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Oftentimes, we have a habit of not recognizing the contributions of our citizens because of their political loyalties. This is an unfortunate reality that continues to exist in 2014.
However, it is something that should be reviewed by the government. Notwithstanding the various mechanisms that are in place, it would be nice for the public to be fully aware of how we can make recommendations for the most prestigious honors recognized in the Commonwealth.
Persons such as Janet Bostwick, who should have been knighted by now; A. Loftus Roker, Dr. Elwood Donaldson, Franklyn Wilson, Charles Carter, Richard Demeritte and Frank Watson are all individuals who should be considered for such high honors.
And while we may all have our views on who should or should not be honored, the facts are, the individuals mentioned above have all contributed at least 40 years of exemplary service to this independent country called The Bahamas.
For those who would want to know more about each of these persons, start talking to your friends and family and I am sure they will be able to tell you about those persons and their contributions.
None of us will live forever, but for those who are younger, barring some tragic calamity, time is on your side and that fact is not going to disappear.
In this vein, as our citizens who have made great sacrifices and contributions grow older, we ought to ensure that we afford them the proper honor and respect that they are due by elevating them with the highest recognition that can be bestowed while they are alive.
Most of those who have died would probably tell you if they could come back for a minute, that you should give them their flowers while they are alive and not when they are dead and gone. This means that we should work as a nation to ensure that we do not allow our political divide to restrain us from recognizing our Bahamian people.
Regardless of our political allegiances and views, we are all Bahamians and while it is said that there exists a nasty spirit of jealousy and destruction among some, this does not epitomize the spirit of a proud and nationalistic Bahamian.
Maybe there is a quota on the knighthoods that can be granted and if there is such, we need to commence proceedings to ensure that we fill our quota in a timely manner for those deserving Bahamians. These types of honors ought not to be for dispensation in a light and trifling fashion.
Honoring our people is not just a rite of passage that we facilitate at an appointed time. It is something that we should be doing with jubilance and excitement because in addition to ensuring that we are showing appreciation to those who have given unselfishly of themselves over the years, it also shows the next generation something that they can aspire for in the future.
In a time when the murder count is above 50 and this is just the month of June, we need something to hope for, that can give us some encouragement.
Honoring those Bahamians whose life work has been to uplift and move the country forward is a notable and worthy goal.
There should be no apology for Bahamians making recommendations for those that they deem to be deserving of these high honors. We have to put politics aside when it comes to this particular aspect of our national development and ensure that all Bahamians who should be recognized get acknowledgement and their contribution publicized.
Victimization and discrimination have no place in our country if we are to achieve the most we can. When there is so much bad that is going on in the Bahamas, wouldn't it be nice if we are able to start modeling behavior that shows to the next generation that we can strive for excellence and move forward?
Political differences are part and parcel of the democratic reality of any open society, however, the tribalism and destructive behaviors which seek to destroy Bahamians because they hold another view are neither right nor beneficial.
Young people observe the behavior of the leaders of the country and come to conclusions which impact their own behavior.
Sometimes these behaviors are deleterious and other times they are uplifting. If we continue to practice governance which simply hinges on politics, the best and brightest will not contribute and the country will regress to a state worse than has never been seen.
Giving honor where honor is due is not just a moral obligation - any responsible government will ensure that its people understand and recognize the valuable contributions that citizens have made.
And while the list of those who should receive the highest honors the Commonwealth has to bestow is not exhaustive, if you have persons that fit the description of an individual deserving to be honored, let your members of parliament know. Let those who have the authority to make it happen be aware.
Partisanship has no place when it comes to bestowing the highest honors available for our citizens who have demonstrated that regardless of their political standing, their contribution has risen to a level higher than its beginning. Many of you have views on who you believe should receive this type of recognition. There is no point just grumbling around the Sunday dinner table or having lively and provocative discourse during the week on the subject if you do not ensure that your voice is heard.
As a citizen of the Bahamas you have an obligation to ensure that those of us alive today and generations in the future will know who among us made their mark in a positive way. Why not speak up and let others know your thoughts? After all, isn't that what democracy is all about?
o John Carey served as a member of Parliament from 2002 to 2007.
The government is "inclined" to grant a well-known Lyford Cay resident a lease for accreted land following a possible environmental survey, according to the community's chairman.
In a letter dated February 18 to members of the Lyford Cay Property Owners Association, which has been obtained by Guardian Business, Philip Dunkley said that the government has been in negotiations with Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard.
The billionaire has applied for a lease from government on reclaimed land on Nygard Cay, otherwise known as Simms Point. Dunkley explained that the government "may be inclined to accede to Mr. Nygard's application" in the near future.
"The government has, however, indicated that it will be more vigilant to prevent any future reclamation of lands adjoining Nygard Cay," the letter stated.
"Notwithstanding the foregoing, the POA continues with its efforts on behalf of the Lyford Cay community on this issue, but fully understands that those members whose private interests are directly affected may wish to take independent action to protect their rights."
