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News Article

August 14, 2014
Does Minnis speak for the FNM

Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday came across as a student of the Perry Gladstone Christie School of Leadership. The motto of that school being, "Speak first, think later and never plan".Let us go back to the past - three weeks ago - when Minnis and Christie read statements together in the House of Assembly championing the constitutional reform bills. "Let me emphasize, Mr. Speaker, that these constitutional bills will require a 'yes' vote in a binding constitutional referendum," said Minnis in the House on Wednesday, July 23."Those persons who might feel some way discomfited by events which have followed a recent referendum should not be in any way discouraged. This constitutional referendum will count. The results of this referendum will be important and binding."So Minnis wanted Bahamians to vote. Then he emphasized that he wanted Bahamians to vote 'yes' on these proposed measures."Though there is much which divides us in this place, let us speak with one voice when the issue is equality before the law," he said. "Let us, Mr. Speaker, speak as one in this place."If we can do so, we will signal to every Bahamian and the watching world our unified commitment to the advancement of human dignity in our beloved Bahamas."The success of this effort will require a bold and unified, multi-partisan and multi-sectoral effort on the part, not just of the political parties, but of civil society organizations, the Constitutional Commission, as well as social, civic and religious leaders."Bahamas Information Services, the government's communications arm, released to the public the communications to the House of both Christie and Minnis on the reform bills. The government then paid for ads in the newspapers with the communications of both men.So, Minnis seemed fully behind the effort with Christie. Then came yesterday when Minnis revealed concerns about the bills and the reform process undertaken by the government. He said the opposition is not fully onboard with the approach to the November 6 referendum.Minnis said constitutional amendment bills number two and three can be dealt with through legislation in Parliament, rather than constitutional change. Bill number two seeks to enable a Bahamian woman who marries a foreign man to secure the same access to Bahamian citizenship that a Bahamian man enjoys. Bill number three would reverse the law that prohibits an unwed Bahamian man from passing his citizenship to his child if he or she is born to a foreign woman.Minnis then said the fourth bill, which seeks to end discrimination based on sex, should be sent to committee in the House "so that it can be thoroughly discussed".Minnis' stunning change of position further demonstrates that he is a student of Christie's leadership style. In 2002, Christie supported similar bills to remove gender discrimination in Parliament with the Free National Movement (FNM). Christie then opposed the measures he voted for on the campaign trail.Minnis' new view on the amendments is quite different than that of his deputy, Loretta Butler-Turner, it seems."Most fundamentally, this is a debate about fairness and justice and full equality under our constitution, the supreme law of the land," she said during her contribution to the debate on Wednesday, August 6.Butler-Turner, who led off for the opposition, was not then voicing the concerns Minnis yesterday expressed."This referendum is about confronting and striking down discrimination," she said in that contribution. "Just as those who fought for majority rule confronted prejudice and discrimination and warnings of dire consequences back then, it is our time to confront and strike down discrimination today."So is Minnis' new view the view of the FNM? Or is he now acting alone and dragging his party along? If that is the case, we wonder what his position will be when the House meets next week. Will he be for the bills again? Or will he be undecided? We remember during the gambling referendum that Minnis had every possible position on the issue - for, against, abstinence - before the debate was done.The FNM will lose credibility on this issue if it is that Minnis has "gone rogue" and he makes up his positions each day without deep reflection. Our country will also be in deep trouble if Minnis enshrines the Christie leadership style in the FNM. We don't need both of our major parties acting first, thinking later and never planning. That would worsen the tough circumstance we are already in.

