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News Article

May 24, 2012
CBA Report: Who Will Be the Real Opposition to the New Bahamian Government

Who will be the effective opposition to the PLP in
government and in the next Elections is an interesting proposition. The primary
opposing political force must have as clear and decisive a direction as the
governing PLP party. It is apparent that the FNM with its nine sitting members
of Parliament will be the official opposition, but is there a role for the DNA
going forward?

The efficacy of
opposition parties and their viability in the next Election cycle is a most
important issue for the protection of the interests and concerns of the Bahamian
Diaspora abroad. The Council for Concerned Bahamians Abroad (CBA) will be
closely monitoring and reporting on the progress of the opposition parties, as
currently their future appears to be uncertain...

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News Article

July 29, 2014
Time to suspend all campaigns for one vital campaign

General elections in The Bahamas are normally held every five years at which time the characteristic fanfare and excitement often overshadow the messages of the parties seeking the votes of the electorate. The election season is often viewed as a major event by Bahamians; rallies are perceived by some to involve multiple nights of festivities, jubilation and partying. During this period, emotionalism and slogans tend to drown out the voices of reason, logic and practicality.
It would not be surprising if many readers had already found themselves embarking on a journey to what is referred to by some as the "silly season". This is where this writer pauses to state that we are not in the election season; although it is often said that political parties and politicians are always in election mode, our country is at a crossroads and this is not the time for the promotion of self-interest over the national interest. Politicians and persons with political ambitions on all sides of the political divide should therefore consider suspending their self-promotion and self-centered campaigns for one true campaign - the campaign to create a better Bahamas for all Bahamians.
The critical matters at hand
The Bahamian economy continues to make a slow but steady recovery in the aftermath of the Great Recession. We are faced with a huge fiscal deficit, high national debt, threats of sovereign rating downgrade and an overall fiscal imbalance. The rate of unemployment remains high with youth unemployment at an unacceptable level. The populace is plagued by crime and the fear of crime as certain elements among us seek to jeopardize our way of life and seem to be out to hold the nation hostage by threatening our number one industry.
The scourges of illegal migration and poaching in our waters continue to put a strain on the public purse and drain our limited resources in a challenging economic climate. The challenges faced by our number two industry in the form of international pressures, an evolving landscape for tax cooperation and increasing regulatory burden are well documented. Then we have the decades-long issue of gender inequality that is inscribed in our constitution and discriminates mainly against Bahamian women.
Are we making any progress at all?
The economy of The Bahamas is expected to continue on a path of modest growth in the coming years in line with the global economy, with the exception of few countries whose economies are overachieving. This seems to be the new normal; however, there is reason for optimism in relation to our economy with the materialization of local and foreign direct investment in the coming months. The key point here is that the opportunities they provide must be for both employment and entrepreneurship. Additionally, the GFS deficit has been on a gradual decline as we seek to address our financial woes.
The most recent report from the Department of Statistics showed that the unemployment rate fell from 15.4 percent to 14.3 percent while the number of discouraged workers also fell. While youth unemployment remains a serious concern, the overall rate of unemployment is going in the right direction and the prime minister has expressed optimism that the rate will continue to fall. Our proud sons and daughters of the Royal Bahamas Police Force must be commended for rising up to the challenge in the fight against crime and lawlessness in our beloved country. We cannot deny that their hard work is being felt, and the results of their efforts are apparent throughout the archipelago, although there is much work to be done.
The Bahamas government, acting on our behalf, has invested in vessels for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) to address concerns raised by we the people regarding illegal migration and poaching. While these are long-term investments, we expect results from these purchases and the reinforcement of the manpower of the RBDF.
What about legislation?
Our parliamentarians have a mandate from the people of this country to pass laws that promote social justice, preserve our freedom - in all senses of the word - and, above all, ensure that the said laws are in our best interest as a country. The legislative agenda of any government must be inspired and guided by these basic principles. The bills tabled last week that are expected to pave the way for the November 6, 2014 constitutional referendum meet the criteria aforementioned.
While the proposed value-added tax (VAT) has been the topic of much discussion, analysis, studies and sometimes contention, the VAT Bill and Regulations were tabled in the House of Assembly last week providing for consultation and increased certainty on the details of the proposed tax system. It is encouraging to hear government officials echo the sentiments of the private sector that the current fiscal dilemma we face cannot be addressed simply or solely by generating more revenue. Prudence and financial discipline as well as better tax administration must be a major part of the reform package.
The campaign of all campaigns
Prime Minister Christie made an interesting comment last week in relation to his plans for the next few years and the anticipated general election. He indicated that his focus is on addressing the challenges facing the country, inferring that he is not in election mode or campaigning for the 2017 general election when there is so much work to be done today to better the lives of Bahamians. While undoubtedly he will have to address his future plans eventually, he is right in saying that politics must not supercede the interests, well-being and current urgent needs of the Bahamian people.
Political leaders and individuals aspiring for high office in our country must join the campaign for Bahamians and ditch the campaign for themselves; the movement to wipe every tear from every eye must be everyone's business. We must learn to give credit where it is due and not criticize without merit based on our political affiliations. The current administration has had and will have challenges; however, there have been some initiatives implemented that have been aimed at moving the country forward.
We the employers, the Bahamian people, will make our decision on who to employ at the polls when the time is right. The time is not now and we will make that decision in 2017 based on the actual performance (not the dramatic or theatrical performance) and proposed plan of the government, current opposition party and groups presenting themselves as viable alternatives.
One of the main things we will consider is the position taken on issues of national importance and whether they are in our interest or merely for political expediency. The earliest opportunity will present itself during the discourse on gender equality. Will the government's opponents support and encourage persons to support this progressive move, or will they take a hands-off approach without taking sides in the debate? We will revisit this topic at a later date, but in the interim, this is a call to suspend political campaigns for one vital campaign: a national campaign aimed at a common loftier goal that knows no gender, race, politics, social status or religion - the campaign for a better Bahamas.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to a.s.komolafe510@gmail.com.

