because of supposed other qualities was dismantled as Minnis sat helplessly and haplessly glued to his seat.
Minnis was warned not to have the ill-advised march, the failure of which, given his modus operandi, he might try to blame on others. The rationale for the march was questionable, especially given the more pressing issues over which the FNM may have marched including crime and the cost of living.
The numbers looked awful and FNMs were embarrassed. The new leadership of the party failed to organize a healthy crowd. What is, and should have been projected as, an effective issue against the government turned into a colossal blunder. Then came Christie's withering assault on the opposition.
FNMs were embarrassed and horrified as Minnis sat shell-shocked and deflated, absolutely incapable of mounting a defense or countering Christie.
What makes this even more egregious is the reality that Minnis does not now nor will he ever have what it takes to be effective in the House of Assembly. No matter how many cue cards a leader is given, that leader has to be able to think on his feet in parliamentary debates. Minnis is barely able to get through a prepared text much less perform in debate.

With several pieces of legislation having been debated in the House recently Minnis has been absent or has not spoken. If the idea is to avoid his risking exposure in terms of poor speaking ability, the opposition is courting disaster, as the necessity of his speaking on various matters is unavoidable. If he cannot speak without making a major blunder, there will be multiple disasters.
It is no wonder that a highly vulnerable Christie continues to deride Minnis, thanking his lucky charms that the latter is his main opponent, continually distracting from the PLP's blunders.
Still in January Minnis created another seemingly monumental blunder in asking the politically attractive Heather Hunt to resign from the Senate. It may be a part of a brilliant move of which others are unaware, though, at the moment, this seems not to be the case, especially as Hunt is a rising star in the FNM and a high-profile female in the party.
Did Minnis inform all of his House colleagues about Hunt's departure or were most of them blindsided, learning about the matter from other reports? Given his rationale for Hunt's departure why was Senator Kwasi Thompson not also asked to resign? Was it a vindictive move and payback to Hunt who reportedly supported Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner in the leadership race?
Given his resounding victory in November and with his team in place, Minnis had an extraordinary opportunity to unify and reinvigorate the FNM going into a new year, especially given the state of the country and the depressing record of the PLP.
In the event, he called a conclave, an extraordinary meeting of the party, with a rich history in Bahamian politics. The party was to meet in special session to discuss critical issues relevant to the extraordinary times in which we are living.
After the Friday night opening session, Minnis arrogantly and dismissively absented himself from the conclave for all of Saturday, heading instead to Eleuthera to don a pharaoh's crown and rush in a Junior Junkanoo evening parade leaving behind many in shock, including many who unwisely gave him a second chance to make even worse blunders. And we are only in January.

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

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Unlocking the Caribbean's energy potential

January 28, 2015

Energy security is at the top of the agenda for Caribbean leaders and it has been for some time.
With an average cost of electricity four times higher than in rich nations such as the United States, high energy costs are not only a daily hardship for Caribbean people, but also one of the key bottlenecks for unleashing economic growth and prosperity in the region.
While the recent drop in oil prices is releasing some of the pressure, it also represents an opportunity to look into strategies for increasing energy security in the region. This means investing in clean energy, and saving energy through more efficient production and consumption.
To help achieve this transformation, Caribbean leaders and leading energy partners agreed to pursue a joint regional framework for energy development at the Caribbean Energy Security Summit this week in Washington D.C.
Most small Caribbean countries, particularly the Eastern Caribbean States, depend almost entirely on petroleum to supply their electricity needs - with oil and gas expenditures taking between seven to 20 percent of a country's GDP.
The region has achieved nearly universal electrification and almost all households are connected to the grid, with the exception of Haiti. After the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti's capital city of Port-au-Prince five years ago, the availability and reliability of modern energy services remains crucial to the recovery and sustainable development of the country, where only 28 percent of the population has regular access to electricity.
When walking in the streets of Port-au-Prince or Basseterre in St. Kitts and Nevis, you can now see that many of the street lights are solar. The Caribbean region has a diverse and large renewable energy potential, including not only solar, but also wind, geothermal, biomass and marine energy. While solar and wind are intermittent, they can be used in combination with renewable geothermal power or clean natural gas power.
A recent World Bank study showed that seven Eastern Caribbean countries have potential for geothermal energy generation, which would help reduce costs for their oil-dependent electricity sector. On the island of Guadeloupe, the La Bouillante power station is already generating 15MW by means of geothermal energy. Exploratory drilling and preparatory work is happening in Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Yet oil and gas based electricity generation will continue to dominate for some time. Another priority agreed by Caribbean governments during the summit is to reduce inefficiencies in their energy systems by saving energy and reducing waste.
What this means is modernizing electricity distribution companies and grid systems, but also on the consumer side making buildings more energy efficient and replacing old equipment and appliances, using for instance high efficient air conditioners and LED light bulbs.
Today nearly one in two households in Barbados is using solar water heaters. Throughout the island, you can see solar panels and water heaters sprouting from government buildings, hospitals, businesses and thousands of bright colored homes. The solar industry has become an important source of green jobs in the country as Caribbean companies have led the regional manufacturing effort for solar water heaters.
This green movement is also catching up in other islands including Aruba where the government is working with the hotel industry and investing in more efficient and clean technology. By the end of the year, Aruba will be using almost 50 percent renewables and its vision is to reach 100 percent by 2020.
The World Bank Group is working with Caribbean governments in supporting their efforts to modernize the power sector with investments and regulatory changes affecting both power generation and energy efficiency to reduce retail tariffs, increase the reliability of supply by diversifying and using renewable fuel sources, as well as enhancing service delivery.
Such reforms are critical to improve the business climate. For instance last year, Jamaica jumped 27 ranking positions in the Doing Business indicator partly by making electricity less expensive as a result of lower external connection cost.
Many donors and investors are supporting these reforms and this is why a Caribbean Energy Investment Network was also proposed this week during the summit, to develop a new architecture of cooperation for energy security in the region.
This new network would not only support greater cooperation across islands and between governments, donors, international financing institutions, and investors, but would also help identify concrete steps that Caribbean nations and development partners can take to attract investments for sustainable energy initiatives.
By coming together and agreeing to build a common platform, Caribbean countries and their partners showed their commitment to make the energy sector more efficient, sustainable and green. This is just the first step to unlock the energy potential of the Caribbean. We now need to build on the momentum.

o Jorge Familiar is World Bank vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean.

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The masked Bahamians

January 27, 2015

One of the famous quotes attributed to Oscar Wilde is: "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth." This quotation is consistent with the notion that the truth is bitter even though the Bible states that the truth sets us free. The question then is if truth brings us into a place of liberty, why do many despise or forfeit the freedom and peace that accompanies the utterance of that which is right?
This piece explores the plight of Bahamians shaped by a culture of convenience and raised in an era of political expediency. We take a look at the challenges we face in standing up for what we believe in an environment that views conviction as a myth that is only suited for fairy tales and utopia. How much weight can we give to the content of the oration of our people in front of the lights of the camera, the recordings of the media, the platform of parliament and the boardrooms they grace? Are their words consistent when the music fades and they are away from the public's scrutiny?

