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This column was first published on July 20, 2010
At a recent service marking his demission from office, the head of a prominent denomination offered the heated view that the Bahamian economy desperately needs to be diversified.
He proclaimed that he had advised successive governments of this need, but that his advice went unheeded. Unfortunately, the religious head seems as expert in economics as Donald Trump may be in theology.
His is the latest example of a public figure who should know better than repeating the wearying and inaccurate conventional wisdom regarding the actual nature and level of diversification of the Bahamian economy.
This same ignorance continues to bubble to the surface by those running around panicking like the fabled Henny Penny that the sky is falling in terms of the supposed dire threat of Cuba to the Bahamian tourism industry.
One of the accompanying arguments is that because of the apparent normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States that The Bahamas had best quickly pivot from tourism and diversify into other industries.
This view reflects a failure to grasp economics, including the economics of tourism. It is also stunningly ignorant of Bahamian history. Whether or not you believe Sir Stafford Sands should be on the $10 bill, he's there for a reason.
Sir Stafford understood the cycle of boom and bust that haunted The Bahamas for centuries with the rise and fall of industries - including wrecking. Then in the 1930s the Bahamian economy collapsed with the end of Prohibition in 1933 and the devastation of the sponging industry by a marine disease in 1938.
To diversify the economy, Sir Stafford and others concluded that a year-round tourism industry would stabilize the Bahamian economy, assigning the cycle of boom and bust to the history books. This historic achievement was also made possible by taking advantage of technologies from the jetliner to air conditioning. Way before all of the 21st century talk of globalization and service-based economies, the Bahamas was on the cutting-edge in the mid-20th century.
Despite many downturns, including the Great Depression of the last century and the current severe global economic crisis, the Bahamian economy is generally healthy. Tourism has made our economy quite resilient, the envy of many countries, including our Caribbean neighbors. This resilience has been boosted by the country's diversification into financial services and other industries.
The success rate of commodity production and export in The Bahamas is mixed. Sponging collapsed, as did peanut farming in Andros, sugar in Abaco, pineapples in Eleuthera, onions in Exuma and sisal in various islands. Had these survived, they collectively would not have generated the level of economic activity and employment of tourism. Incidentally, after many years, Bacardi ended rum production in The Bahamas.
The distributive and sustainable power of tourism is more enduring than many other industries. The Caribbean has learned this lesson - painfully so - from the instability of bauxite in Jamaica to sugar and bananas throughout the region.
An alphabet soup of self-interests masquerading as free traders have dealt serious blows to the economies of the Caribbean: From the EU and the USA on bananas, NAFTA in terms of textiles, and the OECD on financial services. Yet, tourism has generally survived hurricanes manufactured by humans and nature.
Meanwhile, the former religious head, who clearly does not understand economics, should pause and recall that most of the money offered up for collection - comes from tourism. Those who preach of justice should consider: Many of the demands for social and distributive justice they seek, may be been best achieved by tourism.
Undoubtedly, there is still much to be done to better spread the economic and related benefits of tourism. Yet, on balance, tourism makes good economic and ethical sense. And the country continues to make progress in terms of greater Bahamian ownership of the industry. One area of great promise is the multimillion dollar heritage tourism sector.
Still, many are blind to the facts staring them in the face, with the fact of diversification seemingly of little consequence. This includes, among other examples, The Bahamas serving as a major financial services centre and hosting a major transshipment center as well as the world's largest cruise ship repair facility.
The Bahamas boasts one of the largest ship registration centers in the world, and continues to boost its maritime services industry. The country now hosts the annual Bahamas International Maritime Conference and Trade Show to promote the ongoing development of and diversification within this industry.
Lest we forget, Grand Bahama was also home to an oil refinery, BORCO, and Syntex, a pharmaceutical company. The near full employment of Inagua powered by salt, and Spanish Wells by fisheries, also seems to elude the notice of those who have conveniently forgotten that aragonite was mined in Bimini and that The Bahamas has had boat-building and straw-work industries.
Still, tourism will remain our main industry for the foreseeable future, for many good reasons. With less than 400,000 people our best bet is as a service-based economy.
We will never be a power in agriculture, fisheries or manufacturing, though we can successfully enter into niche markets in these and other areas. Moreover, these industries can only employ so many Bahamians.
But we can leverage our small population, stability and strategic location to punch way above our weight in tourism, financial and maritime services, international arbitration, offshore educational services and other industries.
Despite tourism's exposure to external threats, we have more control over protecting tourism than any other industry. Our challenge is ongoing diversification within tourism, while promoting linkages between other industries and our main industry.
Asked his thoughts on a world energy crisis, the American architect and futurist, Buckminster Fuller pressed: "There is no energy crisis, only a crisis of ignorance." In many ways, the so-called long-term economic crisis some see in The Bahamas related to tourism is a crisis of ignorance and imagination.
