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The Cabinet of The Bahamas has a significant decision to make regarding future leadership of The College of The Bahamas, which intends to become a university in 2015.
In deciding whether to accept a recommendation to reappoint former embattled COB President Dr. Rodney Smith, the Cabinet will have to take into consideration complex issues stemming from a plagiarism scandal that ensnared Smith in 2005.
It is stunning to us and some other people that Smith is even being considered for the role, as it is unlikely that he would ever be able to shake the stigma associated with plagiarism.
That cannot be good for the future University of The Bahamas.
This, of course, does not subtract from his competence and qualifications as an academic or the leadership he displayed during his first stint as president.
This matter is less about second chances and more about guarding the integrity of the college and its academic policies.
In the world of academics, plagiarism is a cardinal sin.
Nine years after Smith's resignation, the issue is still front and center in discussions relating to him and considerations on whether he should be reappointed.
National Review confirmed weeks ago that the Presidential Advisory Search Committee recommended to Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald that Smith be reappointed president.
Smith has widespread support in the college community and it is recognized - even by those who supported getting rid of him in 2005 - that he had been effective in the role of president.
But Smith's reappointment could negatively impact the ability of COB professors to enforce its student policy against plagiarism.
Further, the next president of COB will lead the institution during one of the most defining periods of its history.
He or she will be the voice of the university in the local and international academic arenas. That person must inspire trust and respect, and must advance the credibility of the University of The Bahamas.
While Smith's ability has never been called into question and his academic credentials are impressive, the fact that he is associated with the most egregious error in academia will haunt both him and the institution if he is reappointed.
Though a lot of time has passed since the plagiarism debacle, the facts are unchanged.
In May 2005, Smith spoke at the college's Honours Convocation.
He used a portion of a speech given by New York University President Dr. John Sexton without providing attribution.
At the time, Franklyn Wilson was chairman of the College Council.
Jerome Fitzgerald, the now minister of education, was deputy chairman.
Alfred Sears, now chairman of the College Council, was minister of education.
During the firestorm that erupted after the convocation speech, the council appointed a special panel to look into the plagiarism blunder and recommend the way forward.
In its report, the panel recommended termination, saying it did not see how Smith would have cause to complain or feel aggrieved.
Four of the five panel members recommended termination while the late Professor Rex Nettleford, at the time vice chancellor emeritus of the University of the West Indies, wrote a dissenting view.
Smith insisted that his use of a portion of the speech without providing attribution did not amount to plagiarism because Sexton later said that his work is the property of the academic community.
However, the panel determined that Smith's action indeed amounted to plagiarism.
"While we are aware of some emerging thoughts on plagiarism which appear to be less demanding, a comparison of the Sexton text and the Smith text, using any widely accepted authoritative definition of plagiarism, leads easily to the conclusion that his omissions amounted to plagiarism," said the report, written by retired Justice Joseph Strachan on behalf of the majority.
"Nothing that was said to us by President Smith erases that. On the contrary, a part of what he said discloses ambivalence at best and being disingenuous at worst. We note his studious refusal to use the word 'plagiarism', choosing instead, 'intellectual property rights'."
The panel's report also said, "There are two occasions on which President Smith omitted to acknowledge his indebtedness to President Sexton, at the Honours Convocation and at the commencement; and hence, since each omission has the specific gravity, a conclusion that the requirements for cause are met follows irresistibly."
It also noted that the law provides that the council may remove the president from office on the ground of misconduct, inefficiency or other good cause.
"Of this subsection, it is enough to say that we consider the omissions to fall within that provision," the panel wrote.
The panel also recommended various options for handling the situation moving forward, saying that should Smith fail to resign within a specified period to be chosen by the council, the council would have no option but to terminate him.
The council was also advised to take the steps necessary for the "timely discharge of its contractual obligations to him".
In addition to Justice Strachan and Professor Nettleford, panel members included Anglican Archbishop Drexel Gomez (now retired); then Bahamas Ambassador to the United Nations Dr. Paulette Bethel and then President-elect of John Carroll University of Cleveland, Ohio, and former Vice Provost of the University of San Francisco Father Robert Niehoff.
The dissenting view was not made public.
Smith resigned in early August 2005 and later revealed that the council had asked him to, based on the panel's recommendations.
Wilson later confirmed that Smith had been paid the nearly $300,000 agreed to as a part of his buyout arrangement with the council.
COB moved on without Rodney Smith but never loss sight of its goal to attain university status.