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News Article

December 31, 2014
There should be fairness with tax collection

Value-added tax (VAT) is scheduled to come into effect tomorrow at a rate of 7.5 percent. The purpose of VAT is not to grow the economy or to modernize the system of tax collection in The Bahamas. The tax has been created to increase revenue intake for the state.
The budget deficit for the 2012/13 fiscal year was $647 million. The projected deficit for the 2013/14 fiscal year was $550 million. With a debt-to-GDP ratio of 66 percent in 2013, The Bahamas is not in the crisis zone. Our debt level, however, has more than doubled in just over a decade. It was only 30 percent in 2001.
This fiscal year, the government kept its spending level at its highest level. We, the people, are being called upon to finance the growing needs of our state.
While we all will theoretically be called upon to pay more, the government needs to do its part to ensure that everyone is paying what is owed. This is a big problem in The Bahamas. We see where people and businesses that owe state organizations just do not pay them. Favoritism comes into play when it is time to pay.
In some industries, zombie businesses exist only because their owners are politically connected. These companies do not pay their taxes and fees, and when it is time for enforcement of the laws to compel them to pay, a call is made to a politician, who then makes a call to someone in the state agency, who then stops action from being taken.
This practice deprives the treasury of money. It causes financial problems for the corporations. It also causes an unfair advantage to the bill dodgers. It is hard for honest companies and individuals to compete with people who do not have to pay the taxes and fees legally owed to the state and its agencies.
VAT will only work to bring in more revenue if the government finally gets serious about tax collection. As minister of finance, Prime Minister Perry Christie should seek to break this culture of slackness and cronyism. We should all equally be made to pay what we owe. Those who fall on hard times can go on the payment plans these agencies have. But no person or company should be allowed to not pay anything just because a friend can be called for a favor.
Honest citizens and businesses want fairness. Our current practices reward too many who should be out of business.