The task for the 21st century Bahamas is to eschew an ignorance of our economic history while replacing ignorance over what is possible for the economy. That ignorance can be overcome with the sort of imagination which prompted Sir Stafford Sands and others to recognize that in many ways tourism and The Bahamas were made for each another.
The current Minister of Tourism and Aviation, Vincent Vanderpool Wallace, understands our current historic challenge. He has the imagination and experience to extend Sir Stafford's vision even further than the man who has been dubbed as the "Father of Tourism".
While Sir Stafford knew that tourism would create mass employment, he did not envision ownership of various elements of this industry by black Bahamians. Mr. Vanderpool Wallace understands the power of tourism to create employment, wealth and considerable opportunities for all Bahamians.
But to leverage these opportunities the Minister understands that the country has to invest in critical infrastructure. This infrastructure is needed for innovation within and the ongoing diversification of our main industry.
He knows that there are at least three 'Ts' that the country needs to improve: transportation networks, technology and training inclusive of our schools and retraining programs for adults.
From better utilization of the internet, to making travel through the country more seamless for tourists from booking to actual journey, to better educating ourselves, our challenges are clear, urgent and possible.
Moreover, the question today is not the sustainability and possibilities within the tourism industry. The question is whether we have the imagination and will to transform the industry to take greater advantage of these possibilities in a sustainable manner.
This past weekend, the Beast Mode Fight Team competed at the 16th Annual International Chinese Martial Arts Championships (ICMAC) in Orlando, Fla. The event was held at the Gaylord Palms Resort and hosted the largest amount of competitors since the 2007 version of the event.
Athletes traveled from all over the world to compete in four disciplines -- Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Wushu and Sanda. The Beast Mode Fight Team competed in the Sanda discipline and brought back seven medals - the most of any club present at the meet.
Winning gold medals for the club were Dijonaisse "D.J." Brown (lightweight title), Cameron Lewis and Kenny Neymour. Giovanni Johnson and Neil King won silver medals, and Andrew Simmons and Wayne Mackey brought home bronze medals.
Sanda, also known as Sanshou, is a martial art which was originally developed by the Chinese military based upon the study and practices of traditional Kung Fu and modern combat fighting techniques. It combines full-contact kickboxing, which includes close range and rapid successive punches and kicks, with wrestling, takedowns, throws, sweeps, kick catches, and in some competitions, even elbow and knee strikes.
Dr. Kent Bazard has been a long time fighter in several disciplines, but this time he served as the head coach for the team.
"This time it was a lot different for me because I really had to control my excitement, because usually when I go to an event I prepare a certain way and do certain things and focus on my warm-ups. With this event I had to be focused on other people's mental state, making sure the weigh-ins were done correctly and making sure that they were matched up correctly. It was different, but it was exciting," said Bazard.
"I also think that this event helped me to mature as a fighter and as a coach. As far as fighters go, I'm probably in my twilight. I'm 36-years-old and even though that's not old in terms of fighting, that's really old. I probably won't be fighting much longer so it was bittersweet to watch them, but I was also proud to see the Bahamian team doing well."
Countries such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Brazil, which are all hot beds for mixed martial arts and have been known for producing champion fighters, all competed in the championships. Given that the Bahamian fighters competed against this level of competition bodes well for them. It made their victories that much more impressive.
"A lot of fighters from those countries go to schools that just teach martial arts alone, so they came in and are very high quality fighters. It was good being in an environment like that on a big stage with a lot of high quality fighters," said Bazard.
"We had the highest medal count as far as the teams went, so the guys did very well for their first time out. There were only two knockouts on the evening and one of our beginners got one of them. Kenny Neymour defeated his opponent from Uzbekistan in the first round. What was really impressive was that it was Kenny's first full contact fight."
As times goes on, Bazard hopes that the sport will become more popular here in The Bahamas because he sees a lot of potential in some Bahamian fighters.
"I always say that I think The Bahamas has natural talent and natural physical ability. We have naturally good fighters; growing up all children play a game called 'dashing'. The slaves actually brought that game here so it is in our genes. We are naturally strong and athletic and I'm looking forward to seeing more fighters come forward, and seeing the sport grow," said Bazard.
In September, the fight club will be returning to Orlando once again, but this time it will be the females out of the camp competing in cage matches. Bazard expects to spend the rest of his summer getting them ready to take to the big stage and ensuring that they are ready to take on the best in the world.
Senior Sports Reporter
NEW DELHI, India -- Calling it his time to shine, Carl Hield posted his quickest victory in an international tournament yesterday, setting the pace for what the boxing team anticipates will be a great showing at the XIX Commonwealth Games.
In the fourth bout of the evening session, Hield hardly worked up a sweat as he connected on a barrage of punches that forced referee Ross Stublay to stop his welterweight bout against Hubert Lucien of Dominica one minute and 36 seconds into the first round. It was just short of the 20-second victory that he posted during a tournament in Cuba.