In early 2014, the College Council surprised many when it advised that Smith was one of four candidates short-listed for the post of presidency.
Also shortlisted were Dr. Gregory Carey, Dr. Phillip Carey and Dr. Olivia Saunders.
Dr. Gregory Carey is an assistant professor and director of student summer research and community outreach, Center for Vascular and Inflammatory Diseases at the University of Maryland.
Dr. Phillip Carey is a full professor of sociology and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, North Carolina A&T State University.
Saunders is a professor in the School of Business at COB, former team leader of the University Transition Secretariat and former dean of business, hospitality and tourism studies.
Over a period of weeks, the candidates made their cases for why they should be appointed president.
When he addressed COB stakeholders in March, Smith said he was disappointed to have left the college amid the plagiarism controversy, but has returned and offered himself again for consideration in the national interest.
"I left feeling disappointed that even though I had taken a drastic reduction in income and returned home to serve, I was being rejected and did not feel the support I was promised," Smith said.
"My family and I have suffered for the past nine years emotionally and financially as a result. I am not a plagiarist, and I have never been accused of such before or since that incident.
"I am here today, offering myself once again to be of service to my country."
After we informed Wilson recently that the Advisory Search Committee has recommended that Smith be reappointed, we asked the former chairman if he thinks it would be a good move to make Smith president again.
Wilson said it would be a "significant error for the country" if Smith is reappointed to the top post.
He said he could not confirm that Smith's name has been forwarded to the minister of education for consideration.
But he said, "I personally would be disappointed if that were, in fact, the recommendation."
Wilson said, "I think it would be a significant cause for having to explain a lot to the public as to why that is the right thing to do.
"In doing so, I make it clear, there is no question about the competence of the gentleman. There is no question in my mind about that, but the issues left from the time of his separation from the college, they remain, and quite frankly his performance when he came back for the interview, I cannot believe that an objective analysis of his comments when he came back for this interview would leave him as [the best] candidate."
Of course, not everyone agrees with Wilson or National Review that Smith's reappointment would be an error.
When we contacted Bishop Gomez yesterday, he said that as a member of the panel in 2005 it was his view that Smith needed to be penalized.
But Gomez told us that, based on Christian principles, he believes in second chances and the plagiarism controversy should not block Smith's reappointment.
We contacted the bishop as he was close to the process that climaxed with Smith's resignation.
Gomez's comments to National Review came days after Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Search Committee Ruby Nottage blasted Wilson for expressing his opinion on this matter.
"The meticulousness of the search process as undertaken by the Advisory Search Committee could never, as claimed by Mr. Wilson, constitute a 'significant error' for the country, or be a 'significant cause' for explanation," said Nottage at a press conference at COB.
"This was a process in which all persons had the opportunity to participate.
"It is to be regretted that Mr. Wilson would seek to make such disparaging speculations on the decision process."
We think it is absurd to suggest that the former council chairman should not express an opinion over whether Smith should serve again as president.
In fact, we could think of no one more qualified to respond to our question on this matter more than two weeks ago, given the position Wilson held during the plagiarism debacle.
The response from Nottage and the search committee appears to have been an overreaction, especially since Wilson made no comments or innuendo on the work of the committee or the process involved.
On Thursday, we asked the current COB Council Chairman Alfred Sears whether he endorsed the search committee's response to Wilson.
Obviously careful in his response to that question, Sears said, "I support that we ought to defend the integrity of the process as a transparent and competitive process designed to serve the best interest of The College of The Bahamas and the Commonwealth of The Bahamas".
Again, we see no evidence where the integrity of the process has been attacked.
With the entire matter of Rodney Smith and his application for reappointment now sullied by another round of controversy, it is unclear at this point how long the Cabinet will take to make a decision.
Reappointing him president would likely be a huge distraction at a time when COB is undergoing the most significant transformation in its 40-year history.
This could make for a very rocky start for the university.
We quibble not with his qualifications. Smith is eminently qualified, as are all the other candidates whom we have seen in this process.
We are not focused on his qualification, and we advise those who are tasked with making the final determination not to be seduced by this factor either.
What has to be weighed here is that we are putting the final touches to what will be a national institution, The University of The Bahamas.
We cannot afford to lay the seminal blocks of what we wish to be a great institution with this gray cloud around its first president. We cannot afford this, and we will not stand for it.
For those making the final decision, we must remember that hard decisions must sometimes be taken when one is in the business of nation building. This is not for the faint of heart or the weak stomach. A decision to accept the recommendation of the committee to appoint Smith would, in fact, be an error on a national scale, the results of which would be more clearly seen into our future as a nation.