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News Article

May 14, 2014
Dr. Nottage: It's about the rule of law, not about you

Following questions raised by Free National Movement (FNM) Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner on the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage personalized the issue, angrily suggesting that the queries constitute an attack on his character. Butler-Turner did not personalize her concerns, never mentioning Nottage by name in her rally remarks.
Nottage got it wrong. The issue is not about his character per se, it is about the rule of law. It is also about his poor exercise of authority and that of the government which shares a collective failure and responsibility for not providing a legal basis for the NIA.
The FNM deputy leader raised consequential legal, policy and privacy questions, little of which Nottage addressed. This columnist has regard for the minister and wished that he would have answered the substantive issues raised.
Perhaps he was defensive, embarrassed, because he realized his blunder. Whether he appreciates the magnitude of the blunder is another question. His reaction is part of a troubling pattern with the administration.
The Cabinet room has become a bunker, its rarefied environment intoxicating a seeming majority of ministers with a certain paranoia, delusion and hubris. There is also a dangerous groupthink.
The bunker mentality has exploded with all manner of arrogance, defensiveness, hypocrisy and considerable anger, all added to the government's record of incompetence, a cavalier disregard for abiding by certain norms, and a mentality that the PLP may do just about whatever it wishes with little consequence.
Having neglected a charter of promises with umpteen delays in self-imposed deadlines, many in the PLP react angrily when asked why the government has not honored its commitments on many issues.
The Christie administration is often non-transparent and unaccountable, dismissive of just about any criticism. There is a collective irresponsibility on a variety of matters with a galloping pattern of abuse of power. There is a staggering arrogance and the emergence of, at minimum, a soft despotism that is worsening.
There is no accountability about $10 million budgeted for a mortgage relief program that was not spent as approved by Parliament, a contemptuous disregard for Parliament and for the rule of law.
The promised accounting of reportedly millions in campaign funds given to the PLP by Peter Nygard, who claims to have helped draft stem cell legislation, is never made.
A man in lawful police custody is allowed to be married in a police station, nuptials reportedly blessed by a political figure, contradicting a command by the police commissioner. There is still no full accounting as to what happened in terms of the alleged abuse of Cuban detainees last year.
The minister of tourism makes an announcement about possible plans to regulate web shops, of which the prime minister claims or feigns ignorance. Brimming with pique the tourism minister threatens to cut off the press when quizzed on another deadline the government may fail to meet.
The minister of labour attacks the press. He smugly refuses to table an approximately $20 million contract. The prime minister has a glaring conflict of interest, having served as a consultant to an oil exploration company.
Meanwhile, the generally out-of-touch Christie lives in a parallel universe of police outriders, bombast and speechifying, daydreaming of an official residence possibly emblazoned with a prime ministerial coat of arms, all the while unable to control a gaggle of ministers who generally do as they wish and who pay little heed to the seemingly titular prime minister.
And the minister of national security has blundered badly by failing to introduce legislation promised some time ago on the NIA. What makes matters worse is that Butler-Turner raised the issue in last year's budget debate, but it was ignored by an out-of-control government.
A year later and not only is there no legislation. The government appears to be operating an intelligence agency with no legal standing, perhaps illegally. It is a dangerous precedent by an arrogant government.
This is one of the more serious failures of the PLP. It is highly unlikely that something of this nature would have happened in the U.K. If unimaginably it had, the government of the day may not have survived such a colossal error and the responsible minister would have had to resign under pressure from the press and the opposition.
Defensively, Nottage noted in this journal: "There's nothing unusual about it. Intelligence organizations exist in many countries."
But there is something highly unusual and irregular. In most democracies such an agency has a legal underpinning with clear oversight mechanisms.
If a U.S. administration set up an intelligence agency with no legal standing there would be a congressional firestorm, with the administration facing all manner of legal entanglements, especially if such an agency had conducted operations without enjoying legal standing. It might be an impeachable offense because it may be criminal for an agency to operate without a legal basis.
The debate about the NIA is not about Nottage's character. It is about the character and nature of our democracy. A critical element in securing democracy is the rule of law. Leaders come and go. The law provides a check on leaders and governments.
John Adams' adage that a country should be a government or nation of laws, not of men, speaks to the need for laws regulating and restraining the conduct and work of government.
There is a corresponding adage by James Madison which speaks to constraining the exercise of power by us mortals: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." We are not angels and even good people may abuse power and cut corners.
It is not about taking Nottage at his word that he is doing the right thing, especially since the right thing to have done was to establish the NIA in law.
By failing to do so, Nottage exercised poor leadership and judgment. This is a stunning lapse by someone who should have known better than to have such an agency without legislation in place.
The government introduced legislation to create the National Training Agency. Yet on a matter of great magnitude such as the NIA, set up almost two years ago, purportedly dealing with the most sensitive national security matters, and possibly infringing on the rights of citizens, the government -- either through incompetence or by deliberation -- failed to establish its legal basis providing it with statutory power and clear oversight mechanisms.
Instead of attacking Butler-Turner, Nottage should accept responsibility and apologize for his and the government's blunder. Tellingly, none of his colleagues appear to have come to his defense.
There are legitimate concerns about privacy and there is often a mistrust of government. In failing to provide a legal foundation for the NIA, the government has alarmed many Bahamians, leaving it open to charges of spying.
Intelligence is a very sensitive matter. Nottage and the government have exacerbated fears by operating for near two years and counting an intelligence agency that it has failed to establish in law.
In the U.S., President Barack Obama and his administration often note that they can be trusted to do the right thing in the intelligence field. No democracy should solely trust the supposed ethical restraint of leaders. The rule of law is a guardian of liberty and fundamental rights.
There are often rogue elements in the intelligence field. Not every administration may be as inclined to ethical restraint, which is why we are a nation of laws.
The U.K. Guardian recently reported: "Edward Snowden's disclosures of the scale of mass surveillance are 'an embarrassing indictment' of the weak nature of the oversight and legal accountability of Britain's security and intelligence agencies, MPs have concluded.
"A highly critical report by the Commons home affairs select committee published on Friday calls for a radical reform of the current system of oversight of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, arguing that the current system is so ineffective it is undermining the credibility of the intelligence agencies and Parliament itself."
And those are agencies with legal standing. In failing to bring legislation to Parliament on the NIA, the government has undermined the role of Parliament and kept the citizenry in the dark. = This is an abuse of power and a momentous blunder.
Instead of deflecting responsibility and groaning about his character, Nottage needs to fix this quickly. = If not, history will judge him poorly in this area especially in light of his stated values on democracy during his public career, including as leader of the Coalition for Democratic Reform, the name and goals of which should be a telling reminder to him.

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News Article

August 18, 2014
Broken alliance

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.

