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This [past] week Bahamians witnessed what may well have been overt interference by the president of the Republic of Haiti, Michel Joseph Martelly, in the internal politics of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. It has been reported that the president 'encouraged' his country men/women to vote 'as a bloc' for the Bahamian political party that had their 'best interests' at heart.
The recent 'rush' to regularize and to grant citizenship to foreign-born residents of this country by the FNM administration and its retiring minister of immigration has caused grave concerns among many indigenous Bahamians. It is almost as if the prime minister and his colleagues could care less about the concerns of 'real' Bahamians over this bogus exercise.
Brent Symonette (FNM-St. Anne's) has an in-your-face attitude to many of the concerns of the unwashed masses. His smug persona has not served him well during his soon to be concluded, mercifully, foray in frontline politics.
Martelly's alleged remarks are tantamount to direct interference in our political process and are to be condemned. It is a disgrace, in my view, that the leader of the opposition would have actually met with the president just for a photo opportunity. If I were Perry Christie, I would have delegated Frederick Audley Mitchell (PLP-Fox Hill) to receive him.
Are you able to imagine what would have happened if a Bahamian prime minister had gone down to the Republic of Haiti and made such alleged remarks about how Bahamians in Haiti should vote and support a political party, keeping in mind that not a single Bahamian would have been granted Haitian citizenship must less would be eligible to vote in Haitian elections.
Martelly, obviously, came to this country late at night on a private jet to work the local Haitian community on behalf of a certain political party in the few short weeks before The Bahamas goes in to its general election. The recently 'pauperized' Bahamians have now received their marching orders.
While we need foreigners to assist us with nation building and in certain areas of our economic fabric, it is astounding to have witnessed the speed with which the FNM administration 'regularized' many of these people, mostly of Haitian descent, just before a general election is scheduled. Why now? This government has been in place for almost five years and did nothing, apart from a patently bogus exercise, years ago, to regularize them.
Indigenous Bahamians need to wake up and look around. Look around within our educational plant and you will see that over 65 percent of the students in our primary schools are of Haitian descent. Look around at our medical health institutions and you will see that more than 50 percent of the patients who visit these institutions are of Haitian background.
Go over to the clinic at Marsh Harbor, Abaco and you will see that 70 percent of live births are to mothers of a Haitian origin. Scattered throughout our militarized organizations are persons with Haitian surnames. Where will this madness end and who will have the political will to stop it?
I have absolutely nothing against legal migration and the front door entry of any nationalities, inclusive of Haitians. What I do have a serious problem with is the massive and seemingly unchecked migration of illegal nationalities with the complicity of Bahamians.
A few months ago, the leader of the opposition 'admitted' that it was not 'politically' expedient to appear to be targeting persons of Haitian descent, especially during electoral exercises. Christie is a friend, sometimes, but he could not have been serious.
It is of little surprise that Martelly could have entered our nation, in the dark hours, and talked his shaving cream. He may well be the president of the Republic of Haiti and the dependent territory of The Bahamas.
To God then, in all of these things, be the glory.
- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.
Dear Editor,It is my sincere hope thatmost Bahamians, if not all,will enjoy the upcomingChristmas season and willfind time for recreation,prayerful sessions and qualitytime with family and friends.We have much to be thankfulfor despite the personal andcollective challenges.After the festivities are concludedand all of the hamsand turkeys eaten, the nationwill have to confront some seriousfinancial and fiscal issuesin January 2013. Playingpossum and seeking to buryone's head in the sand like thefabled Ostrich will not cut it.Successive governments,headed by prime ministerswho are lawyers by professionand who would have served asministers of finance, aidedand abetted by ministers ofstate for finance, who know orknew nothing about big business,have led us to our ownlooming fiscal cliff.Sir Lynden, God bless hissoul, was the most successful,visionary and pragmatic ministerof finance this countryhas seen to date. Say what youmay about Sir Lynden but healmost single-handedly createdall of our national organizationssuch as: the NationalInsurance Board; the Royal BahamasDefence Force, the firstgovernment subdivision, etc.At least if he spent the moneyone is able to actually seewhat he spent it on. Contrastthe other two prime ministers,also lawyers. Hubert Ingraham,a good Bahamian,may have meant well I amsure during his various termsin office. The question whichbegs an answer however is:Did we get value for the massiveamounts of money hewould have spent on our behalf?The purchase of the socalledBlake Road buildingwas a boondoggle and onewhich I submit was done as a"favor" for the boys. It shouldnever have been purchasedwith NIB funds, as it was nevera viable building. Millionshave been poured into thepurchase and never-endingrenovations to the extent, allegedly,in excess of $25 million.Successive governments"stopped, canceled and reawarded"the renovation contractsto their alleged politicalassociates and that buildingstill appears to be in its originalstate.Governmental operationsand ministries are housed inleased and rented