We cannot continue to ask our citizens to behave beyond reproach when our national decision making is left wanting.
We need to set the national bar higher than where we have it today and establish clear standards in public life.
Honourable Members will be aware that Mr. Ehurd Cunningham, former Acting Financial Secretary, passed away last weekend. I want to take this opportunity to express my personal gratitude and that of the Nation for the many years of dedicated and tireless service that he so warmly provided to his dearly beloved country. Mr. Cunningham was instrumental in initiating, and indeed championed, many of the fundamental and much-needed reforms to Government on which we are presently embarked. His memory will live on in the enhanced economy and society that will emerge from our efforts.
On September 23, 2013, the Supreme Court of the Dominican Republic handed down the decision TC0168/13 in the matter of Juliana Deguis Pierre, 28, a Dominican citizen with four children born in the Dominican Republic, ruling against her and all persons similarly situated.
The ruling stated that those persons born after 1929 in the Dominican Republic of parents who did not have proper documents while entering and continuing to live in the Dominican Republic without legalization are henceforth stripped of their Dominican citizenship. The ruling will be enforced by all the branches of the Dominican government.
While the decision is global, it is of particular concern to some 210,000 Haitian-Dominicans who were born in the Dominican Republic, have received their birth certificates, have been to school in the Dominican Republic, have lived a normal life in the Dominican Republic and have little or no attachment to the Republic of Haiti.
The Dominican Republic, as the United States, utilizes the concept of jus solis as the basis to confer citizenship on people born under the sun of its territory. The only exception to this rule has been children of diplomats accredited to the Dominican Republic who were considered persons in transit.
A 2004 law enshrined in the amended Dominican constitution of 2010 expanded the concept of persons in transit to include not only diplomats but also all persons who enter and remain in the Dominican Republic without proper documents. Their offspring would step outside the umbrella of jus solis and, as such, they could not benefit from Dominican citizenship.
The Supreme Court used a strict framework in rendering its decision in the matter of nationality of who is and who is not a citizen of the Dominican Republic. It sent scrambling the government and civil society, the Haitian and the international community that perceived an ethnic cleansing similar to or compared with what happened in Germany under Hitler, in Serbia under Milosevic and in Rwanda under Prime Minister Jean Kambanda.
E palante que vamos!
The Dominican Republic has been often in the news as a star nation that fits its slogan: We are pushing forward! Its tourism business might be along with The Bahamas a booming industry in the Caribbean. Its economy, in expansion since 2004, is sucking human resources (manual and professional) from Haiti to maintain the push forward. Its balance of payments with Haiti from which almost everything is imported (mostly after the earthquake of 2010) is an enviable position of master/servant. What, for God's sake, did the Dominican Supreme Court have in mind in rallying against itself the wrath of the civilized world in pointing the country as a pariah state that uses the cleansing doctrine to solve other structural problems?
Playing the double advocate
The Dominican Republic, with a population of 10 million people, as the Republic of Haiti, has been absorbing some one million Haitian people in its midst. In spite of infrequent skirmishes, life continues rather smoothly for this migrant population. Some 150,000 attend colleges and upon graduation they find jobs in the hotel industry that prize their command of different languages as well as their demeanor of hard and professional workers. Some 100,000 toil in the sugar cane industry, sometimes as slaves sent by their own government (in the past through a joint governmental agreement). They are now lured by unscrupulous brokers, leaving conditions at home that are inhospitable that make them easy prey for an illusory eldorado in Santo Domingo.
Stan Golf, in an op-ed in the Push, says it best: "The Haitians cut the cane, labor in the most exhausting factories, perform the most grueling work with the least money and much like the Afro-American and the Latinos in the United States they provide the super exploited economic and safety valve against the demands to increase wages."
It is hard for Haiti to blame a discriminatory situation in the Dominican Republic that it entertains itself at home. The living conditions in rural Haiti or in the shantytowns surrounding the cities is, to put it simply, inhumane. With no infrastructure and no institutional buildings in those catchment areas, past governments have been at best callous, at worst criminal, in dealing with their own citizens. A brain surgeon's qualification is not necessary to explain why so many poor Haitians are fleeing home seeking a friendlier sky not only in the Dominican Republic but also in The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominica, Florida and now Brazil.