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News Article

May 30, 2013
Jamaican professor offers mediator service to the BAAA

Professor Trevor Hall Ph.D. is a Jamaican-born citizen of the United States with worldwide exposure. He speaks and reads Portuguese and reads French and Spanish. His education background includes the Johns Hopkins University Ph.D.; the Universidade de Lisboa, Faculdade de Letras: Arizona State University B.S.c., M.A., Political Science, and San Gabriel Academy, Elementary School, Balcalava, Jamaica. His connection to sports is deep. Professor Hall was All-American, Track and Field University Division in 1975; Penn Relays triple jump champion University Division in 1972; Western Athletic Champion in 1972 and runner-up in 1974 and 1975. Professor Hall has been keeping up with the executive controversy within the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations.
The Bahamas is being identified more and more these days primarily as a sports nation. Worldwide, observers closely view what's going on in sports in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The ongoing executive controversy in the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) is a case in point.
Professor Trevor Hall, a consultant in education and a full-time lecturer, remains keenly in tune with regional and world sports. He informs that when he worked in Liberia during the 1980s, he was able to help settle a major sports issue. Universities in Liberia, he informed, "were not participating in athletic competition because of a long-standing feud."
This once talented triple jumper and coach is now offering his service to the BAAA.
"As a professor of history and political science (Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1993) and a track and field coach, as well as a former athlete, I offer my services to serve as a neutral mediator... if one is needed. Sometimes, opposing forces need an independent czar, one who could look at a situation in an impartial manner, without bias and render a decision. I performed such a function during the 1980s, when I worked in Liberia. As a Jamaican, who was not involved in the dispute, I was able to bring the two sides together," informed Professor Hall.
No doubt, there are individuals right here in The Bahamas who can serve the same purpose. An outsider, however might go over better. Recently, the presence of an official observer from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in the person of Richard Peterkin, resulted in the Bahamas Olympic Committee's (BOC) General Assembly being fully accepted. He reported to the IOC and the proceedings of the assembly were officially endorsed.
The BOC issues ended and now the new administration is moving on. There is a general view that the BAAA needs to get to a point very soon whereby it moves on. With the growing interest outside of the country, perhaps bringing someone like Professor Hall into the picture could be the solution.
Are the two BAAA sides willing to accept a mediator? Presently, based on how they have been responding, a compromised position is not a priority for them. The time might indeed be appropriate for the IAAF to get directly involved.
President Lamine Diack is a no-nonsense individual. While he obviously advocates national organizations solving their differences before they get totally out of hand, he has not been shy during his presidency to act when necessary in the interest of the honor and credibility of track and field.
Professor Hall's declared interest is a new dimension to the BAAA episode, worth consideration.
o To respond to this sports feature, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at

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News Article

July 17, 2013
Lessons to learn and practices to unlearn from Haiti and its revolution

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 and followed for past essays at caribbeannewsnow/haiti. Published with the permission of

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News Article

August 18, 2014
Wilchcombe says Rollins won't be victimized

While suggesting recent comments made by Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins were inappropriate, West Grand Bahama and Bimini MP and Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe said Rollins will not be victimized by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).

During debate on the constitutional amendment bills on Wednesday, Rollins said the PLP is not open to independent thinkers.

He also said that in the last general election the party used young politicians like him as mere "tokens" to help secure a win.

"When we stand to our feet and speak in a fashion that appears to be contrary to that of the party line, there are those who give orders to politically destroy and do damage to that individual for no reason other than that they espouse independent views," he said.

In an interview with The Nassau Guardian, Wilchcombe said any challenges that arise within the party should and can be addressed internally.

When asked whether he believes Rollins' most recent stance will affect his future within the PLP, Wilchcombe said, "I don't think the party operates that way".

"Andre Rollins is a young man. Does he have potential? Does he have ability? Absolutely. Does he have something to offer? He has already told them that.

"But he is a young man, and along the way, one day, he will come to an appreciation that even in organizations that he runs, he wouldn't want at his clinic for a member of his staff to go public saying things that could be resolved inside the clinic.

"That is something you learn alongside the way.

"We are not going to victimize Andre Rollins. For what purpose? We are not going to penalize him for his words. Penalizing him is not going to change his words.

"Can we learn from his words? That is what we have to look at, but we don't want to hurt anyone. We brought him into the PLP."

Wilchcombe said the PLP never puts a "seal over people's views".

He said although he would have gone another route, each member has a right to express him or herself, and the organization celebrates that freedom.

"The way I would have done things is quite differently," Wilchcombe said.

"I am a part of a team. And being a part of a team requires that you understand that if I want to win the championship I have to practice in-house.

"That's how basketball teams win, football teams win; that's how politicians win and that's how teams win generally."

But he said Rollins is "a man and he makes his own decisions".

"There is an apprenticeship program and a process in which you learn the game," he said.