propertiesat great expense, allegedly, tothe public purse. For instance,the Immigration Departmenthas been in rentedpremises at Hawkins Hill forgenerations.No one that I know of in thepublic domain knows exactlyhow much is being paid inrent and certainly not theterms and conditions or eventhe lifespan of the rental contract.The old City Meat MarketBuilding on Market Streetwas purchased to be used, allegedly,as the site for The RegistrarGeneral's Department.A renovation contract wasgranted and the building wasduly gutted. Nothing hasbeen done from then to nowand the forlorn building remainsa stark reminder of thewaste of public funds. Yet anothergovernment-ownedbuilding is located on John F.Kennedy Drive to the immediatewest of the Ministry ofWorks compound.Constructed to the tune oftens of millions of dollars andlit up to the highest everynight, it is under-occupiedand under-utilized. Yet, majorministries, inclusive of ourcourts, remain in leased,cramped and totally inadequatequarters.The Ministry of Tourism ison George Street downtownwhere staffers are obliged towork in an outdated environment.Potential foreign andlocal investors who are desirousof meeting with theminister of tourism and hissenior officials would not beimpressed with the ambience.The ongoing roadwork herein New Providence is the singlelargest cause for the massivefiscal deficits we are saddledwith. That this work hadto be carried out cannot be deniedbut the cost overruns tothe tune of $100 million areunbelievable. In too manycases, remedial work will haveto be done costing tens of millionsof dollars in the near future.The civil service is top heavyand there are too many individualsdeployed in ministriesand departments doing absolutelynothing of value. Arationalization must be doneand done soon. It has been estimatedthat 50 percent of theannual national budget goesto salaries, pensions and gratuities.Another 40 percent isrequired to actually run thegovernment leaving less than20 percent for infrastructureand other much needed societaland cultural works.Yes, dear friends, countrymen/women and enemies weare between a rock and a veryhard place due to the fiscalmismanagement of all of ourgovernments to date. It is nouse now, of course, engagingin a blame game as the Androsianbuzzards have alreadycome home to roost. It iswhat it is.The gold rush administrationmust reach out to allstakeholders regardless of politicalpersuasion and certainly,regardless of age. Early inthe new year the prime ministerand his economic teamshould convene a secludedconclave with business professionals,accountants, lawyersand the media to hash out viablesolutions to our own fiscalcliff. There can be no otherway.Failure is not an option andwe are in this slow boat overthe cliff together. If it succeedsin averting this loomingdisaster, the gold rush administrationand Perry GladstoneChristie (PLP-Centreville)could go down in our historyas the government that madea difference. In conclusion,then, I wish all a Merry Christmasand a prosperous NewYear. Despite it all, I submitthat our best days are yetahead of us.To God also, in all things, bethe glory.- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.
If the web shop sector is going to be allowed to exist then it should be regulated, Governor of the Central Bank of The Bahamas Wendy Craigg told The Nassau Guardian.
Noting that web shops are operating outside the regulatory framework, the governor said they really are not underground businesses.
"It does not fit the definition of underground activities," she said of the sector. "It has a face. It is very visible."
The governor pointed out that the Central Bank and local commercial banks adhere to strict national and international standards aimed at guarding against money laundering and terrorist financing.
When she was contacted for comment recently, Craigg did not take a position on whether web shops should be allowed to operate, as it is a highly political issue in the purview of the government.
Instead, the governor pointed to the dangers of having an unregulated web shop sector.
"As a Central Bank, we are certainly aware that last year the domestic banks took explicit measures in compliance with these AML (anti-money laundering) regulations to have accounts that were operated by these number houses closed," she said.
"That definitely came to our attention, and so they were left with a dilemma as to what to do with these large cash balances.
"We know that some of them were directed to the Central Bank to acquire government paper, government registered stock, treasury bills, but since we are also bound to comply with national KYC (know your customer) requirements, we had to deny those requests."
Ian Jennings, president of Commonwealth Bank, told The Nassau Guardian that the bank is still abiding by the position that the numbers businesses are operating illegally.
He said Commonwealth Bank will not entertain these accounts because it has to comply with know your customer and other requirements.
"Obviously, since the referendum, the whole question has been called into account as to whether or not it is illegal or legal activity," said Jennings, referring to the gambling referendum which took place one year ago today.
"For Commonwealth Bank, until the court rules otherwise or there's a change of the law the bank is still at the position that it is an illegal activity."
A legal challenge filed by web shops in the wake of the failed referendum remains tied up in the courts.
Jennings noted there is no clear evidence of what is happening to the proceeds of the unregulated industry.
"It's like the governor said, we hear anecdotal stories, but there is nothing we have that can prove to anybody [what they're doing]."
Jennings also said, "We're concerned with regard to the extention of credit."
He added, "The total level of credit, if it is not being regulated just adds more burden onto the consumer."
Craigg said unregulated businesses involved in "cash intensive activities" could be vulnerable to criminal exploitation.
