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Marion Bethel's documentary, "Womanish Ways, Freedom, Human Rights and Democracy", which tells the intriguing story of the struggle for women's right to vote in The Bahamas has captured the 2012 Award in Documentary at the Urban Suburban Film Festival in Philadelphia.
The documentary was selected from hundreds of films submitted, said the festival's organizers.
Bethel, who directed the documentary and worked closely alongside Bahamian filmmakers Maria Govan and Kareem Mortimer for the making of "Womanish Ways", said winning the award represents an enormous boost for the film and the story of the women's suffrage movement in The Bahamas, which is so little known.
"Our history is not well known," said Bethel. "The film, therefore, reveals to a wider international audience a deeper understanding of life in The Bahamas in this period and the legacy of this period.
"Winning the award affirms the quality and significance of the film in itself, and its appeal to an international audience. The award raises the profile of the film. It opens the door for unforseen magic to happen."
"Womanish Ways" focuses on five of the central figures of the Suffrage Movement in The Bahamas -- Mary Ingraham, Mable Walker, Eugenia Lockhart, Georgiana Symonette and Dame Dr. Doris Johnson.
Through photographs and film footage, interviews with women who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the key figures, the film gives a stirring account of this important period in Bahamian history.
The documentary, a labor of love for Bethel, was years in the making and represents what she describes as "turning up the volume on women's history and contribution to the advancement of human rights and democracy in The Bahamas".
"This film has huge resonance for me arcing back to my childhood. I grew up with these women of the suffrage movement all around me," said Bethel. "They were a part of my extended family in the neighborhood. My mother, grandmothers and aunts were part of this movement. I did not know then of their struggle and determination to demand the right to vote. This film is a tribute to these women, their vision and their achievement of human rights and democracy in The Bahamas."
Bethel said that in working on "Womanish Ways" and reading the historical documents of the period, and especially the documents drafted by the suffrage movement, her pre-judgments of the movement were blown out of the water.
The women, she said, were politically sophisticated and savvy.
"They grounded the movement in the social thought of the day using the ideas of Locke, Rousseau, Sir Winston Churchill and Roosevelt and the political instruments of the day of the United Nations, namely, the UN Convention on Human Rights of 1948 and the UN Convention on the Political Rights of Women of 1952," noted Bethel.
"They also established political connections with international women's organizations. This successful process of navigating and negotiating the difficult political terrain of both The Bahamas and the metropole countries in the 40s, 50s and 60s has left an indelible mark on my consciousness."
o "Womanish Ways, Freedom, Human Rights and Democracy" is now available on DVD from Logos Bookstore, the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, Buy the Book and Chapter One Bookstore.
I have had my share of political and personal differences with former Prime Minister Hubert Alexander Ingraham during his various administrations. The time has come, however, to acknowledge the good that he may have done on behalf of the people of The Bahamas.
Ingraham was a polarizing figure of the highest order. He seemed to relish that fact and glorified in his ability to do so at the drop of a hat. He also had the innate ability to rub people the wrong way. Like or hate him, however, he was a man for all seasons.
A strong and highly principled individual, Ingraham could never tolerate or encourage slackness, foolishness or ineptness by political colleagues.
He was brash in the execution of his duties as Primus inter pares (first among equals).
He held a bold vision, if sometimes flawed, for The Bahamas. One might not have agreed with his execution of the same but we always knew where he stood on an issue.
Dr. Wess Roberts, an American author, wrote a book "Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun" a few years ago. In the same, he wrote: "Leadership is the privilege to have the responsibility to direct the actions of others in carrying out the purposes of organizations at various levels of authority and with accountability for both successful and failed endeavors...".
Ingraham possessed those traits and those who succeed him would do well to emulate him in this regard. Of course, he could be boorish and often acted almost dictator-like, at whim, but successful leaders are and must be seen as chameleons par excellence. Whether it is a holdover from our days as slaves in Africa is debatable but, clearly, the average Bahamian prefers a strong leader.
Much was accomplished during Ingraham's three terms in office. He did us, however, no gratuitous favors. He came into office a relatively poor man, financially. Today, he is a declared multimillionaire and will collect a comfortable pension until the day he dies. Having said that, however, it cannot be denied that he delivered, even if at great financial expenses to taxpayers.
He has carved out his legacy and he will be remembered as long as there is a Bahamas and the Master continues to tarry. I am of the opinion that the gold rush will, eventually, find its feet and will succeed. I am also persuaded that the current leader of the FNM, Dr. Hubert Alexander Minnis (FNM-Killarney), is of prime ministerial material.
If the gold rush were to fail and if Minnis proves unable or incapable of cutting it, there is a distinct possibility that Ingraham will, once again, be drafted and recalled back into service by a disillusioned and jittery Bahamian electorate. It is as simple as that.
I hold no brief, as I once did, for Ingraham, but political realities and possibilities are strange things. The current chairman of the PLP will be retiring in a few short months but he has stated that if Ingraham were to even attempt to come back that he, Bradley Roberts, would come out of his own retirement to prevent such a scenario. Mudda sick! Big Bad Brad is something else.
He is my personal friend and benefactor, but he knows that he is no match for a focused and fired up Hubert. I see Philip Brave Davis as the next prime minister within the next year and I make no apologies for this.
What happens, however, after 2017, a few short years away, is anyone's guess. I do not make guesses. I make prophecies. With the right advisors and allies, Brave could have a long and bright tenure as PM.
To God then, in all things, be the glory.
- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.
It is the task of the official opposition to prepare for and win the next general election in order to rescue the country from the terrible misrule, gross incompetence and abuses of power by the Christie administration.
The prior task is to mount the leadership necessary to more effectively challenge and confront an out-of-control government. Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis is nowhere up to the task.
The current administration is responsible for one of the worst abuses of power since internal self-government, namely, the creation of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) with no legal foundation and clear oversight mechanisms.