"The party never casts anyone aside.

"But along the way, everyone, whether you are in politics, sports, the church or in school, you have to go through processes.

"You can't walk in today and tomorrow it's all going to be there. You have to learn a few things."

Asked about Rollins' assertion that orders are handed down to politically destroy members who speak out, Wilchcombe said he and the deputy prime minister have expressed opposing views to the party in the past.

"It happens all the time," he said. "It is just a part of politics.

"You do speak out. The truth is, we also understand in the party politics there is a place that we can speak."

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News Article

August 15, 2014
Constitutional referendum: Correcting an historical error - part 1

On Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Prime Minister Perry Christie, in a Communication to the House of Assembly, foreshadowed the introduction and first reading of four separate bills to amend the Constitution of The Bahamas "to institute full equality between men and women in matters of citizenship and, more broadly, to eliminate discrimination in The Bahamas based on sex."Prime Minister Christie asserted that the purpose of these four bills is remedial in nature: "The changes to the constitution foreshadowed by these bills will not only help remediate the problem of structural gender inequality and discrimination in our country but will also assist in bringing greater inclusiveness and cohesion to family structures while at the same time ensuring that The Bahamas lives up to its international obligations in these matters."In a mature gesture of bipartisanship, the leader of the opposition, Dr. Hubert Minnis stated that while "there is much which divides us in this place, let us speak with one voice when the issue is equality before the law. Let us Mr. Speaker, speak as one in this place. If we can do so, we will signal to every Bahamian and the watching World our unified commitment to the advancement of Human Dignity in our beloved Bahamas."The four bills represent the culmination of the work that was done by the Constitutional Commission, appointed on August 1, 2012 to review and recommend changes to the Constitution of The Bahamas, in advance of the 40th Anniversary of Bahamian independence.The Commission was chaired by Mr. Sean McWeeney, Q.C. and the members included Loren Klein, a member and technical co-coordinator of the Commission's Secretariat, Carl Bethell, Justice Rubie Nottage (retired), Mark Wilson, Lester Mortimer, Tara Cooper-Burnside, Professor Michael Stevenson, Dr. Olivia Saunders, Michael Albury, Chandra Sands, Brandace Duncanson and Carla Brown-Roker.The commission completed the constitutional review process that had been started by the earlier Constitutional Commission that had been appointed by Prime Minister Christie on December 23, 2002, under the joint chairpersonship of Paul Adderley and Harvey Tynes, Q.C., but which process the government under Hubert Ingraham abandoned after the 2007 general elections.The American legal scholar, Professor Myres McDougal, asserted that a constitution should be "a living instrument, a dynamic and continuing process of communication, practices and decisions. It is made and continually remade in response to the changing demands and expectations of the people under ever-changing conditions. It should reflect not only the shared expectations of the original framers of the constitution, but also those of succeeding generations. It should also reflect the contemporary shared expectations and experiences of community members today."The Bahamas Independence Order 1973, an Act of the British Parliament, provided for The Bahamas to become an independent sovereign nation. The constitution is actually the appendix to The Bahamas Independence Order 1973. The representatives of the Bahamian people at the Constitutional Conference in London in December, 1972 comprised the following individuals: Sir Arthur Foulkes, Sir Orville A. Turnquest, the late Sir Lynden O Pindling, The late Sir Clement Maynard, Arthur Hanna, Paul Adderley, Philip Bethel, George A. Smith, Loftus A. Roker, Cadwell Ambrister, Norman Solomon, Sir Milo Butler, the late Sir Kendal G.L. Isaacs, the late Carlton Francis and The late Henry Bowen. These 15 men are collectively known as the Framers of the Bahamian