In fact, the bout was over from the first 30 seco ...
A U.S. Embassy official claimed in a cable penned in 2003 that Bishop Neil C. Ellis -- who is repeatedly described in diplomatic documents as Perry Christie's spiritual adviser -- remarked that the then prime minister was not a "true man of God" although he was trying to be religious.
The American also wrote that at a meeting with Ellis at his Mount Tabor Baptist Church, he also remarked that Hubert Ingraham, at the time former prime minister, was definitely "not a man of God" even if he does attend church.
When we sat down with Ellis a few days ago at Mount Tabor to discuss the cables that mentioned his name, Ellis denied most of the claims documented by U.S. diplomats.
But it is the claim regarding his purported comment on Christie and Ingraham's spirituality that he seemed most taken aback by.
"I don't qualify to determine who is a man of God and who is not a man of God," he told The Nassau Guardian.
"...For me to say I think Christie is a pretender would be very hypocritical of me because I've always said publicly and I would say again, I believe Perry Christie is one of the greatest humanitarians I've ever met."
A read of at least two cables shows that while Ellis was growing his church, American diplomats were placing the spotlight on him and his relationship with Christie in a major way.
"Quite a bit of it surprises me," said Ellis, when asked about what his general impression was of what the Americans attributed to him.
According to the cables, obtained by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks, despite not being a member of the government, Ellis wielded considerable influence in the Christie administration, as did businessman Franklyn Wilson.
One of the cables, which was classified by then Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Witajewksi, said, "Ellis openly uses his pulpit in one of Nassau's largest and fastest growing churches to advance the PLP's political agenda, and by allying himself so closely with Christie, has surpassed many of his more established (and perhaps more respectable) religious brethren in influence."
The name at the end of that particular cable is Richard Blankenship, who at the time was United States ambassador to The Bahamas.
Ellis told The Guardian he was not well liked by Blankenship because he had made a statement about the involvement of diplomats in the local affairs of a country.
He said it arouses curiosity that the Americans want to know everything that is happening on every level in the Bahamas.
'A CONTROVERSIAL FIGURE'
The Americans documented two meetings they say they had with Ellis at his church in Pinewood Gardens.
Ellis told The Nassau Guardian he recalled at least one of those meetings, but he remembered it being very informal with no detailed discussion about Christie or Ingraham.
According to one of the cables, on December 2, 2003, a U.S. diplomat paid a courtesy call on Ellis, described as "hard to pin down" and "charismatic".
"During the nearly two-hour meeting, Ellis described the enterprise his parish has become," the cable said.
"He also outlined his role as the local Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, of Bahamian politics -- the one visit that all aspiring politicians must make in order to confirm their legitimacy."
Ellis totally dismissed this claim when he spoke with The Nassau Guardian.
"Why would any sensible, logically thinking person make a statement like that?" he asked
The cable added: "Ellis has come far, from a humble background, mentored and supported by prominent businessman Frankie Wilson, with whom he maintains a close personal and business relationship."
The American diplomat wrote in 2003 that conventional wisdom holds that Ingraham had sealed his fate by displaying arrogance toward the religious leadership while he was prime minister.
"The electorate of the Bahamas is devout, and the church leaders refused to remain silent after the former PM had expressed views antithetical to religious conservatives, such as welcoming to port a cruise liner catering to gay clientele and advocating for constitutional reform targeted toward improving women's rights," the diplomat also wrote.
According to the diplomat who wrote the cable on the heels of the December 2, 2002 meeting, Ellis described "a strange ritual" whereby Christie had sought a meeting with him over a several week period as he was gearing up for the 2002 election campaign.
The cable said: "Ellis kept rebuffing [Christie's] request, offering him only a 10 minute slot.
"Finally, however, Ellis offered [Christie] the opportunity to travel with him on a religious speaking tour in the U.S., promising that if [Christie] attended three of his sermons, he would be available to counsel [Christie] throughout the tour.
"Thus, the two men spent many intense hours together, during which time Ellis looked into [Christie's] soul and concluded that [Christie] has religious inclinations, but is 'not yet there'."
But Ellis said this could not be further from the truth.
"I can't look into a person's soul," he told The Nassau Guardian. "I'm not the savior of the world. Jesus is."
The cable said though Christie was not one of Ellis' regular parishioners, since the 2002 election, he had attended from time to time, as did all but three cabinet ministers.
An embassy official said in another cable after reportedly meeting with Ellis in late May 2002 that the bishop had expressed his desire for closer relations with the embassy, bemoaned his treatment in the press and offered a fascinating, intimate account of how he came to publicly endorse Christie in the last election.
The official said that as Wilson did in a separate meeting, Ellis unconvincingly denied having or wanting any real influence. Both men were described as "powerbrokers" as it regards the PLP -- a claim Ellis laughed at as he denied it to the Guardian.
