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Two Saturdays ago, February 26, the Amateur Boxing Federation of The Bahamas (ABFB) staged the second official conclave in the 42-year-old history of the organization. The first was held in 1969. That parley helped to form the embryonic body that came out of an idea the then current Bahamas Heavyweight Champion, Bert Perry, had.
This forum of present boxing leaders and participants was inspiring and I believe, will nicely shape the future of the sport. The event was quite impacting for boxing. The gathering bridged the gap between 1969 and 2011 very well.
It was very good to see such significant boxing figures under one roof, together. That had not happened in a very long time. For instance, joining m ...
Nassau, Bahamas - It
was an inspiring meeting for some, for others it was an enjoyable trip
down memory lane as 24 past presidents of Toastmasters Club 1600 met for
only the second time in the club's 44-year history.
'First Bahamas Branch' goes before the club's name, denoting its
premier, historical standing as the first local branch of the
international organization which develops communication, public speaking
and leadership skills.
The club's official charter, issued
January 1, 1969, was presented to the club's founding president, Ernest
T. Strachan in April of that year by Lynden O...
Guardians of the Galaxy (Rated T)
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista
Genre: Action Adventure
Dwight's Rating: 3.5
Sometimes having low expectations can be a very good thing!
The previews for "Guardians of the Galaxy" left me cold and uninterested in the film. Commercials made the characters look like laughable rejects from the "X-Men". And it seemed this would be another dud of a movie that only comic book fan boys familiar with these Marvel characters would even care about.
But after learning of its massive success in its opening weekend in the United States (it was the largest ever August release in history), my interest was peaked. And not only did it exceed box office expectations, but it managed to exceed mine as well -- and in a way as big as our galaxy is vast.
In the film, brash adventurer Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan, a powerful villain with ambitions that threaten the entire universe. Quill is forced into an uneasy truce with a quartet of disparate misfits: Gamora (Zoe Saldana); Drax the Destroyer (professional wrestler Dave Batista); Rocket, a genetically enhanced, gun-toting, talking raccoon; and Groot, a verbally challenged, tree-like humanoid. The galaxy's fate rests in the hands of this motley crew.
Yes, you read right. There's a talking raccoon, and a walking-talking tree, among many other oddities. Nevertheless, one can apply just about any and every positive superlative to this superlative movie. It is the funniest and most fun film so far this year!
No comic-based movie has felt this refreshingly humorous since the original "Iron Man". And the humor comes at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. The main sources of the laughs come from some of the characters that initially had me most skeptical about the film -- which greatly contributed to those low expectations. But Drax, Rocket the Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and the tree, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), are the life of the party, and at the center of the movie's snappy dialogue and overall spirited pacing.
And who knew Chris Pratt -- a supporting player on TV's "Parks and Recreations" -- had it in him to be the next great leading man? There have been little hints here and there, including with his small role in the film "Zero Dark Thirty". But it's certainly cemented here. He demonstrates extreme versatility, with a classic leading man combination of comic timing, action ability and capability, and romantic chemistry with Zoe Saldana.
She, too, is arguably better here than in pretty much anything in which I've ever seen her, including "Avatar" -- the last blockbuster in which she played an oddly colored alien (this time she's green instead of blue).
Lest one assume it's all fun and games, there are scenes of sensitivity and emotional depth. Each one of the core characters has a touching back-story and is overcoming some form of loss or pain in their lives. These elements could have easily derailed everything into one giant, cheesy mess. But in the deft hands of Director James Gunn, who co-wrote the screenplay along with Nicole Perlman, these moments are skillfully managed and not overdone or overbearing. Instead, we are treated to a clever and witty balance of exuberant humor and spectacular action.
All of this high praise and buzz might now lead you to have overly great expectations for the film. But "Guardians" is unlikely to disappoint. I was tempted to give it my top four star (excellent) rating, but I've settled on three-and-a-half (very, very good). It is not for everyone; I'm pretty sure my mom would not appreciate all the weird aliens, talking raccoon and fighting tree. But it is more accessible and palatable than many movies of this genre, even some regarded as classics.