The utility of masks
The use of masks is often associated with disguise to provide secrecy for certain actions of individuals and in some cases for illegitimate activities. The objective here is often the concealment of the identity of the person that wears the mask. This is why the few miscreants among us that carry out the heinous crimes around our archipelago of islands will sometimes opt to use masks in hopes that they will not be identified and brought to justice. However, there are also valid reasons why authorities protect the identity of individuals that provide leads or assist in some form in the interest of national security and to maintain the integrity of investigations by law enforcement agencies.
Outside of unique circumstances for national security reasons, including the case described above, there is no reason why our people should hide behind masks in order to speak the truth. Our country suffers and the new generation is being discouraged daily because our people are reluctant to stand on the right side of history due to political affiliation, long established friendships, business partnerships and allegiance to the status quo. The masked Bahamians have decided to place the future of the nation behind personal and selfish ambitions to our detriment. For persons that maintain their masks, they must determine which TV character best describes them: is it Zorro or Batman? Do they promote good or evil?

The nature and characteristics of the mask
The types of masks donned by Bahamians are for the most part determined by the interest group to which they belong, their fears and their allegiance to an organization. It follows therefore that while some will speak words that they do not believe in their hearts just to conform to the dictates of their groups others will tow the party line even when they know that the position being taken is illogical and detrimental to our nation.
On one side of this phenomenon are Bahamians that will not speak the truth in public but will willingly profess the same in private. On the other side are individuals that have worn these masks of convenience for so long that they have lost their identity and lost a sense of what is right or wrong. In essence they no longer know who they are or what their beliefs or convictions are. At the root of this loss or denial is often greed and what the Bible refers to as a morsel of bread which can only but satisfy for a short period of time with long-lasting consequences for our country.

The protection of anonymity
The advent of technology and evolution of mass media in The Bahamas has been pivotal in the deepening of our democracy. Bahamians have been provided with diverse avenues to express themselves and ensure that their voices are heard, especially on matters of national importance. The rise of social media has also added a unique dimension to the exercise of freedom of speech and communication between the populace and the political directorate.
Anonymity has become more pronounced in a new era where transparency and accountability is being demanded by emerging leaders within our commonwealth. As advocates of various causes put their cases forward, they are sometimes reluctant to speak in their own person for fear of marginalization or victimization by the powers that be.
They are therefore inclined to put on the proverbial mask or engage in their discussions behind closed doors and in the comfort of their homes. In the absence of the masks of anonymity and aliases, public demonstrations are often not well attended while participants are sometimes seen covering their faces. While the use of aliases may sometimes be justified, the faceless nature of contributors to the deepening of our democracy and advancement of our nation undermines the level of importance given to the message by the intended audience.

Lifting the veil in the national interest
The next level of greatness The Bahamas seeks to attain will require persons in the shadows or currently away from the forefront in the public discourse to emerge. There is hardly any great change or work that has been wrought without the active participation of the citizenry. It is simply no longer sufficient for Bahamians to be content with expressing their ideas for national development around the dining table or express any grievance via postings on social media.
We have a nation to build and Bahamians must be prepared to step up and step forward to play their part in making our nation the best it can be. No longer should our hearts or courage fail while we speak in our own person; the prerequisite here being that it should be for the common good of the populace and we must be united in love and service to our Bahamaland. Individuals speaking truth behind masks rob us of their identity and the much needed numbers to propel our country forward into a new paradigm.

Following in the footsteps of giants
On Thursday, November 21, 2014, former Cabinet minister and parliamentarian Warren J. Levarity was laid to rest following a state funeral. Several prominent Bahamians and political leaders paid tribute to a great Bahamian who was respected by persons on all sides of the political divide. In his tribute, Prime Minister Christie referred to the late Bahamian leader as "one of the heroes of the Peaceful Revolution."
The story has been and will continue to be told of the men and women of yesteryear that came forward (sometimes to their own peril) to bring about change in The Bahamas. If we - the Bahamians of this generation - hope to build on the work of our ancestors, we cannot be timid or afraid to stand up and sometimes alone for worthy causes. The level of support given to the government by the official opposition, political organizations, civic groups and Bahamians as a whole in relation to the immigration policy gives us hope that all is not lost. However, this cooperation and unity should not be confined to one policy or initiative but must extend to other national matters that do not go against our convictions.

And so this article concludes where it began; will our people be comfortable speaking in their own persons without the protection of a mask? Will we continue to utter the robotic politically correct rhetoric as opposed to the honest and factual comments our people demand? Will we make our voices heard regardless of the potential consequences in accordance with our beliefs or convictions? The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said it best when he stated that: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Looking forward into the future, the fundamental question to us as Bahamians that love this country is this: Will the real Bahamians stand or will we continue to put on masks? How long shall we continue to hide in caves or allow ourselves to be used as pawns in a game of chess?
When will we realize that to disagree with one another does not break the bond of brotherhood and sisterhood within our country? When will our leaders in government, politics, business and civic society come to accept that we can have different views and have sensible debates without demonizing one another? The discarding of the masks will become the norm only in a society that promotes tolerance, respect and national pride.

o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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Defending our own - part 1

January 26, 2015

"When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do."
- William Blake
For more than a year now, Bahamians from various walks of life, especially those in opposition to the government, have been relentlessly critical of the Bank of The Bahamas. The latter have treated the bank as a political football because the Bahamas government is the largest shareholder, owning approximately 65 percent of its common shares.
Some of those critics have targeted the bank because they maintain that, on occasion, large loans were extended to politicians, friends of politicians, and high profile business persons, in some instances, for business proposals that were under-collateralized or simply were not financially feasible. The crescendo of criticism has been exacerbated by the intensely politically polarized environment that presently exists in the country - another symptom of the perpetual political campaign.
Therefore this week, we would like to Consider This... is the cacophony of clamorous criticism of the Bank of The Bahamas justified?

The history of the bank
The forerunner of the Bank of The Bahamas was the Bank of Montreal (Bahamas & Caribbean) Limited which was incorporated in The Bahamas on April 17, 1970. In 1983, its name was changed to Bank of Montreal Bahamas Limited. Then, in 1988, the Bank of The Bahamas was formed as a joint venture with Euro Canadian Bank Limited, with the government purchasing 51 percent of the shares.
In 1990, the government purchased all of the shares of Euro Canadian Bank Limited and issued an additional 7,000,000 shares, bringing the total number of shares issued to 10,000,000. Four years later, in 1994, the government sold 20 percent of its shareholding or 2,000,000 shares to the Bahamian public.
In 1995, the government offered a further 3,000,000 shares of the bank to the Bahamian public. Both offerings in 1990 and 1995 were substantially oversubscribed, indicating overwhelming public support for and confidence in this institution.
Five years later, in 2000, the bank launched a wholly-owned subsidiary, the Bank of The Bahamas Trust Limited, becoming the first in our financial services sector to offer trust services for Bahamians.
In 2003, the Bank of The Bahamas acquired the assets of Workers Bank Limited, increasing its branches in New Providence. The bank also acquired Citibank N.A. Bahamas' mortgage portfolio of $22,459,682 at a cost of $20,995,859. The closing of the contract, which included full payment to the seller, occurred on July 1, 2003
By 2005, the bank continued to experience extraordinary success and announced an oversubscribed rights offering of $25 million. It also hosted an Incredible Dream Mortgage Fair, the first of its kind in the nation. The fair was a stunning success, resulting in a doubling of the bank's loan portfolio.
In 2006, a $15 million private placement preference share offering was held, resulting in the bank's authorized capital of 150,000,000 shares of B$1 par value. The Bank embarked on a multimillion dollar technology investment to overhaul the back end of data entry and storage which enabled it to provide the best possible business solutions with ongoing analysis.
By 2007, Bank of The Bahamas had become the first Bahamian bank with a financial services center in Florida, and Bahamians who do business there every day were able to do so with greater efficiency and ease.
From 2008 to 2011, the Bank of The Bahamas grew its Private Banking and Trust Services Division, assisting clients with personalized banking to free up their most valuable asset: time.
Another $20 million preference share offering in 2009 further increased the bank's capital to support expansion and by 2012, the bank completed its new Carmichael Road branch which was opened in December of that year.
By 2013, the bank bolstered its capital to 22.89 percent in compliance with the Central Bank and Basel III requirements. In the same year, the Bank of The Bahamas became the first bank in the country to offer non-envelope ATM transactions.