"And that is why they've been recognized by the international organizations as requiring oversight under national AML so they have to abide by those requirements," she said, "the same way the casinos [have to]. Casinos today have to comply with AML/CFT (combatting the financing of terrorism) regulations."
The governor said some of the businesses involved in numbers made applications to the Central Bank for permission to invest overseas.
"And then the informal information that has come to our attention is that they are becoming very important providers of credit which is outside of the formal regulated banking sector and if these activities are sizeable, this certainly creates an unleveled playing field for regulated credit entities and it basically results in an under reporting of the value of credit activities in the economy," she said.
"Our understanding is that some of them are engaged in the provision of small loans, consumer loans perhaps through becoming owners of or funding pay day advance companies.
"They provide mortgages. They do in-house financing for housing and condominium development. They are owners of large commercial housing developments, so this is just a way that they are investing their cash resources that they cannot place within the banks on deposit."
The governor added that this unregulated sector could also be distorting important national economic data.
"If they are not being measured as a part of the activity that's taking place in the economy then we have an under reporting of economic information such as employment, personal income, GDP output data for the country, and by their very nature these web shops or number houses are very cash intensive."
The Nassau Guardian contacted the governor for comment on this highly divisive issue after Prime Minister Perry Christie said she had concerns about the unregulated numbers industry.
In a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian, Christie said, "Today, the governor of the Central Bank is demonstrating concern for this because what has happened is there has now been the evolution of a new economy that is underground, a new banking order that is taking place where mortgages are being given and where huge sums of money are moving.
"You always have money laundering concerns when you don't regulate, but I'm thinking now of when the banks say you can't bank your money, the Central Bank says you can't invest in treasury bills, the Central Bank says you can't export your money, you can't put it in another country, then you ask the question if that is the case, what is supposed to be happening to the money?
"And so, that is a very trying set of circumstances for me now."
The National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas (NCTUB) has recommended to the Constitutional Commission that Bahamians have the right to participate in any form of gaming in the country.
"The constitution should be so amended to reflect that all Bahamians should have the right if they so choose to participate in any form of gaming within The Bahamas and any law that discriminates against any Bahamian and restricts such rights should be voided," NCTUB President Jennifer Isaacs-Dotson said.
Isaacs-Dotson presented the recommendation during a meeting of the Constitutional Commission at the British Colonial Hilton hotel yesterday.
Trade Union Congress (TUC) President Obie Ferguson, who also made recommendations yesterday, said he supported Isaacs-Dotson's proposals.
Prime Minister Perry Christie previously told The Nassau Guardian that the question of casino gambling
would be a part of the constitutional referendum promised by the government for later this year if the Constitutional Commission recommends that it be addressed as part of broader constitutional reforms.
The gambling referendum is set for January 28, but the casino question is not on that ballot.
Many Bahamians, including former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, have said the question of whether Bahamians be allowed to gamble in casinos in The Bahamas should also be included.
"The Government of The Bahamas when it appointed the Constitutional Commission knew that the Constitutional Commission had within its remit the question of looking at the constitution, listening to people and taking all of the issues that will be put before the people in a constitutional referendum," Christie previously told The Nassau Guardian.
"And so, we did not want to mix up the two, and so in the general election campaign we put into our platform, which we called the Charter for Governance, that we will deal with this issue of web shop gambling and lotteries and that's where we are.
"And so, I expect the other issue (the casino issue) to come about under (Sean) McWeeney's commission. McWeeney and Carl Bethel (the opposition's representative) and others are on that.
"And then we will take a look at that (the casino issue) as to whether that will be a question on the referendum that will follow. They have until the end of March to report, so it's not long."
Isaacs-Dotson appeared before the commission during its latest round of consultations, which involves discussions with the leaders of the country's major political parties, leaders of civic groups and other organizations in the country.
She also recommended that the constitution be amended to eliminate discrimination against women; to provide for the ability for constituents to recall their member of Parliament, and a fixed election date, among other recommendations.
The commission is expected to present its recommendations on or before March 31, 2013. Former Chief Justice Sir Burton Hall also made recommendations yesterday.
Undeniably the most discussed and debated topic during the past months has been gambling. Unfortunately, it would seem to be polarizing the nation. Arguments have been made for and against the legalization of numbers houses and also a national lottery. As such I weigh in on the debate by sharing this article, calling all citizens and residents to consider alternatives. Therefore, it is hoped that this article will help to elevate the discussions beyond just the yes/no debate.
Adventists' view of gambling
The Seventh-day Adventist Church stands opposed to all forms of gambling, inclusive of raffles and lotteries to raise funds for charitable organizations. It views gambling as a paid game of chance - winning at the expense of others, not comporting or lining up with Christian values and principles. For example, consider the principle of love for neighbor. How can one who loves his brother feel good in winning knowing that it is at the expense of his brother? Additionally, stories of how addiction to gambling has negatively affected and continues to affect families and societies that exist all around; therefore we cannot turn a blind eye. Accordingly, the following questions are most appropriate: What is the alternative? What can one do to raise money in place of gambling?