The announcement is sure to raise a few eyebrows in one of the most affluent communities in The Bahamas. It could also bring to an end a contentious issue that has been in and out of the courts for years.
Nygard acquired the most western tip of the gated community back in 1984. Since then, the property has expanded in size by spreading out into the ocean. Whether this growth was natural or engineered has remained a contentious issue among Lyford Cay residents.
According to a statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court on April 6, 2011, Tex Turnquest, then director of the Department of Lands and Surveys, informed Nygard that the government expected him to reinstate the coastline of the property to its condition at the time of the 1984 deed.
"Further, the plaintiff was informed that the government intended that the cost of this work, estimated at approximately $2.75M, would be borne by the plaintiff," the court document reads.
As of November 2009, more than 70 percent of Nygard's mansion was destroyed by fire, although foundation piles and accreted land remain in place. Government officials alleged that the accreted lands had formed as a result of the "strategic placement of groins and docks".
Nygard's attorneys, however, argued that the additional land formed as a result of the gradual and imperceptible deposit of materials from the ocean onto the land.
"It has not formed as a result of any works carried out by the plaintiff for the purpose of reclaiming land from the sea," the court continued. "In the premises, the lands that have formed at the shoreline of the property have been added to the freehold of the property and the plaintiff is and has been since their formation the owner in fee simple of those lands, by virtue of the doctrine of accretion."
The fashion mogul sought a declaration that the lands have become part of the freehold property.
In another court document filed on May 19, 2011 in the Supreme Court, former Chairman of the Lyford Cay Property Owners Association Christopher Hampton Davies said coastal works have been performed by Nygard and had a "deleterious effect on the neighboring coastal lots".
"In particular, the seemingly incessant dredging works performed at the instigation of the applicant in the seabed adjacent to Nygard has resulted in substantial interruption of the flow of sand beach, with erosion effects to small coves and beaches adjacent to some of the coastal lots of Lyford Cay nearby," the court document reads.
He alleged that the expansion encroaches on the rights of members by making it difficult to navigate the waters nearby.
We now have a fairly good idea why Minister of State for Finance Zhivargo Laing abandoned his Marco City constituency in Grand Bahama.
Norris Bain, who has been selected by the governing Free National Movement (FNM) to replace Laing in Marco City, provided what appears to be convincing evidence that Laing was forced to desert Marco City because the leadership of the FNM decided he could not win against Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidate Gregory Moss.
In his maiden address as a politician at the FNM's nationally televised launch of its Grand Bahama candidates at the Grand Lucaya Resort in Freeport on Sunday, Bain thanked Laing for "stepping aside to allow me to represent the good constituents" of Marco City. Bain went on to thank Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham for having "the fortitude to arrange this new group of candidates to take Grand Bahama to the next level".
This clearly suggests that Ingraham had the final say in Laing's decision to forsake the residents of Marco City, which is not surprising given the fact that Ingraham more likely than not dictatorially hand-picked all of the candidates that the FNM has chosen to contest the next election.
Laing, of course, will discover that Ingraham, who is his mentor, did not do him any favors when he convinced him to run for the Fort Charlotte constituency in New Providence. The word out of New Providence is that Dr. Andre Rollins, the PLP's candidate for Fort Charlotte, will give Laing a worse beating than he would have gotten from Gregory Moss in Marco City.
Meanwhile, it was obvious from their addresses that the three 'new faces' that Ingraham has picked to run in Grand Bahama are not ready for the challenges that lie ahead for them in the political arena as they seek to erase from the memories of Grand Bahamians just how bad and vindictive the FNM government has been towards Grand Bahama over the past four-plus years.
Peter Turnquest, who is the FNM's candidate for East Grand Bahama, spent considerable time thanking and praising former Housing Minister Kenneth Russell for the good job that Russell did as the representative for High Rock, the constituency that comprises most of East Grand Bahama.
Surely Turnquest must be aware of the fact that Russell was forced to retire as MP for High Rock in the most brutal manner by Ingraham, who rubbed 'pepper' into Russell's 'emotional wounds' by sending Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette to inform him that he would not be running again. The question that political novice Turnquest should have asked himself before he voiced high praise for Russell was this: If Russell was such a good representative, then why did Ingraham decide to fire him in such a humiliating manner?
Pakesia Edgecombe, who has been given the task of trying to unseat PLP incumbent Obie Wilchcombe in West Grand Bahama and Bimini, for the most part during her address exhibited the speaking skills she developed as a news anchor at ZNS News 13 in Grand Bahama. However, the question that I have for Pakesia is this: While you were the main news anchor at ZNS News 13, did you agree with Ingraham's vindictive cancellation of national broadcasts of ZNS news out of Grand Bahama mainly for what many are convinced were personal reasons aimed at downgrading Freeport's importance as The Bahamas' second major city?