The ghost of Plessey vs. Ferguson in the Dominican Republic
Homer Plessey was a rich citizen of New Orleans with light skin color. The law around 1892 in the United States and in Louisiana was that persons of color could not ride in the same train car with a white person. Homer Plessey was chosen to test the practice. Upon boarding the train in a white section and informing the conductor that he was a colored person, he was ordered to leave the car and sit in a black only compartment.
He refused, was escorted out and arrested. He later sued all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, where he lost. The court in a seven to one decision upheld the constitutionally of state laws that recognized the principle that in public facilities the doctrine of separate but equal shall remain the law of the land. It was such until 1954 when the decision was reversed by Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.
It is not difficult to envision the ghost of Homer Plessey in Juliana Deguis Pierre challenging the decision of the lower court until the Constitutional Court rendered its decision that stripped all persons similarly situated of Dominican citizenship, in particular its target the Haitian-Dominican community. Will it take 54 years to find the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. of the Dominican Republic so as to bring that nation to reason and into the humanist rationality as proffered by Emil Vlagki in his book "Les Miserables de la Modernite"?
The history of the Republic of Haiti and of the Dominican Republic is intertwined for the last five centuries. The big island or Ayti - land of mountains - as it was called by the Taino, was discovered by Christopher Columbus, on December 5, 1492, who renamed the island Hispaniola. The Spanish conquistadors who came along with Columbus took only 30 years to facilitate the decimation of the Taino population that was estimated at around one million people. It happened because they were submitted to hard labor and because the diseases brought by the Spaniards to the island, such as smallpox, measles, influenza, gonorrhea and typhoid, ran amok in a population not immune to such illnesses.
The richness of Hispaniola lured to the region French buccaneers, who settled first in the small island of Tortuga - la Tortue - before moving to the western part of the mainland. They grew in number and in strength, fighting with the Spanish until the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 settled the issue, granting the western part of the island to France and the eastern part to Spain.
With grueling slave labor imported from Africa, the western part became one of the most prosperous colonial sites of the world, enriching France up to 60 percent of its national budget. The eastern part languished under Spanish rule with only 6,000 inhabitants in Santo Domingo around 1697.
Through the Treaty of Bale in 1795, France took complete control of the island. It was also around this time that Toussaint Louverture came on the scene, defeating the British, the Spanish and later the French to govern the entire island around 1801. The independence of Haiti from France led by Jean Jacques Dessalines in 1804 left the eastern part an open front that could have brought back slavery to the newly independent country. As such, all governments thereafter have sought to fight to maintain control of the entire island.
Under Jean Pierre Boyer, the fourth Haitian president, his governance of the eastern part (as well as the western part) was so callous that the Dominicans organized a war of independence under the leadership of Pedro Santana, Francisco Sanchez and Ramon Malla leading to the liberation of the country on February 27, 1844, from the yoke of the Republic of Haiti.
The nation building process in the Dominican Republic was not a smooth one; dissension amongst the founding fathers led to the reoccupation of the Dominican Republic by Spain and the offer of annexation by the United States. It was again the Republic of Haiti that came to help the Dominican Republic regain once more its independence.
The Haitian and the Dominican dilemma
While Haiti in its first constitution stated clearly that from now and for the future all Haitians are black (in spite of the color of their skin), the Dominican Republic has enshrined in its ethos that all Dominican are white (in spite of the color of their skin).
One of the most revered Dominican heroes and presidents was Ulysses Heureaux or Lilis. He was a dark-skinned Dominican, the son of a Haitian father and of a mother from St. Thomas. He ruled the Dominican Republic for decades, building infrastructure and bringing stability to the nation.
Yet the Haitian card is put on the table every time a score must be settled by some politicians. Rafael Trujillo used the card to kill some 35,000 Haitian people around the border of Ouanaminthe and Dajabond in the Parsley massacre to take revenge against Haitians who were supposedly siding with the opponents of his government.
Is the nationality card a new tool crafted by the Dominican government and adopted by the judiciary to enforce the white only ethos for some political game? Haiti has played those two cards and it has failed miserably in both. In spite of the terms of its constitution that all Haitians are black, the light-skinned Haitians have dominated the political panorama for the first 150 years after the country's independence with no apparent nation building results. The rest of the nation's history has seen since 1946, or the last 50 years, the emergence of the dark-skinned Haitians in the sphere of power with similarly dim and poor results for the nation.
In conclusion: Two wings of the same bird
The Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic that occupies the same island named Ayti, by the Taino, or Hispaniola, by Christopher Columbus, are condemned to live together. Whether the two wings will fly in tandem to y palento que vamos - push the bird forward - will depend on the wisdom and the applied policies of the governments and civil society on both sides of the border.
