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News Article

July 09, 2012
The church vs. the numbers men: A fight for legitimacy

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and Free National Movement (FNM) have historically dared not cross the church for decades on the issue of gambling for Bahamians in The Bahamas.  Instead, both parties as governments turned away and did not see the numbers houses.
In recent years, with the rise of Internet technology and steely boldness, the numbers men of old and their new contemporaries came from the shadows and openly set up illegal shops in front of the political parties and police, declaring to Bahamians that they are now forces who will no longer accept being repressed.
The numbers bosses now sponsor charitable events, advertize and one has even donated openly to at least one government agency.
The Bahamas is a very protestant nation with the overwhelming majority of its people identifying themselves as Christians.  Churchgoing is high.  Consequently, the political parties have not wanted to face-off against a church that, for the most part, has been rabidly against gambling.
Despite this fear by our great political parties, the numbers bosses have now decided that it is time to demonstrate to the church of Christ and its Bahamian leaders that they do not fear them.  They have set up a lobby and have let it be known that $1.5 million will be spent in an advertising effort to win the referendum.  Via this act, they have declared opposition to the church.
The Bahamian church is not used to this direct a challenge.  It has historically been able to shout down adversaries on the gambling issue.  Now, with a referendum having been pledged, the church has an opponent.
The stakes are high for this referendum.  In our modern history the church has felt it had the upper hand on issues such as this.  A defeat here will lessen the perceived power of the church.  It would also demonstrate that well-funded lobbies on moral issues could win against the church in a public fight.
What would a defeated church do?  If it preaches to its members to vote against the legalization of gambling and those members overwhelmingly disobey their pastors, that act of defiance by Bahamians would demonstrate that though many sit in pews on Sundays, they do not listen to the people who speak from them with full regard.
In waging a fight in this referendum the numbers men are doing more than attempting to legalize their businesses.  They are challenging the role of the church in the modern Bahamas.
The pastors who like to make statements on this and that moral issue need to know that on the issue of gambling they are in a fight for legitimacy.  Certainly, if the church loses it will not be totally illegitimate and irrelevant.  It would just fall a notch in influence.  And the next time a group thinks about challenging the church, if it loses this referendum fight, that group won't be as afraid, further expanding secularism in The Bahamas.
 

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News Article

June 28, 2012
A bad start for the PLP

Dear Editor,

The new Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government has tried to challenge assertions by the leader of the opposition that Prime Minister Perry Christie failed to name an attorney general on day one of his administration by suggesting that the Constitution does not require him to do so.
The PLP has made it its practice to play fast and loose with the Constitution and indeed with the laws of our land. I strongly recommend that the new PLP government acquaints itself with the Constitution and laws of The Bahamas, and conducts itself accordingly.
Even a cursory review of the Constitution makes clear that the appointment of an attorney general is mandatory. It is the only Cabinet level appointment singled out by name in Article 72 of the Constitution. Article 72 (2) specifically mandates that: "The Cabinet shall consist of the prime minister and not less than eight other ministers (of whom one shall be the attorney general)". Plainly, if there is no appointed attorney general, there is no Cabinet.
The new PLP government also suggests in its statement on Dr. Hubert Minnis' comments to the press over the weekend that the new PLP government has an "overwhelming mandate" to act. This is not true. The recent election victory by the PLP resulted in it gaining an overwhelming number of seats in the House of Assembly but it was not an overwhelming mandate from the voters. Indeed the majority of voters who voted on the May 7, 2012 voted for someone other than the PLP candidate.
The new PLP government would do well to heed Dr. Minnis' advice to govern for the benefit of all Bahamians and not only for the narrow advantage of PLP supporters. Unfortunately, the new prime minister implied in remarks delivered in North Andros over the weekend that that is exactly what his government will do, saying that PLP supporters can expect jobs and social assistance benefits which seemingly will not be available to supporters of other political parties. Such a self-serving and party-political approach to governance will only serve to sow needless division, anger and ill-will throughout Bahamian society.
If the new prime minister and his government seek the acknowledgment and support of all Bahamians, then they need to see it as their duty to govern dispassionately on behalf of every Bahamian, including the more than 65,000 persons who supported the FNM. To do otherwise is to court disaffection, disunity and ultimately disaster.