I've already mentioned Norris Bain's political 'foot-in-mouth' remarks, so it is quite obvious that the three 'new faces' chosen by Ingraham as candidates in Grand Bahama will be nothing more than 'political groupies' who will be so much in awe of Ingraham that they will not dare question any deleterious decision he makes, thus solidifying his dictatorial control of the FNM.
Of course, the two incumbent FNM representatives who are seeking reelection - Neko Grant in Central Grand Bahama and Kwasi Thompson in Pineridge - have already demonstrated that they are also afraid of Ingraham's wrath by remaining silent over the past four-plus years as Ingraham totally neglected Grand Bahama and rigidly imposed policies that wrecked Grand Bahama's economy, resulting in an unemployment rate in excess of 20 percent and tremendous pain and suffering by far too many residents of Grand Bahama.
Grant at one time was considered to be at the top of Ingraham's list of incumbents to be denied a nomination, but he has unquestionably benefitted from the brutal manner in which Ingraham fired his good friend, former Housing Minister Kenneth Russell, who subsequently referred to Ingraham as a "dictator" and a "tyrant". Grant showed that he was appreciative of being given "new political life" by repeatedly thanking Ingraham for giving him the opportunity to "anchor" the FNM's Grand Bahama team.
What's more, despite reports that many FNMs in Grand Bahama are not at all pleased with the slate of candidates personally selected by Ingraham, so much so that some of them reportedly boycotted the launch of the FNM candidates, Grant predicted that the FNM will win all five seats in Grand Bahama.
No one in their right mind who lives in Grand Bahama would agree with such a prediction. Indeed, the opposite may be true. I'm convinced that the PLP will win a minimum of four seats in Grand Bahama and there is a better-than-average possibility that incoming Prime Minister Perry Christie will have five Grand Bahama members of the House of Assembly to help him restore good governance to this country.
- Oswald T. Brown
Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said the judicial system would benefit "tremendously" from a constitutional amendment that would allow some criminal matters in the Supreme Court to be tried by judges alone.
"One of the reasons for our backlog [is] the inefficiencies that are inherent in the jury system," Maynard-Gibson said as she made recommendations to the Constitutional Commission yesterday.
"I think that in certain defined circumstances, there ought to be the ability for the judge to order that the trial will be by judge alone."
Maynard-Gibson said analysis of empirical data by the Office of the Attorney General on the various factors determining the efficiency of the conduct of criminal trials over periods, points to the deficiencies associated with the administration of the jury system.
"These include the peculiar problems associated with small jurisdictions, where members of the jury pool may have to recuse themselves from matters where they know or are known to defendants. And the increase of insidious acts such as attempts to improperly influence or intimidate members of the jury," Maynard-Gibson said.
"All told, these have had a deleterious impact on the effective administration of justice."
Maynard-Gibson said cases that would be appropriate to be heard without the presence of a jury would include cases where the material witness is afraid or unwilling to give evidence before a jury; if the case involves a criminal gang element and would be properly tried without a jury, or if the complexity of the trial or the length of the trial is likely to make the trial too burdensome to the jury.
Maynard-Gibson noted that 22 Commonwealth countries have abolished jury trials, including the Turks and Caicos.
However, she noted that the right to jury trial is enshrined in the constitution and would require a constitutional amendment and referendum.
Former Chief Justice Sir Burton Hall made a similar recommendation to the Constitutional Commission in January.
He said the constitution should be amended to remove Parliament's ability to impose trials by jury for serious criminal Supreme Court cases.
Sir Burton, who is now a judge of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, has been critical of the jury system for years.
When asked to expound on that recommendation, Sir Burton said the jury system is inefficient.
"[It's inefficient] both in terms of time and in terms of money," he said. "But more importantly... it dawned on me that something has to be wrong about the most serious criminal charges being determined by a body who gives no reasons [for it's decisions]."
During her contribution, Maynard-Gibson also defended the country's retention of the Privy Council as the final court of appeal.
Over the years, there have been many calls for the country to abandon the Privy Council.
"I don't think that it is necessary to change the structure that is now in our constitution," she said.
"I think the Privy Council has done an extraordinary and efficient job and everyone has the right to criticize judgements.
"In fact, they criticize judgements of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal. I think that we should remember that whenever the Privy Council sits as the final court of The Bahamas, it is interpreting the laws of The Bahamas, as does the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
"So the fact that we don't like the way they came to their conclusion is not a good reason in my view to change the Privy Council."
Earlier this year, Bahamas Faith Ministries President Dr. Myles Munroe recommended to the Constitutional Commission that the Privy Council be removed as the final appellate court.
In 2011, Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett also said The Bahamas should eventually abandon the Privy Council and move toward the Caribbean Court of Justice.
Stirred by last year's referendum and a new Gaming Bill, the debate on the ethics of gambling continues unabated. With every major expansion of gambling in the country there has been political fallout, including the exposure of divisions within the UBP and the PLP on the morality of gambling.
The political contours of the current debate include a number of curious twists and turns. The referendum debacle is relatively fresh in the minds of Bahamians.
