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Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Member of Parliament for Fox Hill Fred Mitchell and a slew of opposition supporters are badgering Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham to take part in a national debate. This proposed debate, which would be aired on national TV and radio, would be between the leaders of the PLP and the Free National Movement (FNM). Of course, McCartney would also take part in the debate. In fact, I understand that he was the first to call for one. According to the press, Opposition Leader Perry Christie has agreed to take part in this debate. If my memory serves me correctly, Christie took part in a political debate in 2002. Ingraham, however, has declined to participate.
Apparently, this has angered some Bahamians, including many intellectuals. I have heard several chronic callers to a popular radio talk show in New Providence voicing their utter displeasure with the prime minister's refusal to participate in the debate with Christie and McCartney. There have also been several prominent journalists from Nassau who are calling on Ingraham to take part in the debate. Even the MP for Fox Hill has called on the prime minister to stop "ducking and dodging and agree to the debate", according to the January 25 edition of The Nassau Guardian. Quite frankly, I don't know why Mitchell and many of the chronic callers to the radio talk shows in New Providence are so up in arms over Ingraham's refusal to debate. It's not like they are going to support Ingraham at the polls. What could the prime minister possibly say in the debate that would change these people's minds and cause them to support him on Election Day?
As far as I am concerned, their minds are already made up on who they will be supporting at the polls. I have noticed that the most vocal advocates for this national debate are opposition supporters. These persons are only interested in humiliating the nation's leader before a live TV audience. That is all there is to it. This has nothing to do with deepening our democracy.
I had heard a PLP radio talk show host telling his guest that Christie is a better orator than Ingraham; and that he would easily win the debate. Well, if this is so, why are these people so interested in getting the prime minister to participate in the debate? I wonder if opposition supporters would have agreed to a live TV debate in the 1970s and 1980s. Personally, I don't think they would have. But now they are eager to get Ingraham to take part in one.
We already have more than enough debates in the House of Assembly. What more do these people want? We need to stop trying to follow America in everything she does. Not because U.S. presidential candidates take part in debates does it mean we must follow suit. The majority of blue collar Bahamians could care less about a national debate. They are more concerned about the government creating opportunities for them to thrive economically. And besides, it is more than likely that the participants of this debate would only be talking above the heads of the common people.
Again, the persons who are badgering Ingraham to participate in this debate are only interested in seeing him get embarrassed on national TV and radio. These people are anxious to call in to the radio talk shows the morning after the debate in order to say how miserably Ingraham performed. I can just imagine the PLP radio talk show hosts giving their analysis of the debate by saying how Christie bested Ingraham and made the leader of the nation look like a dimwit. I don't believe these people when they say that they only want to see our political leaders debate the major issues affecting this country. They are being disingenuous.
- Kevin Evans
Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Darron Cash yesterday accused Prime Minister Perry Christie of "waffling" and hiding information about the government's negotiations with Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) to regain the majority shares in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC).
Cash said Christie appeared to be "in denial" over the fate of his administration's plan to take control of BTC...
In the December 8 edition of The Nassau Guardian under the title, "Ingraham: FNM eyeing fresh faces", the prime minister said that not all members of Parliament who were elected on the Free National Movement's ticket will be nominated, as the party seeks to bring in new faces.
The article went on to say that several MPs will not be seeking re-election, including North Eleuthera MP Alvin Smith and South Abaco MP Edison Key.
Interestingly, the article did not mention anything about High Rock MP Kenneth Russell, Lucaya MP Neko Grant and Eight Mile Rock MP Verna Grant. Further, the article said nothing about Clifton MP Kendal Wright or even Kennedy MP Kenyatta Gibson. It was rumored through the press that both Kendal Wright and Verna Grant would resign from the governing party, forcing the prime minister to call a snap election, but this did not happen.
The elimination of the constituencies of Eight Mile Rock and Clifton was interpreted by some political observers as a shrewd move by Ingraham to get rid of Wright and Grant. With respect to the renaming of the High Rock and Lucaya constituencies to East Grand Bahama and Central Grand Bahama, this was also seen as a move by Ingraham to get rid of Kenneth Russell and Neko Grant. If my memory serves me correctly, Neko Grant has been an MP since 1992; Russell since 1997. Verna Grant is currently serving her first term in the House of Assembly.