I have often argued for the concept of hospitality for all as defined by Ernest Renan in his formula for building a great nation as the best model for y palento que vamos! The Dominican Republic, in spite of its slogan y palento que vamos, will stall in the long run if it continues to marginalize the weakest segment of its population, the Haitian-Dominican one, as well as the native-born dark-skinned Dominican.
The Republic of Haiti's operation decollage - operation take off - will remain on the ground as long as the majority of its population, rural Haiti and Haiti of the shantytowns, is treated as second-class citizen.
The best course of action for each one of those two nations is to start treating each one of its citizens as a valuable resource. Carthage, London, New York, Singapore and now Shanghai did not use any other method to occupy at a time in world history the status of the premiere city of the globe. They provided the best education to all citizens within their territory, and they incubated all the able bodies to create and produce for their benefit, and for the benefit of the nation, immense wealth.
In following these models, the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti will y palento que vamos huntos! They will be pushing forward together!
o Jean H. Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with caribbeannewsnow.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed for past essays at caribbeannewsnow/haiti. Published with the permission of caribbeannewsnow.com.
Members of the National Culinary Team have been selected and practicing for several weeks for the Taste of the Caribbean regional competition later in June in Miami. Meanwhile, the team will display their culinary skills at two upcoming public events starting with 'Sunset Tapas on the Bay' set for Tuesday, May 29 at Blu Restaurant and Lounge on Elizabeth and Bay.
According to team manager Executive Chef Devin Johnson, the team will showcase an assortment of tapas menu items at the reception which will be a blend of locally infused international works of culinary art.
"I believe the public will delight in both the creativity and taste of what the team is putting together," states Chef Johnson. "Mixing indigenous foods with traditional appetizers helps to hone our chef's skills. At the Taste of the Caribbean competition the judges will look for an infusion of international and local flair."
Tuesday's event will run from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. "With the backdrop of cruise ships berthed in Nassau Harbour, against the sounds of live Bahamian music, and the team's unique tapas selection and beverage offerings, this is a great opportunity for people to unwind from a busy day while showing their support for our up-and-coming young chefs," according to Bahamas Hotel Association President Stuart Bowe.
The tapas selection will include: cracked conch sushi; jerk chicken tartlets with guava BBQ sauce; Bahamian crawfish spring rolls with Asian dipping sauce; vegetable spring rolls; homemade combined veal, pork and beef meatballs with fresh sage and a tomato basil fondue; an asparagus, wild mushroom and roasted pepper pinwheel; and watermelon, papaya, cucumber and goat pepper gelee.
"The team has been practicing for six weeks and every week we see improvement," states Chef Johnson. "They've been working on techniques, beginning to gel more, and everyone knows their role. In the coming weeks it will come down to execution. That's why the tapas event at Blu and an upcoming team dinner at Atlantis on June 12 are so important."
The competition is sponsored by the Bahamas Hotel Association, the Ministry of Tourism and the Bahamas Culinary Association with support from team member hotels and restaurants and corporate sponsors Bahamas Food Services and Bristol Wines and Spirits. Blu and Atlantis are also assisting with hosting the team's two showcase events.
This year's team is comprised of: Team Manager Chef Devin Johnson from the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort; Team Captain Chef Jamal Small from Blu Restaurant; Chef Mychal Harris from Atlantis; Junior Chef Kevyn Pratt from One&Only Ocean Club; Chef Charron McKenzie and Pastry Chef Wenzil Rolle from the Lyford Cay Club; Chef Shanique Bodie from the Old Fort Bay Club; Bartender Gerard Knowles from the British Colonial Hilton; and Dwayne Sinclair, the National Young Chef from Temple Christian High School.
Over 14 Caribbean culinary teams will be vying for the culinary honors next month.
For additional information or tickets contact the BHA at 322-8381 or the Ministry of Tourism at 328-7810. Tickets will be available that evening at the door.
Despite not coming up with a medal on Friday, Joanna Evans and Laura Morley were still able to set new national records with their performances at the second Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China.
Evans managed to finish just fifth in the women's 400-meter (m) freestyle final, but her time of 4:12.14 topped the old record of 4:13.74 that she set just hours earlier in her qualification heat. Prior to yesterday the old record time in the 400m was 4:17.29, and was also set by Evans back in march at the Swift Swimming Championships in Nassau.
Hannah Moore of the United States finished first in the 400m final and scored her second gold medal of the championships. She won the race in a time of 4:11.05, followed by Sarisa Suwannachet, who finished in a close second with a time of 4:11.23 and Kathrin Demler out of Germany finished third with a time of 4:11.2.