This movie sets up a sequel (scheduled to be released in 2017), and possibly the next, long-running movie franchise. While that's an exciting proposition, it comes with a bit of trepidation too. As we've seen before with "Iron Man", often the bar is set so high with the original that it makes it exceptionally difficult for any subsequent movie in the franchise, or even in the genre, to fill the galaxy-sized shoes. Great expectations, indeed!
o Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of " Morning Blend" on Guardian Radio. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email email@example.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.
Cast: Craig Pinder, Claudette Allens, Dana J. Ferguson, Duncan Casey
A poolside setting at the charming Jacaranda House provides a fitting locale and a refreshing change of pace for a new local play.
"Hibiscus Hotel" (which runs through Saturday, May 10) eschews the limitations of the traditional stage, and makes interesting use of the great Bahamian outdoors.
The play is described as a "comedic look at the family-run hotel". It's set on the fictional Bahamian family island of "Shalimar", and the hotel was once the most glamorous in the country, but it's best days are long behind it.
Owner, Eli (Craig Pinder), is still stuck in the past, and is always reminiscing about the good-old days. Well, at least when he's not bickering with his wife Cora (Claudette "Cookie" Allens).
Hotel guest Edward (Duncan Casey), visiting from England, is thrown in the middle of the family squabbling, especially when Mia (Dana Ferguson) shows up, uncovering some still raw wounds from the past.
Written and directed by the Bahamian-born, UK-raised Robin Belfied, and produced by Kim Aranha, this is the third production of Yellowtale Theatre Company. It follows their "Dat Bahamian Ting" and "Othello or the Tragedy of Conchy Joe" which played at Nassau's Shakespeare in Paradise Festival in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
Although it's an original Bahamian work, that production pedigree affords "Hibiscus Hotel" an international feel, especially compared to most original local productions of late. We are spared the overt and often preachy messages, political commentary or bizarre monologues. Instead, we are served a simple and straight-forward story.
While it may not be frequently laugh-out-loud funny, it is humorous and pleasant enough.
Pinder steals the show as the boorish Eli, displaying not only his strong acting skills and comedic timing, but also his great singing and musical ability (he strums the guitar). Allens, as always, and Ferguson deliver strong performances, as well. And what at first seems to a be a lackluster, wallflower role, is developed slowly but soundly by Casey, as we learn more about his character. Casey also shows off his singing and musical ability on that same guitar.
Despite being outdoors, there are impressive production values, with creative use of set lighting, and clever incorporation of aspects of the Jacaranda property into the story.
However, being outside does present an interesting set of challenges. The night I attended, a nearby and very loud air conditioner or generator became an annoying distraction. That, along with a couple of sirens, and the meows of a cat roaming about the property occasionally made it difficult to hear the cast.
Nevertheless, the simplicity of this four-cast member production is commendable. Far too many local stage productions of late have been bloated and overwrought, and would benefit from paring cast numbers, eliminating extraneous speaking parts, and truly fleshing out and defining their characters, all of which is largely successfully achieved with "Hibiscus Hotel".
We've been blessed with some very pleasant evenings. And luckily, there are still two chances to take advantage of this nice weather and see "Hibiscus Hotel" tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. at Jacaranda House on Parliament Street. There is strong language, and adult situations, so this play may not be appropriate for all audiences.
When: Tonight and Saturday, May 10
Where: Jacaranda House, Parliament Street
Time: Lights go up at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $40 premium seats, $30 adults and $20 students, free parking is available at the Royal Victoria car park with Jacaranda providing full security.
Ticket outlets: Logos Bookstore, Harbour Bay Shopping Plaza; Fab Finds Gift Shop, Blake Road Shopping Plaza; Blanco Chemicals Service Centre, Prince Charles and Fox Hill Road; Bahama Art and Handicraft, Shirley Street and on the website www.yellowtaletheatre.com/tickets.o Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of " Morning Blend" on Guardian Radio. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.