No matter how much certain government ministers try to deflect from this monumental failure, the Cabinet bears collective responsibility for a matter the fuller ramifications of which are still unfolding.
The NIA matter was raised during last year's budget debate by FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner. She raised it again at a recent rally. The following morning this journal led with Butler-Turner's remarks.
It was only after Butler-Turner again sounded the alarm and received wide coverage in the media that Minnis, who is the shadow minister of national security, in yet another round of catch-up, spoke to the issue.
There is an adage in politics that a government needs to fear the opposition as a check on governmental overreach. The PLP not only does not fear Minnis, it considers him to be of little threat. But the PLP fears Butler-Turner, most recently seen in her challenge on the NIA.
A key reason that the PLP does not fear Minnis is that the public is largely underwhelmed by his leadership and mostly views him as ineffective. With all the burning issues that need to be kept before the public by the opposition, Minnis this week introduced a distraction by raising the dead issue of term limits for prime ministers.
His perennial gaffes exasperate the party faithful and much of the general public. A few verbal gaffes are one thing, but a never-ending string of mistakes demonstrate a pattern of poor thinking and reasoning.
Speaking in reference to the seizure of computers from the home of FNM Chairman Darron Cash, Minnis noted that he didn't fear the police seizing his computer because the information on it was "cryptic".
Cryptic means secret. Presumably the information most of us have on our computers is secret or confidential. What Minnis seems to have meant is that his data is encrypted.
But the encryption of his data is not the issue. The larger issue is the fears the Bahamian people have about possible illegal government spying or the potential seizure of their computers without good cause.
On the heels of his involvement in the debacle over the matter of proposed salary and allowance increase for parliamentarians, Minnis botched the details of the revocation of the senatorial appointment of John Bostwick, just another in an unending trail of amateurish mistakes by Minnis.
As noted in this week's National Review in this journal: "The botching of Minnis' determination to make vacant the Senate seat that was occupied by Bostwick speaks to wider issues with the opposition leader's ability to properly handle such matters... Far from nit-picking, this matter reflects a troubling pattern of incompetence on Minnis' part on the most basic things.
"If he cannot get simple things right in opposition, we have to wonder how he could competently lead an entire nation as prime minister. These small things speak to ability, and Minnis has thus far been unconvincing in this regard."
The conclusion of the article was chilling, perhaps summarizing a view held by many inside and outside the FNM: "He is not what the FNM needs if it intends to again do serious battle with the Progressive Liberal Party."
Disappointingly, Minnis, who promised to lead the government from the opposition, has proven spectacularly incapable of leading the opposition.
But it isn't only Minnis' lackluster performance that is troubling. More troubling is that he does not seem to grasp or fully appreciate the underlying philosophy or traditions of the FNM.
He seems incapable of crafting a strategy that marshals the fuller potential and extraordinary heritage of the FNM. He has not developed and delivered a message to FNMs and the public on the central differences between the PLP and the FNM.
Minnis' gaffes and inability to hone a clearer message has been a godsend to DNA Leader Branville McCartney and his politics of triangulation. McCartney's great claim is that he is not the PLP or the FNM. What exactly he stands for is often a moving target. Correspondingly, he is a prime promoter of a false equivalence between the major parties.
It is easy to see through his nakedly self-serving acrobatics. As a former FNM, when he received a nomination from the party and after he was appointed to a junior Cabinet post he seemed clear on the differences between the major parties.
If Hubert Ingraham had made him a substantive minister, how likely is it that he would have bolted the FNM? And if the FNM invited him to be its leader tomorrow, one can imagine how quickly he would be able to recite central differences between the PLP and FNM.
Politics is largely about contrast. Minnis has not effectively contrasted the FNM with the PLP. Worse, he has aided and abetted the "pox on both houses" mindset making a false equivalence between the two parties on a host of matters including that of victimization, which the PLP perfected in its initial 25-year reign.
There are extraordinary and clarifying differences between the FNM and the PLP, which the purveyors of the false equivalence often ignore because of intellectual sloth, personal agendas and/or other reasons.
An underlying difference is the mindset of the two parties when in office. With a quarter-century reign from 1967 to 1992 the PLP developed an entitlement mentality now deeply entrenched in the party's culture and genes.
Having spent nearly 25 years in opposition, the FNM found elected office a privilege, not an entitlement. Viewing government as an entitlement or a privilege makes an enormous difference in just about every aspect of governance.
That difference is seen today in the return of many of the excesses of the Pindling era. There never was a new PLP as advertised by the party in the run-up to the 2002 general election. It was a marketing strategy to distance the PLP from the victimization and scandal-soaked years of the Pindling era.
Today the party no longer boasts of the new PLP. Beginning in 2002, and now with a vengeance after re-election in 2012, the party reverted to old form. We have returned to some of the darkest days of the Pindling era.
Clearly, Perry Christie, the man who bragged that he would swim through vomit to return to a deeply corrupt PLP, was never the man to launch a new era. Instead he presides over a party which seems to believe that the election of an FNM government is inherently illegitimate.
He seems to more than preside. He appears to encourage a certain mindset. Recall Christie's rude insult to Sir Durward Knowles when the latter told him that he was a dedicated FNM. Christie told the revered Bahamian patriot and philanthropist that he was a brave man for making such an admission.
The mindset is clear: The PLP is not only entitled to govern. The party is also the rightful owner of The Bahamas, the greater patriot, while FNMs should tread lightly and be grateful for the scraps from the Bahamian patrimony.
Another clarifying difference between the two major parties is the quality of democracy within the organizations. In approximately 50 years the PLP has had two maximum leaders, with Christie having stacked the party with stalwart councillors, reminiscent of an autocratic regime.