Financial performance
Recently, the Bank's financial performance has encountered relentless and some would say unwarranted criticism, particularly under the leadership of its managing director Paul McWeeney. A brief review of its financial performance during McWeeney's tenure at the bank is nothing short of astounding.
When he joined the Bank of The Bahamas in 1993, the bank's total assets were $93 million, with equity of $11 million, net income of $291,000 with less than 100 employees serving five branches.
McWeeney became the bank's managing director on January 1, 2001. At that time, the Bank's total assets were $229 million, its equity was $19 million, earned net income of $4.6 million, and its employees had grown to 150 with eight branches.
By the end of 2014, the bank's total assets had grown to $771 million, with total equity of $70 million, which rebounded to $123 million after the transfer of certain loans to Bahamas Resolve Ltd., and for the first time in its history, after earning uninterrupted profits, incurred a net loss of $66 million, principally due to loan loss provisions. By that time, its personnel expanded to 375 employees, serving 13 branches.
During McWeeney's tenure as managing director, the bank achieved incrementally impressive milestones. Bank of The Bahamas was:
o First to introduce trust and private banking services to Bahamians;
o First to have executed a massive residential mortgage campaign that attracted $100 million in applications;
o Established an office in Miami;
o First to establish a stand-alone credit card issuing and processing center in The Bahamas;
o First to introduce prepaid VISA branded cards;
o First to introduce e-commerce;
o First to introduce e-notifier;
o The only bank to have Bahamian currency certified that permits actual cash deposits at ATMs;
o Paid over $50 million in dividends.
Also during his tenure, McWeeney chaired the Bahamas Automated Clearing House (BACH) from infancy to actually going live. Today, BACH is fully functional and extremely profitable.
McWeeney also served as president of the Bahamas Institute of Financial Services for several years.

International recognitions
During his tenure as managing director, the Bank of The Bahamas received numerous international awards in recognition of its outstanding performance. The Bank received Euromoney's Best Bank Award in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012.
It also received the prestigious Bracken Award, which is presented by the Financial Times Group, in 2005, 2010 and 2011.
In 2006, the Bahamas Financial Services Board conferred two prestigious awards on the Bank of The Bahamas. The first was the BBI Award for Financial Services Development and Promotion in The Bahamas and the second was conferred on McWeeney as the Executive of the Year.
Two awards that are not restricted to financial services, but open to all businesses in The Bahamas that recognized them for being the very best, were won by the Bank of The Bahamas: the IAAP Award for Corporate Excellence in 2006 and The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year in 2007.
It is commendably noteworthy that no other financial institution in The Bahamas has achieved such recognition, either locally and internationally.

In part 2 of this series, we will compare and contrast the recent performance of other commercial banks in The Bahamas, the Caribbean and elsewhere with Bank of The Bahamas.
For now, however, we believe that it is time to not only recognize and commend the historic and exemplary performance of our very own Bank of The Bahamas, but also to consider the advisability and benefits of not only supporting our indigenous institutions but more importantly defending them.
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 pgalanis@gmail.com.

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The oil is falling, the oil is falling!

January 23, 2015

Oil prices are dropping dramatically. Something that consumers have been waiting on: lower prices at the pump in addition to lower energy costs.
But, the recent drop in oil prices has been met with fears and concerns by financial and economic pundits, crying that the end is near and the world is on the brink of another economic collapse as a result.
Some have argued that drops in oil prices cause economic collapse. There may be some merit in that to a certain extent, but only in cases where economic turbulence has already started, which prompted analysts to move into a position of sifting through historical clues and evidence to see where these problems first occurred.
To the average person on the street that just wants cheaper gas at the pumps, it seems somewhat strange that persons would be scared to death over falling oil prices, in addition to the average consumer not having much of a care about how it started. But, on closer examination, some fears may be warranted, and more importantly, there the question: who will lower oil prices negatively effect?
Let's take a look at historic oil prices, provided by the good people at Macrotrends.net: as of today, oil is down to under $50 per barrel. This is a stark difference from its peak of over $135 back in May 2008.
What happened, you ask? Well, several things happened. Some may say unfortunately, some may say fortunately. But happened things did.
For starters, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was knowingly overproducing for quite some time. In fact, they have no intention of cutting production anytime soon either, as the cartel said in a statement at the end of November 2014 that members had agreed to roll over the ceiling of 30 million barrels per day, at least one million above OPEC's own estimates of demand for its oil this year, 2015.
Part of the reason for the over-production was because China's economy was red hot and needed more oil to fuel that economy. While it could be said that China needed a significant amount of oil to maintain growth, the effect was that other larger economies started to change their oil-security policies and practices; i.e., hoarding oil supplies, increasing domestic supplies and reserves and, as an extension, financial markets capitalized by increasing the futures margin on a month-on-month basis.
Secondly, the futures market for oil, and the "irrational exuberance" around oil-spot-prices, made it problematic to predict what the true price of oil would be. The market was trading oil at about 30 percent higher than what some analysts comfortably estimated it should have been at any given point in time in recent history prior to the sudden drops.
The reason why no one said anything with regard to the astronomical cost of fuel was because they had a plausible excuse in China, and also because it was profitable to keep oil prices artificially high and rising.
As a consequence, the financial markets, via investment banks, just kept adding additional trading fees and raising the futures' prices based on their own reasoning of what oil prices should be, while selling the public a distorted view of what oil prices were, which was not based on what the actual demand for global production truly called for.
This has caused a significant problem, because oil producing countries, particularly vulnerable oil producing countries like Trinidad, Venezuela, the Ukraine and to some extent Russia, had budget forecasts based on a $100 (USD) and higher oil price. That has obviously changed, as Venezuela has been selling oil way below their "break even" point and is now faced with serious decisions on what its fiscal year may look like.
Thirdly, and most importantly, US President Barack Obama has made tremendous strides in picking the US economy back up off of the ground from the 2008 recession, and has not only increased domestic jobs, but has also increased manufacturing by significant margins over the course of the last two years.
U.S. manufacturing grew by over four percent in 2014, and is showing no immediate signs of slowing up in 2015. Thanks to President Obama and his policies on increasing manufacturing jobs in America by reducing tax-cuts to companies that offshore jobs, in addition to enhancing the enabling environments for manufacturing plants and entrepreneurs by first creating a steering committee in 2011 called the "Advanced Manufacturing Partnership 2.0", his administration has worked diligently with regard to boosting production in America and the fruits are telling.
Of course, these manufacturing increases may be blips on the radar screen if not seen from a global perspective. But as we have seen, China cut back tremendously on manufacturing growth, and is projected to cut by another one percent in 2015, and cut domestic spending in addition to reining in some of their expansion projects inland. US manufacturing may possibly continue to rise in 2015 if things remain constant.
With respect to oil prices, what it additionally means is that as manufacturing shifts back to the USA from China, greater efficiencies in technological practices should be taken into consideration in the USA that the Chinese simply do not have.
Contextually, while U.S. manufacturing had a modest rebound in 2014, it is nowhere near back to pre-2000 levels when, since that time up to now, over one million manufacturing jobs were lost. This lends to the notion that US manufacturing may be on a continual rise based on increased technological advances that China must now try to keep pace with, and parity may take three to five years, job for job.
With all of this coinciding with an increase in domestic oil production in the U.S., coupled with even a modest decline in US oil consumption, we are probably going to experience relatively low oil prices in the near to medium term at the very least in 2015 if all things remain constant.
So, here we have it: oil prices at a considerable low, the average consumer is seeing cheaper gasoline at the pump, but with small and vulnerable oil-producing countries in fear, coupled with market jitters as a result of the shift and modest decrease in oil demand, which has significantly affected market valuations on the price of oil globally, we have what we have today and which may be sustained well into the middle of 2015, barring some catastrophic event or human action.
Whose problem is it and should we all be worried? You tell me and you make the call!