Many remain unconvinced of the prime minister's claim of neutrality in the referendum debate which proved to be a political fiasco for his administration. The numbers' bosses must have been angry with the government's ineptness and the result.
The legalization of the numbers business is not a constitutional question. Legalization simply required action by Parliament. Instead the government sought cover through a referendum process that proved costly and inept.
An overwhelming majority of those who voted in the referendum said no to the legalization of the numbers business. A majority of voters did not vote, signalling displeasure with various aspects of the debate.
But the "no" result was far from the end of the debate. Faster than a roll of the dice, legislation advanced on the expansion of casino gambling.
The bill to accommodate the resort casinos doing electronic gambling has also raised the issue of Bahamians being able to gamble in resort casinos. The prime minister noted that he will take into account what MPs have to say about this and he has indicated that he will act accordingly.
In a curious and steady procession a number of MPs in the governing party have raised the issue of whether ordinarily resident Bahamians are being discriminated against in not being allowed to gamble in casinos.
Will the government use the discrimination argument as cover to allow such Bahamians to gamble in the casinos? Is the government waiting for enough MPs to get onboard the discrimination bandwagon so that it can move on allowing ordinarily resident Bahamians to gamble in the casinos?
As an aside, why have religious leaders been unusually quiet during the debate on the Gaming Bill, especially in light of the nature of the bill in terms of dramatically expanding Internet-based gambling through The Bahamas?
Recall also the tourism minister's desire to make the country a gambling Mecca. Will we become like other destinations where slots machines are ubiquitous, beyond the confines of the casino, in locations like airports?
All of this expansion of gambling would please the casino operators who would have not just tourists and online gamblers but thousands of Bahamians dumping their money into their slot machines and at their black jack tables. Repeat business by those ordinarily resident in The Bahamas would be quite lucrative for casino operators.
As a historical reminder, casinos were meant to be an incentive to encourage large-scale resort development and were originally designed to be an amenity for tourists who spent only a few days in The Bahamas and not for residents who might patronize them year-round. A Bahamian who was resident abroad, for example, could gamble in the casino on a visit home.
If Bahamians ordinarily resident in The Bahamas are allowed to gamble, how could a government refuse to allow Bahamians the right to open up casinos or legal numbers enterprises? In a great wheel of fortune windfall, enter the numbers men.
The language we employ in a debate requires scrutiny. The numbers business is not an "industry" per se; as long as it remains illegal it's a racket, no matter how the Member of Parliament for Tall Pines views this illegal enterprise.
The argument of discrimination also bears scrutiny. There are some who make a discrimination argument quite sincerely. Yet there are others who may be using the argument as a convenient cover to advance their economic fortunes.
There are three broad philosophical clusters constituting the body of opinion on gambling, ranging from that of the prohibitionist viewpoint to that of the libertarian. Both the prohibitionist and libertarian viewpoints were described in some detail in last week's column.
The third cluster represents a more moderate and intermediate position, prioritizing a communitarian argument of the social effects of certain types of gambling over the question of individual choice.
An earlier compromise on the expansion of casino gambling allowed tourists the opportunity to gamble while restricting it to those ordinarily resident in The Bahamas. A number of religious leaders, generally opposed to gambling, quietly accepted such a compromise.
Hothouse gambling in a casino environment with often free drinks and a carnival atmosphere with flashing lights, scores of fellow gamblers, inducements to gamble and a panoply of games of chance, is experientially quite different from buying numbers.
It is the view of this columnist that easy access to this sort of gambling by ordinarily resident Bahamians would have a deleterious effect on the Bahamian society, socially, economically, in terms of home life and a potential increase in various types of crime.
Further, an ordinarily resident Bahamian gambling while temporarily visiting overseas is quite different from near 24-hour access to a casino at our two major urban centers of New Providence and Grand Bahama as well as any casino currently open or to be opened at a Family Island.
Might we see the day, not that far into the future, where every Family Island has a casino? Is this the sort of gambling Mecca the government has in mind?
Some would say that this argument of discrimination against Bahamians and is an example of state paternalism. It depends on the kind of state paternalism one finds acceptable.
From seat belt laws to designated seasons for fishing various marine life to what age one may run for the House of Assembly, there is what may be described as a minimum or soft paternalism in the interest of various ethical norms and a broader social good.
There is an ethical argument about discrimination. But in the field of ethics other ethical arguments often weigh more in deciding the best over a particular ethical good. We are continuously weighing ethical choices, and what on balance may be a wiser course of action.
Instead of discrimination, restricting ordinarily resident Bahamians from casino gambling may be viewed as a "reasonable exception". The state does not allow driving and drinking until a certain age. Is this discriminatory or a reasonable exception?
The restriction on Bahamians owning handguns is viewed as discriminatory by some. For many others, including this writer, it is a reasonable exception in order to avoid the development a broader gun culture which would have negative social consequences. For many, it is also reasonable to restrict access to various illegal drugs.