The early PLP helped to achieve majority rule, then quickly became a threat to democracy and good governance. It was the FNM that saved democracy in The Bahamas from the misrule of Sir Lynden Pindling.
It is the FNM which will now have to rescue the country from the misrule of Christie and today's PLP characterized by rank cronyism; at minimum, a soft despotism; various abuses of power and unfettered arrogance.
Minnis does not grasp the moment as seen in his complicity in the parliamentary salaries debacle, his failure to raise the NIA issue, his making a false equivalence between the FNM and the PLP on various issues.
It is time for the FNM to hold a convention and to elect a new leader. What is at stake is restoring the only political organization in the country that can challenge and defeat a regressive PLP which is taking the country back to some of the darkest days of the Pindling era.
o firstname.lastname@example.org, www.bahamapundit.com.
Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest yesterday launched the government's anti-drug strategy for 2012-2016.
The strategy's key elements include curbing the demand of narcotics, reducing supply and disrupting trafficking networks and strengthening the country's criminal justice system and bilateral regional and international cooperation.
The minister spoke yesterday to senior police and defence force officers at Royal Bahamas Police Force Headquarters.
According to Turnquest, the strategy's main goal is to mobilize the country as a whole for a comprehensive and effective national response to drug abuse and illicit trafficking.
"It therefore creates partnerships among government ministries and agencies and civil society, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector, the churches, the media, professional associations, the schools and tertiary institutions to counter the dangers that drugs present," he said.
Turnquest noted that the government would closely monitor the strategy so that it may be evaluated and adjusted over the five-year period.
"The first of these [strategies] is government leadership at the highest political level in an area that demands political consensus," he said.
"A ministerial committee comprising ministers with responsibilities on core areas in drug control will have oversight of the strategy."
The Ministry of National Security's National Anti-Drug Secretariat (NADS) has been given an important role to play in the implementation of the strategy as well, Turnquest said.
"NADS will be allocated the required resources to ensure that it can effectively carry out its responsibilities," he said.
According to the minister, the government intends to provide a regular and dependable source of grant funding and other support for NGOs and community organizations from the Confiscated Asset Fund (CAF).
He pointed out that the strategies require strong public support.
The small Republic of Haiti has given three important lessons to the entire world.
Two centuries ago, it taught the world that taking arms to defend the dignity of all human beings irrespective of their skin color is invaluable. Haiti sets out the motto that, "The right to equality is the right of all human beings to be equal in dignity, to be treated with respect and to participate in an equal basis with others in all perimeters of economic, social, political, cultural and civil life."
After some 300 years of the world order of slavery imposed upon the black man, Haiti succeeded in 1804 in forcing the liberation of the slaves, opening the doors to the liberation of slaves in Latin America in 1825 and the black emancipation in the United States in 1863.
One generation ago, on February 7, 1986, Haiti again was first to teach the world that dictatorship could be dismantled with people power. It forced Jean Claude Duvalier, the dictator who, along with his father, ruled Haiti ruthlessly for 33 years, to depart in the middle of the night to exile in France. The model has been followed by the Philippines to kick out Marcos, by Poland and countless other countries including, recently, the Arab nations under the spring upheaval or the Lavender Revolution.
Last but not least, Haiti was first again to teach the world that radicalism in power could also be dismantled through people power. It forced Jean Bertrand Aristide to leave the country for Africa on February 29, 2004, for stirring violence amongst the civilian population.
We are seeing today people power in action in Egypt, where millions of Egyptians forced the army to step in to remove the current president Mohamed Morsi, under the charge that his radicalism fosters national disunity amongst its people.
It is the story of Haiti repeated all over again when, in the same circumstances, some nine years ago the country forced President Jean Bertrand Aristide to leave Haiti because he was fostering internal strife and civil warfare amongst the have and the have-nots.
While the world should learn from Haiti the bravura of its gallant people in dismantling slavery, dictatorship and radicalism, it should also unlearn from Haiti the detested practice of not promoting national reconciliation at the end of the revolutionary period. Soon after the proclamation of the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere, its general president ordered the elimination of all the previously white colonists. Haiti never recovered from that policy.
In 1986, after the forced departure of the dictator Duvalier, the Haitian Constitution enshrined a ban of 20 years against the zealous Duvalier partisans. Haiti is still suffering from the convulsion of that period. And last but not least, after the departure of Aristide, it did not promote nor did it implement social welfare and wealth creation for the wretched of the land. As such, to this day the ghost of a so-called benevolent Aristide is still lingering around amongst the masses.
The lesson is clear and simple. Peace, harmony and prosperity in a nation depend on whether the opposing factions are willing to break bread together, to forget the past and to build the future together. This policy practice is not promoted by the human rights organizations or by the United Nations that insisted on the primacy of justice over the primacy of reconciliation, pardon and love for each other.
History has proven that justice has never occurred even in the best circumstances. The International Court of Justice has few success stories on its roster; as such one should concentrate on fostering national reconciliation as the best chosen path to democracy.
Haiti under Toussaint Louverture was the model that the entire world wanted to emulate. John Adams, the second president of the United States, was so enamored of the First of the Blacks that he was openly helping him to become emperor of Haiti then St. Domingue. Louverture, after defeating first Spain, then England and last the French, established the seedling of a nation where white and blacks would share the vision of a common destiny.
The defeat of John Adams in his quest for re-election in 1800 in the United States thwarted the Haitian experience and changed the course of history not only for Haiti but also for the entire humanity. Napoleon and his egomaniac ambition to conquer the world found a fertile ally in Thomas Jefferson, who won the American presidency over John Adams.
Two hundred years later, the Napoleon doctrine of striking first and worrying about the consequences later is the preferred law in this world. Little funding is earmarked for promoting national reconciliation, whether the funds would come from the United Nations, the United States or the European Union. Billions are being spent in the name of political stabilization but with zero funding earmarked for conflict resolution, negotiation and nation building.