Consider some alternatives
As The Bahamas marks its 40th year of independence, I am informed that nearly 40 years ago the late Carlton Francis appealed to his political colleagues to shun what I term the easy way out or short cuts in building a new independent nation. Said Carlton Francis, the then minister of development, "We are a small nation that can be easily permeated by any pernicious influence." He added, "I am saying that where we are aspiring to the disciplines of hard work and industry, we are not yet off the ground."
Also, I read with interest an interview with former Minister of Immigration Loftus Roker, as recorded in The Nassau Guardian, December 24, 2012. He recalled that when the PLP campaigned in '67, "it was against casino gambling". It was not until they won the government that some in the party felt that the closure of gambling casinos would have a negative effect on tourism; therefore casino gambling was allowed. Concluding from these and other records, it is clear that the subject of gambling in one form or another has been with us many years. Nevertheless, 40 to 45 years later where are we in discipline and industry as touted by Carlton Francis? In fact, Roker in his interview with The Guardian did not see the need for legalizing gambling some 44 years later. Therefore, whether the pending referendum on gambling receives a "no" or "yes" vote, the need for alternatives must not be ignored. Life continues and the nation needs to continue building.
Deliberate and intentional ways must be sought to further empower our people regardless of color, politics, gender or where they were born if the nation is to truly develop maturely. People need to be taught how to survive -- not to be dependent on government. It would seem to me that with the pooling of ideas through discussions and town meetings, and even the talk shows, ideas can be gotten that will serve to inspire and motivate our people as well as result in strategies that can impact the economy positively. Consider the example and by extension the principle of 2006 Nobel Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus. Muhammad pioneered what is referred to as microcredit. Using loans of tiny amounts, he sought to transform destitute women into entrepreneurs thus creating economic and social development from below.
It was the first time the committee for the Nobel Prize was awarded to a profit-making business. It was because "the selection seemed to embody two connected ideas that are gaining ground among development experts: That attacking poverty is essential to peace, and that private enterprise is essential to attacking poverty."
Dr. Yunus, founded the bank in his native Bangladesh to lend small amounts of cash -- often as little as $20 -- to local people, almost always women, who could use it to found or sustain a small business by, say, buying a cow to sell milk or a simple sewing machine to make clothing.
It was observed that the traditional banks considered such people too risky to lend to, and the amounts they needed too small to bother with. However, Dr. Yunus thought otherwise. He reasoned that, "the poor could be as creditworthy as the rich, if the rules of lending were tailored to their circumstances and were founded on principles of trust rather than financial capacity." Additionally, he found out that "they could achieve lasting improvements to their living standards with a little bit of capital." Isn't that amazing? Drawing on this principle, could we not take some examples from the Grameen Bank? Though Bangladesh may be different from The Bahamas in some ways, isn't there a definite need to continue the fight of the early fathers of this country in empowering people as opposed to making them dependent on others?
So, rather than setting up numbers houses in close proximity to each other, creating a sense of false hope and not lifting the values and morale of our people, let's seek ways to empower them. There must be local Muhammads existing throughout the country. Let's harness, process and implement some of the doable ideas resulting from our think tanks, radio talk shows and town meetings. Even the ideas of those Bahamians outside the country as well as the non-formally educated ones must not be ignored; for God does not discriminate in blessing people. To me, this is better than hoping for a certain number to fall, or hoping to win a lottery. Yes, some will win, but too many will lose. I must also mention the likely vices that could result from gambling, especially when one loses. Our people must be innovative and not just follow-along consumers.
The church is to play a role
While the church has received much criticism, it is to play its role. Using the Bible as its guide, it realizes that according to Genesis 1-2 man was made in the likeness of God and endowed with much potential and usefulness. Accordingly, the church seeks to get the message across to all mankind explaining that God has a purpose for one's life. He/she was designed for more than waiting and just hoping for something to happen. God wants all to recognize what He has already placed in man to help him realize his design for greatness.
At the same time, employing the example of God, the church recognizes that God gave man a choice; and as dangerous as that ability is, God empowered human beings with it. There was that risk that man would choose to go contrary, but God still gave the choice. However, the church observes that the gift of choice does not mean that the church shirks its responsibility of teaching and informing mankind of consequences of decision-making. In fact, it is more incumbent on the church to instruct and inform but never to force one against his will. Therefore the Seventh-day Adventist Church will not argue against one's right of choosing, but seek aggressively to inform and instruct in the ways of God. We have been doing this prior to the announcement of the referendum, and even after it, we will continue. However, as this article is about alternatives, I turn to a biblical example in summing up.
