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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.
On December 2, 2013, I celebrated my 80th birthday with much gratitude. Having reached such an important milestone, I paused to reflect on my youthful days when I became a part of an organization dedicated to the struggle for social justice.
Today, my soul mourns the social, economic and political state of the nation and I must conclude that we have travelled from slavery to slavery. We have to agree that something is drastically wrong in our nation and we must unite to seek an effective remedy.
My struggle on the battlefield was rough and sometimes disappointing. However, I remained steadfast and focused in my resolve to preserve democracy. Recently, I was shocked and disappointed in the minister of tourism regarding his revelation of the intention to establish a gaming mecca in The Bahamas. Our forefathers must be in misery as they turn over in their graves. My, my, what a serious departure from our heritage culture and the things we fought for not so long ago. Questions about who should get the next casino license and the establishment of a gambling economy should be cause for serious reflection by all Bahamians.
I vividly recall that in March, 1972 I was informed that Cabinet was to develop a green paper on independence. A green paper is a working document that is sent to Parliament for further development of a final document called a white paper. I was elated because this meant that we were continuing to uphold the primary underpinnings upon which our election rested. My joy quickly vanished when I found out that the venue for the national conference was to be the casino theater on Paradise Island.
I immediately sought an audience with the prime minister to find out what was the reasoning behind his decision to discuss and develop independence for a nation in a casino theater. The prime minister confirmed that the casino was the intended venue and bluntly told me that if I had a better location to suggest he would accept that location. I accepted the challenge and within days identified Harold Road Auditorium (A.F. Adderley School gym) located over the hill. The prime minister accepted the Over-the-Hill location and fortunately the conference was opened on April 15, 1972.
This conference was indeed symbolic because we created a mock parliament setting up the auditorium like the House of Assembly. We borrowed the paraphernalia from the House, including the mace, and constructed a replica of the House over the hill.
It was a national event and it seemed like everybody attended. In attendance were social and cultural organizations, a delegation from every Family Island, unionists, taxi drivers and persons from all walks of life. It was a historic event and we were able to openly discuss and share our views on what we thought an independent Bahamas should be. The official opposition members refused to attend the meeting because they felt as if we should not have created a mock Parliament over the hill and while they believed in independence they did not believe that we were ready for it in 1973.
The opening of the mock Parliament took the form of the official opening of Parliament held in Parliament Square today. During the meeting we were able to develop the green paper and place the completed draft of the proposed format on the prime minister's desk. It was sent to Parliament in the fall of 1972 and a date was set in January 1973 for independence on July 10, 1973.
On December 12, 1973, there was a serious rift within the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the government over casino operations and ownership in The Bahamas. I recall the nasty confrontation between former Minister of Development the late Carlton Francis and the former Minister of Finance A.D. Hanna. It was truly a rude awakening for those present. The confrontation came about because of the critical position taken against the United Bahamian Party in 1967 by the PLP. As a matter of fact, the PLP waged a vicious campaign against casino gambling and the mafia bosses during the 1967 campaign which led to majority rule. It was unthinkable to many of us that the government would want to form a partnership with the mafia group that we campaigned so vehemently against after winning the government. We must not forget the remarks made by Francis that day on the floor of Parliament in connection with the government's plan to take over the casinos in The Bahamas. Francis, who was also perceived to be speaking on behalf of the Baptist Convention, stated the following, "I am making it clear that as far as I am concerned this is a conscience matter. This resolution raises a fundamental question for me. I am making a clear divergence between my principles and political considerations. Leaving conscience aside, I would like to raise the point that we are a young nation. We have not yet found a national identity. I feel that the white paper (on independence) and the speech from the throne put before us certain ideals and qualities that I would like to see in a young and growing nation. Gambling is a cancer eating away at the qualities that help to make people what they are. I believe there are alternatives, but no one will find these alternatives as long as they can find the easy way out. I do not believe that gambling is good for the country."
Francis was forced to resign as minister of development and it is my opinion that his reaction was brought about by the behavior of Hanna. Further, I found it difficult to understand why the prime minister seemed eager to let his most able minister go and demonstrated no compassion or sympathy for him. Francis' removal from the Cabinet table created a void that was difficult to fill.
Some 41 years ago, our government seemed hellbent on lying in bed with casino operators and today nothing has changed. The mission of the Quiet Revolution has been betrayed.
On January 26, 1974, I made the following statement at the First Annual Conference of the Coconut Grove constituency, "The introduction in this country of an economy based on organized gambling will surely destroy our cultural heritage."
Today, 40 years later, I stand by that statement and call upon the nation to take a stand. We do not need any more casinos in The Bahamas. I humbly beg the government to reconsider its present position. We all know that there are alternatives, but we refuse to explore them. We must act now and we must be creative.
I was first elected to Parliament on Tuesday, January 10, 1967 to represent the Coconut Grove constituency. I soon found out that the Progressive Liberal Party government inherited a system of oppression and had no intention of changing it. I called my constituents together and we decided to seek help to embark on a social, cultural and economic development program. The program was a success and to our credit the constituents of Coconut Grove gained a community center, Jumbey Festival, and Jumbey Village on Blue Hill Road. I recall our first classical and folklore concert on March 9, 1969 at the Government High School Auditorium. The Rt. Hon. L.O. Pindling attended the concert and expressed surprise and shock at the talents displayed by our young people from the Coconut Grove constituency.