The embassy official described Ellis as one of the Bahamas' most controversial figures.
The cable said: "He publicly endorsed Perry Christie during the 2002 campaign and reportedly told his congregation from the pulpit during a religious service that they must support Christie if they wished to remain members of his church."
The diplomat also wrote that Ellis also held a huge religious revival featuring a renowned U.S. evangelist that was a magnet for criticism about the reported "greediness" of its fundraising appeal.
"Establishment religious figures now sometimes preface fund-raising remarks by noting that the funds 'will not be used to build a vacation house in Bimini' to distinguish themselves from the self-proclaimed bishop," the cable said.
"The press hounds him constantly about his flamboyant personal lifestyle and open political preferences.
"Ellis was another protégé of (the late former prime minister) Sir Lynden Pindling, who identified him as a promising young man growing up on the small island of Bimini and brought him to Nassau to complete his education."
The diplomat wrote that Ellis is affiliated with the Full Gospel Baptist Church headquartered in New Orleans, and is its "bishop" for international churches, theoretically having all Full Gospel Baptist churches in The Bahamas under his leadership.
"Prime Minister Christie has openly referred to Ellis as his spiritual adviser, and many Bahamians assume that his influence runs deep within the administration," the cable said.
In the cable that came out of the May 2002 meeting with Bishop Ellis, the diplomat goes into amazing details about what was allegedly observed.
For instance, the cable said the embassy official was met by the first of Ellis' personal assistants upon arrival, and was passed on to the second, who entertained him while Ellis finished a meeting with his seven associate pastors.
According to the cable, Ellis then received the official in his "nicely appointed, bordering on lavish, but not quite passing over into poor taste, office."
"He was dressed in a loud magenta clerical shirt with gold and diamond cufflinks, a thick gold chain, several large gold rings and a gold Rolex watch," the embassy official wrote.
"Ellis is a thin, energetic man of middling height, in his early 40s. He is married and has three adopted daughters." (Ellis said he does not have three adopted daughters).
Ellis also strongly denied the American diplomat's characterization of him.
In fact, he said he never owned a Rolex watch or diamond cufflinks in his life.
"Anybody who knows me knows that I am not given to much jewelry," added Ellis, now 50.
When The Guardian visited him, he was wearing his gold bishop's cross around his neck, his wedding band and a wristwatch (definitely not a Rolex).
In fact, Ellis said he shops for $10 watches at Bijoux Terner in the Atlanta airport and has one watch that is a little more expensive that was a gift from someone in the ministry.
Ellis said he wears his bishop's ring only at special services -- a fact later confirmed separately by his associate pastors and assistant who had not been privy to his earlier discussion with The Guardian.
They all said they have never seen the bishop with any Rolex watches and that he barely wears jewelry.
The cable alleges that Ellis described "the remarkable story about how he came to endorse Perry Christie in the 2002 elections."
The diplomat wrote: "According to Ellis, he barely knew Christie before the run up to the 2002 election.
"After that time, he says Christie began seeking an appointment with him, saying he needed to speak with him for several hours.
"Ellis says that he kept putting Christie off, both because he didn't have that time to spare and because he had a bad initial impression of him."
According to the cable, Ellis said this bad opinion dated from the PLP leadership battle between Christie and Dr. Bernard Nottage.
"Nottage was a friend and former congregation member of Ellis and harbored a lot of ill will toward Christie because of his loss," the diplomat wrote.
"Christie was persistent in his pursuit of Ellis, whose church membership has definite PLP leanings."
The cable added: "Finally, according to Ellis, he agreed to take Christie along with him on an evangelical trip to the U.S., promising that if Christie attended all the services he preached at, Ellis would give him the time in between to listen to his appeal.
"Ellis said that when given the opportunity, Christie and Ellis spoke for 13 hours straight, about both secular and spiritual matters and that Ellis progressively became more convinced that Christie had been 'sent by God' to lead the Bahamas.
"The meeting ended, according to Ellis, in a scene reminiscent of the Biblical story of Samuel's anointing of Saul, with Christie coming around the table they were seated at, going to his knees and requesting a blessing from Bishop Ellis.
"At the time, Ellis reported, the spirit came upon him and told him that he had to endorse Christie."
The cable also said: "Ellis, on the one hand, denied having or wanting any political influence with Christie, but on the other hand went to great lengths to explain how close their relationship is and how often Christie calls on him for spiritual guidance.
"For example, Ellis recounted that Christie had presented him with the names of his Cabinet nominees before they were announced and asked him to pray over them and give his opinion."
But Ellis told The Guardian that the official's characterization of these events is "totally false".
"First of all, I can't say I had a bad impression of Mr. Christie before I met him," Ellis said.
"But it is true I didn't know him that well (prior to 2002). All I knew of him was his public life.