Recall the Joseph principle
The world of Joseph, as recorded in Genesis 41, was headed for the worst recession to be brought on by a seven-year famine. Nevertheless, God in His own way chose to communicate in a dream, a plan to a heathen king -- one who did not worship Him. However, He would give the ability to interpret that dream to a young Hebrew prisoner in Egypt named Joseph. I noted that the plan He gave Pharaoh through Joseph was a simple but powerful life-saving one. It required planning and discipline. Pharaoh was encouraged to collect 20 percent of all the produce during the seven years of plenty in order to prepare for the seven years of famine. The rest of the story reveals that people from everywhere came to Egypt for sustenance during the lean years. Now think about how many would have died had God not provided the plan! Fast forward from then to our time. Is there no God? Doesn't the same God exist in The Bahamas today? I declare that He does. He wants His children to recognize that which He placed within each of us. Says the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7, "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all." Were it not for this hope being revealed to me some 35 years ago, I would be hopeless and lacking in my interest and concern for others. There are alternatives; and they will be found when we seek God. Also, this example teaches us the value of saving for the lean years. The country during its prosperous years must learn to put aside for its not-so-prosperous ones. It is simple but calls for discipline!
The year 2013 is only at its sunrise, yet three major international events have set the tone for a Cassandra-like adventure for the forthcoming days in Haiti.
o The United States and Canada have sent a travel warning discouraging their citizens from visiting Haiti because of alleged insecurity.
o The Canadian international aid agency is freezing aid to Haiti because of poor results.
o The Turks and Caicos immigration minister has sent a memo to pursue Haitian people in the territory whenever they might be found.
Yet, I am advising the Haitian people to have no fear because, with St. Michael up front and St. Laurent at the back, the barque will remain au beau fixe on the water.
As a practicing Catholic, I am aware of the power of St. Michael, as he was instructed by God to take the leadership in chasing out from heaven the rebellious angels led by Satan to insult the Maker. His power in protecting the believers on earth was reminded to me by a good friend, Bishop Jean Marie Kozick, the superior and the founder of the Catholic institution, Fraternity Notre Dame. I was not aware of the powerful influence of St. Laurent. My father's driver told me of the mythic hand of St. Laurent, who is the patron saint of his village. He told me the pilgrims there need not engage into voodoo practice because, with a candle at the feet of St. Laurent, justice will be done swiftly against those who do them harm.
While involved recently in my morning exercise it dawned on me that the appellation of Michel and Laurent rhyme with Michel Martelly, the president of Haiti, and Laurent Lamothe, his prime minister. I then amused myself with a script that hopefully Martelly the musician will put to music: With St. Michael up front and St. Laurent at your back, have no fear, Haiti, everything will be all right!
The story of international ostracism and Haiti is closely related. For 60 years after its independence, the United States imposed an embargo upon the new republic. It was so tight and so effective that the new countries of Latin America that gained their freedom due to the good auspices of the leaders of Haiti could not entertain intimate contact with the country.
It took the humanitarian leadership of the Vatican to break the ice and open the first international relations with Haiti, opening the door to the United States to follow with Frederick Douglass as its first ambassador to Port au Prince in 1862.
The on and off relationship of gunboat diplomacy has been a constant staple of Haiti with the major powers of the world. Germany, Holland, France and the United States used their influence to have their citizens enforce military penalty against usurious loans made for arms that fomented endless internal conflict and revolutions in the country.
Today, under the disguise of insecurity, Canada and the United States have issued a travel warning for their citizens, claiming Haiti is too fragile to permit their people to enjoy the idyllic culture, weather, music and cuisine of the country.
I have in a previous essay revealed the fact that the major travel wholesalers are eager to take the case of Haiti and sell its sand, sea and surf to tourists eager to taste the next big thing in the Caribbean where unbeaten paths lead to unknown sensations that will last a lifetime.
The great shakers of international public opinion, whether from the United States or Europe, have often said when they need inspiration, Haiti was their preferred destination.
The Christian denominations of the United States and of Canada have found a field day in Haiti, where any seedling they put in the ground grows by leaps and bounds in the heart of the people, rewarding the givers more than the receivers.
Haiti, amongst all the islands of the Caribbean, has one of the lowest rates of murder and general crime incidents. The population is extremely poor but very resilient and proud. Whether in the countryside, where the police presence is null, or the crowded slums of the cities, the Haitian people are surviving every day with a solidarity that sustains life on a shoestring.
Visiting Haiti is an education and a life-changing event for the spoiled children of Canada, the United States or Europe. Countless people from the fast-paced life of New York, London or Paris have felt, upon their return from Haiti, renewed and rejuvenated.
On the issue of the Canadian aid, the Minister of Finance of Haiti Marie Carmelle Jean Marie told the press that there is not one cent from Canada in the Haitian treasury. Indeed a cursory review of the documents available will indicate that of the $60 million allocated by Canada in 2010 to Haiti, some $30 million went to WFP (World for Poor), $15 million went to UNICEF, $11.5 million was distributed to six Canadian organizations and $8.5 million went to the International Red Cross.