o Youri Kemp is the president and CEO of Kemp Global, a management consultancy firm based in The Bahamas.

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More on race and politics and the Ryan Pinder affair

January 21, 2015

The PLP went to extraordinary lengths to have former Financial Services Minister Ryan Pinder as the party's candidate in the 2010 Elizabeth by-election, bypassing other potential nominees, including the grandson of Sir Milo Butler, in order to fetch Pinder from overseas, parachuting him into a winnable seat just vacated by a PLP MP.
The party weathered claims of carpetbagging and poured financial, human and other resources into the by-election, eking out a narrow victory. Less than five years later, shy of three years in the Cabinet, Pinder demonstrated his ingratitude, forsaking the privilege of Cabinet membership and exiting for a lucrative pay package in a glaring conflict of interest.
Quite a number of PLPs, including those who worked hard for his 2010 win and those who saw some promise in him, are, too put it mildly, ticked-off. There are a number of similarities between Pinder and DNA chieftain Branville McCartney.
Pun intended, both McCartney and Pinder left for greener pastures before a full five-year term in Cabinet. With green as its primary color, McCartney left and launched his vanity party, in a political tantrum that created numerous reverberations. Pinder left for a green pasture some estimate as at least $500,000 a year or a million over two years and counting.
Both men are children of privilege, who demonstrated a lack of political fortitude or gravitas, unable to go the distance within their parties. In both men, their respective parties made the wrong choice of quickly advancing novices who were untested and proved really not to be party men, though Pinder has remained a PLP. Whether he will run again is another question.
It was just five years ago, almost to the day, January 19, 2010, when fledgling PLP candidate Ryan Pinder began a by-election rally address with words now clearly comical: "My party leader the Right Honorable Perry Gladstone Christie, the most productive, competent, effective and serious prime minister in the Caribbean since Sir Lynden Pindling."
Having now seen Christie up close and given how reportedly fed up Pinder is with Christie and the fact that he is reportedly an ally of Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, Pinder must now gasp when he recalls those words.

There are likely a number of words Pinder might use to describe Christie, though, "productive", "competent" and "effective" are likely not high on the list, and certainly not, "the most... serious prime minister in the Caribbean since Sir Lynden Pindling". It's extraordinary to watch how Pinder went from brown-nosing obsequiousness to cavalier dismissal of his party's leader.
The commentary by most observers on the Pinder departure had to do with his conflict of interest in accepting a lucrative offer from Deltec Bank, having served in Cabinet in general and specifically as minister of financial services.
Were Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle to leave Cabinet now and accept an offer with a company promoting foreign direct investment in The Bahamas, there would be justifiable concerns and worries of a conflict of interest. But it would seem bizarre if the claim was made that Rolle was being criticized for such a move because he is black.
In the context of the Rolle scenario consider this bizarre claim by a commentator in reference to Ryan Pinder's departure: "Another factor no one seems to have considered is that ministers serve at the pleasure of the prime minister, and can be shuffled or dismissed at any time. So why the national angst because Mr. Pinder chose to pick his own time of departure?"
No one really needs to consider this notion as it is so patently obvious. Further, Pinder was not shuffled or dismissed. Whenever a minister leaves without being dismissed it is big news as political colleagues and citizens are curious about the departure, especially as such departures are rare.
It isn't only that Pinder chose to leave. It is why and for what reasons which elicit curiosity. The commentator goes on to answer her question about the response to Pinder's departure.
"Is it because he was so much better at his job than his fellow ministers, or because he is white, and black people believe that white people aren't supposed to behave like that?"

Now consider had Khaalis Rolle been the one to depart and a writer potentially stating this bit of bizarre racial nonsense.
"Is it because he was so much better at his job than his fellow ministers, or because he is black, and white people believe that black people aren't supposed to behave like that?"
Bahamians, black or white, believe that Cabinet ministers should conduct themselves in a particular manner and adhere to a certain code of ethics, and refrain from conflicts of interest, whether the minister is white or black. Moreover, whether Pinder was better at his job or not than most or some of his fellow ministers is a debatable point.
What is troubling is the racial mindset that seeks to suggest that black Bahamians have a problem when it comes to how they think white people are supposed to behave. It suggests that Ryan Pinder's actions are not in question. The problem is with black people, who should get their minds right about whites.
The mindset appears to suggest that black people still adhere to the view that whites are superior to blacks, and that black people would be more alarmed at Pinder's departure because he is white, rather than with say a Khaalis Rolle departure, as he is a black man, and blacks would hold him to a lower standard of conduct than a white man.
A related commentary or restatement of this black inferiority, white superiority mindset supposedly resident in black people noted of Pinder's Cabinet departure: "So why all the outrage on the radio talk shows and beyond? Because there is a double standard in this country when it comes to white people. More is expected of them, and any misstep or fall from grace is viewed with far less tolerance.
"Had Mr. Pinder been black, would we be having this conversation? No."
The writer is dead wrong. Had Pinder been black we would have been having this conversation and certain white commentators would have piled on Pinder were he black, as they have piled on other black politicians in the past, while finding all manner of excuses for certain white politicians.