In the December 8 edition of The Freeport News, the prime minister said that on December 5, the governor general signed the order to reduce the number of seats in the House of Assembly to 38 and in the coming weeks the FNM would be selecting and nominating its slate of candidates. As it stands right now, there are a lot of rumors circulating throughout Grand Bahama as to who the prime minister wants to run in West Grand Bahama, Central Grand Bahama and in East Grand Bahama.
It is safe to assume, I think, that the MP for Marco City and Minister of State for Finance Zhivargo Laing and MP for Pineridge and Deputy Speaker in the House of Assembly Kwasi Thompson will both get the nod to run in 2012. The question that every 'political animal' on Grand Bahama is asking, however, is who does the prime minister plan to run in West Grand Bahama, Central Grand Bahama and in East Grand Bahama?
Barbara Watkins of The Freeport News said that there are reports that the FNM is courting educator Norris Bain and media personality Pakeshia Parker-Edgecombe to run in Grand Bahama. There are also news reports that Kay Forbes-Smith, Senator Michael Pintard and the Rev. Frederick MacAlpine are under consideration by the governing party. In a moving contribution that she gave to the debate on the constituencies commission report in the House of Assembly on November 30, Eight Mile Rock MP Verna Grant said the following: ''I am coming, West Grand Bahama and I hope you receive me.'' If I am interpreting her correctly, it would appear as if the MP meant that she would be seeking to get the nomination to run in West Grand Bahama. Yet her name isn't mentioned at all in any discussion as to who will be running for the FNM in 2012. Quite frankly, I don't honestly believe that the prime minister wants to run Verna Grant again. I think Grant knows this also. That is why many persons believed that she would resign from the FNM after the boundaries commission had proposed that her constituency be eliminated. However, it was reported by the December 8 edition of The Tribune that the Eight Mile Rock MP had telephoned the prime minister and had informed him that she will remain with the FNM. From what I am reading in the press, it appears as if the Eight Mile Rock MP was deeply hurt by the leadership of her party. It appears as if she is against the move to eliminate her seat. Who can blame her?
For months now I have been hearing reports that the prime minister wants to run Kay Forbes-Smith in West End and Bimini. Now that the constituency of Eight Mile Rock will be dropped, there are some who postulate that the prime minister might attempt to run Kay Forbes-Smith in West Grand Bahama. I have also heard reports that many FNM supporters on Grand Bahama are fiercely opposed to her running. If these rumors are indeed true, then this potential move by the prime minister could further demoralize an already vulnerable FNM party. With respect to Verna Grant, I would like to say this. I believe that she, as well as all the other FNM MPs for Grand Bahama, had missed a great opportunity to form a political caucus within the FNM government. The five Grand Bahama MPs should have lobbied the Ingraham administration to do more for this island. Without those five seats in Grand Bahama, the FNM wouldn't be the government today. In all honesty, I am very disappointed with their performance thus far. They should have been in the forefront of the battle with the Grand Bahama Power Company. Even though Grand Bahama's economy is bad, the power company continues to overcharge its customers. My power bill has increased in recent times. Yet I don't run my small air conditioner as I used to during the summer.
When groups like Operation Justice Bahamas were picketing in the front of Grand Bahama Power Company's office in Freeport, I didn't recall seeing any FNM representatives out there with them. I think Verna Grant should have been more vocal in the House of Assembly. Had she spoken out more for Grand Bahamians, I would have been one of the first ones to come to her defense.
Concerning Kenneth Russell, I have read and heard news reports that he plans to run in 2012. Obviously, Russell isn't going down without a fight. If Russell goes ahead with his plans to run despite what Ingraham has told the press, then this will create an explosive political situation in East Grand Bahama. If the FNM party rejects his nomination bid, and he ends up running as an independent candidate, this could open up the door for the Progressive Liberal Party to steal that seat, if the opposition runs a candidate in that constituency, of course. It appears as if the prime minister and Russell are not seeing eye to eye.
In regards to Neko Grant,no one knows what he plans to do. Will he also defy his leader and run? Again, the prime minister is flirting with political disaster.
However, the question that I would like to ask is this: why is the prime minister so determined to get rid of the two Grants and Russell? Further, did the leader of the FNM inform Verna Grant that her seat would be cut before it was reported in the press? Did he inform the MPs for Lucaya and High Rock that the FNM doesn't plan to run them in 2012 before it was reported in the press? Also, does Neko Grant even want to resign?