"As it relates to Mr. Christie seeking my anointing, that is totally false. I don't remember him ever saying that to me and I don't remember saying that to anybody."
Ellis said it is true that Christie traveled with him more than once.
"The first trip he attended with me, he said he just wanted to talk with me and spend a little time with me," the bishop said.
"My office let him know what my schedule was and when they told him of a particular trip that was going on he asked if he could go and I had no objections because people go on trips with me from time to time.
"I did say to him since he was a politician that I would prefer him not to travel alone with me, so he brought two of his other colleagues with him."
Ellis said the trip was to Atlanta. He also recalled another occasion where Christie traveled with him to Baltimore, Maryland.
"I don't see that as an unusual situation," he said of the trips.
Ellis also suggested it was laughable to write that he spoke to Christie for 13 hours straight.
"Just think about that," he said.
"I do know that in the 2002 election, I was very up front with my support for Mr. Christie. I don't believe that if you have a conviction you have to be secretive about it.
"...I felt at that time this was the man to lead our country and I was proven to be right at the time.
"To say he was sent by God to lead the country, I don't know if any of us could be that bold."
Ellis also said he had no recollection of Christie ever getting on his knees to be anointed by him.
"If the person (the embassy official) wasn't even clear about what I was wearing, they were putting things on me that were not on my person, then I don't how much more attention to pay to anything that was said," he said.
According to the May 2002 cable, Ellis claimed that ever since Mount Tabor started to grow and he began to be seen as a successful pastor, he has come under attack by some people, including other pastors, who are jealous of his success.
As a result, Ellis claims he has been unfairly vilified in the press, particularly the scandal-mongering tabloid The Punch, the diplomat wrote.
"Ellis says that during one stretch The Punch printed negative articles about him in 95 consecutive editions.
"...In addition, Ellis has received heavy criticism for the large salary he draws (reportedly a tax-free $180,000 a year), and his penchant for luxurious living.
"Recently, attention has focused on the impressive house he is building for himself in one of Nassau's more exclusive neighborhoods, reportedly costing $1 million.
"Ellis claimed that the stories were exaggerated, but made no excuses for his lifestyle, implying it was only fitting for the pastor of such a large and thriving church."
Again rejecting how he was characterized by the diplomat, Ellis told The Nassau Guardian, "I understand the role I am in...I'm always up for public scrutiny.
"I try to take it gracefully. I've never responded to any attacks in the media...When you're in the public's eye and when you're in public life you have to be open to public scrutiny."
The diplomat wrote in 2002, "As a consequence of his ongoing bad press, Ellis has vowed not to respond to any of the allegations against him.
"Doing so, he said, just legitimizes those allegations and gives them more life. Many in his congregation, he says, have disagreed with this policy and urge him to publicly lash out at his critics, which he admits is tempting, but he continues to maintain his silence, preferring to let the criticism pass."
Ellis told the Guardian he has not collected a salary from Mount Tabor in 17 years.
"I give my services to Mount Tabor free of charge," he said.
He said he earns money from speaking engagements, books and other products he offers.
"If Mount Tabor was paying me $180,000 I wouldn't be going home," he said with a laugh.
He stressed also that he never told his congregation to vote PLP or leave the church.
Ellis insists that the recording to this effect is a compilation of several sermons he delivered that were doctored by critics and sent to the media.
He said Christie never asked him to be his spiritual adviser and he never regarded himself as such.
Asked by The Nassau Guardian if he would be prepared to endorse Christie in the next general election, Ellis said it was not something he wished to discuss publicly as yet.
"Mr. Christie and I shared a wonderful relationship leading up to the (2002) election and thereafter," he added.
"I don't claim to have been any closer to him than any others."
Ellis stressed that he has respect for all of the country's leaders and noted that he was a part of a group of pastors who met with Ingraham last year to discuss important matters.
Joe Calzaghe overcame a first-round knockdown to beat Roy Jones Jr. in a unanimous decision Saturday night. The Welshman said this would be his final bout
It was once written by a noted British scholar (Lord Acton) that: "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely". Whether or not that dictum applies to The Bahamas is a matter for partisan dispute. No one, however, can or should deny that the jockeying for political ascendency in our country is now in full swing.
The first few weeks on the campaign trail have brought out the 'worst' features of our so-called democracy. Instead of dealing with and debating the real issues which confront our nation our politicians have descended to the level of apparent mudslinging, character assassinations and downright nasty diatribes and tirades.
The fact that we have an acknowledged 15.1 percent unemployment here in New Providence and some 21.2 percent in Grand Bahama seems to mean absolutely nothing to our so-called leaders. The cost overrun on the New Providence Road Improvement Project exceeds $67 million. Fox Hill Prison is full to the brim and ain't nobody checking, apparently. High utility costs and energy bills are crippling the majority of us.