Tomorrow we celebrate the 39th anniversary of Bahamian independence. The Commonwealth of The Bahamas was established by an act of the British Parliament which was passed on June 20, 1973 and took effect in the early hours of July 10, 1973, when thousands on Clifford Park witnessed for the first time the raising of the Bahamian flag after the Union Jack was lowered for the last time on this colony, ending 325 years of British rule.
This week, we begin a series of articles on The Bahamas constitution and for part one would like to Consider This... what were the salient issues facing those charged with shaping our constitution as we moved to independence, and how were those issues reconciled?
A natural progression
Bahamian independence in 1973 was a natural progression following a decade of rapid transformation, not just in The Bahamas but also in the Caribbean. In The Bahamas, the constitution twice prominently featured in the body politic, first in 1964 and then again in 1969.
The Bahamas received its first written constitution on January 7, 1964, which granted full control over its internal affairs to The Bahamas government, with the governor retaining responsibility for external defense and internal security. Cabinet government was introduced, and the upper house of the legislature, previously the Legislative Council, became the Senate. The Senate's membership increased from 11 to 15, while the House of Assembly retained its designation and the number of elected representatives numbered 33. In 1969, the British government turned over the internal and external affairs to the Government of The Bahamas and replaced the office of premier with that of prime minister.
During this period, Caribbean countries were also obtaining independence from Great Britain. It started with Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in August 1962. Guyana and Barbados followed in May and November 1966, respectively. The Bahamas was next in 1973 and, by the end of that decade, Grenada, Dominica and St. Lucia had also gained their independence from Great Britain.
We can appreciate that the fervor for national independence for Caribbean (and African) countries was inextricably tethered to nationalistic and socio-political realities of the era, aided by Great Britain's willingness to release its grip on the empire, upon which the sun was said never to set. For The Bahamas, the movement to independence was a natural progression, propelled by the "trade winds" of the time.
The independence conference in London
The general election of September 1972 was contested with the understanding that a victory for the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) would begin the process of national independence for The Bahamas. It won and Loftus Roker was appointed to liaise with the official opposition Free National Movement (FNM) regarding matters relative to the Independence Conference before going to London.
Therefore, beginning in early December 1972, the PLP, headed by Sir Lynden Pindling, and the FNM, headed by Sir Kendal Isaacs, led a delegation to London to discuss an independence constitution with the British government.
Because The Bahamas already had the 1964 and 1969 constitutions, there was no need to start afresh so 90 percent of the issues regarding independence were agreed upon by both political parties before leaving for London.
The mood of the Bahamian delegation was upbeat and the talks were conducted in a very congenial atmosphere. Several of the delegates to the Constitutional Conference have noted that the drafting of the constitution was a moment in time where the PLP and FNM worked harmoniously, notwithstanding several philosophical points of departure.
One of the early issues discussed at the Constitutional Conference was Bahamian citizenship. The British attempted to persuade the delegation to accept the precedent that had been established by other colonies; that is, for British citizens and "belongers" living in the colonies to register at Government House, so that, at independence, they would automatically become Bahamian citizens. The Bahamian delegation unanimously objected to this, arguing instead that citizenship should not be so open-ended, and that there should be a process by which citizenship would be determined by the government. The Bahamian delegation was adamant and united, and the British relented and accepted the Bahamian position.
Another area of disagreement surrounded gender equality. The PLP proffered that full equality for women should not be enshrined in the constitution. The FNM argued the opposite view. Ultimately, the British government agreed with the PLP's position.
There was a discussion on the issue of rustication and the freedom of movement and the right of Bahamians to leave The Bahamas. Some in the PLP expressed the concern that Bahamians might depopulate the Family Islands and were also concerned that, in the absence of a rustication provisions, the country could suffer a brain drain. This fuelled the debate about giving Bahamians the right to leave not just their native islands but the country. The British agreed with the opposition on this issue, and consequently there were no prohibitions on Bahamians' ability to move freely within or outside The Bahamas.
With the issues fully aired and agreed, Sir Kendal Isaacs and the FNM delegates returned to The Bahamas. Some of the PLP delegates, including Sir Lynden, remained in London to finalize the terms upon which the new Bahamian constitution would be presented to the British Parliament. The delegation understood that the British Parliament would introduce and pass that all-important Bill for an Act to grant Independence to The Bahamas.