The constituencies of High Rock, Lucaya and Eight Mile Rock are FNM strongholds. All three incumbent MPs in those three Grand Bahama constituencies would have easily won their contests in 2012. Yet the prime minister is still determined to pull the rug from under them, so to speak. In the final analysis, I cannot in good conscience condone what Ingraham is doing to the two Grants and Russell. If the FNM supporters on Grand Bahama don't want them to run, then they should come out of their closets and say so.
Moreover, I believe the FNM's greatest challenge heading into this general election will be in New Providence, not in Grand Bahama. I believe that the FNM will lose the constituencies of Garden Hills, Golden Isles, Marathon, Pinewood, Mount Moriah, Sea Breeze, South Beach, Tall Pines (Blue Hills) and maybe even Carmichael.
If anything, the prime minister should have made his political chess moves in New Providence. What Ingraham is doing in Grand Bahama will have very little bearing on the outcome of the general election. Furthermore, I don't honestly believe that the prime minister has earned the right to do what he is doing this time around. Many Grand Bahamians are catching eternal hell with this stubborn recession. As far as I am concerned, Ingraham is only giving his political detractors more fodder to chew on. All that will be accomplished at the end of the day is a deeply divided party and a few former FNM MPs and candidates who will be holding deep grudges against the prime minister.
- Kevin Evans
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham recently told The Nassau Guardian that the House of Assembly must be dissolved by May 22 under the constitution. According to the same report in The Nassau Guardian, the election would then be within 90 days. This means that Ingraham could push the election date to June, July or even August, if he so chooses. He would be well within the boundary of the constitution. Therefore, as far as the constitution is concerned, the prime minister has at least five months in which to call an election. But it now appears unlikely that he will take advantage of this extra time.
I am beginning to suspect that the prime minister will call for the election to be held between May 2 and May 22. I cannot envisage the Ingraham administration going beyond the May 23 date.
PLP supporters are already saying that Ingraham is reluctant to name a date for the election because he knows that his party will suffer a crushing defeat at the polls. It cannot be denied that the PLP has plenty momentum on its side. Opposition Leader Perry Christie and Deputy Leader Philip 'Brave' Davis have done a masterful job at convincing many Bahamians who are financially struggling that the policies of the Ingraham administration have made the recession much worse. Whether this argument is true or false is a moot point. The fact of the matter is that when the economy is in a recessionary state and the masses are struggling to eke out a living, it is a high possibility that they will vent out their frustrations against the incumbent government at the polls.
A man who has lost his home to foreclosure will more than likely blame the sitting government for his financial woes. Casting his ballot against that government would be tantamount to taking the opium drug. It will cause him to forget his misery, if only momentarily on election day. This is not to suggest that the FNM government is to blame for the recession, but what does one say to an individual who has been jobless for months, or even years?
My point is this, the prime minister obviously knows that this is not the ideal period to be holding elections. But according to the constitution, an election must be held within five months, come hell or high water. Whatever his apprehensions are, if there are any of course, Ingraham is compelled to call an election very soon. He has no choice. The prime minister, who has won three general elections, in 1992, 1997 and 2007, faces his toughest re-election bid this time around. He has been in the House of Assembly since 1977, and has served as chairman of the PLP under the leadership of his former political mentor, Sir Lynden O. Pindling. Ingraham obviously knows how to win a general election. He was nicknamed the "Delivery Boy" in 1992 by Sir Lynden; and he has delivered three nonconsecutive election victories for the FNM. This is something Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield and Sir Kendall Isaacs were unable to do. But he will now have to convince the Bahamian electorate, thousands of whom are either underemployed or unemployed, to give him another five-year term in office. Furthermore, the prime minister will also have to deal with an unacceptably high crime rate that is gripping the capital, the grossly mismanaged New Providence Road Improvement Project and the Coconut Grove Business League. Ingraham will have to convince the masses that he has what it takes to put this nation back on the right track. Perhaps his greatest challenge will be in Grand Bahama, FNM country, which has been hit hardest by the economic downturn.
In light of all that this nation has endured over the past five years, time is clearly of the essence for the Ingraham administration. In so many ways, today's political climate is eerily similar to the period leading up to the 1992 general election. According to noted historian Michael Craton, the then opposition FNM in 1992 was upset that the Pindling administration did not call for that year's election to be held on or before June 20. The Pindling government insisted that they had until the fifth anniversary of the opening of the existing Parliament, in September 1992.