Our educational plant is badly broken and our schools are mass producing grade 'D' graduates. Alleged homicides are off the chart and our leaders are 'blaming' everyone except themselves. The 'reds' say, boldly, that they are not scared. While the 'gold' say that they are ready now. The 'greens' say give us a chance. The rest say that they are on a 'mission' from God. Mind you, all of these bogus cliches are being uttered while the nation is rapidly declining into the status, I submit, of a failed state.
Politics in The Bahamas has now evolved into a childish game of you say and I say. The major parties and their leaders are consumed with either retaining power or with reclaiming the same as a matter of entitlement and divine right. The wannabes and their cronies 'know-it-all' with absolutely no track record or antecedents. Some of them think that governance of The Bahamas is like playing doll house where they all want to be 'the daddy'. Well blow me down!
It is regrettable that a large majority of Bahamians play right into the 'clean' and not so 'clean' hands of our politicians and wannabes every five years like clockwork. They are offered governmental jobs; so-called low cost housing; a few crumbs from the masters' table and the beat goes on. We have never had a five, much less a ten, year national development plan. All it is about, apparently, is a cockeyed focus on the next general election.
Esau, according to the Bible, sold his birthright for a mess of porridge or was it a bowl of okra soup? Whatever it was, he was never the same since. That is akin to what we witness in our country with great regularity. It is all, seemingly, all about who can play the blame games best or who is able to talk patented stupidity about cookie jars, tin gods, iron men and bamboo women. It is not, if it ever was, about empowering the average Bahamian and laying out long-range plans for national development.
We have two political figures who have dominated the landscape for three decades and we seem to 'fear' their eventual and inevitable exit from center stage. They are both, I submit, on their last political legs, but like two protagonists in the arena, possibly punch drunk, they continue to stumble on.
There are four crucial areas which we as a people need to address and address now. Youth recidivism, rehabilitation and development are at the top of the list. Sustainable job growth and meaningful employment in both the public and private sectors are essential.
The availability of affordable residential building tracts has long been talked about by all of our politicians but few of them would have conceptualized, much less executed, such a policy in a real way. Crime and the lack of swift and certain punishment are literally 'killing' all of us and act as debilitating deterrents to viable economic growth.
I hope that this missive is not taken as an indictment on the collective nation because it is not meant to be. This is a clear assessment of the stark fact that we are 'in trouble' and the power of politics is being played out right in front of our eyes in living color.
Some say that Prime Minister Hubert A. Ingraham is a decisive and strong leader. Others say that Opposition Leader Perry Gladstone Christie is too much of a consensus and consultative leader. No one, to my
knowledge, has yet to characterize Branville McCartney (Democratic National Alliance Leader, Bamboo Town) or any of the other prime ministers in waiting.
Whatever anyone may say or suggest, however, it is now patently clear that The Bahamas needs a mixture of a 'strong' and a 'consultative' leader. It cannot continue where one leader is uncouth, possibly, while the other is perceived as 'too soft'. We deserve and demand better than this. The time may well have arrived when we need to get past the scenario where our leaders are mere lawyers.
I do believe that Sir Orville Turnquest, former member of Parliament, deputy prime minister and governor general, is the 'best' prime minister that we never had. Yes, he is a lawyer by profession, but he is also a warm and compassionate man whose entire life has been devoted to national development on a grand scale.
Sir Orville took political positions which were decidedly unpopular and physically dangerous back in the 1960s. He was an active participant in all of the constitutional advances of the nation. When persons like the current prime minister and the leader of the opposition were still wearing short pants, Sir Orville was in the trenches making sure that one day, they too would rise to political ascendency.
In any event, the power of politics is being played out. Thank God, mercifully, that the proverbial bell must be rung soon and this dysfunctional 'Greek tragedy' will play itself out. To God then, in all of these mundane things, be the glory.
- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.
Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday reaffirmed the government's support for Bank of The Bahamas.
"As the 65 percent majority shareholder of Bank of The Bahamas, the government of The Bahamas reaffirms its robust support for the bank," Christie said in a statement.
"There need be no fear or concern on that score. The bank's capital position and other fundamentals remain strong.
"Moreover, the government is satisfied that all necessary steps have already been taken, and will continue to be taken, to ensure that the bank remains in full compliance with all regulatory requirements and prudential banking standards."
In a statement issued last week, the bank noted that it recorded its first loss last year, a loss of $3.5 million, after 20 consecutive years of profitability.
The bank said it has achieved tremendous success over the years and is well poised for a return to profitability.
The statement said, "The bank is robustly capitalized, exceeding Central Bank requirements and international banking norms. Through a combination of profit retention and preference share issuances, the bank grew its total equity from $17 million to its present level of $140 million."
Shadow Minister for Finance Peter Turnquest last week expressed concerns over the financial condition of the bank.
BOB also asserted that media reports suggesting political favoritism or political involvement in the granting of loans at the bank are "simply untrue".