The view of the writer in question is laughable but not funny. Ryan Pinder did not fall from grace. He was given the extraordinary opportunity of serving in the Cabinet and decided to leave, among other reasons, to make a great deal more money,
Now we are being told by some that the criticism of him is unfair, precisely because he's white. This is the double standard of white privilege and exceptionalism that seeks to give a pass to certain white politicians while patronizing black people about what they are to think. It resembles a white supremacist attitude which seeks to play on a supposed black inferiority.
The writer also states: "Here is my personal take. Mr. Pinder is the victim of extreme prejudice, but not racism.
"...For the most part, white Bahamians have to stay under the radar and out of trouble because they feel as though they are not allowed to be more involved because they are all basically a bunch of redneck racists."
Ryan Pinder got elected to the House of Assembly twice mostly by black voters. He enjoyed warm support from many in the PLP. Most of his political colleagues are black. He didn't have to stay under any radar because people thought he was a redneck racist. He had a bright future in the PLP.
This idea that white Bahamians are "not allowed to be involved" is a bizarre expression of victimhood. It might mean for some whites that they must now play on an equal footing with black Bahamians and are no longer allowed their previous privilege and exceptionalism.
The writer's mindset and ignorance of demographics is concerning as she refers to Elizabeth as being in the "black belt". Elizabeth has never been considered a part of the traditional black belt, and the supposed "white belt" of eastern New Providence requires clarification.
The supposedly "traditional safe seat in the white belt of eastern New Providence" is mostly populated by upper-class black Bahamians. One can only infer the mindset that might produce this line of thinking.
It seems related to the mindset that quickly and giddily celebrated former U.S. Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin after a single speech at her party's nominating convention, and the quick put-down of the Democratic candidate Barack Obama.
Palin turned out to be a flake and a disaster and Obama turned out to be a leader of fine intellect, tremendous decency and civility, whether one agrees or disagrees with his policies or approves of his record. Some mindsets just continue to linger.

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

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The international decade for people of African descent begins

January 20, 2015

The arrival of the new year was accompanied by the characteristic fanfare and festivities in The Bahamas. Our leap into 2015 also marked the commencement of the value-added tax (VAT) era for Bahamians as the reality of the new normal within our tax system dawned on many.
There is no doubt that the year has commenced with a number of activities on the national and political fronts which we will discuss in the coming weeks. In the meantime, while we focused on our national issues and local challenges, the world quietly entered into the International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD). In other words, as a majority of Bahamians are of African Descent, January 1, 2015 ushered in a decade dedicated to us by the United Nations (UN).
As the United States of America observed Martin Luther King Jr. Day yesterday, tributes and demonstrations were expected. The clarion call for equality, justice and fairness by minorities continues with the message that black lives matter being spread across that nation. This concern was also recently brought to the forefront with the perceived disparity in the level of global attention given to the massacre of thousands on the African continent by terrorists when compared to that in France. This article takes a look at the significance of the IDPAD and what it means to the African Diaspora.

The Durban Declaration
The UN General Assembly had designated 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent (IYPAD) in response to the findings at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR), which had taken place from August 31 to September 8, 2001 in Durban, South Africa. Discussions and conclusions reached at the WCAR produced the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA) which considered discrimination against people of African descent and recommended an action plan in the global fight against racism.
In the aftermath of the IYPAD, several individuals and over 60 civil society organizations representing people of African descent wrote a letter to UN Member States calling for the UN General Assembly to declare 2012-2022 as the IDPAD. Recognizing that the IYPAD brought attention to racism and human rights issues faced by people of African descent, the aforesaid correspondence noted that the overall purpose had not been met in one year and recommended the adoption of the IDPAD in the implementation of the Durban Declaration.
The purpose of the IDPAD
On December 23, 2013, the UN General Assembly via Resolution 68/237 proclaimed 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD). The theme for the IDPAD is "People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice and Development" with the overarching objective being to strengthen national, regional and international cooperation in relation to the full enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights by people of African descent, and their full and equal participation in all aspects of society. The main objectives of the IDPAD as shown on the UN website are as follows:
o Promote respect, protection and fulfillment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people of African descent, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
o Promote a greater knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies;
o Adopt and strengthen national, regional and international legal frameworks according to the Durban Declaration and Program of Action and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and to ensure their full and effective implementation.
It is also expected that during the IDPAD, the UN will encourage its member states and the international community to ensure the inclusion of citizens of African descent in national planning and initiatives as well as implement anti-racism or discriminatory laws in this regard. While the IDPAD will include celebrations around the world and education about the health, economic status, history and culture of Africa's descendants, the UN on its part has undertaken to promote events to acknowledge the Decade.

Commentary and the IDPAD
The IDPAD was launched on December 10, 2014 which coincided with UN Human Rights Day which is observed on December 10, each year. The launch of the IDPAD comes at a pivotal time in our existence after several decades in which discrimination against individuals of African descent has been swept under the proverbial carpet.
This was further highlighted by Sam Kutesa, President of the UN General Assembly as he introduced the IDPAD. Kutesa noted that people of African descent still face racism in every country, region and continent of the world. Noting the link between poverty and racism, he observed that while people of African descent make substantial contributions to the world economy, they continue to be marginalized.
Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs expressed similar sentiments to Kutesa by shining the spotlight on the inequality and limited access to healthcare, education and employment that has become the lot of people of African descent. UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan ?imonovi? surmised that "human rights belong to us all" and added that "this Decade aims to shine a light on inequality, invisibility, underdevelopment, discrimination and violence on each and every continent".

The IDPAD and The Bahamas
The sometimes insular view and approach that certain Bahamians have in relation to matters of national importance leads us to place little or no emphasis on international initiatives that have implications for our country and way of life. Additionally, we are sometimes minded to distance ourselves from or refuse to acknowledge from whence we came as a people. While our history is rich and we boast of a heritage that includes diverse races, the vast majority of our people are descendants of the African continent.
In light of the foregoing, the IDPAD is just as relevant to us as it is for the African Americans and others of the African Diaspora. While we have made significant strides in combating the menace of racism and racial discrimination within our commonwealth, there is still much more to be done particularly in the economic empowerment and financial freedom of Bahamians of African descent.
Our economic model must evolve if we are to eliminate the modern day slavery that is in effect within our Bahamaland. Specific focus should be placed on the endangered species - that is the young Bahamian male of African descent with due regard for the protection for his young and old female counterpart. A key component of this focus is the education of our people to compete on a global scale.

