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The last week has been quite eventful for The Bahamas as we hosted for the first time the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Conference (CWP) and the inaugural International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relays. The organizers of both events ought to be commended for a job well done and the Bahamian people congratulated for our exceptional hospitality as our nation was in the spotlight throughout the region and the entire globe.
Our world-class athletes no doubt made us proud with their poise, dedication and hard work, for which we are grateful.
A focus on representation in governance
It is noteworthy that the CWP conference was a regional conference of the Caribbean, Atlantic and the Americas region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Women's Association (CPWA), which is the female branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA). The theme of the aforesaid conference, "Women: The Voice, The Vote, The Victory", provides some insight into the minimal role played by women in the direct governance of commonwealth nations.
The main objective of the CPWA is to promote better representation for women in legislatures within commonwealth countries. This objective is in line with the overall objectives of the CPA as documented in its Strategic Plan (2008 - 2012). Objective 6 of that plan is, "To promote gender equality and equity in the work of the CPA and across the association and encourage women to stand for election to representative bodies by advocating the removal of barriers to their participation and to facilitate their professional contribution as members."
The Bahamian reality
The contribution of Bahamian women to the building of our nation and the deepening of our democracy is well documented. Bahamian women continue to flourish in all spheres of Bahamian society and have assumed leadership roles in the professional, social, religious and civic fields. However, when it comes to female representation at the highest levels of governing, The Bahamas continues to lag behind other nations. This is in spite of the high level of participation by women in the political process and the fact that more women than men were registered to vote in the lead-up to the last general election.
It is difficult to ignore the possibility that the underrepresentation of women around the national decision-making table may be connected to the ideology created by the gender inequality provisions of our constitution.
Nevertheless, despite the level of support provided by Bahamian women to political, religious and corporate organizations, Bahamian women have not been adequately represented in our parliament for 40 years since independence.
The self-doubt syndrome
The deliberations at the CWP were useful and informative in that they provided an avenue for the sharing of ideas and ultimate development of a strategic plan to achieve the purpose of the CPWA.
However, the question remains as to whether the postulation of Warren Buffett that women doubt themselves is a contributing factor to the current composition of our parliament by gender. This question represents the first hurdle which must be crossed and is a query that can only be properly answered by us - the women of The Bahamas.
The other side of this inquiry focuses on the level of confidence we have not only in our abilities but also in that of our fellow women. This is important as it translates into the extent to which we support one another.
The suggestion is not that we solely support women or that women should be given a free pass because of their gender, but rather that duly qualified and competent female candidates for high office should be given a fair and equal chance in comparison to their male counterparts.
In this regard, can qualified aspiring female parliamentarians depend on the vote of the largest voting bloc in The Bahamas? Additionally, how many past and present political leaders have enough confidence in Bahamian women to provide mentorship and guidance to aspiring public servants?
Partnership to achieve our potential
The movement for gender equality and female empowerment must not be viewed from a myopic perspective. There is indeed a higher calling and bigger picture for our beloved country in the promotion of equal opportunity and equivalent basic human rights for the Bahamian woman. It is important that we realize that our country cannot reach its full potential in an environment that holds one gender inferior or superior to another.
Hence, the movement should not be seen to concede the inferiority of women or pursue their superiority. Rather, the clamor should be aimed at the creation of a level playing-field in which all Bahamians can fulfill their God-given purpose and contribute to the building of The Bahamas.
The Bahamian women of this era seek to build upon the work of the women of the Suffrage Movement in the fight for justice and the creation of a better Bahamas. We do not seek to replace or diminish the important role of Bahamian men in the governance of our country; our objective is to work with our male counterparts toward a common loftier goal. For this nation will not be all that it can be without increased participation of women in governance.
Nurturing and the conscience of a nation
The natural role of women in the development of communities and nurturing can be inferred from the classic speech of the late Dame Doris Johnson on January 19, 1959.
Dame Johnson commenced her speech by stating: "Mr. Speaker and members of the honorable House of Assembly, today invincible womanhood, mother of men..."
This reference to the indomitable and fighting spirit of the Bahamian woman recognizes the fortitude of our women and was followed by a clear declaration that the men that marginalized the women of that era were carried and delivered by women.
There is so much that can be said about the fact that male leaders are groomed and prepared for their destinies by mothers; by women who in some cases are not deemed to be qualified enough for a place in Parliament or around the Cabinet table. It must never be forgotten that women and mothers in particular are the conscience of nations and bear the brunt of ills within our societies; yet remain unbroken.
The following words of Baroness Thatcher are instructive in this vein: "Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country".
Imagining the possibilities
It would be remiss not to state that we have made some progress in relation to the involvement of women in Bahamian politics and governance since the famous speech of Dame Doris Johnson 55 years ago. However, the progress made has not been significant enough based on the historical and current ratio of men to women in The Bahamas' parliament.
As a nation, we must envision the promise the future holds in a country that promotes the best among us to higher office to serve the Bahamian people regardless of their gender but rather based on their character, abilities and potential.
Indeed, the extent of the success we can achieve in a country led by men and women working together side by side need not only be imagined but should be pursued by us all. All we need is the will, and there will be a way to get it done.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to email@example.com.
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.
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 ...
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.
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.
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