Laura Morley competed in the women's 200m breaststroke but could only muster an eighth place finish in her preliminary race. Despite failing to advance, her time of 2:36.42 trumped the old national record of 2:37.97 set by McKayla Lightbourn at the 2008 CARIFTA swimming championships in Aruba.
The swimmers can now unwind in China, because yesterday marked the final day of swimming competition at the Youth Olympics.
In tennis, Rasheed Carey and his mixed doubles partner, Simona Heinova, of the Czech Republic, lost 2-0 in their quarterfinal match on court number two. They were defeated in straight sets by Stanislaw Zielinski, of Poland, and Jil Teichmann of Switzerland. The total time of the match was one hour and five minutes.
On the track, Drashanae Rolle finished fifth in heat number two of the women's 400m hurdles, with a time of 1:02.01 at the Nanjing OSC Stadium.
She finished 12th overall and although she failed to make it to the finals, she will be competing in the "B" finals on Monday at 7:05 p.m.
Paul De Souza was once again denied the chance to get out and sail on the Jinniu Lake. Yesterday was the second day that all sailing races were canceled due to inclement weather. The country's sole sailor is competing in the Byte CII Class - Men's One Person Dinghy, and will hopefully get a chance to get in the water at some point today. De Souza has yet to compete in race eight, nine or 10 of the 11 race course due to the weather. Officials are working on a new schedule for the sailors, and will release it at some point today.
The Bahamas will be looking forward to some good performances in athletics today at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre Stadium.
Tyler Bowe will compete in the men's 100m finals out of lane eight, and that race is set for 9:20 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).
Jenea Ambrose will look to make noise in the women's 100m final. She will be runnning out of lane two in the final that is set for 9 a.m. EST.
Henry Delauze was the first Bahamian athlete to make it into the final round, and will be competing in the men's 400m final that will begin at 10:06 a.m.
Almost 4,000 athletes from 204 countries are competing in 28 disciplines at this year's Youth Olympics.
The 42nd version of the CARIFTA Games, staged here earlier this year, was yet another indication of the potential the Bahamian sports industry has. Our track and field athletes performed with the courage of lions.
The Bahamas' eight gold, 10 silver and 13 bronze medals (31 in total) were good enough for second to Jamaica's 29, 25 and 15 for a total of 69. The difference between Jamaica and The Bahamas was clear. The medal count demonstrated the superiority of our sister Caribbean nation. Bahamian observers were heartened however by a few signs.
Of course, there was the great junior athlete Shaunae Miller, who sent a message to the world about the talent in The Bahamas, with her sensational runs in the under-20 female 200 meters (22.77) and 400 meters (51.63). Miller will not be there for The Bahamas when the supreme Caribbean junior track and field event is held in Fort-de-France, Martinique next year. She has moved out of the junior category.
The talent depth is here, though, for others to emerge and give this country the numbers to make a stronger challenge against Jamaica for the title. Spectators, particularly Bahamians, would recall with pride the awesome combination of under-20 female sprinters Devynne Charlton and Carmiesha Cox.
Charlton zipped across the finish in 11.60, just a hair ahead of Cox (11.61) in the under-20 female 100 meters (m) final. They will be eligible for The Bahamas once again. They provide a prime example of the grit of the Bahamian athletes. Our athletes have always performed gallantly. They have demonstrated year after year, an unflinching spirit.
That indomitable characteristic was there to be found in Bradley Cooper and his teammates during the late 1970s, when The Bahamas began the surge to the top. During the early 1980s when the country arrived at the pinnacle of CARIFTA Games glory by winning (in 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1984), our athletes were not to be denied. The group of stalwarts who carried our banner in battle so magnificently included Mark Johnson, Wendell Lawrence, Joey Wells, Pauline Davis, Monique Miller, Whelma Colebrooke, Laverne Eve, Michael Newbold, Stanford Moss, Lynden Sands, Steve Wray, David Charlton, Fabian Whymms, Oralee Fowler and Maryann Higgs.
Sadly, while the talent reservoir in The Bahamas remains the envy of the region, the development program is nothing to brag about at all. In fact, the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) does not have a vibrant national development program. Quite frankly, the athletes who do so well for this country are those who come out of the school programs. Others surface because their parents/guardians can afford to pay coaches to train them.