BOB was responding to The Punch, which claimed to list several political figures' loan information at the bank.
The bank said the loans made were not personal but commercial loans "in which certain political figures may have been interested as investors or shareholders".
BOB said an investigation is ongoing into the source of the leaked confidential information. It said that internal steps have been taken to prevent future breaches.
The current Bahamas Super Featherweight Champion has had a creditable career.
Meacher Major, with his solid showing this past Friday against Brazilian Roger Rosa, turned yet another corner in a career that has seen him notch 21 victories while losing just six times. He has been a regional champion (World Boxing Association Caribbean Federation Lightweight) and a Commonwealth Boxing Council (CBC) elimination candidate. A real big international title has eluded him.
Does he still have it in him to go further up the ladder of boxing success at the age of 32? It must be acknowledged that 32 used to be an old age for boxers. Now though, it is the era of older ring specialists. A large number of fighters in the late 30s, the 40s and some in the 50s, still are able to get boxing licenses now. Major is a young man compared to those pugilists.
Evident on Friday was the fact that his ring movement is as great as ever. I discovered also that he takes a punch well. Although he slipped and leaned away from much of Roger Rosa's onslaught, the Brazilian did land some blows very solidly. Major shook them off however and in the aftermath said he was not hurt at any time.
I believe that. He never looked hurt, but he did take a few wicked shots. It was as I had predicted. The only strategy that could have brought Rosa victory was a brawl. He wanted a closed-in fight. Built like a tree trunk, Rosa is short but powerful. He had no fear and came out just as he said he would, during pre-fight comments.
I am satisfied that Major
defeated a quality fighter. Subsequently, I have already communicated the results to my colleagues in the Commonwealth Boxing Council. The Interim Meeting of the CBC is scheduled for April of 2014. It is very likely that if Major is able to add another match to the win column within that time, he will be in line for at least, another elimination fight, for the CBC super featherweight or lightweight crown.
Major has handled his career quite sensibly. He has been careful as he made decisions on fights. The biggest disappointment he has had, came against Canadian Logan McGuinness. That was the CBC lightweight eliminator that was also for the North American Boxing Association (NABA) super featherweight title. Now, it looks like he is headed for another CBC opportunity. If there is one big decision Major has to make, it's regarding the weight division he will campaign in for the rest of his career.
He has moved between three divisions actually, super featherweight, lightweight and light welterweight. He fought on Friday against Rosa as a light welter. He seemed stronger and better able to take a punch. Perhaps it would be best for Major to abandon the super featherweight division altogether.
The happy medium for him is the lightweight division. It's a decision he has to make, but will bear heavily on his future. With another victory, he is certain to climb back as a CBC contender in one of the aforementioned weight categories. He has to officially say which is it. Whatever the case, the stage is now set for him to continue his career with conviction. The match against Rosa turned into a good career win.
o To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At long last January 10 has been designated as a holiday to celebrate majority rule, an accomplishment for which the Christie administration is to be congratulated and which was appropriately marked by a public signing of the act.
As an aside, it may have made sense for the government to remove the Whit Monday holiday as it introduced the new holiday.
The path towards the creation of the new holiday has been characterized by many fits and starts, and by political machinations, mostly by the PLP, and myopia by the FNM.
Whereas the PLP tended to treat majority rule as the near sole accomplishment of the party, some in the FNM leadership tended to display a curious ambivalence or indifference to the celebration of January 10, 1967.
Majority rule was the accomplishment of a movement that initially found voice within the PLP, energized by the ideas and advocacy of the National Committee for Positive Action (NCPA) spearheaded by men like Arthur A. Foulkes, Warren J. Levarity, Jeffrey Thompson and Eugene Newry.
Soon after the attainment of majority rule, central players in the movement split into two major political parties, with the majority of the men who made up the first majority rule government eventually leaving the PLP to form the FNM.
Initially there was the celebrated Dissident Eight and other less well-known individuals who broke from the burgeoning corruption, abandonment of core promises, and the cult of personality coagulating around Sir Lynden Pindling. They were later joined by many others, including Hubert Ingraham.
Of the departure of the Dissident Eight, Paul Adderley, then leader of the National Democratic Party (NDP), suggested in his party's paper The Observer that essentially the PLP had lost its soul after those dissidents left the party.
That soul included a robust commitment to certain democratic goals which the PLP stymied for a quarter of a century and other goals the party has yet to realize.
As early as 1967, Minister of Out Island Affairs Warren Levarity offered a White Paper on Local Government. It was never to be under the PLP. Local government arrived later during the FNM's first term in office.
For 25 long years PLP governments maintained an iron-fisted monopoly on the broadcast media. This year (2013) marks the 20th year of the FNM's freeing of the broadcast media from state control.
Having been denied office and democratic fair play because of the United Bahamian Party's (UBP) diabolical gerrymandering, the PLP failed to push for an independent boundaries commission during Sir Lynden's 25-year reign.