The House of Assembly was finally dissolved on July 21 and elections were held on Wednesday, August 19. The election date, according to Craton, provoked some of the most heated debates in Parliament. If the prime minister goes beyond the month of May, then all hell will break loose in this country among radical opposition supporters. They will no doubt react in the same manner as the FNM did in 1992.
I saw the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) on the front page of the March 14 edition of The Freeport News, calling for the implementation of a fixed election date. I agree with the DNA wholeheartedly. I don't believe that a country is truly democratic if only one man knows when the election will be held.
The matter of electoral reform should not be a divisive issue. In fact, I don't think that we would need to even hold a referendum concerning this fundamental issue. The overwhelming majority of Bahamians would favor such a move, I think. This matter should be at the top of the list of priorities for whichever party wins the next election.
In summation, Ingraham should throw down the gauntlet and name the election date immediately. Let the chips fall where they may. While I appreciate the fact that the prime minister and the leadership of the FNM might be a bit apprehensive in naming a date at this juncture, holding off until the last possible second will not help their cause at all. What will happen on that day will happen on that day. This country needs to get it over and done with. Besides, the outcome of the general election has already been determined by the Sovereign of the universe.
- Kevin Evans
By NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
IF BTC workers walk off the job, they have "no guarantee" of keeping their employment, warned Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, in his latest comments on the BTC sale.
"The truth of the matter is that for those who are employed at BTC and elsewhere in the public sector - I wish to caution them not to follow the current plans of the president of the NCTU and BCPOU; Ms Jennifer Isaacs-Dotson and Mr Bernard Evans - because when you walk off your job, if you do, there is no guarantee that you can come back to that job - no guarantee," said Mr Ingraham, while speaking to Free National Movement supporters in Grand ...
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham over the weekend cautioned public service workers against participating in any industrial unrest that may be called by the unions objecting to the sale of a majority stake in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC).
"I wish to caution them not to follow the current plans of the president of the NCTU and BCPOU [Jennifer Isaacs-Dotson and Bernard Evans] because when you walk off your job, if you do, there is no guarantee that you can come back to that job - no guarantee," Ingraham said.
"Jobs are scarce. Jobs are hard to find. And no one is able to stop you from cutting off your nose to spi ...
Prime Minister Perry Christie has dismissed a suggestion from head of the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU) Bernard Evans that he has been slow to act on his promise to get back a controlling interest in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) on behalf of the Bahamian people.
Asked by The Nassau Guardian to respond to Evans and the BCPOU, Christie said,
"I don't know what they wanted. I don't know what their interest is, but I'm acting on behalf of the Bahamian people and I'm acting on behalf of the Bahamian people in a way that I think is the best way to do it."
A week ago, Evans said the union is extremely disappointed that the government has yet to regain majority shares in BTC.
"We thought by now the government would have taken the two percent back," he said at a press conference at BCPOU Hall on Farrington Road.
"We have reached a point now where our people are dying, and I don't know that we can wait on the timing of the government to do what they have to do."
Christie indicated, however, that he will not be rushed on the matter.
"I set up a team of people to negotiate on my behalf," he pointed out.
"They have had detailed discussions with representatives. I have even spoken to the British government representative that has been involved in this, and I think Bahamians must come to understand that we're talking about trying to persuade a company that purchase 51 percent.
"Whether we like the deal or we don't like the deal, they purchased 51 percent and we're trying to get them to give up two percent. Now, if they (the union) think that I should go and nationalize it, then they are on their own because I do not propose to make such an intervention in this country.
"And therefore, I am doing it the way I know best to do it and that is through sitting in a very civil way, bearing in mind that I'm talking to people who own 51 percent.
"I, the Bahamian people, own 49 percent. In all that I do I must protect the interest of the 49 percent because there has been a sale and I cannot cause the company to lose value by decisions that I make."
Cable and Wireless purchased 51 percent of BTC in 2011. At the time, Christie, while opposition leader, warned the company that should the Progressive Liberal Party be returned to government, it would change the deal.
The promise to regain a majority of the shares featured prominently in the lead up to the 2012 general election.
Christie told The Guardian a final agreement will happen soon.
"There is an understanding in principle," he said.
"It would be an agreement when it is formalized. But there is an understanding in principle. We just have to work out certain contradictions...in terms of my being able to impress upon them what must be the final touches to what we have negotiated."