Constitution.As I will demonstrate, it was an historical error not to have included any women at the Constitutional Conference of 1972 in either the delegations of the Progressive Liberal Party or the Free National Movement. Further, It was also an historical error not to have consulted with Bahamian women and their organizations on the issues of nationality, given the obvious discriminatory impact on them and their children of the nationality provisions agreed to in London. These omissions on the part of both political parties is particularly striking, given the prominent and decisive role that women had played in the affairs of both parties and the struggle for majority rule. These omissions also require that we engage in a national reflection on the persistence of the singular male perspective in the Bahamian body politic, legacies of the politics of colonialism and the merchant elite who dominated politics in The Bahamas until 1967.Prominent Bahamian women in the Progressive Liberal Party included Effie Walkes, the unheralded strategist of the dramatic Black Tuesday incident, whose role in that historical event was captured brilliantly in the documentary, Womanish Ways, by Marion Bethel, Maria Govan and Kareem Mortimer.The fact that Effie Walkes is unheralded even to this day for her role, in comparison to the male protagonists, illustrates this blind spot in the political sociology of The Bahamas. At the time of the Constitutional Conference In 1972 the suffragists Doris Johnson, Mable Walker, Albertha Isaacs, Ethel Kemp, Madge Brown and Althea Mortimer, just to name a few, were still alive.Other prominent women in Bahamian civil society at that time included Jenny Thompson, Janet Bostwick, Judy Munroe, Pauline Allen, Susan Wallace, Telcine Turner, Margaret McDonald, Mizpah Tertullian and Eileen Carron.The lack of female representation on the Constitutional Conference is the more stunning because by 1972 the women suffragist movement had already provided The Bahamas with the template for an inclusive and bipartisan coalition to achieve universal suffrage for women in 1962.The template of an inclusive national coalition for constitutional change existed, according to Janet Bostwick. In her thoughtful essay "Bahamian History - The women suffrage movement in The Islands - then, and now: Women's struggle in The Bahamas", she wrote that the women suffrage movement "reached across partisan lines, racial and social class divides . . . started by a black woman who, after party politics was introduced in The Bahamas, was a member of the UBP, it was embraced by the PLP, it was adopted by women without party affiliation, supported by women of different races and social standing, and it was championed by progressive men."Our approach to the upcoming referendum should be framed in the context of seizing the opportunity to build a progressive national coalition of women and men of all party affiliations, without party affiliation, of different races and social standing to ensure the success of the referendum on November 6, 2014.Because Bahamian women were not engaged in the historical error of 1972, the proposed referendum of the constitution on that date will afford Bahamian women, for the first time in our history, an opportunity to be directly involved in the remaking of our constitution, exercising the hard earned right to vote gained in 1962, as members of the Constitutional Commission, members of parliament and electors, to remediate this historical error.Sir Lynden Pindling, at a colloquium on reform of the constitution convened by Michael Stevenson, Felix Bethel, Raynard Rigby and myself at the College of The Bahamas in June, 1998, presented a paper entitled "Refining the revolution".Sir Lynden, with the perspective of 36 years of an independent Commonwealth of The Bahamas during most of which he was prime minister, implicitly challenged us to correct this historical error of discriminating against Bahamian women and their children when he posed the following question: "While defining the rights of Bahamian citizens for the 21st century, don't you think favorable consideration will have to be given to the question as to whether children born outside The Bahamas to Bahamian mothers and foreign fathers should become Bahamian citizens on the same terms as children born outside The Bahamas to foreign mothers and Bahamian fathers?"