We have only to follow the trail of the money as described by Deborah Sontag in a recent article in the New York Times to understand that these funds leave "no permanent footprints" in Haiti.
Michelle Pierre Louis, Haiti's former prime minister, added: "All the money went to pay the salaries of foreigners and to rent expensive homes and cars for foreigners while the situation on the ground is degrading."
The story of American aid to Haiti is no different. Indeed the island nation is, after Afghanistan, the largest recipient of American aid in the 2011 budget year - $970,910,392. In an article published in The Associated Press, Martha Mendoza and Trenton Daniel found that "the fruits of the ambitious program of 1.8 billion dollars of the U.S. reconstruction program are hard to find". Indeed most of that money is still in the U.S. treasury, bogged down by red tape and the lack of coordination and capacity of absorption on the Haitian side.
While Haiti can rightfully be blamed for a deficit in infrastructure and a deficit in number of hotel rooms that can accommodate an avalanche of tourists, the issue of insecurity is a spurious one at best, disingenuous at worst.
As far as the chasing of the Haitians by the Turks and Caicos government, Haiti is occupying the chair of CARICOM for the next six months; the chairman, President Michel Martelly, will have to bring the issue of the orderly transfer of goods, services and human labor within the geography of the Caribbean, as such interstate commerce will spur the economic recovery of the region.
In the end, Julian Fantino, the Canadian minister of international cooperation, may have done more good than harm through his statement on freezing aid to Haiti; the donor countries will have to revise their plan of giving the lion's share of the funds to the NGOs.
Haiti will have to endure this embargo to concentrate in caring for its own citizens. Chile created its renaissance under the international embargo imposed upon Pinochet. A well-tended garden attracts birds from close and afar. With a population of 10 million people, Haiti has nine million people in extreme poverty to enrich through agriculture, animal husbandry and art craft. A sign, "Do not disturb," will facilitate the task. May St. Michael and St. Laurent continue to assist and protect!
o Jean Hervé Charles LLB, MSW, JD, former vice-dean of students at City College of the City University of New York, is now responsible for policy and public relations for the political platform in power in Haiti, Répons Peyisan. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
We appear on the verge of an extraordinary betrayal of the Bahamian people, made even more heart-wrenching because it is at the hands of our very own, not those of slave masters and colonial rulers.
It is a betrayal of various core principles of the second emancipation of majority rule, of a certain promise of independence, and a betrayal of the poor and the middle class.
Instead of a national or public lottery benefitting significantly more Bahamians, the incumbent government seems hell-bent on regularizing/legalizing a privately owned lottery system in which the majority of the profits accrue to already wealthy numbers barons, with the government receiving some funds from taxing the private lottery.
Regularizing a private lottery will be one of the greatest legalized mass transfers of wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthy in an independent Bahamas.
Imagine if the old guard had concocted a scheme pre-1967 to establish a private lottery in which the overwhelming bulk of the proceeds went to certain benefactors and fat cats at the expense of poorer and middle-class Bahamians.
One can imagine the progressives in the PLP of that day pressing hard for a national lottery in order to benefit the mass of Bahamians.
Sadly, the new guard in the PLP is now acting like the old guard. The poor and middle class are secondary at best. Clearly the PLP oligarchy is more committed to serving its own greedy economic interests at the expense of the Bahamian people.
If the PLP proceeds with its private lottery scheme, history will record that this betrayal of the common good by private greed was led by Perry Gladstone Christie and the new guard oligarchs.
The betrayal is breathtaking given our history and the great needs of our still developing country 40 years after independence. We will have come full circle with the PLP becoming the face of the very thing it fought against in the struggle for majority rule. The very party which preached social justice seems set to turn its back on the poor, handing wealthy numbers barons millions more.
A private lottery is good old right wing economics which might find favor in the U.S. Republican party, not something one might expect of a party which bills itself as progressive and liberal.
To understand the moment is to appreciate our Bahamian journey and narrative as well as to be seized by the possibilities of a national lottery for national development.
Enduring slavery and colonial rule, the mass of Bahamians enjoyed scant political and economic freedom. Still, the descendants of slaves struggled for both, creating civic, economic, religious and eventually political organizations as a means of empowerment and expression.
The struggle for economic survival and advancement was hard and fraught for the majority of black Bahamians. With little access to financial capital they leveraged the capital they possessed such as ingenuity, hard work and communal ties.
Early on, this involved institutions like the asue or sou-sou, an informal savings arrangement derived from an African-based system of cooperation.
The story of the flowering of black entrepreneurship, especially Over-the-Hill, is still to be written in greater detail. These stories of risk-taking and ingenuity contradict the lie by some that black Bahamians were not possessed of various entrepreneurial gifts.
Since majority rule and independence there has been a flourishing of the middle class, especially of black Bahamians. In 40 years of independence the country has made great strides in terms of economic empowerment for scores of Bahamians.