Shortly after this concert, the prime minister invited me to his residence for a talk and congratulated me for the work that I was doing in the community and invited me to become a parliamentary secretary in his office with responsibilities for community development known these days as Urban Renewal. I accepted the post and received my instrument of appointment in December 1970.
I arrived at the prime minister's office in January 1971 to receive instructions and was shown a nine by 12 office in the Cabinet building very near the prime minister's office and instructed to set up the community development program from there. I expressed some concern about the space I was offered and was informed that it was the only space available. I sought some assistance from Carlton Francis, minister of finance, and with his help I was able to set up satisfactory machinery on the second floor of the Spotless Cleaners Building on Madeira Street.
I was eager to get started and immediately contacted the community development unit of the United Nations requesting assistance in the development of a community development program. An officer from the United Nations was dispatched to Nassau to assist us and we developed a program for The Bahamas. On September 15, 1971, I wrote to the prime minister expressing my frustration and disappointment in the government's attitude towards social problems in the country. The following is an excerpt from that letter, "Our educational system is nearly up to par at present, however, we must remember that we took this country over just four short years ago and all who voted for us at that time are now in the cold and in need of social development machinery. Immediate steps should be taken: To improve and build the minds of the masses in Over-the-Hill areas like Grants Town, Bain Town, the Five Pound Lot etc. and to develop a program that will allow our people to further participate in the economy of the country. Then and only then will we be able to say that we represent all our brothers and sisters."
In October 1971, I presented that community development program to the Progressive Liberal Party's convention and it was unanimously adopted by the convention.
The Coconut Grove Community Centre was an ambitious venture but the residents of the Coconut Grove constituency and their member of Parliament rose to the task undauntedly. The community library and clinic,
preschool, cultural workshops and a small theater were a part of a self-help project. This was the first time that a member of Parliament had personally done something so significant in his constituency. The first fundraiser, a telethon, was held on Sunday, June 15, 1969. We received pledges of donations in the sum of $10,000 and donations of labor and material. In October 1972, we delivered to the government of The Bahamas two complete units, namely the community clinic and
library, which are still in operation today. Both units, which are located on Acklins Street, were fully equipped and professionally staffed, putting in operation the first of its kind over the hill. It may be interesting to note that the clinic served women and infants from as far away as Gladstone and Carmichael Roads. The pre-school unit was completed at a later date and that too is still in operation today.
Cabinet initially agreed to provide funds for the completion of the center, the cultural workshops and small theater with a seating capacity of 200, but later we were denied by the powers that be. God knows I tried. The theater on Acklins Street was to be a training ground for artists, an opportunity for them to sharpen their skills and talents before they performed at Jumbey Village Theatre, which was likened to Carnegie Hall.
Every year we constructed a site for the four-day street festival on Coconut Grove Avenue called the Jumbey Festival, which brought thousands of persons in to the Coconut Grove community to experience indigenous Bahamian culture and way of life. The site included a replica of a typical Bahamian village. It was a strenuous task having to build and take down the site every year and I recognized that eventually we had to develop a permanent site.
In 1970 I had a vision for a cultural center, Jumbey Village. I knew that through self-reliance and self-help, we could produce life from a former dumpsite on Big Pond to create and construct a beautiful heritage village. In 1970 our Jumbey Festival on Coconut Grove Avenue provided the financing to begin land clearing at Big Pond. I was able to get the entire community involved. The proposed Jumbey Village was a three-prong mission: social, cultural and economic. Donations came in the form of monies, trees, trucks and delivery drivers, to name a few items.
The Coconut Grove Women's Charity Club, Junior Jaycees, Southern Youth Corporation, College UNICOMM, churches and the nation's schools, private and public, all played a major role in the development of the Village, as it was called.
The junior and secondary schools had a function and the proceeds were donated and the teachers donated a half day's pay towards the Bahamian people's Jumbey Village. Dame Doris Johnson, then minister of transport, and Livingstone Coakley, then minister of works, provided assistance in materials and equipment.
o Edmund Moxey is a former member of Parliament. The second and final part of this piece will be published in tomorrow's newspaper.
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.
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 ...
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..
The following is my preliminary autopsy report on the May 07, 2012 general election, which resulted in the crushing defeat of the Free National Movement (FNM) party and its now deflated leader, Hubert Alexander Ingraham.
Firstly, it was a people's victory - more than one for the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). The last five years were financially exhaustive for many of us; and scores of Bahamians, including me, have expressed how it was the worst time economically that we have faced in our lifetime.
Home ownership was lost left, right and center; unemployment increased dramatically, and we the people became naturally apprehensive about our and our children's futures while we watched a very grand road improvement and infrastructure project gobble up hundreds of millions of dollars in borrowed funds.
Then, there were fellow FNM supporters who had abandoned ship in mass numbers during the last term of the Free National Movement government. It was indeed a creepy experience to be witness to card carrying FNMs from the inception of the party move on to other political organizations.
The FNM defeat was in the making the day after its 2007 general election victory. Most FNM MPs had abandoned their constituents from 2007 to 2012; and when they did confront the voters to vote for them this time, they discovered that they were out of favor with the people. Brensil Rolle, Tommy Turnquest, Carl Bethel, and a lot of others now understand that the Bahamian electorate would not tolerate rotten representation.
Through it all, how was it that the FNM incumbent candidate for Killarney was able to hold on to his seat in believable fashion, despite the massive PLP wave? The answer to this holds the key to the future successes of the FNM party - in my humble opinion.
- Dennis Dames