The ruling majority and the future
As we commemorated Majority Rule Day a week ago, it is important that we do not forget our origin and the past that brought us to the present. There is no doubt that the ills of slavery and tales of the transatlantic slave trade will be revived and recounted during The Decade. The fact that such an atrocity was committed against a race cannot be blotted out of the history books and we must teach future generations, but more importantly learn from this experience to ensure that we do not become guilty of the evil done against our ancestors. In the words of George Santayana, "those that do not remember (or learn from) the past are condemned to repeat it".
The IDPAD should not be seen as a time to seek self-pity, retaliate or renew any form of animosity against our fellow human beings. If the truth be told, we the people of African descent have not only discriminated against other races but we have also discriminated against and marginalized our own selves. The IDPAD should be used as an opportunity to right the wrongs against our people which have been perpetuated in some instances by our leaders that have been elected by the majority as well as leaders in commerce.
This decade should be one of reflection as well as action on the status, welfare and condition of our people that constitute the majority with a view to enacting policies to improve the same. The question is what role the majority will play in the destiny of our Bahamas in 2015 and beyond as the International Decade of People of African Descent is upon us. The answers to these questions reside within and not without; we are responsible for our own destiny.

o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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2015: A watershed year for the PLP government, pt. 2

January 18, 2015

Every life has a watershed moment, an instant when you realize you're about to make a choice that will define everything else you ever do, and that if you choose wrong, there may not be that many things left to choose. Sometimes the wrong choice is the only one that lets you face the end with dignity, grace, and the awareness that you're doing the right thing.
I'm not sure we can recognize those moments until they've passed us.
- Mira Grant

Two weeks ago, before we took a break last Monday to observe the majority rule holiday, we thanked our readers for their encouragement and support of eight consecutive years of the weekly Consider This columns, as well as their constructive criticisms and alternative viewpoints to our weekly columns over the years.
Part one of the first column for this year invited us to Consider This... will 2015 be a watershed year for the PLP government?

A watershed
We defined a watershed as an important period or factor that serves as a dividing line. It is a turning point, a defining or pivotal moment or tipping point. Consequently we asked whether, in this context, 2015 will be a watershed year for the PLP government.

Visited issues
In answering this question, we addressed several salient issues that the government must effectively address if it will inspire the electorate to give them another mandate when the next general election is held in 2017 or earlier.
We spoke about the importance of containing crime, the most intractable challenge facing the government. We also recognized that it is vitally important to implement policies and programs to rapidly grow the economy.
We identified the introduction of value-added tax on January 1, 2015 as the most dramatic fiscal phenomenon in modern Bahamian history which could arrest and hopefully reverse the out-of-control fiscal deficit and national debt.
We also suggested that a successful referendum on constitutional changes will significantly signal the government's likely general election success the next time around.
Finally, we observed that the extent to which the government is successful in raising the anticipated taxes from the newly regulated web shop industry will also signal whether the public is satisfied that this watershed event will place the country on a positive pathway to raise urgently needed revenue in order to reverse the national debt and the fiscal deficit.

New challenges
In addition to crime, the second most important challenge facing today's government is the intractable level of unemployment, especially among our young citizens. We were recently informed that there are approximately 30,000 Bahamians who are unemployed, a totally unacceptable statistic.
Closely connected to the level of Bahamian unemployment is the extent of hunger and poverty that has afflicted too many of our citizens, young and old. There are reports that many school children go to bed hungry, eagerly looking forward to their next meal, not at their breakfast table, because they have none, but at their schools during the lunch hour which is offered by the school system. The extent of this problem needs to be fully documented and definitive action must be taken to eradicate this unpardonable reality.
The extent to which the government improves its communication with the public will also test its commitment to openness and accountability. While there is no need to rehash them here, there have been too many unexplained or poorly explained matters in the past two years that have left the public wondering what really happened in one case after another.
This will also be a watershed year for The Bahamas as far as the international ratings agencies are concerned. If those agencies believe that we have taken the appropriate regulatory steps to strengthen our established institutions, we should be fine. If not, we can anticipate that the country's rating will be adversely affected.

Hopeful signs and
great expectations
Sometime later this year, the Baha Mar mega-resort will open with much fanfare and great expectation of more jobs being created, an improved tourism product and an enhanced number of stop-over visitors who will spend more and thereby improved both the gross domestic product and our foreign reserves.
In May, the much-heralded and inadequately explained Junkanoo Carnival will be featured. There is considerable hope riding on the success of this event and hopefully, as is our custom, we will be able to pull it off in fine form as the event approaches.
Perhaps the most controversial issue that is looming in the wings is the government's intention to launch its National Health Insurance plan. While there is no doubt that too many of our citizens do not have access to catastrophic insurance, the proverbial question remains: What will it cost and who will pay the bill? The prime minister recently indicated that the initial cost will be approximately $600 million, although he anticipates that the first tranche will cost the Bahamian people $250 million. Again, greater public discussion is needed about this urgently needed social service, but, in light of the recurrent deficits, the national debt, the increase in taxes from VAT, the question remains: Can we afford this bill at this time?
Some of our Family Islands are suffering from want of urgently needed capital improvements. The clinic in Exuma, which has been erected but has not yet been opened, is badly needed for the delivery of satisfactory health care on that island. The hospital that was been promised to the people of Central Eleuthera during the last election campaign seems to remain only a figment of the imagination of the political directorate. The roads in Central and North Andros remain a constant challenge for the residents of that island.
Too many of the airports around our archipelago remain in an unacceptably deplorable state and are in urgent need of upgrading.
There has been considerable talk about the development of a national development plan for the future. Few will dispute the need for such a plan, but will this exercise be approached in a realistically practicable manner in order to enhance the orderly development of our country?

We repeat that the government should be given high marks for its herculean efforts in addressing many of the tough issues that face us. The government has taken several unpopular decisions that have been controversial, but needed to be made in the challenging exercise of governance.
We again observe that the prime minister has not replaced the Senate vacancy that was created by the resignation of Senator Cheryl Bazzard nearly two months ago. And while he seems to have had a successful visit to China, the prime minister has yet to name a Bahamian ambassador to that country. Similar attention should be given to appointing a resident ambassador to Brazil if we are to benefit from formalizing such an arrangement.
For all of these reasons - and more - we believe that 2015 will indeed be a watershed year for the PLP. We hope that they recognize that these are important watershed moments before they pass by and how crucial they are for its future as the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

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 pgalanis@gmail.com.

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China and CELAC: Is China redefining its engagement

January 16, 2015

While many look at the China-CELAC forum as an event that will strengthen cooperation and deepen ties between China and the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, the results of this meeting may be starkly different than what is being envisioned.
While committing to doubling trade with the region to over $500 billion and providing an economic lifeline to Venezuela and Ecuador in loans are nothing to scoff at, the reality may well be that China is searching for a mechanism under which to coordinate the over 150 bi-lateral agreements that it has signed with countries in the region and advance a China-Regional agenda, versus trying to manage disparate requests for support.
In some respects, China may be pursuing the same path taken by major powers, in assuming that the region can be dealt with as a bloc. As to whether a China-CELAC mechanism can serve to do this while other frameworks have failed is uncertain, especially considering how fragmented the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are in terms of their economic development levels, and social and political agendas.
That said, supporting an effort to stand up institutions within CELAC is likely to be a cheaper proposition than trying to handle multiple parties increasingly approaching with hat in hand. Interestingly, a China-CELAC arrangement may well add a level of complexity to the already overlapping agendas of the alphabet soup of entities established to advance cooperation within and outside of the hemisphere.
The ability of smaller countries such as those within the Caribbean and Central America to finance active engagement within China-CELAC institutions while managing existing obligations will be interesting.
Fundamentally for Latin America and the Caribbean, gone are the days of China's largesse through grants and free stadiums. The new China is a slowing economy, whose leaders will be primarily focused on domestic economic growth and employment in 2015 and beyond. While a more mature relationship with the larger regional economies will continue to center around market access for Chinese goods and services, and the sourcing of raw materials for China's domestic market, there should be concern by smaller economies in the Caribbean and Central America as to their futures.
For many observers, the sense is that the smaller regional economies of the region will be relegated to the sidelines, unless they serve some particularly strategic interest. Logistics hubs and fossil fuel producing countries stand out as those that justify interest. Sadly for smaller economies, the relationships of the future may mirror that which exists with the U.S., with sporadic initiatives and engagement the best to be expected.
Ultimately, it is a key plank of China's political agenda, which is to be active within this hemisphere that will guarantee a certain level of presence. While the bulwark against Taiwan's influence may be no longer needed, Chinese interests align with some regional countries in a common desire to try to keep the U.S. in check.
U.S. active engagement in Asia through the proposing of trade agreements that exclude Beijing and a military presence in support of traditional allies clearly irritates China. As a result, China as an economic power is willing to flex some muscle in the hemisphere while the U.S. struggles with domestic problems, a fractured political system and foreign policy flashpoints in the Middle East.
For some in the region, China's involvement goes beyond economics and rests in the political realm, as that the country's firm position on non-interference in internal matters by external parties - notably the West - is quite appealing.