- Carl W. Bethel

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News Article

July 30, 2012
PLP's North Abaco candidate downplays threat from independent challenger

The pending by-election in North Abaco will be a race between the two major political parties, said Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidate Renardo Curry, who downplayed any possible threat from independent challenger Cay Mills.
His comments came days after Mills, who was unsuccessful in his bid to become the Free National Movement's pick for the by-election, said he planned to run as an independent candidate.
Last week the FNM's Central Council selected Greg Gomez as their standard bearer for the area. He was chosen over Mills; Jackson McIntosh, a former Cooper's Town administrator, and Perry Thomas, who lives in Fox Town, North Abaco.
On Friday, Mills hit out at retiring North Abaco MP and former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, who he said handpicked Gomez to succeed him. Mills also announced his plans to run in the election on his own.
Yesterday Curry said while Mills, a taxi driver who lives in North Abaco, has some support in the constituency, he does not think that will translate into a win.
"He's [Mills] popular in the area, in Dundas Town in particular, so I think he would do fairly well there but as far as base voters I think we are still going to get our numbers out of Dundas Town that we are anticipating getting. Overall I think when it's all said and done I've campaigned long enough to feel the people will give me an opportunity to serve them.
"For Abaco in particular it's always been a two party seat, either FNM or PLP. Mr. Ingraham was the only one able to do that independent in the late 80s, make the North Abaco seat independent, but I don't know if any other candidate at this point and time is able to do that."
FNM Chairman Charles Maynard said he was surprised that Mills has decided to run against the party's pick. Still he said the party will do all it can to ensure that Gomez wins the by-election.
"We're focused on our campaign. Mr. Mills had committed himself to supporting who ever was the successful candidate, so we were surprised to see his comments in the paper. However that will not deter us, we will stay focused on making sure Greg Gomez is exposed to the people. We believe he will be successful at the end of the day."
S. Ali McIntosh, servant leader of the Bahamas Constitution Party, is also expected to run in the by-election.
Ingraham was elected as the representative for North Abaco eight consecutive times; once as an independent, twice as a PLP candidate and five times as an FNM candidate.

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News Article

July 02, 2012
The politics of urban renewal

There has been much complaining of late about the new administration's decision to not renew the contracts of urban renewal workers. The Free National Movement (FNM) says the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) is victimizing Bahamians and the PLP says the contracts came to an end and it is moving in another direction.
Truth is that both parties use the scheme to employ supporters. The PLP did in 2002 and the FNM did it in 2007. When a new party comes in it clears out a certain number in urban renewal in order to make way for its own.
Such a system could work if the parties would be honest and define the political appointments in the scheme and those that are permanent. The individuals who are political appointees would receive five-year contracts with the explicit understanding that they work to carry out the policies of their administration while in office. When another wins, the honorable thing to do would be to resign.
There is nothing wrong with having political appointees serve in the government system. Ambassadors are similar creatures who serve at the pleasure of the administration of the day. When the administration changes, the leadership at foreign missions changes too.
Those who seek political jobs must understand that those positions are not like regular public service positions. When a political organization gives you a job just because you are a party supporter or just to look out for its interests, you are a political appointee. If Bahamians understand this, we will have fewer people crying to the media when change occurs and they are unemployed.
The DPM and the BEC chairman
Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis told The Nassau Guardian in a recent interview that Tall Pines Member of Parliament Leslie Miller failed to follow the proper process of the governing party's parliamentary caucus when he announced on a talk show on Thursday he would not support any additional borrowing to complete the controversial New Providence Road Improvement Project.
"I don't expect those of us who have firm and strong views about anything to be sharing it in public without first sharing it with his colleagues. It's the first time I'm hearing about it," said Davis.
The government has said it plans to borrow an additional $65 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to finish the road work. This was revealed in the final months of the Ingraham administration.
In the Westminster political system, it is a serious offense for a member of Parliament to vote against his party when the whip is on. If this is done, the MP can be thrown out of caucus.
Miller has always been a maverick. It was inevitable that he and the party hierarchy would clash. Prime Minister Perry Christie has announced Miller as the chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation. We wonder if Christie, Miller and the PLP will make it the full five years based on Miller's free spirit and the inability of the party's hierarchy to control him.
If Miller does vote against his party in Parliament Christie may be faced with his first political test this term. Can you leave a man in your caucus who dares to defy the party openly?