The initial lesson from Haiti is very telling. The concept of human rights must include all the citizens of the same nation aspiring to dignity and participating in all aspects of social, economical and political life of the country. It is also the duty of the citizens to butt out all dictators and radicals, whether they are of the stuff of Attila the Hun, or Hitler or Morsi.
The lesson to unlearn from Haiti is that reconciliation must take place immediately after the departure of the dictator or the radical leader. There should be no reprisals and the moving party in promoting peace and reconciliation must be the winner of the revolution. Abraham Lincoln showed the way after the Civil War in proclaiming what Frederick Douglas called the second sermon on the mount: "With malice toward none, with charity for all" we shall reconstruct this land. This spirit of respect is the best way in any age to foster reconciliation through open and healing intercourse.
From now on, the business of peace and reconciliation is too grave and too important to leave only to the governments. The learned citizens of the world must devise ways to offer to governments and to the opposing factions the necessary tools and funds and expertise to come to the negotiation table. The unfolding story in Egypt can become another imbroglio as it was in Haiti, where peace and prosperity did not take place even after some 30 years after the last uprising; or it can become a soothing lavender flower that sends its balm not only throughout the Middle East but throughout the world.
Caveat emptor, Egypt! If you do not make peace and embrace your brethren from the Muslim Brotherhood you might become the Haiti of tomorrow, with convulsion, strife and poverty for generations!
o Jean H. Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed for past essays at caribbeannewsnow/haiti. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
The referendum scenario demonstrates to us once again that we have serious challenges with leadership in our country. Prime Minister Perry Christie failed to caucus with his backbenchers in advance of drafting the bills and the questions. Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis failed to consult members of his parliamentary team and bring them into the loop before pledging support on their behalf. The issues that exploded on the floor of the House last week should have been dealt with in parliamentary sessions, behind closed doors. What we face now is a process in free fall, largely as a result of the
arrogance of power. The cause for gender equality is in danger. A lack of unity in Parliament portends doom at the referendum polls.
While there were already early signs that the four constitutional amendment bills the government tabled in the House of Assembly on July 23 were in danger, we can draw two indisputable conclusions from events that transpired in Parliament last Wednesday: politics has crept in, in a shameless and despicable way, and the process that led to the drafting of the bills and the referendum questions was flawed.In one of the most contentious sittings of the House in recent memory, fighting over these important measures erupted among several government MPs.
Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller later called the sitting the most "contentious action" in his political career and predicted that more "rough days" are ahead.
The referendum effort is now at a crucial juncture.
The cause for gender equality seems very near to being defeated without ever making it to a public vote.
This is sad.
After a similar referendum in 2002, it took a dozen years for these issues to again get the national spotlight.
If the measures fail to pass, there is no telling how much longer it would take for them to be dealt with again.
It would require the collective efforts of all who truly believe that all peoples are equal, that both sexes are equal and that gender equality is a basic human right, to reverse the path of doom the referendum is now on.
If, in 2014, we as a people cannot reach agreement on these matters and the process of effecting change, we are not nearly as enlightened as we claim to be.
Whatever we witness in Parliament today would likely give a clear sign of whether there is still hope for success in this latest effort at constitutional reform.
If the effort does fail, it would speak in multiple ways about us as a people; it would send a clear signal that we do not believe in equality, and it would prove once again that we allow our fears to override reasoning.
In the three weeks since the four constitutional amendment bills were tabled, we have seen a lot of fear mongering.
The debate quickly moved away from gender equality to a debate on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
It is a debate that seems now to lack reason and objectivity.
It is fueled by emotions and, to some measure, by belief among some of us that our God did not create men and women to be equal.
In some circles, this is an open discussion where some use religious-based beliefs to support this view.
What we know for sure is that this is too important an issue to be obfuscated by political posturing and hysteria.
We have had a lot of both and we do not yet see a national move to get this effort back on track.
What we have seen is Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis withdraw the strong support for the bills he had initially pledged.
And we have witnessed several PLP MPs going at each other's throats on the floor of the House during debate on the bills.
In order for the bills to pass, three quarters of the House and three quarters of the Senate must vote in favor of them.
There are growing signs that the bills are in trouble in Parliament.
There are also clear indications that the process that produced those referendum bills had serious defects.
What Prime Minister Perry Christie foolishly banked on most in locking in bipartisan support is a publicly-stated commitment from Minnis.
He said he and Constitutional Commission Chairman Sean McWeeney met privately with Minnis and former attorney general Carl Bethel, the opposition's representative on the commission.
But it is clear that, while that was an important first step, it was not enough.
We are baffled as to why an obvious step in this process was completedly missed.
We were told by several backbenchers that they had no advanced notice of what the specific bills were or what the questions were.
We were also told this by several FNM members of Parliament.
They never had the opportunity to examine the measures and express their concerns in advance of the debate and final drafting of the bills.
We are not surprised then by the harsh tone of the debate in the House.
We are also not surprised by the widening cracks in opposition support for the bills.
As a result of Christie's and Minnis' failure to bring their respective parliamentary teams fully into discussions on these matters, they are now paying the price.
It seems to us that while the prime minister has a genuine desire to effect these long overdue changes to the constitution -- his disingenuous actions on the 2002 referendum notwithstanding -- he poorly executed the current referendum process.
Success at the referendum polls would be more likely if members of Parliament are able to demonstrate to the nation a united front.
We did not expect that they would all agree on everything, but we expected that they would have met privately in their respective caucuses and raised issues with the bills and the questions, then reach concensus on those issues.
But if some of them only got the questions and the bills on July 23 when they were tabled, the chance of that bipartisan commitment holding was not very likely.
The effort was doomed from the start.
What the public now sees is a Parliament in meltdown over these issues and four bills that are now in jeopardy.