He also said, "I think the position accurately described now is that I have received submissions from them. They have received submissions from me.
"They have responded and now it is for me to give what I will consider to be a final response and I expect to do that momentarily so that we may reach a conclusion."
But he did not specify what the final agreement is likely to be.
Last week, Evans claimed the morale among BTC staff is at an all-time low.
"Cable and Wireless has proven in the worst way everything that we lamented during our fight in 2010 and 2011," he said.
Evans said he's hoping to meet with Christie to discuss the union's issues.
He claimed the mistreatment of workers "is blatant".
"The BCPOU calls on you sir (Christie) to bring this extended nightmare for us as workers and for the Bahamian people to an end," Evans said.
But Geoff Houston, BTC's CEO, said he was surprised by the concerns raised by the union's president.
By CELESTE NIXON
Tribune Staff Reporter
NEW postgraduates on Grand Bahama say they decided to further their education in an effort to help enhance the country's number one industry.
Over the weekend, three Grand Bahamian tourism executives obtained Master of Management degrees in Hospitality and Tourism through Revans University/ IMCA.
Graduates Raylene Gardiner, Shamine Johnson and Carmel Churchill want to focus on the challenges that face tourism in the Bahamas and in particular Grand Bahama, and explore untapped and underdeveloped areas of the industry.
Shamine Johnson, a manager with the Bahamas Hotel Association and Marina Operators of the Bahamas (MOB) ...
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- Despite choppy seas, forty two intrepid swimmers from age 7 to 61 took part in last Saturday's Paddle for Potcakes, the HSGB's annual "pre-Basra" swim race and family fun day. Congratulations to all the swimmers, (winners below) especially to 14 year old Joanna Evans who was the top overall swimmer, with a half mile time of 8:11. Michael McIntosh was the overall male swimmer with a time of 8:35. The swim relay race was won by the team of Lauren Butler, Michael Hendley, Sarah Hamilton and Letitia Parker.
Swimmers and spectators (including a few former shelter dogs!) then enjoyed an activity packed day of fun and sun, including tug-of-war, volleyball, food and drink, scavenger hunt for the kids, and a raffle with some great prizes. The Junkanoo Beach Club "Rottweilers" were the champions of both tug of war and volleyball, edging out the GB Nature Tours Labradors, and the HSGB Potcakes in hard fought bouts.
The HSGB would like to thank the many sponsors of this event, including the Garden of the Groves and Julie Ryan, Bahama Islands Info.com, Barefoot Marketing, Junkanoo Beach Club, GB Nature Tours, Western Air, Solomons, BWA, Bahamas Food Services, Dolly Madison, Bellevue Gifts, Caribbean Bottling, Control Chemicals, Larry and Carmen Albury, Kelly's Bakery, Paradise Water Sports, Kelly's, Taino Beach Resort (Sean Bastian), $2 Store and Butlers Specialty. Big thanks also to the hard work put in by Julie, Yvonne Morris, Beth and Ralph Hatfield, Desmond DeGregory, Max, Anna, Ivy Elden, Mark Neely, Bev Dobinson, Michelle Lovatt, Bert Bell, John Bradley and Stacey Bradley.
Two former bank workers were sentenced to prison yesterday for their roles in the theft of $1.3 million from Scotiabank's Nicholl's Town branch in 2008.
Supreme Court Justice Indra Charles jailed Natasha Evans, an assistant branch manager, and Tremelle Taylor, a teller, for 15 years and 10 years respectively.
The money has still not been recovered.
Loan officer Byron Roberts was sentenced to 12 months in prison under the terms of a plea deal.
Roberts, who worked as a loan officer, pleaded guilty in relation to five counts,
totaling $13,500. Roberts had until Friday to repay the money that he admitted stealing or another 12 months would be added to his sentence. It is unclear if he paid.
Charles ignored an appeal from the prosecutor Ambrose Armbrister to give Roberts a stiffer penalty for breaching the agreement. He faced a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Armbrister argued that Roberts failed to keep his promise to help with the recovery of the stolen money and to come clean about all he knew about the theft.
However, Charles said Roberts pleaded guilty because she accepted the sentence contained in the agreements.
Charles said, "Justice would not be seen to be done. I am bound by the plea agreements that I sanctioned."
Jeffery Lloyd represented Roberts. Roger Gomez Jr. represented Evans and Romauld Ferreira appeared for Taylor.