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News Article

June 26, 2012
Are the regulators killing the financial sector

Dear Editor,

Let me open by remarking that in my discussions with many colleagues involved with various sectors of financial, investment and banking services I have found that there is 100 percent unanimity of wanting The Bahamas to be a well regulated jurisdiction. It is believed that a well regulated industry will help considerably to sustain and attract business to The Bahamas.
Attracting new business in this current environment is extremely difficult and The Bahamas needs to be able to emphasize and demonstrate why it should still be considered a jurisdiction of choice.
Like the hotel industry (the number one industry of The Bahamas) the financial services industry is made up of large, medium and small players.
It is this diversity of operators that gives the public choices. This diversity should also be recognized as a positive strength. By way of example, look at the potential employment and other mayhem that would have occurred had Atlantis closed its doors. Similarly in the financial industry, there is and always has been the potential for the "big banks" to immediately withdraw from the jurisdiction. This could be for a variety of reasons often beyond the direct control of The Bahamas - i.e., changes in business strategies and consolidation among the global players.
This is not just empty rhetoric it is evidenced by the reduction of bank licensees. Another example of note is to acknowledge what has happened to the mutual fund administration segment of the financial services industry - from a thriving segment it too has essentially disappeared. The Bahamas should not ignore these events and it needs to be fully alert to these potential dangers which would/could prove to be a death knell for the financial services industry as a whole.
In order to create a favorable environment it is important for the regulators to enhance the development of all sectors within the financial services industry and in particular recognize their size. Such actions would considerably enhance the attraction of new players, clients, etc., which in turn will continue to broaden the base of the financial services industry. Quite often one gets the impression that The Bahamas only wants to attract the big global players. This might be an ideal goal but in reality, I do not consider it to be realistic especially as their numbers are shrinking.
Currently the regulators tend to be viewed as an impediment to business as opposed to being a benefit. Recently the Securities Commission of The Bahamas circulated papers (some for discussion) others as guidelines to its licensees relative to compliance officers, capital requirements and increased annual fees.
The approach taken by the Securities Commission, and to some degree by the Central Bank, is to adopt policies and guidelines for the entire industry - i.e., a "one-size-fits-all" syndrome. This situation is becoming more pronounced by the Securities Commission as it is tending to automatically include Financial and Corporate Service Providers (FCSP) licensees along with the investment sector participants - the FCSP licensees seem to be losing their individual identity (they have already lost their individual regulator).
In the cases of the "big" players the "one-size-fits-all" policies and guidelines are probably regarded as impediments, however they invariably have the adverse impact of increasing the cost of doing business. Though, when it comes to the medium and small players such impediments become difficulties - serious difficulties which can and do divert potential business from this jurisdiction. I briefly expand on the recent bulletins received from the Securities Commission.
Compliance Officer - Guideline: This states that the person fulfilling this role has to be an independent person. How can a business of maybe two or three persons be expected to have an employee with an independent role? Why cannot the CEO or COO be assigned to fulfill this role? With smaller firms there does not tend to be sufficient business to occupy the full time of such executives and it would make viable and economic sense if one of them could also fulfill this role.
Does such a suggestion of amalgamating these functions increase the risk that an independent person would have? Specifically, securities investment advisors have minimal risk, as they do not undertake banking or custodial roles thereby the risk is significantly reduced. For the "big players" who have independent persons as compliance officers all of them have the right to raise non-compliance issues; however, it is invariably senior management who makes the ultimate decision on how to deal with all of the issues raised. I do not think that allowing the dual role (similar to the smaller banks) undertaken by small firms will significantly increase the risk exposure.
Capital Requirements - Guideline: A recent change in the legislation has increased the required capital of a security investment advisor from $25,000 to $125,000. What is the rationale behind a 400 percent increase? One can argue that $125,000 is still a relatively small capital requirement which if viewed in isolation is true but equally one can ask why? What is this supposed to represent? This is considered an adverse move as pending applicants now have to find an additional $100,000, which may not be that easy.
In other words it creates a difficult environment, which faces the smaller operators (especially Bahamians) as well as the negative aspect of changing and/or evolving guidelines.
Furthermore, one has to query the relevance of this increase in capital. For example, is it based on risk formula or is it just an arbitrary number? I would have hoped that the Securities Commission would have followed the Central Bank's example of determining the overall risk of their licensees relative to their business segment. If this modern risk-rating approach was undertaken then it may make more sense and be more appropriate to ensure the company had adequate professional indemnity insurance (PII).
In most cases the security investment advisor licensees have minimal risk as they do not undertake any banking functions and they are not the custodians of the assets. Their real and only exposure would be erroneous trade executions. Once the risk is ascertained then the appropriate level of capital and/or professional indemnity insurance could be put in place. The capital, however, should be allowed to accumulate via retained earnings and consideration could be given to a possible control over the dividend payments. At this time, the guidelines indicate a new company can obtain professional indemnity insurance within the first 12 months of its operation. However, in reality the Securities Commission will not issue the license until it has evidence that the PII is in place. Which should come first the chicken or the egg? How can an adequate level of PII be ascertained without some factual history? Currently the Securities Commission now demands the minimum capital and proof of professional indemnity insurance in an amount which is subject to unknown determination. The guidelines say minimum PII covers up to $500,000, however it has been learned that this amount is subject to negotiation.
Negotiation without any determination of the risk is not the way to proceed and dangerous precedents can be set. The issues of capital requirements should be spelled out clearly for all licensees - large, medium and small.