This column supported a national lottery, the proceeds of which would be returned to the Bahamian people for various social and development initiatives. In terms of social ethics this appears to be a wiser ethical choice than legalizing a numbers business with windfall profits flowing into the coffers of many in this now illegal enterprise.
In deciding how far we want to expand online-based gambling through The Bahamas and whether ordinarily resident Bahamians should be allowed to gamble, we are essentially debating the kind of country and society we wish to be and to become.
On the question of gambling, our greater ethical concern might be that of a communitarian ethic of the common good as a priority over arguments of individual choice.
We should not be in a rush to make unwise choices based on arguments about discrimination, choices that will surely come to harm us in the years to come.
The love of money, by gamblers in a casino and those running gambling concerns, among other vested interests, should not determine the kind of country we wish to secure for young Bahamians and future generations.
This is the greater ethical question we should be contemplating and upon which we should make our decisions as parents, citizens and legislators.
o email@example.com o www.bahamapundit.com.
First published December 11, 2008
Soda cans flattened by passing cars. Screws, bolts, nuts, strewn across the street. Candy wrappers of every color in the grass, in the dirt, gathered by the wind on the side of the road. Beer bottles - Heineken, Kalik, Guiness - waiting for someone to gather and sell. Kentucky Fried Chicken boxes with oily, ketchup-stained wax paper and dried bones rattling about inside. A potcake's feast. Vacant lots filled with old microwaves, mattresses, wheelchairs, toilet seats, plastic cups and containers, washing machines, fridges, ovens, paint cans, motor oil bottles, socks, shoes, broken toys, bicycle wheels, car tires and rims, ironing boards, dried-up Christmas trees, and mop sticks. Garbage cans overturned, or made right again with no effort to put the spilt refuse back in the garbage cans. Garbage cans that can't actually contain the amount of trash folks are trying to force inside so it's puking it up like a person who ate way too much.
And then the pièce de résistance: abandoned cars in various states of decay. Some have no tires so they're up on blocks. Some have doors missing. Some have no glass left; they've either been taken or broken. Some have been stripped so far that the only things left are what people can't use. Some have been marked on with what passes, in this country, for graffiti. Some have become part of the bush: plants entangling the bumpers, flowers and prickles sprouting through the rusted holes here and there, leaves shooting from the missing headlights.
Maybe you think I've described a local ghetto, some shantytown behind God's back. What I'm in fact describing is my own neighborhood. Maybe I'm describing yours too. Then again, maybe I do actually live in a ghetto. Maybe the whole blinkin' island of New Providence (with the exception of a few well to do neighborhoods and gated communities) has become one depressing 21x7 ghetto, right before our eyes. Maybe the filthiness crept up on us gradually, the dinginess increased by small degrees, and now, even now, we don't actually see it. We clean our cars, we buy our nice clothes, our expensive shoes and purses, we put on our Oakleys and Raybans, and we don't even realize that our neighborhoods look like caca.
Putting the obvious health risks of filth aside for a moment, what are our surroundings doing to us as a people spiritually, psychologically, and socially? What would it do to you, to me, to all of us, if we were to take it all in, you know, really stare at our public nastiness for a bit? How would it work out in the end if we turned off the music, stopped the conversation, rolled down our tinted windows, pulled off the shades and drove or worse yet walked really slowly so we could see it all, really see it all here in the nation's capital? Well, since I've done it already, I can tell you that the gut instinct is to turn the music up louder, darken the tints even more and never ever look out the window again! You think about moving, leaving town, going back to the island or migrating to the suburbs of WalMartland. You just want to run! No matter how you choose to look at it (if you choose to look at it) the dirtiness, the dinginess of our streets, buildings and neighborhoods is a major downer. Last March, after living in Canada for seven straight months I came home and really saw my hometown, really saw it, as I hadn't seen it in years. I had to fight off despair.
"Stressful Neighborhoods and Depression: A Prospective Study of the Impact of Neighborhood Disorder" is the name of a 2003 study in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour that examined the correlation between stressful neighborhoods and depression. Researchers did a long-term study that tracked a group of several hundred persons living in what were perceived as disadvantaged neighborhoods. The data compiled for the piece, suggests that "Social disorganization may be deleterious to both physical and mental health...[and] perceptions of neighborhood characteristics (vandalism, litter or trash, vacant housing, teenagers hanging out, burglary, drug selling, and robbery) predicted depressive symptoms at a nine-month follow-up interview." Every single one of those stress producing characteristics exist in my neighborhood, an area no one would categorize as "disadvantaged". The only one that doesn't trouble me personally as I move through this area is teenagers "hanging out" -- but then again, I don't know this new crop of young males in my neighborhood so let me think about that some more and get back to you.