Still, there remains much to be done to empower more Bahamians economically including greater access to capital for entrepreneurs to help stimulate domestic and home-grown investment. A national lottery would be a source of significant capital to help stimulate domestic development.
Today, many in the middle class are struggling with the proverbial Bahamian dream especially after the Great Recession of 2008 and the resulting new normal of an economic landscape marked by slower growth and significant challenges in the tourism sector.
Amidst these economic challenges the wealth derived from the numbers business in the form of a national lottery can be utilized to broaden economic development and empowerment.
Unlike other economic enterprises, those who run the numbers houses produce nothing of economic value in terms of the numbers business itself.
Instead of allowing these barons to hoard our money for themselves, we should have our money collected into a public lottery with the bulk of the proceeds being returned to the Bahamian people.
Money pours out of poorer neighborhoods and many Family Island communities into the bank accounts of a relative few, with next to nothing returning to these communities, often leaving them even more impoverished.
These communities do not need Christmas parties and giveaways. They need concentrated economic and social investments partly derived from a national lottery in which money is reinvested in these communities.
The idea of allowing Bahamians a few shares in the numbers business was meant to sweeten the pot and drum up support for the yes vote in the gaming referendum/opinion poll.
Instead of a few shares, a few tokens to the masses, the Bahamian people should be the majority shareholders and owners of a legalized lottery system, a sort of modern asue that can be used to advance national development, more of which next week.
In days of old, slave masters, colonialists and the old guard hoarded wealth and rigged the economy to benefit their private interests at the expense of the public good.
How shameful that a new guard which came into being to fight such entrenched greed at the expense of the mass of Bahamians now seems set to turn its back on the majority of Bahamians in thrall to a wealthy minority interest, making a mockery of much of the struggle for majority rule.
Bahamians do not need scraps from the numbers banquet table. The table and the full meal belong to the people, not to a selfish oligarchy and its benefactors.
o email@example.com, www.bahamapundit.com.
CARICOM countries have ratified both the 1979 U.N. Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the 1994 Inter-American Convention of the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women.
Both conventions recognize that violence against women constitutes a violation of human rights and is a form of gender-based discrimination. Both conventions utilize the definition of gender-based violence as set forth in the U.N.'s Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (DEVAW).
Further, The Bahamas is a signatory to the Caribbean Community's (CARICOM) 2003 gender mainstreaming strategies. This platform of action concerns the process of developing policies and programs that are gender sensitive and equitable and lead towards gender equality and the positive transformation of gender relations.
It refers categorically to "the right of all to live free of violence and the fear of violence, in particular, the right of women and girls to be free of gender-based violence, especially sexual violence", outlined in the Plan of Action to 2005: Framework for Mainstreaming Gender into key CARICOM Programmmes.
In addition, the following international agreements make specific reference to violence against women: Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1990, the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action on Human Rights of 1993 and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on Women of 1995.
The state has primary responsibility for the prevention and elimination of gender-based violence in such areas as legislation, the criminal justice sector, economic and social policies, health and social services, school curriculum, public education and awareness.
It has the capacity and mechanisms to coordinate all sectors of society such as schools, local communities, health and social welfare agencies, the media, churches, corporations and international agencies in addressing successfully the issue.
There has, however, to be a political will on the part of the government that is focused, strategic and committed to the goal of prevention and elimination of violence against women.
No doubt, such a political will has to crystallize around the sustained action of a women's movement that not only has a clear understanding of the causes of violence against women and girls but also a clarity in regard to its own power to demand that the state exercise its political will in this regard.
In the In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence against Women: Report of the Secretary General of 2006, a human rights-based analysis of the causes of violence against women and girls is stated as follows:
"The central premise of the analysis is that the specific causes of such violence and the factors that increase the risk of its occurrence are grounded in the broader context of systemic gender-based discrimination against women and other forms of subordination.
"Such violence is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between women and men reflected in both public and private life.
"Historically, gender roles -- the socially constructed roles of women and men -- have been ordered hierarchically, with men exercising power and control over women.
"Male dominance and female subordination have both ideological and material bases. Patriarchy has been entrenched in social and cultural norms, institutionalized in the law and political structure and embedded in local and global economies. It has also been ingrained in formal ideologies and in public discourse.
"Patriarchy restricts women's choices but does not render women powerless, as evidenced by the existence of women's movements and successful claims by women for their rights."
I draw to the attention of the members of the House of Assembly to the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) on violence against women. The IPU is the international organization of parliaments established in 1889.
It supports the work of the United Nations and cooperates with regional inter-parliamentary organizations and non-governmental organizations.
In 2008 at an international conference, A Parliamentary Response to Violence Against Women, held in Geneva, the IPU identified key elements and strategies for the prevention of violence against women. One of the six priorities for parliamentarians to consider is as follows:
"Parliamentarians must build their parliaments' capacities to take action to put an end to violence against women. They should look at what parliamentary mechanisms can be developed to support work on violence against women. The establishment of a specific parliamentary committee on violence against women could be an option."