Furthermore why cannot the "capital" be one or the other - i.e. paid in capital and/or PII ? What additional risks are being mitigated by having both?
Proposed Increase in Annual Fees: To even suggest increasing fees in this world economic environment is very bad news. The rationale given behind the proposed increases is, in my opinion, flawed. To say that the proposed increases only represent 30 percent (or only 12 percent in real terms when adjusted for inflation) and is comparable with other jurisdictions (the identity of the comparison jurisdictions are not given). It is far from obvious how these percentages were obtained yet from my discussions with people in the financial services industry their increases range from 125 percent to 700 percent. Let's be cognizant of what I call Economics 101 - the "law of diminishing returns". This could be a direct result if the proposed increases are put into effect. Increases of such amounts are unacceptable in today's environment and will have the direct effect of driving business away from The Bahamas - not just potential new business but also existing business. In other words such increases can effectively 'kill' the business. Also part of the rationale given for such increases is to allow the Securities Commission to be an independent body. However, such an arrangement could allow the Securities Commission to be overstaffed, inefficient and bloated. Is this an example of the well regulated jurisdiction that The Bahamas wishes to promote? Unfortunately and due to recognized and understandable cost constraints, both regulators carry some elements of their workforce who are unskilled and/or inexperienced for the roles to which they have been assigned. Unfortunately this can and occasionally does have a damaging external impact on the image of The Bahamas. Jurisdictional impact is not just something that the regulators should question of its licensees, it is also something the regulators need to consider when issuing such pronouncements reports, etc.
I go back to my opening remarks: "All licensees want a well Regulated Bahamas jurisdiction". In such an environment one would expect and hope that some teamwork would evolve in arriving at mutually beneficial solutions - the licensees (often represented by seasoned professionals) and the regulators should cooperate and learn from each other and make this a more user-friendly environment. Alas this is not the case, there are too many known situations where the licensees have found the approach of the regulators to be confrontational. There are also many instances where the regulator will never admit to a mistake or even retract a position. This is most unfortunate and prevents the benefits of meaningful two-way exchanges to flourish where both parties can learn from each other to everyone's mutual benefit. A recent impasse relates to "segregation of cash and client assets" where the current posture of the regulators is the opposite to the tenets of the law. I have been involved with, and a part of, the financial services industry covering a variety of roles for over 35 years. I have seen the good times and the changing times. It is an industry that has brought significant but un-quantified benefits to The Bahamas - between 15 percent and 20 percent of GDP are numbers frequently promoted. It also provides an essential diversification from tourism.
The Bahamas needs to seriously consider the "big picture" and consider changing the current regulatory climate to "custom-fit" all licensees in accordance and related to their size and risk.
I trust the foregoing will be accepted in the constructive manner intended so together we can build an improved business climate.