In the meantime, I have some questions. What is the impact collectively on the spirit, the psyche and the self-esteem of a people, of living in a nasty environment, a noisy environment, a congested environment, a place where there's not enough green (literally and figuratively), not enough water, not enough shade, not enough quiet, not enough clean air, not enough healthy food, not enough order, not enough effort to fix blatant problems? When landlords and homeowners can't or won't paint their buildings and keep them clean, when you and your neighbors dump trash in the vacant lot across the street, when idle boys paint lurid messages on the walls of abandoned buildings, when you or your neighbors refuse to move cars that will never ever, ever run again and let them decay in front of the yard, when the neighborhood mechanic piles up decrepit vehicles in his yard and the adjacent vacant lot because he might need a part someday or the owner refuses to 'come back fa he tings', what does it do to you emotionally, spiritually? When I don't ask you to move that broke down car, you pretend it's a tree in front of your house because I'm scared you'll cuss me or I don't call the police when I hear and see suspicious behavior on that dead end street because they might figure out who called, what does that do to me? Who are we if we live like this? What are we?
And don't blame the blinkin' government! The government cleans R. M. Bailey Park every week and yet when I went there with my kids on Sunday afternoon it was filthy and unsafe for little children. We, the users, did that to R. M. Bailey Park. We can change the politicians but how do we change a people? How do we change ourselves? Who owns R. M. Bailey Park? Hubert Ingraham? The government? Who has responsibility for keeping it clean? Ingraham? Why don't we believe we own our public spaces? Why don't we care about the appearance of anything we can't drive or wear on our bodies? Who taught us to be filthy? Who made us believe we don't own anything we can't carry with us everywhere we go?
What are we going to do about this? And don't tell me we need more public service announcements 'cause they ain't workin'. What are you, reader, going to do about this mess? Clean up campaigns come and go and the garbage returns.
If you take in garbage is that what you put out? What comes out of you comes from the core of you, from the heart, not so? So then is this filthy, run-down, dilapidated, ugly, exhausted city a reflection of who we are on the inside, of the state of our souls? Is the stunning beauty of Junkanoo real or is it just a self we wish we could be and the Junk of the other 363 days of the year is the real us? If it's the latter then I'm ashamed of who we've become.
o IAN STRACHAN is Associate Professor of English at The College of The Bahamas. You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org
"You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists."
- Abbie Hoffman
This week, we witnessed the commencement of the debate on gambling legislation in Parliament which sought, among other things, to regularize the operation of web shops in The Bahamas. Much of the intense antagonism to the legislation resulted from the outcome of the January 28, 2013 gambling referendum during which the vote in opposition to the proposition of regulating and taxing the web shops prevailed.
Prior to the referendum, the prime minister proclaimed that he would abide by the referendum results. Subsequently, however, he changed his mind, and, notwithstanding the referendum results, introduced legislation that would regulate and tax web shops. Accordingly this week, we would like to Consider this...Are some of the religious pastors who fought and won the referendum poll correct in their accusation that the prime minister's positional reversal and subsequent actions have signaled the death of democracy in The Bahamas?
The state of play
For decades, Bahamians were not allowed to gamble in the country's casinos, although foreigners were not only permitted, but encouraged to do so. Casino gambling in The Bahamas has grown impressively, and tourist gaming has become ensconced in our tourism industry. However, since the enactment of the relevant legislation, Bahamians were prohibited from participating.
During this same period, and for many decades before, Bahamians have actively engaged in the domestic numbers business, paying small amounts of money to bet that the numbers that they chose would "fall" on any given day, resulting in profits far in excess of the cost of the purchase of such numbers. At one point, depending on the gaming house in which one played, a $2 bet could result in winnings of as much as $900, and in some cases slightly more if the number fell in the precise sequence of the daily drawings.
Such games of chance were never legally sanctioned, but for decades the vast majority of Bahamians turned a blind eye to such betting arrangements by local residents. The society as a whole acquiesced to such practices; law enforcement, and civil society, including the church, generally accepted that playing numbers was as much a part of the Bahamian culture as is Junkanoo.
In 2010, when the Ingraham administration decided to regulate the web shops, government representatives met with web shop owners and determined that the annual revenue from this sector was estimated to be in the range of $400 to $600 million. At the time, the Free National Movement (FNM) government realized that it could not allow the industry to continue to operate in an unregulated environment and drafted regulations for it. The FNM did not proceed with its plans to regulate this sector, in part because, at that time, it could not obtain the support of the church.
The 2013 referendum
Shortly after the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won the general elections on May 7, 2012, Prime Minister Christie aggressively initiated plans to regularize the web shops. Pursuant to that objective, Prime Minister Christie announced that his government would hold a referendum on January 28, 2013 to determine the will of the people on the matter. The two questions on the referendum ballot sought the people's views on regulating and taxing the web shops and the establishment of a national lottery. The referendum results follow:
o The total number of votes cast against regulating and taxing web shops was 51,146, 62 percent of the total;
o The total number of votes cast in favor of regularization was 31,657, 38 percent of the total.
Many people believe that, although a majority of Bahamians who voted in last year's referendum were against the web shops, the outcome is neither persuasive nor conclusive and that the referendum results do not represent the true national sentiment on this issue.