Voters do not see bipartisanship on display. They do not see discipline in party ranks on either side.
This is not good for the process, and it has diminished chances for victory at the polls for those who champion equality.
We can all say we believe in equality; all members of Parliament would quickly confirm that they do.
But when the details of the four bills came to light, multiple questions were raised and challenges mounted.
Several MPs are concerned that bill number four would open the door to challenges on same-sex marriages.
That bill would make it unconstitutional to discriminate against someone based on sex.
In his contribution to the debate, Marco City MP Greg Moss suggested that if the government wanted to dismiss the argument that the bill would pave the way for same-sex marriage, it could simply put a provision in the constitution outlawing same-sex marriage.
Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells and Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins also told the House they cannot support that bill.
Rollins went further, using the opportunity to lash out at the PLP leadership, accusing it of targeting independent-minded MPs and threatening to resign as party whip if the whip is on for vote on the bills.
But confusion on the process and those bills was also fed on the outside of Parliament.
We were left wondering how serious the government was in its attempt to secure widespread support for the bills and for the referendum questions that will be put to the people come November 6.
Leader of Government Business in the House Dr. Bernard Nottage said the questions need to be simplified.
Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson said he had not yet read the questions.
If Christie cannot get all of his ministers to demonstrate a level of support and seriousness for these measures, he should not be surprised by the double crossing we witnessed from Minnis or by very strong concerns about these bills expressed in Parliament by some PLP MPs and also by FNMs.
It should be clear to the prime minister, as it is to many, that this referendum is on course to fail.
But we believe there is still an opportunity to save it.
McWeeney, the commission chairman, told us last Thursday that question number four -- which is by far the most contentious -- is being looked at.
"What we are inclining more towards now, and this is not settled, is to keep the wording of the amendment, which is limited to just the word 'sex', but to have a definition of 'sex', which would indicate that references to sex relate to male and female, as established at birth," McWeeney said.
We do not know whether this would be enough to quell fears related to this question.
It is interesting to us that the change now being proposed does not go as far as to include what the commission recommended in its report.
The commission recommended that a subparagraph be added to Article 26(4) of the constitution, stating that the article shall not apply to any law so far as that law makes provisions "for prohibiting same sex-marriages or rendering the same void or unlawful".
"The effect of this would be to preclude any constitutional challenges to such a law based on alleged discrimination on the grounds of sex and makes the position clear that same sex marriages are not permitted under our constitution and current laws," the commission said in its report.
The commission noted that it received a large number of recommendations, particularly from the religious community to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the constitution."
We do not believe that adjusting question four would be enough to secure a referendum victory.
We are now at a critical moment in this effort.
There is a need for women's organizations and men who are progressive thinkers to galvanize, to meet with the opposition, backbenchers and the prime minister to decide on a realistic approach to move this cause forward.
If some language needs to be adjusted in the four questions, that needs to be done.
There would have to be an honest attempt by Christie and Minnis to reexamine the process, address concerns and bring their members onboard in a true bipartisan spirit.
If there is not an honest commitment from our leaders and from stakeholders in multiple arenas, then the diminishing hopes for success of the bills would be completely lost.
If we all say we believe in equality, if we all genuinely do, then we all have a duty to find common ground.
We believe that a successful referendum would not be a victory for the Christie administration.
It would be a victory for all people who truly believe in equality, who believe that no one should be denied human rights simply because of gender.
Retired Justice Rubie Nottage yesterday expressed concern that there may not be enough time to educate the public on the constitutional amendment bills before going to referendum, but said she remains "hopeful".
While she said it is "doable", Nottage admitted the Constitutional Commission's education campaign is not yet in high gear because of the delay in passing the bills.
"I am hopeful because I am so convinced that this is an
important issue," Nottage told The Nassau Guardian.
"Now, I am realistic. I know people don't want to vote on anything that they are not clear about. That is right.
"The November 6 date is coming on us fast and we still have not had the bills move through the House.
"And so that bothers me. It concerns me because it leaves such a short window for us to really try to open up and make clear what the bills say.
"To that extent, I think that it is a very short window, but it is doable."
On Monday, the government delayed the vote in the House of Assembly, which was expected that day.
Leader of Government Business in the House of Assembly Dr. Bernard Nottage said the government was advised to wait until consultation with religious leaders wrap up so their input could be taken into consideration.
All the bills address gender equality issues within the constitution.
The four bills must, in each instance, be approved by at least three quarters of the House and Senate.
Following passage by the Senate, the bills must be approved by a majority of voters in a referendum in order for the constitution to be amended.
Yesterday, Rubie Nottage said, "There is still room for the argument; take your time. I have heard that.
"My fear there is that if we take too much time it gets put on a back burner and it may never, ever be brought back.
"We have this opportunity. The momentum is building and I feel energized.
"I am one little person of course, but I feel energized...It is not a job just for one person, you can see that, but I know that we can do it if we become united."
Asked about the referendum failing as the 2002 referendum on gender equality did, Nottage said she hoped all stakeholders, especially the political parties, remain united.
"We remain a bipartisan approach," she said.
"Both the leaders of the government and the opposition still remain constant in their statement that they are supporting the bills.
"...I hope that it does not become a political division or a divisive issue on politics.
"I also hope it does not become a divisive issue on religion. Those are two big hurdles that we have to get over in order to avoid this taking the same track that the 2002 referendum took."
The commission is engaged in consultations with the religious community, civic organizations and other stakeholders, Nottage said.
She said the delay is helpful and it gives the commission more time "in which we can seek out opinions". But she is against any prolonged delay.
When asked when the government will vote on the bills, Nottage said she had not been informed.
"We know that the bills have been allowed to sort of settle for a bit," she said.
"And I know that we are meeting with the Christian Council next week.