- Law abiding resident

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News Article

August 21, 2012
A Conversation with DJ Ampero

DJ Ampero, or Arthol Gibson works in Nassau, Bahamas as a sub-culture DJ. His
career started in 2005 doing one-off parties for close friends. That
quickly moved to him becoming the go-to DJ for The Hub's, then, annual
Halloween parties, helping to craft the vibes of the new era of open-mic
poetry.

With a few mixtape releases Ampero positioned himself as one of the known DJs involved in the House music scene.

After
making DJing his full-time profession in late 2009, Ampero has become a
staple for Stylezine Magazine's Summer mixtape series, Shore Music, and
the appended DJ for Fash|Art's annual competitive showcase...

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News Article

September 12, 2011
Christie's keys to success, Part 2

Last week we looked at the challenge facing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Perry Christie in 2012, a challenge he can certainly meet, if he plays his cards right.  Let's go a bit deeper.
First, let's look at the people who will join him on the PLP ticket. Christie knows he will do well to enlist as many young, new faces as possible. His challenge is to keep the old guard happy while he does it. This has proven to be a challenge.
The infamous May 5, 2011 letter, penned by George Smith, Philip Galanis and Raynard Rigby, attests to this.  I suppose some would say that before Christie can ask others to step aside he should volunteer to do so himself.  Well, we all know that's not happening.
Given that some of the sitting MPs in the PLP are a liability in terms of swing voters, it may seem ironic but I think Christie should try to move the discussion away from the head to head comparisons with Ingraham and focus on the PLP's team instead.
If he can't dump the undesirables, his best bet is to hide them, the way Ingraham hid Symonette during the 2007 campaign.  The FNM knows he can win his seat but they also know he hurts you on the national campaign trail.
The PLP should also not be afraid to let new team members do a lot of the talking during this campaign, to avoid the Christie-fatigue voters are feeling.
The PLP still has BJ Nottage, Glenys Hanna-Martin, Alfred Sears, Fred Mitchell, Ryan Pinder, Michael Halkitis, James Smith, Philip Galanis, Raynard Rigby, Danny Johnson, Jerome Fitzgerald, Damian Gomez, Andre Rollins, Renward Wells, Romauld Ferreira, and many other young professionals who are articulate and smart.
The PLP attracts skilled communicators, who can appeal to the working and middle class and who have the potential to become inspirational leaders.  There are many whose names are not known to the general public whom Christie should quickly call off the bench.
The party practically owns the working class constituencies, so it can flood the campaign with empathetic tales of woe.  The sympathetic approach, so familiar to the PLP, which always promises "help and hope," should go over well in a country low on confidence and uncertain (scared even) about its future.
Christie should also use his reputation as someone who consults to his advantage.  He may listen, where Ingraham may not.  He may draw on the talents of others and collaborate, not dictate. This kind of message will make sense to those swing voters who, for the life of them, can't understand Ingraham's approaches to our problems. It worked in 2002; maybe it can work in 2012.
There is even a way that Christie can confront the claims of his weakness when compared to Ingraham and that is by challenging Ingraham to a debate and beating him.
If Ingraham refuses, Christie still wins. The nation wants to see these men debate crime, the economy, education, health care, foreign direct investment, local investment, BTC, Bahamasair, immigration and land reform. These two men, who have been the giants of our politics for the last 25 years, owe us no less.  Some people close to Christie say he is scared of taking Ingraham on in a debate.  Perhaps he can win without taking the risk.