Particularly in light of the low voter turnout of less than 50 percent of eligible voters, it would be erroneous to conclude that a majority of Bahamians are opposed to regulating and taxing web shops or establishing a national lottery.
The regulation imperative
The government recently reported that web shops cumulatively generate gross annual revenue of $600 million. Given this enormously significant cash flow, it is imperative that they be regulated for two important reasons: consumer protection and national security imperatives.
In the absence of completely shutting down the web shops, perhaps an impossibly achievable objective, the government must have also considered the vastly deleterious effects that either shutting them down or allowing them to continue to operate in an unregulated environment would have on our economy. But doing nothing is a wholly untenable proposition.
If we examine the operations of web shops, we will observe that their owners operate two distinctively different businesses. First, they provide online gaming for their customers. From a consumer protection perspective, it is important for persons who participate in web shop activities to be confident that they are protected from undesirable business practices ranging from online machine manipulation to not being able to collect their winnings if they are successful players. Today, in the absence of regulation, the smooth, fair and equitable operation of web shops is wholly based on trust. Regulation will address those and other operational issues.
The second business in which web shops engage comes as close to banking as anything will, without the requirement or benefit of a banking license. There are possibly more automatic teller machines strewn across the length and breadth of this country that are operated by the web shops owners than those of all the commercial banks combined.
Furthermore, the owners of web shops engage in lending money to many Bahamians for similar purposes as our commercial banks. However, in the case of web shops, this is an unregulated activity.
Additionally, we cannot ignore the short and long-term devastating effects on this economy of the nearly 4,000 persons who are employed by the web shops and what their closure would mean to the nation's employment figures.
Finally, it was absolutely necessary to bring this industry into the formal economy, enabling it to be recognized as a legitimate and significant pillar of the Bahamian economy.
Having regard to all of the above, the government is cognizant that regulation of the industry is imperative in order to protect the country from once again being blacklisted by the international agencies of the large industrialized countries, because of the potential threat that an unregulated sector poses for money laundering and terrorist financing, all of which will be minimized through the regulation of the sector.
Accordingly, there cannot be any doubt whatsoever that regulation and taxation of this sector is in the best interests of the country.
The gaming legislation
The gaming legislation that was recently tabled in Parliament, among other things, contains three major provisions that have resulted in varying degrees of intense debate in the public square. Those elements of the bill provide:
That all web shops would be regulated and taxed;
That a national lottery could be established for at some future date to be determined by the government;
That Bahamians would be allowed to gamble in casinos at some future date to be determined by the government.
The government should be commended for its leadership in this matter. Christie has debunked his detractors' derogatory suggestions that he is indecisive and ineffective. He and his Cabinet have taken the bold decision to do the right thing for the economy and the country in the face of excessive opposition and criticism for taking a decision that is incongruent with the expressed will of the people who voiced their views during the last referendum.
Next week we will address those who criticize the government for taking this bold decision in the face of those results, including the official opposition and some church pastors, with a view to determining whether, in light of the prime minister's courageous leadership in this matter, we are witnessing the death of democracy in our country.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic and Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to email@example.com.
Tucked in between legitimate thriving communities on New Providence and elsewhere in The Bahamas is a growing threat to the Bahamian way of life.
Over the last few decades they have developed in plain sight with many hundreds of occupants who reside illegally and for the most part without any sustained crackdown from authorities.
They have developed their own commercial operations, have little to no regard for acceptable hygienic practices and, according to a new report, are growing in numbers with increased threat to public health.
These are the shanty towns, the villages of primarily Haitian nationals, although some Bahamians and other nationals also squat on these lands.
But while just about any legal resident of New Providence could point to a shanty town, successive administrations have placed little focus on addressing what has mushroomed into one of the greatest threats to national identity and security.
Researchers have also documented the increasing threat these communities pose to public health.
The report on shanty towns obtained by The Nassau Guardian was completed a few weeks ago by a team of researchers from the Department of Environmental Health, but has not yet been made public by the minister responsible (Kenred Dorsett) or ministry officials.
What those researchers have unearthed should be of concern to every Bahamian.
There has been 'a marked increase' in the number of new shanty towns on New Providence over the last two years and the populations have increased "exponentially".
The report said, "There is little to no government water systems, no garbage collection services, and very little human waste disposal, which can range from satisfactory to the other extreme of placing human feces in plastic shopping bags, and dumping waste in nearby bushes and naturally occurring sink holes."
In New Providence alone, the team documented at least 15 shanty towns at various locations, but primarily in the south west and eastern areas of the island.
The researchers also said residents of shanty towns use naturally formed ocean holes to discard everything, including abandoned, or in one case, stolen automobiles, feces, dead animals and household garbage.
Researchers also observed that human feces has been observed in common walking areas between dwellings, in nearby bushes, and around animal pens, increasing the possibility of transmission of fecal-borne diseases to human and domestic animals.
