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The Bahamas has a bicameral (two chamber) Parliament. The House of Assembly's members are elected and the members of the Senate are appointed.
Maurice Tynes, the clerk of Parliament, recently appeared before the Constitutional Commission and recommended a new electoral system be adopted in The Bahamas to better reflect the will of the people.
More specifically, Tynes suggested the Senate be abolished and the Parliament be unicameral (a single chamber). The chamber would be comprised of elected and appointed members. The appointed members would be selected based on the percentage of votes the political party they represent received. A party would be required to gain at least five percent of the vote before it could be considered to participate in the sharing of parliamentary seats, Tynes argued.
Such a system would open up our democratic process to voices beyond the two dominant parties who currently occupy all of the political space in The Bahamas. In the last general election, the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) received nearly 10 percent of the vote. Yet, all those Bahamians who voted for the DNA have no voice in Parliament.
In that same election the Progressive Liberal Party secured 48.7 percent of the vote and won 29 (76 percent) of the seats in the House. The Free National Movement captured 42.1 percent of the vote and only won nine (24 percent) of the 38 seats.
The PLP's super-majority in the House is a distortion of the will of the people. Consequently, it can force through laws without consultation with a majority it truly does not deserve. Our Constitution is archaic in this regard, noted the clerk.
"This first past the post, or winner take all, voting system is indeed a simple and fast way to vote and to count ballots, but the first past the post system produces too many distortions in the result of the balloting and most often the result does not accurately reflect the will of the people," said Tynes.
It is unlikely that this generation of politicians will change our electoral system. There are few revolutionary thinkers in that bunch. Younger Bahamians, however, should examine the various voting models that exist around the world and seek, in their time, to create a voting system that allows more voices to be recognized in Parliament.
We all have seen that the two main political organizations have become bloated and exhausted patronage parties. New voices need to be given a chance to bring forward new ideas and modes of operation in order to help reinvigorate The Bahamas.
I have had my share of political and personal differences with former Prime Minister Hubert Alexander Ingraham during his various administrations. The time has come, however, to acknowledge the good that he may have done on behalf of the people of The Bahamas.
Ingraham was a polarizing figure of the highest order. He seemed to relish that fact and glorified in his ability to do so at the drop of a hat. He also had the innate ability to rub people the wrong way. Like or hate him, however, he was a man for all seasons.
A strong and highly principled individual, Ingraham could never tolerate or encourage slackness, foolishness or ineptness by political colleagues.
He was brash in the execution of his duties as Primus inter pares (first among equals).
He held a bold vision, if sometimes flawed, for The Bahamas. One might not have agreed with his execution of the same but we always knew where he stood on an issue.
Dr. Wess Roberts, an American author, wrote a book "Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun" a few years ago. In the same, he wrote: "Leadership is the privilege to have the responsibility to direct the actions of others in carrying out the purposes of organizations at various levels of authority and with accountability for both successful and failed endeavors...".
Ingraham possessed those traits and those who succeed him would do well to emulate him in this regard. Of course, he could be boorish and often acted almost dictator-like, at whim, but successful leaders are and must be seen as chameleons par excellence. Whether it is a holdover from our days as slaves in Africa is debatable but, clearly, the average Bahamian prefers a strong leader.
Much was accomplished during Ingraham's three terms in office. He did us, however, no gratuitous favors. He came into office a relatively poor man, financially. Today, he is a declared multimillionaire and will collect a comfortable pension until the day he dies. Having said that, however, it cannot be denied that he delivered, even if at great financial expenses to taxpayers.
He has carved out his legacy and he will be remembered as long as there is a Bahamas and the Master continues to tarry. I am of the opinion that the gold rush will, eventually, find its feet and will succeed. I am also persuaded that the current leader of the FNM, Dr. Hubert Alexander Minnis (FNM-Killarney), is of prime ministerial material.
If the gold rush were to fail and if Minnis proves unable or incapable of cutting it, there is a distinct possibility that Ingraham will, once again, be drafted and recalled back into service by a disillusioned and jittery Bahamian electorate. It is as simple as that.
I hold no brief, as I once did, for Ingraham, but political realities and possibilities are strange things. The current chairman of the PLP will be retiring in a few short months but he has stated that if Ingraham were to even attempt to come back that he, Bradley Roberts, would come out of his own retirement to prevent such a scenario. Mudda sick! Big Bad Brad is something else.
He is my personal friend and benefactor, but he knows that he is no match for a focused and fired up Hubert. I see Philip Brave Davis as the next prime minister within the next year and I make no apologies for this.
What happens, however, after 2017, a few short years away, is anyone's guess. I do not make guesses. I make prophecies. With the right advisors and allies, Brave could have a long and bright tenure as PM.
To God then, in all things, be the glory.
- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.