The PLPs must paint a picture of what might have been if they had the reins during this recession and what will be when they take over again.  Their message will have to make more sense and be more concrete than perhaps it ever has been.  Swing voters don't want pie in the sky promises (like you will double the education budget).  What are you going to do about teacher quality?  About parental neglect?  About the weak Math scores?
Ingraham has many blind spots.  I have said many times that the FNM seemed out of touch with what the people felt were the real priorities in the country.  Christie must rip apart the FNM's action plan of the last four years, showing all the missed opportunities.  (But they must be careful since many of the FNM's blind spots have been theirs as well).
Ingraham's government has ignored many progressive alternatives to our national development challenges.  The PLP needs to prove it knows how to be progressive again.
The real X factor in all this, is of course the DNA. This group will steal votes from both parties (eroding their bases) and make many races almost impossible to predict, particularly in southern New Providence. One school of thought is that the DNA will steal FNM votes since DNA Leader Branville McCartney is a disgruntled FNM.  Another is that swing voters, unhappy with Ingraham, but who can't stomach Christie, will go green.
In the end, the PLP has to guarantee its base support and work hard to lure some of the swing vote its way.
Christie and his team can do this most effectively by leaning heavily on the NDP's "Bahamians first" messaging, which struck a chord with the nation. They must also give their new faces heavy play at the rallies.
In the end, if the 68-year-old Christie loses this election he has no one to blame but himself.  Almost all the cards are in his hands. If he fails, it would prove two things: He was indeed ineffectual and out of touch and the PLP has learned absolutely nothing since 1997, when another old man who should have been forced to step down, drove them right into the ground.

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News Article

September 09, 2011
(Video) Miss Bahamas Shines in Miss Universe Preliminaries in Brazil

BRAZIL - Miss Bahamas Universe, Anastagia Pierre has been on an exhausting schedule for weeks now in San Paulo, Brazil for the 2011 Miss Universe Pageant. The finale will take place on Monday, September 12th and viewing parties are being organized for that same night in Nassau for people to gather and cheer on our girl!

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News Article

July 30, 2012
The independence series, part 4

"The constitution needs allegiance and loyalty and renewal and understanding with each generation, or else it's not going to last." - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy

During the last three weeks of this independence series, we traced the historical developments leading to The Bahamas Constitution drafted at the Constitutional Conference in London in December 1972. We also paraphrased the essential articles of this document that has served us for 39 years.
As promised, this week we would like to Consider This... what are some of the important amendments that should be considered for our constitution?
While we believe that our constitution has served us well, there are important provisions that were either intentionally or inadvertently omitted.
We concur with the sentiments of Benjamin Franklin who observed: "I confess that there are several parts of this (American) constitution, which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them. For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise."
Because a constitution is a living document that is always a work in progress, there are some things that change with the passage and exigencies of time, things perhaps not as relevant in 1972 as they are in today's Bahamas. We believe that numerous changes are needed.