I strongly urge that a parliamentary committee be convened for the specific purpose of addressing the issue of prevention and elimination of violence against women.
In light of remarks made by Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller that he used to beat an ex-girlfriend, this committee's first task might be to build its capacity through a profound understanding and education of the causes of violence against women.
There are many resources available in the wider community to facilitate such understanding. Further, the IPU report itself lays out a systematic plan of action for the work of a parliamentary committee in preventing and eliminating violence against women.
Finally, I refer us to the World Health Organization report entitled Violence Prevention: The Evidence (2010) that states as follows:
"Despite the fact that violence has always been present, the world does not have to accept it as an inevitable part of the human condition...Violence can be prevented. This is not an article of faith, but a statement based on evidence."
o Marion Bethel is a poet, short story writer, essayist and attorney.
Non-communicable diseases (NCD) are an "epidemic" in The Bahamas that cause 60 percent of all deaths and afflict half of the people who are checked into local public hospitals, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said yesterday at the United Nations (UN) high-level meeting on the prevention and control of NCDs.
Ingraham, speaking at United Nations Headquarters in New York City, also said NCD sufferers in The Bahamas typically require a convalescence period of seven days in hospital and they cause half the deaths of people 45 years and older.
He added that NCDs are putting an increased strain on the health care system of The Bahamas. "Health and related socio-economic costs associated are enormous," Ingraham said.
Of the drugs administered through the National Prescription Drug Plan (NPDP), which was implemented by the government last year, those that treat hypertension and diabetes represent 80 percent of the cost of the plan, according to the prime minister.
He told the room of high-level, global government officials that the NCD "epidemic" has forced his government to strengthen the health care system by integrating family medicine specialists at primary health care clinics, rolling out the NPDP, promoting healthy living, facilitating patient self-management programs, partnering with non-governmental organizations, developing national food and nutrition guidelines and policing and improving NCD services through the appointment of a stakeholder committee.
Ingraham said to the group that more has to be done to stem the increase of NCDs.
He suggested that the UN increase international and regional budgetary allocations, increase access to training in policy formulation, change policies for inter-sectoral involvement in the NCD prevention initiative, and share best practices in trade and industry.
"My government welcomes this morning's adoption of the Political Declaration as a sound platform upon which to build," Ingraham said.
"Nevertheless, we note many of its shortfalls, particularly in the areas of concrete commitments towards scaling up of resources and actions at all levels and more importantly, the lack of agreement on establishment of an effective follow-up mechanism."
He also noted generally, that governments have to continue to promote healthy lifestyles and appropriate food choices for children.
"My government applauds some of the initiatives undertaken to curb the increasing rate of childhood obesity," he said. "We must continue to fight the global health challenges facing us. We owe it to future generations."
To be considered by political parties during election time groups and individuals at least have to be interested in the political process. The apathetic, uninterested and uninvolved are more likely to be ignored.
Young Bahamians, those under 35, have an opportunity in the months to come. The more that group engages with the democratic process, the more its issues will be part of the campaign.
For this to take place, young Bahamians must register to vote, go to political meetings and participate in discussions, form groups in and outside of political parties to project a collective voice, write to newspapers, call talk shows and read.
The issues of crime, education and joblessness are key issues nationally, but they are especially of concern for the young. Young men are the main group incarcerated. Young people are the ones most recently exposed to the poor national education system and many of them now face difficulty finding jobs.
The first step to pushing for change in these areas is engagement. Too many young people have embraced vacant consumerism - that is, the mindset that life is merely about enjoying the pleasure derived from purchasing things. Too many young people also spend too much time focused on entertainment culture. The latest song, TV show and film are more a focus for some than why it is that the public education system in The Bahamas produces such poor results.
In democracies we the people are responsible for agitating for the change we desire. It is not good enough to complain from the sideline while no effort is being made to bring about the result that is hoped for.
When politicians see well organized groups or passionate individuals who will not back down, in free societies they listen. And at election time they listen and attempt to satisfy those people or groups in the hope of securing votes. The young should seize this moment.
Remembering those who sacrificed
With Remembrance Day being celebrated yesterday we should not forget, in the contemporary setting, those in our security forces who sacrifice much to keep us safe. They do today something similar to what those soldiers of yesteryear did to ensure we have the freedoms we now have.
Our police and defence forces, prison officers and immigration and customs officers in various ways put themselves in harm's way to ensure that we can live more peaceful lives. The men and women of these organizations do not make large salaries. They are often criticized also when they do not get it right or when some who wear the uniforms violate the law and trust of the community.
The overwhelming majority of the men and women in these organizations, however, are honest and hardworking and we owe them our gratitude. Some of the work they do will never be seen or will never be known. That work makes The Bahamas a better place.