The surviving signatories of the Bahamian constitution are: Sir Arthur Foulkes, Arthur D. Hanna, Sir Orville Turnquest, Paul L. Adderley, A. Loftus Roker, George A. Smith and Rev. Philip M. Bethel. Deceased signatories included Sir Lynden Pindling, Sir Milo Butler, Sir Clement Maynard, Rev. Carlton E. Francis, Sir Kendal Isaacs, Cadwell C. Armbrister, Henry J. Bowen and Norman S. Solomon. Although there were other Bahamians present at the conference who were not part of the official delegation, these 15 signatories to the Bahamian constitution should rightly be recognized as our nation's Founding Fathers.
After returning to The Bahamas, the government developed the country's flag, the coat of arms and the national anthem. It is worth noting that the official opposition was not consulted on any of these matters.
After the Constitutional Conference, the government engaged in the most impressive public relations exercise ever conducted in Bahamian history. There was a massive national campaign to inform civil society and the Bahamian people about what independence meant to the country. The post-conference activities were spearheaded by George Smith, who was the parliamentary secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister and headed the Independence Secretariat.
In the early hours of July 10, 1973, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas was born.
There is no doubt that the men who assembled in London to frame the constitution of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas 40 years ago performed as impressively as the American Founding Fathers who assembled in Philadelphia in 1787 to craft that country's constitution. The Bahamian delegates to the London Constitutional Conference are to be applauded for their superlative efforts in drafting a social contract which has served us these past 39 years.
In the weeks ahead, we will examine key articles of the constitution that have guided our ship of state. We will also consider some of the issues that should be addressed in amending our constitution, hopefully before we celebrate the 40th anniversary of a nation that was born on July 10, 1973.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to email@example.com.
The Sir Lynden Pindling Room, a special exhibition space to honor the legacy and life of the former prime minister was officially opened this week.
The room is located in the Harry C. Moore Library and Information Centre at The College of The Bahamas. It will showcase personal effects, family and political photographs, as well as gifts received from world leaders during the Pindling era.
Widely credited as the "Father of the Nation" and visionary architect of the modern Bahamas, Sir Lynden's vision has impacted nearly every facet of nationhood in The Bahamas.
Sir Lynden's daughter, Monique Pindling-Johnson, said her father strongly believed that education "liberates people".
In the months leading up to independence, when teaching Bahamians about why he thought such a move would be good for The Bahamas, Sir Lynden's basic tenet was, "in order for a people to understand where they are headed, it is important for them to understand from whence they came", Pindling-Johnson noted.
"Ours is a rich history that should be preserved and information about [it] should be easily accessible, so that all Bahamians, particularly school children, can learn more about the history of The Bahamas and about themselves, first hand," she said.
College Librarian Dr. Berthamae Walker hopes the college will see a lot of research coming out of the Sir Lynden Pindling collection.
"We invite the public in to learn about The Bahamas, learn about Bahamian authors and to do more research," she said.
The Sir Lynden Pindling Foundation has given $300,000 towards the establishment of a permanent exhibition in honor of Sir Lynden's life.
Under Sir Lynden's leadership, The Bahamas achieved its independence from Great Britain and was steered through a marked period of growth and development.
Born on March 22, 1930, Sir Lynden served as The Bahamas' first black premier from 1967 to 1969. His term as prime minister of The Bahamas lasted from 1969 to 1992 and his leadership of the Progressive Liberal Party came to an end in 1997, when he resigned from public life. Sir Lynden passed away in August 2000 at the age of 70.
The Sir Lynden O. Pindling Foundation was established in 2001 as a nonprofit, non-partisan charitable company. Its primary purpose is to promote Sir Lynden's legacy "by developing programs and projects for the benefit of the people of The Bahamas, which are geared to enhance national pride, social responsibility, historical and environmental awareness".
The Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) has selected Ian D. Fair as the recipient of its 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award - a recognition of outstanding and sustained performance and contribution within the industry.