"Hopefully after that meeting without allowing anyone to feel pressured or rushed, perhaps after that meeting the House will make a decision as to when they will bring the bills back for the final vote."
However, Nottage said a lot more feedback is needed on the referendum bills.
On January 1, Latore Mackey posted on his Facebook page: "Happy 2014! I love you all!"
The following day, he posted something more serious: "Recommendations and proposals in the fight against crime."
Mackey ended by asking: "If not us, who? If not now, when?"
He added, "We are the change we have been seeking. To accomplish things we haven't before we must begin to do things we haven't done before."
Tragically, before he or any of us could see a meaningful dent in crime in The Bahamas, Mackey was murdered last Monday around 4:30 a.m.
Mackey's New Year's Day post and the numerous responses to it signified that for the average citizen, crime is not too far from the mind.
"Violent crime has skyrocketed over the last few months, with murder records being recorded on an uphill climb," read the post on Mackey's page.
"The terrible truth is that Bahamians no longer feel safe and the fear of crime has gripped the hearts of all of us -- in our homes, on the streets, in our businesses, even in our schools.
"Our children are growing up in a country in which gun violence is deployed almost casually as a means to resolve disputes, gain immediate wealth through robberies, intimidation of others and self empowerment of criminals, in part because there appears to be no national direction."
Mackey, who was a proponent of a national youth service, also posted: "I am of the belief that a national youth service from our citizens diversifies our defense and removes a disproportionate amount of the burden from the poor and inner-city minorities.
"The result is a greater sense of national unity, community building and integration between economic classes."
The post also recommended that such a program be funded through citizen taxation, the legalization of web shop gaming, a commitment from foreign investment developments during the signing of heads of agreement and donations from the private sector as well as international organizations.
Other recommendations included increased penalties for gun/drug possession; increased law enforcement officers on the streets; installation of CCTV island-wide and a legislative amendment to address capital punishment.
"As it relates to the humane treaties or agreements we may have signed onto, we can revisit our constitution to include lethal injection for the death penalty to be imposed and accepted by the international organizations," the post said.
"Public opinion supports greatly the death penalty and many arguments are being waged that the lack thereof is what is fueling the seeming lack of fear in criminals.
"I have canvassed and spoken to many Bahamians of varying demographics that have all agreed, drastic measures must be taken to restore security and peace in our nation and in the world."
The post also recommends addressing illegal immigration and shantytowns and implementing a national ID system.
In the wake of his death, Mackey's post has been widely shared on Facebook.
The recommendations might be useful for a government paralyzed in the fight against crime.
It is clear that, despite the catchy campaign slogans, ill-conceived murder billboards and the Urban Renewal public relations exercises, the Christie administration is lost in the crime fight.
The murder of Mackey, Christie's press secretary and the deputy director of Bahamas Information Services, served as another reminder of the government's failure to "keep Bahamians safe".
At 85, murders are up over last year this time when the count stood at 76. At the end of 2013, the murder count was 120.
It has been many months now since police or national security officials provided the public with crime statistics.
Amid the mayhem, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade has gone curiously silent, telling a reporter last week that he could not speak to ongoing crime concerns as the prime minister has already spoken.
Following Mackey's shooting death and the murders of four other people in less than 48 hours last weekend, Prime Minister Perry Christie pledged to "go back to the drawing board" and review the government's crime-fighting strategies.
"When you see it now begin to stretch and extend itself to people who you least expect to be involved in any kind of underhand activity, who may have just been a victim of circumstance, then you know we have a lot of work to do," Christie told reporters last Monday.
He made a similar statement on the night Kurt McCartney, the brother of Democratic National Alliance Leader Branville McCartney, was murdered last October.
Christie said of that murder: "Very tragic in its implications, but a profound lesson to those of us who are responsible for public policy, and to all of our countrymen and women who oftentimes tend to believe that it is just those people over there who become perpetrators and victims and never us. But this now is another reminder that one of us has been killed."
In his most recent comments, Christie seemed to be admitting that his administration has failed on crime.
The tone of his message on crime has shifted since his days in opposition, when he laid the blame for the country's crime problem at the feet of then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.
On August 15, 2011, the then opposition leader made a nationally televised address on crime with a sense of urgency that highlighted "a major crisis facing The Bahamas".
Christie said, "An important reason for the escalation of crime in The Bahamas is poor governance."
He said, "This government has been paralyzed, unable to lead on this crucial issue and their determination to put politics first, not Bahamians, has made a terrible problem much worse."
The plans Christie outlined in 2011 made headlines. They were intended to convince the electorate that the Ingraham administration lacked the will to "break the back of crime" and had failed to keep Bahamians safe.
Christie said in that 2011 national address on crime that "people are afraid, and they are angry".
"They are afraid that the violence is going to continue to escalate, and they are angry that the government has offered no meaningful response," he said.
Months later, the PLP used its murder billboards to underscore the crisis and play on the emotions of voters.
It was a shameless act that now haunts the government as it scrambles to address the problem.
Christie's recent "back to the drawing board" pledge has been made several times over the last two years.
After the murders of four people in Fox Hill last December, the prime minister announced a new set of measures to address crime.
Christie said at the time there were plans to increase saturation patrols.
"If I have to put a policeman and a police car on every corner, as they do in some countries, we are going to communicate to the criminals in this country that we are going to root them out wherever they are," he said.
Christie also announced that the government was considering reinstating the 12-hour policing shift "possibly on new terms".
Christie said Operation Ceasefire will mount "aggressive" initiatives which include the expansion of the capabilities of the Royal Bahamas Police Force's Situation Room to collect and analyze data; outsourcing the repair and maintenance of police cars so the entire RBPF fleet is operational; improving the EMT program; appointing new judges and public defenders and improving intelligence gathering capabilities.
At the time, he said the government will also expand New Providence's CCTV coverage, expand the use of reserve officers, accelerate the training of police recruits, expand the use of plainclothes officers and adopt a "strike force" strategy.