o Anton Edmunds is an emerging markets expert and corporate consultant. He heads The Edmunds Group International, blogs at www.onthecaribbean.com, tweets at @theedmundsgroup and can be contacted via email at anton@antonedmunds.com or anton@theedmundsgroup.com. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.

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The homosexuals are coming!

January 16, 2015

This month, the state of Florida legalized same sex marriage. Quite an accomplishment for such a very conservative leaning state in the South, barring South Florida (Miami-Dade and Broward) being a very liberal territory.
It's no secret that South Florida is a melting pot of Caribbean and Latin American people via extension of the Cuban migrants. Caribbean people and Latin Americans are somewhat socially conservative, holding on vigorously to their religion with most of their inner fibre. This is what makes the embrace of the homosexual movement, in South Florida in particular, so incredibly fascinating and interesting as it relates to Caribbean and Latin American people.
What does all of this mean for Caribbean countries looking at the same homosexual rights issue? I'm not sure we can say with any significance that it would mean a great deal for Caribbean people in the Caribbean territories. Even though, if you were to throw a rock in a crowded room in any Caribbean country, you would hit someone that has either visited South Florida, has a close relative that lives in South Florida, or has dual citizenship with strong ties in South Florida.
So South Floridian ties and respect for and with the people of the Caribbean is clear. Clear on both sides. We love our Miami. We identify with Americans and share values with our brothers and sisters in South Florida. Yes, we do. In fact, we have a saying in The Bahamas: "Bahamians have an inalienable right to learn how to read, write and visit Miami twice a year." It is our "right"!
Be that as it may: How soon would places in the Caribbean begin to embrace homosexuality and same sex marriage? This is a very good question.
A snapshot of what issues surrounding even the mere notion of providing any launch pad for homosexual marriage has and is taking place in The Bahamas. To be quite frank: the initiative of homosexual marriage, at this time, would probably sink faster than a one hundred pound bucket of cement in shallow water.
The issue of homosexual marriage came out as a result of a proposed referendum that initially had nothing to do with homosexual marriage at all. But because it was perceived to be paving the way for the introduction of homosexual marriage at a later date, it torpedoed all of the other merits that were presented in that referendum.
Here are the proposed Bills:
Bill #1 seeks to give a child born outside The Bahamas to a Bahamian-born mother and non-Bahamian father the same automatic right to Bahamian citizenship.
Bill #2 also seeks to achieve gender equality in another respect under the constitution: It seeks to enable a Bahamian woman who marries a foreign man to secure for him the same access to Bahamian citizenship.
Bill #3 seeks to make provisions for an unwed Bahamian father to pass his citizenship to a child born to a foreign woman.
Bill #4 seeks to end discrimination based on sex. This involves the insertion of the word "sex" in Article 26 of the Constitution so as to make it unconstitutional to discriminate based on whether someone is male or female.
From first glance, these Bills represent all that is fair and just for a first world country, or one boasting to be a first world country, and all that a country should strive for to enshrine in laws by virtue of its most sacred legal document: the constitution. Everything seems fine, from first presentation.
Even a remotely controversial Bill #2, which sought to smooth immigration issues for foreign born men married to Bahamian women was met with some resistance, but a small majority of people came to the understanding in due time that in reality it did not extend to making naturalized citizens of foreign born men in perpetuity.
More startlingly, however, what transpired with regard to the promotion and public education on these bills was something fierce at its midway point. Something utterly shameful and embarrassing on many levels.
Bill #4, instead of being seen as a general application of the removal of gender discrimination, turned into a proxy war on gay marriage and thus devolved into an assault on homosexuals in general.
Homosexual-equality proponents initially championed Bill #4 as the beginning of removing the legal constructs that bound them from being honest citizens in The Bahamas, and thus paving the way for equal and fair treatment and the enabling of rights with regard to social justice and marriage. From the moment their lobby made mere mention that it helped their cause, persons became livid.
The church went on high alert! Condemning the constitutional commission responsible for drafting the Bills along with the players in the background for this backdoor gay-marriage push into our social living and consciousness.
Those not "churched" and simply opposed to homosexuals on any and every level took it to the tenth level and used it as a platform to spew their homophobic rants and hatred towards gays. It was quite troubling to see so many well respected, and seemingly level headed people just turn hot-red with anger, vitriol, hate and spite.
The opposition political party needed to do nothing at all. That's how bad it was.
Personally, I don't care if gays were all to jump up and get married today, or never marry ever again, ever, ever, ever. I'm aware of the social issues and religious underpinnings that we have as a society in The Bahamas, and won't drag myself into a religious or moral debate on the matter because we all have our views on how we interpret Christian principles.
However, I'm not a homophobe either. Because the reality is that discrimination based on gender, gender appearance, sex and sexual preference, is what it is: discrimination.
I always ask persons spewing the usual homophobic rhetoric: Are you aware of how many homosexuals are in your midst? Can you be certain of how many people in your own family and friendship circles are heterosexual?
How many gays cut you, your family members and your friends checks? How many gays run successful businesses? How many homosexuals do you watch on television and enjoy their art forms, whether film or music?
How many persons in the public service, from politicians to team-leaders are living homosexual lifestyles? The real answers to all of these questions would stagger you.
So, for The Bahamas at least, an extension of rights or even the expansion of the tolerance of homosexuality is not something we would see any time soon based on these recent events. A political party, at this time, would introduce it at their own risk.
Even though homosexual activity was legalized for persons practicing in private quarters as per the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act 1991, with the age of consent for homosexual activity being 18 years of age, the next steps won't happen anytime soon.
In a nutshell: The homosexuals are coming. Coming hard too, particularly in American and European countries. How far they get in the Caribbean territories, and not trying to speak for all Caribbean countries, is something else all together.

o Youri Kemp is the president and CEO of Kemp Global, a management consultancy firm based in The Bahamas.