In responding to the announcement, Mr. Fair said: "I deem it a singular honor to be given a Lifetime Achievement Award by BFSB for my contribution to the financial services industry over the past forty four years."
Ian Fair has been involved in business and particularly the financial services industry in The Bahamas since 1969. He brings with him a wealth of experience and an in-depth knowledge of the industry, specifically of the international aspects of wealth management. He currently serves as the chairman of Bahamas First Holdings Limited, the largest general insurer in the country; chairman of Butterfield Trust (Bahamas) Limited and chairman of the Bahamas International Securities Exchange (BISX).
He was the founding chairman of the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB) in 1998, serving for two consecutive terms until 2002.
"There have been many highlights in my career, but ranking right at the top is the formation of BFSB. It gives me enormous satisfaction to see how it has grown and changed over the years and continues to be a focal point for the continued development and promotion of our industry," Fair said.
His previous work experience was as chairman of MeesPierson Bahamas, which he co-founded in The Bahamas, from 1987 to 2003; managing director of Deltec Panamerica Trust Company from 1980-87 and he was with the Bank of Nova Scotia Trust Company (Bahamas) from 1969-80 and from 2003-6. He was also the chairman of The Grand Bahama Port Authority and Port Group Limited from March 2012 to September 2013 and chairman of the Bahamas Maritime Authority from 2008-2012.
Fair is a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), and was the founding chairman of its Bahamas Branch. He is a fellow of the UK Institute of Directors and the Duke of Edinburgh's World Fellowship. He also serves on the boards of a number of charities and foundations including the Governor General's Youth Award (Bahamas), The Living Oceans Foundation (USA) and the Lynn Foundation (UK). Also in The Bahamas he is a founding member of the Clifton Heritage Authority and the National Art Gallery.
In speaking to the current state of play, Fair said, "The financial services industry, worldwide, is going through major change right now, but this is not the first time and is unlikely to be the last. We simply have to accept change, embrace it and chart our way for future success. I believe that there is still much potential. It is now up to the next generation to take over, with guidance the previous generation might be asked to provide."
The Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented at the 14th Annual FSI Excellence Awards Gala Dinner on November 14, when BFSB also will recognize the Executive of the Year, Professional of the Year, Mentor of the Year, Achiever of the Year and Student of the Year. Also recognized will be recipients of the Financial Services Development & Promotion Award and the Minister's Award, the latter selected by Ryan Pinder, minister of financial services.
Fair has been married to his wife, Sylvia (formerly Cartwright) for over forty-three years and they have three daughters and three grandsons.
Have you heard, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ," (2 Cor. 5:10), and, "And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27)? Admittedly, judgment tends to evoke a sense of fear and consternation with many - and for obvious reasons. The very name judgment conjures up trial, investigation, sentence and of course the attending questions, "How will I look?" "Will I pass the scrutiny?" Nevertheless, my topic is "The Joy of Judgment." Is that possible?
Looking at the judgment
The Bible refers to different phases of the judgment such as the pre-Advent phase (Daniel 7:9, 10), the judgment by the Saints referred to as the millennial judgment (1 Corinthians 6:1-3), and the executive or final phase (Revelation 20;5, 6). And some add another judgment which takes place during a partial resurrection of those who pierced Jesus being raised up to see Him according to Revelation 1:7.
Bring it on
Doesn't this sub-topic, "bring it on", sound a bit presumptuous? Who asks for judgment? I would imagine that few persons would think to do so. However, as I read Psalm 7:8 and Psalm 26, the Psalmist with much boldness is asking God to judge him. Essentially, he is saying, "Bring it on." To some, this would seem ludicrous, but not when one knows the purpose of judgment, who is in charge, and who will represent him in the judgment. Without a doubt, David knew the answers to all these questions. The judgment allows for the truth to be known as it vindicates God's people. Secondly, while God the father is judge, according to John 5:22, He has committed all judgment to Jesus the Son, who is our advocate or defense attorney. That undoubtedly is good news.
It is highly unusual for the same person who represents you to sit as judge. It is unthinkable in our court system. It would not work. Of course there are those who pull strings and pay under the table, but with God none of that is possible, for David refers to Him as the "Righteous Judge". The key, I have come to realize, is to know Him; and that we do through a daily relationship with Him.