We appear on the verge of an extraordinary betrayal of the Bahamian people, made even more heart-wrenching because it is at the hands of our very own, not those of slave masters and colonial rulers.
It is a betrayal of various core principles of the second emancipation of majority rule, of a certain promise of independence, and a betrayal of the poor and the middle class.
Instead of a national or public lottery benefitting significantly more Bahamians, the incumbent government seems hell-bent on regularizing/legalizing a privately owned lottery system in which the majority of the profits accrue to already wealthy numbers barons, with the government receiving some funds from taxing the private lottery.
Regularizing a private lottery will be one of the greatest legalized mass transfers of wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthy in an independent Bahamas.
Imagine if the old guard had concocted a scheme pre-1967 to establish a private lottery in which the overwhelming bulk of the proceeds went to certain benefactors and fat cats at the expense of poorer and middle-class Bahamians.
One can imagine the progressives in the PLP of that day pressing hard for a national lottery in order to benefit the mass of Bahamians.
Sadly, the new guard in the PLP is now acting like the old guard. The poor and middle class are secondary at best. Clearly the PLP oligarchy is more committed to serving its own greedy economic interests at the expense of the Bahamian people.
If the PLP proceeds with its private lottery scheme, history will record that this betrayal of the common good by private greed was led by Perry Gladstone Christie and the new guard oligarchs.
The betrayal is breathtaking given our history and the great needs of our still developing country 40 years after independence. We will have come full circle with the PLP becoming the face of the very thing it fought against in the struggle for majority rule. The very party which preached social justice seems set to turn its back on the poor, handing wealthy numbers barons millions more.
A private lottery is good old right wing economics which might find favor in the U.S. Republican party, not something one might expect of a party which bills itself as progressive and liberal.
To understand the moment is to appreciate our Bahamian journey and narrative as well as to be seized by the possibilities of a national lottery for national development.
Enduring slavery and colonial rule, the mass of Bahamians enjoyed scant political and economic freedom. Still, the descendants of slaves struggled for both, creating civic, economic, religious and eventually political organizations as a means of empowerment and expression.
The struggle for economic survival and advancement was hard and fraught for the majority of black Bahamians. With little access to financial capital they leveraged the capital they possessed such as ingenuity, hard work and communal ties.
Early on, this involved institutions like the asue or sou-sou, an informal savings arrangement derived from an African-based system of cooperation.
The story of the flowering of black entrepreneurship, especially Over-the-Hill, is still to be written in greater detail. These stories of risk-taking and ingenuity contradict the lie by some that black Bahamians were not possessed of various entrepreneurial gifts.
Since majority rule and independence there has been a flourishing of the middle class, especially of black Bahamians. In 40 years of independence the country has made great strides in terms of economic empowerment for scores of Bahamians.
Still, there remains much to be done to empower more Bahamians economically including greater access to capital for entrepreneurs to help stimulate domestic and home-grown investment. A national lottery would be a source of significant capital to help stimulate domestic development.
Today, many in the middle class are struggling with the proverbial Bahamian dream especially after the Great Recession of 2008 and the resulting new normal of an economic landscape marked by slower growth and significant challenges in the tourism sector.
Amidst these economic challenges the wealth derived from the numbers business in the form of a national lottery can be utilized to broaden economic development and empowerment.
Unlike other economic enterprises, those who run the numbers houses produce nothing of economic value in terms of the numbers business itself.
Instead of allowing these barons to hoard our money for themselves, we should have our money collected into a public lottery with the bulk of the proceeds being returned to the Bahamian people.
Money pours out of poorer neighborhoods and many Family Island communities into the bank accounts of a relative few, with next to nothing returning to these communities, often leaving them even more impoverished.
These communities do not need Christmas parties and giveaways. They need concentrated economic and social investments partly derived from a national lottery in which money is reinvested in these communities.
The idea of allowing Bahamians a few shares in the numbers business was meant to sweeten the pot and drum up support for the yes vote in the gaming referendum/opinion poll.
Instead of a few shares, a few tokens to the masses, the Bahamian people should be the majority shareholders and owners of a legalized lottery system, a sort of modern asue that can be used to advance national development, more of which next week.
In days of old, slave masters, colonialists and the old guard hoarded wealth and rigged the economy to benefit their private interests at the expense of the public good.
How shameful that a new guard which came into being to fight such entrenched greed at the expense of the mass of Bahamians now seems set to turn its back on the majority of Bahamians in thrall to a wealthy minority interest, making a mockery of much of the struggle for majority rule.
Bahamians do not need scraps from the numbers banquet table. The table and the full meal belong to the people, not to a selfish oligarchy and its benefactors.
o firstname.lastname@example.org, www.bahamapundit.com.