While the BAAA grabs the credit, the truth is well known. The time has come for the BAAA to focus on structuring a national program that reaches into every corner of every community in the country. There once was a time when a strong effort was made in that direction. There are those now associated with the BAAA, who know of the ventures made by the organization into a variety of islands to find raw athletic products.
Subsequently, several attempts at talent-search programs stalled. Today, the BAAA does not have a strong development program that covers the entire country. As a result, the CARIFTA squads are constantly with the make-up that has New Providence out-numbering all of the other islands collectively. This situation has to change.
If it does, then, and only then, will The Bahamas be able to put up an incredibly strong challenge against Jamaica and ultimately reclaim the top status.
o To respond to this sports feature, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at email@example.com.
The head of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) has hit back at a suggestion by local tourism stakeholders that the cruise industry is not paying its fair share of taxes, pointing to what she said are fees that are already the "highest in the region" and concerns over crime, VAT, and other issues for cruise ships coming into Nassau.
Meanwhile, Michele Paige, president of the FCCA, also revealed that the industry has been "begging for improvements" in the Bahamian tourism product in light of the fact that many passengers do not depart the cruise ships when they come into the Port of Nassau.
In light of this, Paige told Guardian Business that she was "pretty concerned" when she read comments in Guardian Business yesterday from Senior Vice President of Administration and External Affairs at Baha Mar Robert Sands, and President of the Bahamas Hotel Employers Association Stuart Bowe, calling for the government to stop letting cruise lines get what he called a "free ride" when it comes to taxes paid.
In an interview with Darold Miller on Guardian Talk Radio on Monday, Sands said that increasing the taxes paid by the cruise sector is part of the tourism industry's proposal to government in response to its plans to implement value-added tax (VAT) on July 1.
Calling the cruise sector, which has come to dominate Bahamian tourism in terms of its contribution to visitor arrival numbers, the "least taxed sector", Sands said that the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) would like to see the government increase the departure taxes paid by cruise lines per passenger. This is just one component of the tourism sector's "smart tax" plan which it says could be implemented in place of a VAT at 15 percent or thereabouts on July 1, 2014.
Sands is not alone in his suggestion that the cruise industry's contribution to the local economy may not be as great as it could be. Bowe recently commented on the lower spend per passenger of cruise visitors, suggesting that the country must do more to build its stop over arrivals, while Dr. Andrew Spencer, head of the Center for Tourism Management at the University of West Indies, told the Bahamas Business Outlook in January that The Bahamas should "band together" with the region in talks with the cruise lines to get a better deal in negotiations on their economic contribution.
Paige said: "I read [the article in Guardian Business] and I was pretty concerned. On top of everything else we are now being told we don't pay The Bahamas enough taxes? Nassau has the highest fees of any place we go. The highest fees by two-fold. And then we have the issue of crime, and of VAT, and the other issue hanging over our head is that we've been begging for the product to be improved because a significant amount of passengers don't get off the ship."
At present, cruise lines are subject to a $20 per head departure tax, but the effective rate of departure tax paid is often closer to $7 or $8, according to Sands, in light of passenger volume-based tax breaks granted to the cruise companies. Sands suggested that the rest of the tourism sector has become "heavily" taxed in recent years, while cruise lines have "benefitted tremendously" from coming to The Bahamas while paying relatively little.
Asked if her reference to The Bahamas having "the highest fees" in the region are a reference to the actual or effective departure tax applied, Paige said she "did not know" exactly what the various companies are paying per passenger, and made reference to the "significant amount of passengers" they bring to The Bahamas.
She urged Bahamian tourism stakeholders to redirect their energies to issues other than taxation if they wish to see a greater benefit to The Bahamas from cruise tourism.
"What I would be looking at as a hotelier is how do we get passengers on cruises to spend more money and stay in hotels? You have a significant amount of tourists coming on what is essentially a familiarization trip...It's a no-brainer it should be looked at positively not negatively," said Paige.
The cruise industry advocate pointed to a period in the 1990s when she claimed that "sixty percent" of cruise lines pulled out of this country due to concerns over the cost of calling in Nassau.
"This isn't me, this is what history says," she added.
The Latin phrase "Vox Populi, vox dei" when translated to English means that "the voice of the people is the voice of God". This phrase is commonly attributed to voting and was most notably used by Sir Lynden Pindling after conceding the Progressive Liberal Party's defeat of the 1992 general election. Today, the same holds true; however, Bahamians ought to realize that their voices carry power not only during election time every five years, but at all times. We must continue to discuss and encourage dialogue on matters of national interest in an attempt to influence and shape policy decisions. Issues such as crime, education, healthcare, the diversification of our economy and immigration certainly stand out among others.