Prayer, Bible study, church attendance and Christian witnessing allow for growth in understanding and appreciating Jesus. Thereby we are able to approach the judgment with much confidence, for we know in whom we believe; and we know that He is able to deliver us.
And just in case a further point of assurance is needed, consider these poignant words, "He who dwells in the heavenly sanctuary judges righteously. His pleasure is more in His people, struggling with temptation in a world of sin, than in the host of angels that surround His throne" (Christ Object Lessons, p. 176). Given the aforementioned, I say, "Bring it on!"
Winning souls for Christ
Reverend Dr. Robert L. Colebrook celebrates 25 years in ministry
He's a man who never considered himself to be in perfect standing with the Lord. Still, for a quarter of a century, Reverend Dr. Robert L. Colebrook has trained ministers of the gospel and church musicians in his bid to win souls for Christ.
This month, the New St. Paul's Baptist Church senior pastor celebrates his 25th anniversary at the church located at the juncture of East and Bias Streets.
"We've always been a church with an open door, supportive of persons who want to advance in ministry. We train ministers. There are many persons who I have trained and are now serving in other churches," said Colebrook, who in 1999 had the degree of doctor of divinity bestowed upon him by the Richmond Virginia Seminary.
"When I came in the church there was no one to work with me as a young preacher and I promised myself I would not leave the church how I met it."
The fourth child of Rev. Arthur Samuel and Bessie Colebrook, Robert, was born on February 13, 1953.
He grew up singing and playing music in the church he would one day pastor.
Although endowed with a fear and reverence for God, like many who grew up in the church, he drifted.
A professional musician, Colebrook played with some of the top bands in town such as Tony Seymour, Gary Davis, Jay Mitchell, the Blue Notes and others. It took a serious car accident in 1969 to draw the 18-year-old lead and bass guitarist back to God.
"After a serious accident some people have an experience where they see God. My experience was different. I had a hell experience. I cried out to God and said, 'If you change me I'll be a Christian'," Colebrook recalled.
On December 2, 1969 he was baptized at his father's church.
The early 1970s was a time when professional musicians who entered the church were ostracized. "You were looked at as a prostitute," Colebrook recalled. "It's not like today where you could be a reformed drug dealer, or a prostitute and you could start a ministry and people would follow you. Back then, it would never happen."
Still he persisted, forming interdenominational choirs, like the Majestic Choir with Arthur Rolle (later reverend) of AME Zion Church.
Colebrook also preached at street meetings with groups such as Youths for the Truths, headed by Ross Davis (later bishop and senior pastor of Golden Gates World Outreach Ministries).
In the early 1980s, Colebrook's love for music led him back to playing in night clubs. He promised God that although he played in bands he would not live the "band life".
On November 3, 1981, God placed a calling on his 28-year-old life.
"It was a Tuesday, and I was sleeping. This voice said to me three times, 'I called you to follow in the footsteps of your father'," Colebrook said. "At that time, I felt the same pain that I felt in the car accident. I was able to relate it to my first deliverance."
Pitching up from his sleep, Colebrook began to jump up and down in his room.
"I'm not an emotional guy, but it was the Holy Spirit within me because I started to shout without any effort. I said, 'Ok, God. Stop. I believe you now'," the reverend recalls.
Shortly thereafter, Colebrook attended American Baptist College in Nashville, Tennessee, where in 1987 he completed his bachelor's degree with honors in theology and psychology.
The year before graduation, Colebrook was ordained in the United States at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church, where he served as an associate minister.
In December 1988, he became senior pastor of New St. Paul's Baptist Church.
"I have a passion for helping persons who are in need. We shouldn't have to wait for persons to tell us they are in need," said Colebrook, who wants to create an even stronger church in the coming years.
"My goal is to help our church's youths. They are the generation of the future. I'm investing in them and speaking life to them."
Colebrook is married to Tonia (nee Humes). He is the father of three - Lerond, Bobbeth and Torianne.