"Unauthorized sale of prescription medications, primarily antibiotics, antihypertensive and ventilation groups, were observed and noted," it added.
The researchers said most of the makeshift living units have been hastily constructed of material brought back to the villages by the males who are construction workers.
"Throughout these settlements, one will observe building materials: wood planks of varying sizes and conditions, struts and beams, plywood and tin sheets for roof cover."
There have been instances where the sewerage disposal facility is only a few feet from the entrance to the dwelling.
"The substandard construction of these sewerage-holding holes lends to the cracking of the cement top of the structure, causing migration of the waste contained," the report said.
"Yet another method of disposal, in addition to the bagging and tossing of human waste, is the burning of fecal material, in open air.
"This action has a deleterious effect on air quality in and around the burn area, spreading along with air currents, into surrounding neighborhoods as well as the possibility of further airborne contaminants and disease-causing pathogens being liberated during the process.
"In almost all shanty villages observed, in addition to the pervasive dumping of fecal and discarded items, the signs of rodent infestation around the dwellings was observed."
The report said, "Hand washing when the behavior was observed, was performed using water in a cooking pot, small galvanized bucket or tub.
"Others would use the same water. The used water often would remain in the container, or thrown onto the ground. The children can be observed in and around garbage dump areas with little concern for disease acquisition."
The report noted that proper hand washing is necessary for minimizing the transmission and spread of microbes and diseases associated with their presence.
"Many of the residents of these areas have little communicative skills and command of the English language, as well as little to no knowledge of public health and proper sanitation practices."
Researchers also noted, "Children from these shanties attend local schools, based on their respective age.
"Children not exposed to these living conditions will invariably come in contact with persons that may be infected with ringworm or shigellosis (bacillary dysentery, a bacterial disease involving the distal small intestine and colon, characterized by loose stools, fever, nausea, vomiting, cramps, sometimes toxemia and tenesmus) that may cause serious physical discomfort.
"Some of the people residing in the shanties confided that many of the gangs will often steal vehicles, secure them in the shanty, and take them apart, selling electronics, engine parts, tires and rims and finally, the wiring for scrap metal."
In the form of entertainment, the people of these shanties host cock fighting (weekends primarily) with wagers placed on combatants.
The researchers also said there appears to be little delineation in the separation of human and livestock
The report warned of "opportunistic microorganisms that possess specific morphologies, and patho-physiological characteristics that have the capability to jump species, from animal (or a human waste medium) to humans, causing serious public and personal health implications."
Researchers visited shanty towns at Allen Drive, off Fire Trail Road; Cowpen Road east; Cowpen Road west; Gamble Heights; Zirconia Court in the area of Carmichael Road east; Faith Avenue; Bacardi Road; Spigot Road; Joe Farrington Road; Sea Breeze Lane; Kool Acres and other areas of New Providence.
Dorsett, the minister responsible for the environment, has assured that the Christie administration is not turning a blind eye to the shanty town problem.
He said yesterday that an inter-ministerial committee has been set up to tackle the issue in a serious and focused way.
These include the ministers for works and urban development, immigration, national security and social services.
"We will be serving orders under the Environmental Health Services Act and accompany regulations and bringing prosecutions," Dorsett said.
Asked whether the intent is to prosecute the hundreds of squatters, he said the owners of the properties are the ones who would be subject to prosecutions.
"Clearly Social Services will be involved because there are Bahamians living in these areas," Dorsett added.
"There's a distinction between those who are occupying and those who own the land. Our orders are being served on landowners in the first instance. We've identified persons who actually own the land where these exist. So those persons are those who we will serve any notice."
Dorsett said as far as he was aware, there is limited occupation of crown land.
He also said the problem is much bigger than shanty towns.
"We have been asked to go beyond looking at shanty towns," Dorsett said.
"There will be a holistic approach to this effort and so when we look at the human condition under which people live in shanty towns, the reality is some of that exists in Over-the-Hill as well.
"I think that's one of the reasons why the Ministry of Social Services is involved. For me, it is to ensure that these properties do not create environmental and public health hazards.
"In New Providence, they seem to be popping up more and more, but what concerns me is that more Bahamians are living in these shanty towns and in areas and in conditions similar to what you would have found only in shanty towns."
The government will tackle poverty and the human condition, Dorsett assured.
The minister recognized that addressing the problem will require a sustained approach.
In the last administration, the issue of shanty towns came into the spotlight, on and off, primarily during several fires that erupted in those villages.
What to do about these illegal communities ought to be one of the more pressing concerns of the government -- not just in New Providence.
While the new report on shanty towns outlines numerous threats to public health, the growing communities as observed by researchers, also have huge national security implications.
But what will become of the hundreds, if not thousands, of squatters?
Dorsett said the ministries of Immigration and Social Services will take the lead in this regard.
Where there are illegal immigrations, he said the Department of Immigration will act.
"I don't think we can afford not to do something about the existence of these shanty towns," Dorsett said.
"It is something that we have to address."