In my previous article, we explored the possible implementation of an amnesty program. The merits of an amnesty program provide an incentive for undocumented immigrants to regularize their status, obtain temporary residence/work status or face immediate deportation in accordance with applicable Bahamian laws. Further, once it is determined which individuals arrived in the country after a particular date, the government must make haste to deport such individuals back to their home countries immediately. The primary obligation of any government is to protect its citizens and foster an environment in which its people can prosper. It is imperative, therefore, for the government to make every effort to ascertain the number of illegal immigrants in the country, the skill-set of these individuals and how best they can contribute to the society.
Immigration, policy and the economy
An effective immigration policy in The Bahamas would be tied into the government's education, investment and economic policies. It is widely known that while Haitians are not the only demographic of individuals who constitute the illegal immigration population in The Bahamas, they make up the vast majority. It is estimated that approximately 66 percent of Haitians in the Republic of Haiti work in the agriculture sector. They are particularly engaged in subsistence farming, which contributes to about one third of Haiti's gross domestic product. During a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2010, former United States President Bill Clinton expressed his regret of having oversight of trade policies that caused the demise of Haiti's rice farming during his term in office. In what he termed a "devil's bargain", the U.S. forced Haiti to reduce tariffs on imported subsidized U.S. rice. The demise of rice farming in Haiti has been attributed to the aforesaid policy and arguably hindered Haiti's ability to become self-sufficient. There is no doubt that this policy has also had a direct and negative impact on The Bahamas and other developing countries within the region that are not self-sufficient today. Indirectly, it can be argued that this policy also contributed to the increased migration of Haitian nationals to The Bahamas in search of economic security.
Bahamians understanding the fragility of the cyclical tourism and financial services industries have been advocating for years that the government provide more incentives for the development of the agricultural sector in an attempt to expand the industry and diversify our economy. An expansion of the agricultural sector can provide thousands of jobs and move us toward self-sufficiency and some form of food security. However, the widely held perception is that Bahamians are unlikely to engage in agriculture on a grand scale. While that may or may not be true, what is clear is that we can utilize the skills of Haitian migrants present in the country to develop the agriculture industry. If two out of three Haitians are engaged in farming, it follows then that this expertise should be in The Bahamas. A thriving agriculture industry can reduce our balance of trade deficit by reducing food imports and creating greater opportunities for exports.
Granting temporary work permits under a properly planned amnesty program for illegal immigrants can to a great extent ease the burden these individuals place on the public purse. This no doubt currently drains our resources in areas such as education and healthcare without a substantial contribution to the Bahamian economy. It is well-known that immigrants remit most of their funds to their home countries to assist their families back at home. As a result, very little of what is made by the immigrant worker is spent within the Bahamian economy. The implementation of a value-added or sales tax would assist in an immigrant worker's contribution to government revenue in addition to work permit fees and national insurance contributions.
It would be an understatement to remark that Bahamian employers play a major role in the illegal immigration problem that exists in the country today. Driven by the need to pay reduced wages to maximize profits and minimize expenses, many are inclined to hire an immigrant lacking the necessary documentation to engage in gainful occupation. Economic immigrants usually weigh the cost of traveling to a country and being able to find work against being apprehended by the authorities. In a country like The Bahamas that is lax in enforcing its laws against illegal immigration, it is easy to see how this issue has spiraled out of control. In addition to enforcing its laws regarding deportation, the government must also implement more stern penalties to discourage Bahamians from hiring illegal immigrants. In France for example, the law prohibits the entry or irregular stay of an illegal immigrant. If a French citizen is found guilty of harboring such individuals, they can face up to five years in prison and be fined EUR30,000. The low-tolerance French government has also gone as far as implementing quotas to combat smugglers who profit financially from moving immigrants into, through and out of France.
The government must strengthen its patrols to minimize the entry of illegal immigrants to our shores. More of the annual budget should be dedicated to providing the necessary resources to aid the Royal Bahamas Defence Force in its attempt to eradicate illegal activities on the perimeters of our borders.
Many have suggested that bases on our southern islands collectively known as MICAL can help to mitigate some of the problems we currently face in this regard. The problem of illegal immigration is not unique to The Bahamas. Hence, we must keep discussions on this issue going and learn from the mistakes and successes of other nations. We need not reinvent the wheel but must conduct detailed research with a view to implementing a robust immigration policy.
Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at firstname.lastname@example.org.