When the FNM proposed a constitutional amendment that would have created such a commission, the PLP helped to defeat it in the name of "process".
Imagine the howls of derision and of injustice an early PLP would have hurled at the UBP had that party employed the language of "process" to block the creation of an independent boundaries commission.
It is the same self-serving claptrap the PLP mobilized to defeat an amendment enabling the children of certain Bahamian women to automatically attain Bahamian citizenship at birth.
Approaching 35 years of non-consecutive PLP rule, the party that endlessly thumps its chest for the role it played in attaining majority rule has yet to advance full constitutional rights for Bahamian women.
The FNM sought to prevent this injustice at the 1972 Independence Conference, an injustice the PLP elected to maintain for 25 years and counting, which brings us to the foundation of what we celebrate on Majority Rule Day.
That foundation is a celebration of freedom and democracy and a second emancipation for black Bahamians. We can no more ignore the first emancipation than we can the second, out of so-called sensitivity to white Bahamians, as if slavery and the subjugation of the majority of Bahamians should be ignored.
In a circular read to students on Majority Rule Day this year, Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes offered: "On the 10th of January 1967 the will of the majority of Bahamians was freely expressed in a general election based on universal adult suffrage where all men and women of adult age, regardless of property qualifications could vote to determine who would govern them."
On January 10, 1967 the Bahamian people ushered in a new era and a template for democratic change. Amidst increasing calls for violence to end the intolerable rule of a racist oligarchy, the Bahamian people demonstrated a commitment to peaceful and democratic change; a commitment now deeply entrenched in our political culture.
A dear friend tells the story of a colleague visiting from the U.K. during a Bahamian general election, awed at the passion of Bahamians for politics as well as how peaceful are our political transitions.
The visitor marvelled at the consistency of the Bahamian democracy, transitioning from the PLP's initial 25-year rule to 10 years under the FNM and back to the PLP, then ousted after five years, all done peacefully with ballots, and with scant incidents of violence.
This history can be traced in large measure to January 10, 1967, which was a triumph of the right to vote for a party of one's choice, a lesson for both the UBP and the PLP. In the case of the latter, the subsequent lesson was that majority rule did not simply mean the attainment of the right to vote PLP.
In his circular to students in January, Sir Arthur articulated the fuller celebration of majority rule: "That event removed the last psychological shackles from the minds of many; it shattered false notions of superiority or inferiority; it initiated the fulfilment of the promise of universal access to education; it created the foundation upon which to build a society with opportunity for all; it unleashed the hitherto brutally, suppressed but powerful entrepreneurial instincts of a people."
He continued: "It freed many Bahamians from the fear of one another because of differences of color or ethnic origin; it opened the possibility of fully sharing and nationalizing a rich and diverse cultural heritage; and it held forth the promise of a new kind of political culture in which no Bahamian would ever again be made to suffer for exercising his or her right to free association."
There could not be the possibility of racial equality and reconciliation or of one Bahamas without January 10, something Sir Durward Knowles and others have noted.
PLPs and FNMs, black and white Bahamians, all share the triumph of democracy and freedom that is January 10. Both the PLP and the FNM fulfilled various promises of majority rule.
Unfortunately, some in the leadership of the FNM responded to the celebration of majority rule with ambivalence. The FNM had as much a right and a responsibility to create a Majority Rule Day holiday as did the PLP, but disappointingly never rose to the occasion during three terms in office.
Given the founders of the FNM, the party's subsequent history and progressive accomplishments, it was historically myopic for the FNM not to have been the party to create a majority rule holiday. Not only would it have been good politics. It could have been an extraordinary teachable moment for the country.
The FNM could have played a major role in interpreting for younger generations a fuller meaning of majority rule, a greater appreciation of the history surrounding this accomplishment, as well as a broader understanding of a shared patriotism instead of the often truncated and narrower nationalism preached by the PLP.
The ambivalence and indifference of some in the FNM towards the celebration of majority rule proved disappointing not only because it played into the hands of the PLP and its well-honed politics of nationalism.
As disappointing, the ambivalence was another example of the too often defensive posture of the FNM when it comes to celebrating its extraordinary legacy inclusive of the decades before it came to office.
It was FNMs who launched the One Bahamas initiative. And it was the FNM that ensured democratic rule because its founders quickly returned to opposition for another quarter century in order to secure democratic values and convictions that are at the heart of the celebration of majority rule.
To his credit Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis, partly urged on by his Deputy Loretta Butler-Turner, took part in this year's majority rule celebrations.
The FNM allowed the PLP to beat it to the punch in the creation of the new holiday. Yet, moving forward, the party must be less ambivalent or indifferent to a seminal event in the nation's history, an event for which its founders were equally responsible and a legacy to which FNMs and PLPs and Bahamians of other or no party affiliations are equally heir.
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