It's our constitution
The Bahamas Constitution is a creation of the British Parliament. As a sovereign nation, we believe that we should not be governed by a constitution that was passed by a former imperial power. If we are to be truly independent, it is essential to enact a constitution which is introduced, debated and passed by the Bahamian people's Parliament and ratified by the Bahamian people as much more than a symbolic exercise.
Our independence must be a statement of fact made and executed by the Bahamian people, not one that is conferred or granted by some foreign power, no matter how amicable the relationship with our former colonizers might be. We need to bring our constitution home.
Additionally, our leaders should ensure that the original December 1972 London Constitutional Conference notes should be presented to The Bahamas government. They should become a part of our national treasure and lodged in The Bahamas. This will ensure that present and future generations will have access to the details regarding the birth of our nation's independence.
Furthermore, when we amend our constitution, it should be written in language easily understood by the average citizen and not so legalistic.

The preamble
Some persons have suggested that because our constitution makes reference to having "a national commitment to Christian values..." it connotes a constitutional bias towards Christianity. We do not agree because the constitution guarantees religious freedom for all persons.
We do, however, believe that the constitution should adopt directive principles of Bahamian national identity that would define who we are uniquely as Bahamians; directive principles of state that would adopt principles by which the state will be governed, and definitive principles regarding the duties and responsibilities of every citizen and resident living in The Bahamas.

Chapter I: The state and supremacy of the constitution
We agree that The Bahamas should maintain the supremacy of the constitution, which confirms that the greatest authority of the state is the constitution and that Parliament is subject to the constitution.

Chapter II: Citizenship
The grant of citizenship to persons in a small country like The Bahamas should be done with considered deliberation, having regard for tenets of international legal principles, while simultaneously protecting our Bahamian culture.
Notwithstanding this, we strongly believe that all gender biases should be removed from our constitution. Our constitution should provide for the full, unqualified and unreserved equality of women. Therefore, the different treatment that is granted to non-Bahamian spouses of Bahamians, as well as gender discrimination, should be eliminated from our constitution, including children born outside The Bahamas to Bahamian women who are married to non-Bahamians.
Perhaps the most challenging decisions regarding citizenship surround those children who are born in The Bahamas to non-Bahamian parents. We believe that such persons should automatically qualify for residency certificates with the right to work in order to facilitate their ability to move freely in and out of the country and to be gainfully employed at the appropriate age.
Furthermore, we believe that they should have the ability to apply for and receive such citizenship if they live in The Bahamas when they achieve the age of majority, and that they would forfeit that right if they elect not to become a citizen by the age of 21. Such an arrangement will provide such persons with a three-year window to take advantage of the right to apply for Bahamian citizenship.
Additionally, we believe that children born outside The Bahamas to unmarried Bahamian parents, without reference to gender, should be entitled to automatic citizenship, provided that such Bahamian parentage is proven.
Finally, we do not believe that there is any compelling reason to deny Bahamians the right to possess dual citizenship.
Out of an abundance of caution, and having particular regard for the debate regarding gender rights that are on-going in other democratic societies, lest there be any doubt as to the meaning of gender equality, it is critically important that our constitution should clearly define in the most unambiguous terms that the institution of marriage is a union between a man and a women.

Chapter III: Fundamental rights and freedoms
Because all other political powers of the state flow from the ability to vote for parliamentary representatives and on referenda issues, there should be a provision in our constitution that includes the right to vote as one of the rights of citizenship.
There are few who will argue that a free and unbridled press is essential to the development of a democratic society and for this reason freedom of the press should be specifically spelled out in our constitution as a fundamental right and freedom.