In the Anglican Hymnbook - Ancient & Modern Standard Edition, attributed to Martin Luther, there is a hymn that begins with the words "Great God what do I see and hear?" When one looks at what is happening in our formerly great country, we can readily see the relevance of that question.
Supposedly intelligent Bahamians, who possess legal minds no less, have attempted to defend the indefensible. That which was promulgated by no less a person than our prime minister regarding the situation involving the esteemed VAT consultant cannot be defended, no matter who tries to do so.
When Ishmael Lightbourne started on his VAT journey, he was informing the Bahamian populace of what their fate would be if they fail to pay VAT when the law is put in place.
Passports would be taken, heavy fines would be levied and prison terms could even be part of the package.
How in the name of all the gods at once do you appoint a person who has not paid real property tax on his residential property and on his commercial property as VAT co-ordinator? It should be obvious to all that only the PLP could make an attempt to defend someone in this predicament, having regard to the fact that he did not pay for decades.
For those who may not know, the real property tax law makes provision for exemption for the persons who are genuinely suffering from hardship. The affected taxpayer would be required to apply for relief from payment and the chief valuation officer would have prepared an examination of means to determine if the tax would be exempted in part or in full. Of course, the treasurer would make the final determination in this regard.
So the law provides for those who are unable to pay. It also makes provision for those who refuse to pay upon receipt of their respective assessment notices. The courts are there to ensure that they do. There is also a real property tax tribunal set up to deal with those individuals who want to dispute their tax assessments.
The problem has been that since October 1969 when the first notices were sent out, thousands of individuals, including politicians, have not respected the law and have refused and continue to refuse to pay. There are many who should have been taken to court and the punishment that the law calls for should have been carried out.
But, we are a lawless society and while we want the government to provide the services we require, we do not feel that we should have to pay for them. We also see that there are other areas where the law is broken with impunity and while there have been threats from the police commissioner that he will deal with those matters, the threats have not been taken seriously by the gaming establishment. The evidence is so clear that the law continues to be broken that even Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder could see it.
More and more web shops continue to be established notwithstanding the vote taken by the Bahamian people on January 28, 2013. The tourism minister, in what was an obvious rebuke to the church, said that the church must teach and preach and the government will govern. In other words, we do not care what the people have decided so the prime minister has apologized or expressed regret for having asked the opinion of the people and his tourism minister stated that he was going with his proposal to the Cabinet to regularize web shop gaming - so there!
Revisiting the real property tax situation once again, it is worth noting that our three prime ministers, who are/were all lawyers, did a rather poor job in ensuring that those (except for those exempted by law) who should have been paying since the last quarter of 1969 failed to do so. Then again, what do we expect from our politicians, who broke and continue to break the public disclosure law and with impunity?
It is no wonder that the society has become rather lawless at all levels. By the way, some of the disclosures that were submitted for past elections were not properly completed and those who notarized some of them did not, in many instances, know what they were doing.
If three prime ministers, in some instances also finance ministers, could not get the staff of the Valuation Section to do the job that the taxpayers pay them for, one can only surmise that that was how the political class wanted it.
The honest politicians in the current Parliament should have no difficulty in leading by example and laying their tax receipts on the table of the House to show that they are current.
The government should not have to hire private debt collectors with the attendant expenses to try to collect the more than half a billion in outstanding taxes (real property). All that is necessary is for the politicians to butt out and leave the civil servants to do their jobs.
Finally, all that is required to redeem the situation is for all of our leaders to lead by example and then those whom they lead will no doubt follow. We cannot move to the First World if we continue to fail our country by our failure to obey our own laws.
But what can we expect from a government that has yet to reveal the number of persons assisted under its failed mortgage relief plan? Telling us that less than 10 persons have been assisted does not help. Was it nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one or even zero? Inquiring minds want to know.
As stated by James Russell Lowell "once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, in the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side." Are we good or evil?
- Oswald C. Munnings
Ian D. Fair has been involved in the financial services industry in The Bahamas since 1969. He is currently deputy chairman of Butterfield Bank (Bahamas) Limited and chairman of Bahamas First Holdings Limited, the largest general insurer in The Bahamas.