OAS/CARICOM Mission in Haiti Observes the Process of Registration and Validation of Presidential Candidates
Joint Mission of Electoral Observation of the Organization of American
States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), led by Ambassador
Colin Granderson, has held its meetings with candidates, political
parties, civil society organizations, national authorities and the
technical and operational entities of the Provisional Electoral Council
(CEP) for the next presidential elections in the Caribbean country.
Mission took note of the smooth lottery held August 12 by the CEP to
determine the order of the ballot of the new political parties
registered in the presidential election.
Furthermore, the Mission
observed the registration of presidential candidates and the process of
litigation with the West I Office of Departmental Electoral Litigation
(BCED). In this respect, the Mission followed with interest the
arguments put forth by the lawyers representing the plaintiffs..
Unions fighting the sale of 51 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) yesterday blasted the government over the political row that has erupted over the issue.
The unions called on the government to end its "petty and fruitless attempt" to draw the organizations into a partisan public debate on the merits of the companies.
The statement by the Bahamas Joint Labour Movement (BJLM), which comprises both the National Congress of Trade Unions (NCTU) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), came a day after both the government and the Progressive Liberal Party released press statements on the proposed sale, each claiming their plan for BTC w ...
Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Rev. Ranford Patterson said yesterday the country's political standards are too low and many voters are swayed by emotion rather than substance.
"I think we have to lift the standards of our elections," said Patterson, while on the Star FM radio show 'Jeffrey'.
"Our people need to get to the point where we listen to the issues rather than personalities. I know it's an uphill battle but we must begin, and I think our politicians must lead the way in that."
Bishop Albert Hepburn, a former president of the BCC, said most voters are not concerned with the issues and choose their leaders based on emotion rather than rationale.
He added that many of the people who attend mass rallies turn up to the events for food and drink and pay little attention to serious issues affecting the electorate.
"I don't believe persons are paying attention to the issues. We are more emotional. You watch the rallies. When somebody says something low about [a candidate] there is a roar from the crowd. But when you get down to the issues, a lot of the people at these rallies don't understand the issues," said Hepburn, who was also a guest on the talk show.
"They are not listening for any issue. They go because it's a place where they can dance, drink and enjoy themselves."
Patterson also said that many civic groups that represent specific demographics are too passive in dealing with problems that affect them.
He said church leaders should not be the only ones who speak up against any perceived injustices.
"We need more persons in our community to agitate for change in our country," Patterson said.
"We sit back and allow things to happen and nobody says anything. Everybody points a finger at the church, but how many organizations in this country...step up to the plate if there are issues that affect their constituents? We are too quiet when it comes to making people responsible in our country."
The next election is set for May 7.
Minister of Labour and National Insurance Shane Gibson said Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins' recent attacks on Prime Minister Perry Christie
were "insulting and offensive", and suggested that other political organizations may not want such
a "disrespectful" individual.
Though he did not name Rollins during his contribution to the Bahamas Public Parks and Public Beaches Authority Bill on Thursday night, he made clear references to Rollins' attacks on Christie.
The former Gaming Board chairman has said the country needs new leadership and he is tired of hearing Christie quote scripture.
He further charged on Wednesday night that, while Christie "waxes eloquently with his words", those words must live up to actions.
But Gibson said "you have to respect leaders".
"It is always fascinating to me when you see individuals who want to be a part of the organization, but they don't want to submit to the rules and the regulations and the policies and the protocols of the organization," he said.
"It is one thing if I am on the opposite side and make some snide remark about the leader on the opposite side.
"I think, if you check the history books in this honorable
place, I don't believe you would find one instance, besides now, when you would see a sitting member of the Parliament speak about a leader the way this one did.
"I think it is wrong. I think it is disrespectful."
The Progressive Liberal Party's (PLP) National General Council (NGC) has demanded that Rollins apologize in Parliament.
But on Wednesday, Rollins said in the House of Assembly that he will not apologize to Christie for anything he said based on his convictions.
Gibson said there are thousands of young people who look to the government for guidance.
"When you decide to attack your leader in the public like this and go after them personally, then that is sending a totally different message," he said.
"As for me, I can tell you that this leader exercises a lot of patience.
"At times in life you have persons who are very selfish who decide to advance their own personal agenda above the agenda of the organization of which they are a part.
"I think that we have to be careful, Mr. Speaker, because at the end of the day there is a saying that says what goes around comes around."
Gibson said Christie is a leader who deserves respect.
Rollins has also asserted that Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells is caught in the midst of a leadership struggle within the government over the signing of a letter of intent (LOI).
Wells signed the LOI for a $600 million-plus waste-to-energy plant with Stellar Waste to Energy Bahamas Limited (SWTEB) on July 4, 2014, without Cabinet approval.
Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis has said the claim is "baseless".
He said the last time he checked, both he and Rollins were on the same team. Davis said the team will not be distracted by disturbances from within or without.