Chapter IV: The governor general
If we elect to retain a governor general, whether under the current circumstances or otherwise, at the very least the constitution should specifically state that the governor general must be a Bahamian citizen.
However, we believe that the time has arrived for us to determine whether we want to retain the Monarchy or to replace it with a republican form of government which would include replacing the governor general with a president. Consistent with the march for full independence and the complete exercise of national sovereignty, the governor general appointed by the Monarch as our head of state has become anachronistic. While there are advantages to remaining within the British Commonwealth, we support a local head of state.
Accordingly, we believe that the constitution should recognize this change by specifically defining The Bahamas as a "democratic parliamentary republic" with a president as our head of state. We believe that the president should be elected by both houses of Parliament for a specified period of time of six to 10 years. In electing a president, as far as practicable, Parliament should seek to elect an individual who will be a nationally unifying force, devoid of extreme divisive partisanship or political bias, and acceptable by all political parties represented in Parliament at the time of the president's election.
We also believe that criteria should be established for the naming of an acting president in the event the president is absent from the country or is unable to discharge his constitutional responsibilities. Our current constitution provides for the line of succession for the head of state which includes, in certain circumstances, the chief justice and the president of the senate. Whether or not we accept a local head of state, the constitution should be amended to remove both those persons from acting as head of state because of the inherent conflict of interest that arises by their appointment as such.

Conclusion
In our final installment of this independence series, we will suggest further constitutional changes that should be made for Parliament, the executive, the judiciary, the public service and public finance to bring those august institutions into alignment with our 21st century world.

o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.

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News Article

July 27, 2012
Christie 'committed' to campaign finance reform talks

Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday said the practice of politicians using money to sway voters has deteriorated to "repugnant" and sometimes "criminal" levels over the past 15 years.
Christie's comments were delivered at a Parliamentary Conclave hosted at the British Colonial Hilton where he also called on parliamentarians to decide whether they are committed to bringing about election campaign finance reform.
"The country has to decide, Opposition and governing people here, we have to decide whether or not we are prepared to put in place regulations that will govern the conduct of elections and persons who are contesting those elections with respect to the monies being spent," the prime minister said.
"We have to be honest with ourselves here, brutally honest with ourselves in the recognition that practices have evolved in The Bahamas over the last 10 years, 15 years that are repugnant to best practices in a democracy. Do we have the will to address what we know to exist in the best interest of this democracy?"
His statements came a day after he told the House of Assembly that two international groups which monitored the May general election called for government to create laws that would limit campaign spending.
The groups also recommended that government prohibit anonymous donations or international donors from giving money to campaigns and to create a mechanism to oversee the flow of money within campaigns.
On the sidelines of the conclave, Christie told reporters that he knows of many instances when politicians have used money to buy votes.
"We are living a lie to just continue to allow this current system that we are operating under to exist, because you know and I know and everyone else knows a lot of things are happening in this current system, where you're taking advantage of all sorts of opportunities if you're the government, and it places people at a significant disadvantage and that's not how a democracy functions."
He added: "There are laws now that say that you shouldn't treat, meaning that you shouldn't do things to induce people to vote for you in an election, and clearly you can just list countless examples where the law is breached.
"Almost like when I'm in power I do it and when you're in power you do it.
"We have to examine all of the practices of how money is used and how people come to you asking you for money during the course of an election.
"It is harmful to the democracy to be caught in situations like that, and that is why the observers recommended that we change."
Christie said he would not force the legislation on Parliament but would speak to members of his government about the need to bring about reform.
"I'm hoping that it is understood that I am committed to initiating discussions with the political parties and yes I would like to say that I will be recommending to my colleagues a certain course of action with respect to the steps we should take," he said. "But I don't want to impose it on The Bahamas. Like everything else we should involve and I'm hoping that there would be unanimity moving forward on the kinds of laws that will come out of the recommendation of the observers."
Days before the last general election, then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said he received reports that PLP operatives allegedly tried to buy votes in a Haitian-Bahamian community by hiding cash inside t-shirts.
"There's a deep, underlying and disturbing pattern in the PLP," Ingraham said at the FNM's final election rally on Clifford Park. "While we in the FNM are busy trying to encourage all registered voters to vote and vote early, they are doing their best to try and influence voters."
Ingraham said he was told that people were given yellow t-shirts with as much as $600 concealed in the fabric.

However the PLP also alleged that the FNM tried to sway voters with jobs and contracts. Before the election, PLP Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchel alleged that voters in his constituency were offered repairs to their homes and jobs at the Atlantis resort if they voted for the FNM.

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