o Alfred Sears is a noted attorney, scholar and political figure who served in several Cabinet posts between 2002 and 2007. He currently serves as the chairman of The College of The Bahamas Council.

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News Article

July 06, 2013
Hubert Ingraham: A man for all seasons

Dear Editor,

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.

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News Article

May 27, 2014
Maximizing the potential of our Bahamaland

The last week has been quite eventful for The Bahamas as we hosted for the first time the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Conference (CWP) and the inaugural International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relays. The organizers of both events ought to be commended for a job well done and the Bahamian people congratulated for our exceptional hospitality as our nation was in the spotlight throughout the region and the entire globe.
Our world-class athletes no doubt made us proud with their poise, dedication and hard work, for which we are grateful.
A focus on representation in governance
It is noteworthy that the CWP conference was a regional conference of the Caribbean, Atlantic and the Americas region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Women's Association (CPWA), which is the female branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA). The theme of the aforesaid conference, "Women: The Voice, The Vote, The Victory", provides some insight into the minimal role played by women in the direct governance of commonwealth nations.
The main objective of the CPWA is to promote better representation for women in legislatures within commonwealth countries. This objective is in line with the overall objectives of the CPA as documented in its Strategic Plan (2008 - 2012). Objective 6 of that plan is, "To promote gender equality and equity in the work of the CPA and across the association and encourage women to stand for election to representative bodies by advocating the removal of barriers to their participation and to facilitate their professional contribution as members."
The Bahamian reality
The contribution of Bahamian women to the building of our nation and the deepening of our democracy is well documented. Bahamian women continue to flourish in all spheres of Bahamian society and have assumed leadership roles in the professional, social, religious and civic fields. However, when it comes to female representation at the highest levels of governing, The Bahamas continues to lag behind other nations. This is in spite of the high level of participation by women in the political process and the fact that more women than men were registered to vote in the lead-up to the last general election.
It is difficult to ignore the possibility that the underrepresentation of women around the national decision-making table may be connected to the ideology created by the gender inequality provisions of our constitution.
Nevertheless, despite the level of support provided by Bahamian women to political, religious and corporate organizations, Bahamian women have not been adequately represented in our parliament for 40 years since independence.
The self-doubt syndrome
The deliberations at the CWP were useful and informative in that they provided an avenue for the sharing of ideas and ultimate development of a strategic plan to achieve the purpose of the CPWA.
However, the question remains as to whether the postulation of Warren Buffett that women doubt themselves is a contributing factor to the current composition of our parliament by gender. This question represents the first hurdle which must be crossed and is a query that can only be properly answered by us - the women of The Bahamas.
The other side of this inquiry focuses on the level of confidence we have not only in our abilities but also in that of our fellow women. This is important as it translates into the extent to which we support one another.
The suggestion is not that we solely support women or that women should be given a free pass because of their gender, but rather that duly qualified and competent female candidates for high office should be given a fair and equal chance in comparison to their male counterparts.
In this regard, can qualified aspiring female parliamentarians depend on the vote of the largest voting bloc in The Bahamas? Additionally, how many past and present political leaders have enough confidence in Bahamian women to provide mentorship and guidance to aspiring public servants?
Partnership to achieve our potential
The movement for gender equality and female empowerment must not be viewed from a myopic perspective. There is indeed a higher calling and bigger picture for our beloved country in the promotion of equal opportunity and equivalent basic human rights for the Bahamian woman. It is important that we realize that our country cannot reach its full potential in an environment that holds one gender inferior or superior to another.
Hence, the movement should not be seen to concede the inferiority of women or pursue their superiority. Rather, the clamor should be aimed at the creation of a level playing-field in which all Bahamians can fulfill their God-given purpose and contribute to the building of The Bahamas.
The Bahamian women of this era seek to build upon the work of the women of the Suffrage Movement in the fight for justice and the creation of a better Bahamas. We do not seek to replace or diminish the important role of Bahamian men in the governance of our country; our objective is to work with our male counterparts toward a common loftier goal. For this nation will not be all that it can be without increased participation of women in governance.
Nurturing and the conscience of a nation
The natural role of women in the development of communities and nurturing can be inferred from the classic speech of the late Dame Doris Johnson on January 19, 1959.
Dame Johnson commenced her speech by stating: "Mr. Speaker and members of the honorable House of Assembly, today invincible womanhood, mother of men..."
This reference to the indomitable and fighting spirit of the Bahamian woman recognizes the fortitude of our women and was followed by a clear declaration that the men that marginalized the women of that era were carried and delivered by women.
There is so much that can be said about the fact that male leaders are groomed and prepared for their destinies by mothers; by women who in some cases are not deemed to be qualified enough for a place in Parliament or around the Cabinet table. It must never be forgotten that women and mothers in particular are the conscience of nations and bear the brunt of ills within our societies; yet remain unbroken.
The following words of Baroness Thatcher are instructive in this vein: "Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country".
Imagining the possibilities
It would be remiss not to state that we have made some progress in relation to the involvement of women in Bahamian politics and governance since the famous speech of Dame Doris Johnson 55 years ago. However, the progress made has not been significant enough based on the historical and current ratio of men to women in The Bahamas' parliament.
As a nation, we must envision the promise the future holds in a country that promotes the best among us to higher office to serve the Bahamian people regardless of their gender but rather based on their character, abilities and potential.
Indeed, the extent of the success we can achieve in a country led by men and women working together side by side need not only be imagined but should be pursued by us all. All we need is the will, and there will be a way to get it done.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to

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