While we have heard repeated claims from National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage that the initiatives implemented by the Christie administration to address crime have led to an overall reduction in crime, we do not feel safe.
When the government goes back to the drawing board, it will need to complete a full assessment of its crime-fighting strategies.
It now seems to recognize that crime should never be used as a political tool to win elections.
Both the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Free National Movement (FNM) have at some point blamed the escalation in violent crimes on bad governance.
Upon coming to office, they were reminded that the approach to crime fighting must be multi-faceted with all stakeholders taking responsibility for addressing the problem.
Recognizing this fact last week, former Deputy Prime Minister and former Minister of National Security Cynthia "Mother" Pratt said while both parties are guilty of politicizing crime, the FNM is guilty of throwing the first blow.
Pratt spoke of being "attacked" from the platform at an FNM rally.
"That's where it started," she asserted.
"Both were wrong. It doesn't make it right who did it. It was wrong from the beginning."
It is pointless, though, to get into an argument on who threw the first blow.
From as far back as 2002, the PLP has been talking about bad governance leading to a high crime rate.
At a rally at Clifford Park on April 4, 2002, Christie lashed out at Tommy Turnquest, the FNM leader designate, on the crime issue.
Christie said, "I see thousands of Bahamians living in barricaded homes, too fearful to go to sleep and too afraid to come out because of the terror and mayhem that engulfs their communities.
"...Tommy T. may not see it, but I see children who are afraid to go to school because of the violence that stalks their playgrounds or lies in wait for them on the way home."
More than a dozen years later, having lived through one Christie administration, a third Ingraham administration and two years of a second Christie administration, thousands of Bahamians are still barricaded in their homes.
We remain unsafe. We remain terrified.
We agree with Pratt that politicizing crime is a bad idea.
It is a shame that she remained silent as her own party erected murder billboards in tourist areas and other parts of New Providence in 2012.
She also should not get into pointing figures on who started it.
As the families of Latore Mackey and the others who were recently slaughtered prepare to bury them, we shudder as the answers continue to elude the current administration and many of us who pray and hope for safer communities.
A statement by the prime minister of Britain, David Cameron, that his government will not provide budgetary aid to governments that violate human rights, including by discriminating against homosexuals and lesbians, has angered sections of Caribbean society.
The angry response may have arisen over a misunderstanding of Cameron's remarks made in a BBC interview at the end of the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia from October 28-30. The remarks were not made at CHOGM itself.
While Cameron did say that his government would not provide general budget support to governments that do not uphold human rights, including the rights of homosexuals, lesbians and vulnerable communities such as young girls, his remarks were not specifically about homosexuals and he did not say that all aid would be withheld. In any event, no independent Caribbean country is a recipient of general budget aid from Britain, and, therefore, not one of them would be affected. In this regard, the response to Cameron's remarks could have benefitted from more careful study.
Cameron did not state a new position. What he said has been the British government's published policy since earlier this year when the Department for International Development (DFID) conducted a study, involving a wide range of organizations and countries, from which it was decided that general budget aid to governments should be linked to good governance, accountability and respect for human rights. British budgetary support is only 16 percent of the UK's annual aid budget of £7.46 billion (US$12.1 billion).
Nevertheless, the policies, laws and practices applicable to homosexuals and lesbians are real and growing issues in the Caribbean, not only from a human rights stand point but as a public health one too.
Recommendations on the issue
At the CHOGM in Perth, an Eminent Persons Group (EPG), of which I am a member, delivered a report to Heads of Government, who commissioned it at their meeting in Trinidad two years ago, on ways to reform the Commonwealth to make it relevant to its times and its people.
Included in the 106 recommendations in the report was one that governments "should take steps to encourage the repeal of discriminatory laws that impede the effective response of Commonwealth countries to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and commit to programs of education that would help a repeal of such laws". Amongst these laws are those that criminalize homosexuality.
The recommendation proved to be difficult for many African and Caribbean governments. Of the current 53 nations of the Commonwealth, 41 of them retain laws that criminalize homosexuality in particular. Some of these laws dictate that homosexuals should be flogged and jailed. Of the 41 states with such laws, all 12 of the independent Commonwealth Caribbean countries are included.
Remarkably, these laws are relics of the colonial past. They were introduced in the Caribbean by the British colonial government. But, while Britain, like the majority of countries in the world, has moved on to decriminalize homosexuality, the colonial laws remain in many parts of Africa and the Caribbean.
In Britain, Australia, Canada, the United States and the majority of European and Latin American nations, many homosexuals and lesbians, freed from the criminalization of their sexual preferences, have risen to the top of their careers. Many are captains of industry, government ministers, leading sports persons and even members of the armed forces doing duty in dangerous places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. In the Caribbean, however, homosexuals are marginalized and the majority remain hidden, terrified of the consequences of "coming out".
A public health issue
Caribbean governments face serious difficulties over this issue. There is a strong prejudice in societies based on both a lack of education and reluctance to engage the issue in public fora. The churches in the Caribbean are the most unyielding, constraining political parties from adopting a more enlightened and modern-day view of the matter.
The facts indicate that 60 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV and 33.3 million presently live with the virus. Over 60 percent of the people living with HIV reside in Commonwealth countries. The region with the highest rate of HIV/AIDS per capita is the Caribbean. In this sense, the problem for the Caribbean is one both of human rights and public health.
Homosexuals who live under the risk of flogging and jail are reluctant to reveal themselves if and when they become HIV-infected. Consequently, they are left untreated and the disease spreads and eventually they die, although the real cause of death is usually hidden.