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Ryan Pinder's brazen conflict of interest and questions of race and politics

January 15, 2015

Democratic standards continue an unabated decline under the administration of Prime Minister Perry Christie. The appointment of three sitting members of the Cabinet as Queen's Counsels, raises questions of appearance, and seems an abuse of the power of appointment.
Quite unseemly is the appointment of Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson. Normally such a recommendation is made by the attorney general (AG) to the prime minister, after consulting the chief justice. Was she the AG at the time or was there an acting AG who made the recommendation, similar to when a nolle prosequi was granted to one of her former clients?
Are we to believe that only one woman in the country is deserving of appointment? She also recommended a minister in her office, the minister of state for legal affairs.
The Ryan Pinder affair is another example of the glaring conflicts of interest in an administration beset by a just about anything goes attitude.
Pinder has left the Cabinet and his post as minister of financial services where he had specific and collective responsibility for oversight and policymaking functions in financial services and other areas. These same areas would be of immediate interest to a banking and financial services concern such as Deltec Bank where he is the "new chief legal officer, head of wealth management and a member of the bank's executive committee".
His departure for a lucrative package some estimate is at least $500,000 raises a host of troubling questions. Was Pinder approached about a job or did he go seeking one while he was minister? Was his new assignment negotiated between him and the foreign owner of Deltec while he was minister? Was the bank's board aware of the Pinder offer and pay package before it was agreed or announced? When was Prime Minister Christie informed: at the beginning, during or after the negotiations? How long were the negotiations? Did Pinder initially keep secret from the prime minister his negotiations with a foreign bank while a Cabinet minister and minister of financial services? If Christie knew about the unfolding negotiations, why did he allow his minister to remain in his Cabinet under such circumstances?
Depending on the answers to these questions, they may constitute a grave matter and a glaring apparent conflict of interest, and perhaps a breach of a code of ethics instituted by Christie in 2002, and a general breach of the public trust.

Here, as reported in The Tribune, is Christie's tortured explanation which explains little and leaves as many questions: "I understand and in fairness to him he came to me some time ago and we discussed this. He discussed it with the deputy prime minister as well. We discussed it together and I said to him, give me time to think about it. I will give you the benefit of my advice and I said to him, come go to Cuba with me and show me all the things you were doing in trade so I have an understanding while meeting with Caribbean leaders.
"We've had that opportunity and I'm able to come back to The Bahamas, say to my Cabinet that Mr. Pinder has given me an indication that he is resigning. That's the process that took place."
One cannot make up this stuff. Those are actually Christie's words, which are revealing of his thought processes.
It seems that neither Pinder nor whomever he negotiated with has much respect for Christie and for the standards to which Cabinet ministers are to be held. Is it now open season for private concerns to raid the Cabinet for well-connected employees?
What has transpired is the minister of financial services negotiating a lucrative pay package with an institution involved in financial services and/or the prime minister aware of such negotiations and allowing them to unfold.
What is disturbing is the prime minister's odd justifications, which seem part sheer embarrassment at being dissed by Pinder, and part an attempt to cloud and confuse the matter.
His comments as reported in The Tribune have made a mockery of his office: "When someone is giving [sic] an extraordinary, mind blowing offer in an economy like this and they're young and they have kids, no matter how wealthy they are that offer is not just dollar and cents, it's a prominent position in a banking order that will enable you to become one of the power brokers on a global basis. That's what Ryan Pinder is looking forward to, being a huge player in financial services in the world."

Why should not the same be said of any minister? Christie then contradicted himself: "Those are opportunities where you may say, 'Well, maybe he shouldn't have done it because of service and service commitment and what not.'"
What exactly did he mean by "what not"? What has so annoyed many PLPs is that Pinder, having been the beneficiary of the party's coveted nomination for the Elizabeth constituency in 2010 by-election, then being appointed to the Cabinet, has now run off at midterm for a huge pay package even as other ministers remain in their posts.
As reported in The Tribune, Christie made other related bizarre statements: "Wherever I have gone in the region with respect to his performance as minister he has been applauded. He has been recognized for having a grasp of his ministry. I have gone to the United States of America and I have found, much to my surprise, the high esteem they held for him in areas of regulation."
Leaving aside the obvious question as who are "they", the prime minister is stunned at the esteem in which Pinder was held? Even the more reason to keep him in the Cabinet. Of greater note, Christie actually speaks of the role of Pinder in - "areas of regulation".
Which makes Christie's other statement seemingly contradictory: "And it's the regulatory part of it that Allyson Gibson deals with as attorney general, that is the one that you might say does favors for people. But if you look at the record, and you look at what (Mr. Pinder) has been saying, what he would have been doing, it's very difficult to say that he would have been feathering his nest or the nest of the people he's going to work for."
What does Christie mean by the attorney general's office being, "the one that you might say does favors for people"? Might he say more on this matter?
Pinder said of his new assignment that it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Is that not also the case of serving in the Cabinet? For all his talk of service, Pinder abandoned his Cabinet post in less than three years.
The country afforded him the opportunity to serve in government and to fly around the world at taxpayer's expense, making contacts and gaining experience, all of which has now resulted in a lucrative new assignment.
Pinder has been roundly and justifiably criticized for his speedy departure from Cabinet, including by PLPs, who weathered criticism for parachuting him into the Elizabeth constituency, even though he had previously shown scant interest in Bahamian politics

He became one of the PLPs golden boys, and was twice elected by voters in a constituency in which most voters are black. Notably, both major parties have worked hard to have white Bahamians run on their tickets.
One writer asked: "Why are people so angry about the resignation of Ryan Pinder?"
Her answer: "Because Mr. Pinder is a white Bahamian and he has let black Bahamians down."
She continues: "How do we know this? Because white people in the country don't really care that Mr. Pinder has resigned... As far as white people are concerned, what's the big deal?
"...Mr. Pinder does not need the money. He comes from a wealthy family, so money could not have been his primary motivation for bowing out."
Had Minister of State Khaalis Rolle, for instance, resigned under similar circumstances he would have been roundly criticized by this columnist and many others, not because Rolle is black, but because of certain principles at stake. Pinder is being criticized not because of the color of his skin, but because of the content of his political character in this instance.
Disturbingly, some white Bahamians have given Pinder a pass precisely because he is white and they hold him to a different standard than others. Had Rolle left the Cabinet, many of these same few white Bahamians would have heavily criticized him.
How the writer presumes to know that white Bahamians don't care is anyone's guess, though one suspects it is through limited anecdotal evidence, and not dispositive. Does the writer presume to speak for white people?
More disturbing is the intended message to black Bahamians: Since some white people don't care, black Bahamians criticizing Pinder should not be so concerned.
Then there is this non sequitur that because Pinder is wealthy that he didn't primarily leave for money, as if having access to family money, makes one less inclined to leave for a "mind-blowing" amount of money.
If Pinder does have access to such money and is considered so gifted, why did he decide to be so stingy in his public service, whereas others continue to sacrifice for the national good?
Notions of white privilege and exceptionalism are alive and well in the mindsets of some, who often hold black Bahamians to a higher standard than they hold certain white Bahamians, including it seems in this instance, Ryan Pinder.

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

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