In any event, the laws criminalizing homosexuality are depriving the Caribbean of the use of remarkably talented people in all fields of life who could be contributing to the development and prosperity of every Caribbean country. Some homosexuals have already emerged - despite the laws and the stigma - as outstanding Caribbean citizens, revered not only in the region but in other parts of the world, but they have been persons of great courage and unquestionable ability. Others have simply fallen by the wayside, or are living lives of lies.
On the eve of CHOGM in Perth, Helen Clark, the head of the United Nations Development Programme wrote to Commonwealth leaders pointing out that "it is important and urgent" for them "to promote and secure the repeal of the discriminatory laws which impede effective national HIV responses". She called for "legislative initiatives and programs which will repeal discriminatory laws" that "can not only turn back the HIV epidemic, but also improve the health and development of their citizens". She urged leaders "to seize this opportunity for the Commonwealth to turn a corner in preventing and controlling HIV by embracing the proposals to repeal laws which impede effective HIV responses".
In part, it was to this urging that the British prime minister was responding when he spoke in the BBC interview of the need to repeal discriminatory laws.
The issue will not go away. Britain's linking of general budget aid to respect for human rights is one response. Others will follow in different ways. As the international community sees it, homosexuals and lesbians are entitled to rights too, as long as they do not affect the rights and preferences of others.
The Caribbean will have to face up to that reality - as most of the rest of the world has. The best way to start is by informed public discussion.
Printed with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com
o First published March 22, 2012
The words of our national anthem written by the late Timothy Gibson urge us as Bahamians to march together to a common loftier goal. The importance of a common purpose to nation building is further highlighted in the words of our national pledge which states, "I pledge my allegiance to the flag and to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas for which it stands one people united in love and service." However, taking a look at the current state of our polity and recent events that have occurred in our country, it leaves one to wonder whether the Bahamian people have a united front to serve our country toward a common loftier goal.
A lot has been said about the recent documentary entitled "Caribbean Crime Wave", produced by Australian reporter Mark Lazaredes, which seeks to highlight the crime problem that is spiralling out of control in The Bahamas. The aforesaid documentary seems to create the impression that we are a nation under siege. Many Bahamians who viewed the documentary were incensed that our beloved nation was portrayed and characterized in such a manner for the entire world to see. In a country that is heavily dependent upon the tourism and financial services industries, it is an understatement to say that the documentary represents unsolicited bad publicity for The Bahamas in the midst of an already challenging economy.
While it is undeniable that crime and the fear of crime have taken hold of our nation, it does not seem to justify the characterization of The Bahamas as a nation under siege. The everyday Bahamian citizen and residents as well as the millions of tourists who grace our shores annually are still able to enjoy to a great extent the freedom of movement and enjoyment in peace and harmony. Unfortunately, we are experiencing a record number of murders, break-ins, robberies and crimes against persons. It also seems fair to state that the government could address the issue of crime in a more significant manner and should have taken a more rigorous approach toward crime.
What are we doing to address the problem?
The Bahamas seems to have become a nation that has traded its moral and spiritual values for materialism, power, vanity and self-promotion. The reality is that sectors of our society and stakeholders such as parents, the church, the community, civic organizations and the government are failing us daily by not making a concerted effort to address our moral and social issues and find plausible solutions. More detrimental to the Bahamian society is the fact that our politics over the years has done very little to unite us as a people, but rather continues to encourage a "divide and rule" mentality among our people. It was reported that there have been attacks against supporters of both major political parties. However, it is noteworthy and encouraging to state that the leaders of the Free National Movement (FNM) and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) have openly condemned this unruly behavior and urged their supporters to act in a civil manner.
How did we find ourselves at this point? We have always prided ourselves on being a nation that has a long history of stable democracy and civil governance. The recent behavior of our politicians leaves little to be desired by those of us who stand by on the sidelines and witness the continuous mudslinging and personal attacks to the gratification of political crowds who in many cases have been blinded beyond party lines. It must always be remembered that regardless of our political persuasion, ideology or affiliation, we are first and foremost Bahamians. The inability of our leaders to address issues that are plaguing our nation sets a poor example for the citizenry of our country. It presents the "don't do what I do, but do what I say" philosophy that so many parents raise their children by. How can a politician expect to be taken seriously as an advocate of conflict resolution when he/she is supposedly guilty of the same offense? The same question can be directed toward parents and leaders of the aforementioned sectors of society who seem in some cases to lead a double standard life. It must be emphasized that children and people in general follow the actions of those who preside over them rather than listen to their words or rhetoric. It is imperative that we set the right example for those that we lead.
Paradigm shift needed
It is difficult for our nation to arrive at non-partisan solutions to the myriad of issues that plague our nation without a paradigm shift by our political leaders. The conception seems to be that crime starts and stops with murder, hence the cry for the death penalty each time one of our fellow citizens falls victim to murder. It appears that the documentary among other things focused upon the fact that The Bahamas because of its judicial ties to the United Kingdom has been prohibited from enforcing the death penalty. However, can it really be said that the death penalty will solve our problems? It appears that our problems are far greater than imposing the ultimate punishment for what is considered arguably the most unacceptable crime - that is, murder.
It must be emphasized that crime includes all forms of illegal activity. Therefore, if we take an introspective look at ourselves, we will find that the first step to addressing the criminal element in this country is to adjust ourselves accordingly. The saying that "we must become the change that we seek" is true now more than ever. We must refrain from nurturing a culture of lawlessness in our society that continues to erode the moral and spiritual fabric of our nation.
Political, civic, business and religious leaders must regain their focus and although not prohibited from following or supporting the political party of their choice, they must ensure that they demonstrate that their first allegiance is to our common loftier goal. The Bahamas must come first at all times and above all individual ambitions. This common loftier goal comes with the mentality of being our brothers' keepers and truly building our nation until the road we trod leads unto our God. It is only then will we be able to move foward, upward, onward, together and our Bahamaland can truly march on.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at firstname.lastname@example.org.