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News Article
Guardian top stories - Wed Mar 17
March 17, 2010
Guardian top stories - Wed Mar 17

Death sentences for two convicts

NIB staff members walk off the job

Anxiety still high among CLICO policyholders

Man charged with killing love rival

Bahamas students win Caribbean law challenge

Paul Moss resigns from PLP

Baha Mar deal with Chinese partners nears

Grant responds to Hanna-Martin on road safety

Trial of Melvin Maycock Sr. postponed

Relief funds forwarded to Haiti

Police up focus on visitor safety

Pastors Forum donates $3,000 to aid Haiti

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News Article

May 29, 2012
Political debt and fundraising

The new Free National Movement (FNM) leadership team has its first task clearly in front of it. The party is $1 million in debt from the 2012 election campaign, according to its former Leader Hubert Ingraham.
"When those who oppose us commenced their election television campaigns early, we did not; not because we did not wish to but because we could not afford a television campaign. We needed more money to run a more effective campaign this year," said Ingraham on Saturday at Holy Trinity Activities Centre, Stapledon Gardens.
Ingraham also revealed another interesting figure. He said the party raised $131,000 through online donations during the three-plus-week period the party pushed for such donations during the campaign. Some 363 individuals donated online, 30 people made direct deposits at the bank and others took small cash donations to FNM headquarters at Mackey Street, according to Ingraham.
"I believe that this initiative to involve a wide cross section of Bahamians in supporting our party bodes well for the development of our democracy. It is my hope that such fundraising will continue, demonstrating real ownership of our party by the people," he said.
If such a sum can be raised in such a short time, parties could raise even more from small donations year-round, especially emphasizing online donations. U.S. President Barack Obama has mastered this method of fundraising regularly asking his supporters through emails for "$3 or whatever you can" to boost his reelection effort.
In The Bahamas, we have no campaign finance laws. Often the party that is able to solicit the biggest donations from the most "generous" investors - often foreign - has the advantage. This wide-open system gives foreigners who want something specific in return tremendous influence over our political system and our politicians. It also gives that same power to the richest Bahamians.
The small and medium-sized donations model is more democratic. If parties raised most of their money from smaller donations from a large number of people, these parties and their leaders would be less beholden to the narrow interests of plutocrats.
Additionally, more Bahamians would feel they have a stake in the work of their parties, as they actually invested financially in them. This would make political parties more like publicly traded companies with the wide base of donors being like shareholders.
The Bahamas could easily begin its move to regulating campaign financing by banning foreign money in our elections and capping donations. The new FNM Leader, Dr. Hubert Minnis, said in a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian that he thinks there needs to be some form of campaign finance reform and hopes that Prime Minister Perry Christie would be open to the idea. If Dr. Minnis is serious he should push for the initiative. That would demonstrate that he is a reformer. The issue has not been touched by FNM or Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administrations.
We must protect our democracy from those who seek to openly buy the influence of our political leaders. Such laws are overdue.

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News Article

May 24, 2012
Bishop Gomez to the government: People are watching you

Although they were elected to office by a landslide victory, the governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was reminded by Anglican Bishop Drexel Gomez that the Bahamian people are still in great need, and that it is the government's duty to bring relief to all the people.
The former head of the Anglican Diocese in The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos islands said at a recent service of thanksgiving for the new government at Zion Yamacraw Baptist Church, that much like Jesus was watched closely by the Pharisees throughout His ministry, the Bahamian people will watch the PLP, especially since their cry for a change has been expressed so boldly.
"This new administration should aim to remember that they are being watched by the Bahamian people to see how they govern the country," said Bishop Gomez. "They have a great responsibility and it is hoped that they live up to it. In the teaching of Jesus in Luke 14 and in Luke 10, a significant point is made that eternal life is that quality of life characterized by showing mercy to those in need regardless of who they are.
"Mercy only sees need and Jesus teaches that you are to respond to human need in a positive way, and I hope the administration takes this to heart. They are to respond to the people in this country who are crying out in a way that brings relief and creates a foundation for further peace and unity in the future."
Bishop Gomez told the congregation that the country has faced numerous problems repeatedly over the years, and that it is time for the government to step up to the plate and address the issues that really matter.
He said the ongoing violence and murders is stifling society and causing many people to live in fear day and night. He said that there should be an action plan that the government can use to assist other institutions who are trying to address this ongoing problem. While the Anglican bishop said he knows the resolution to the problem will not come overnight, he said the government should take measures to help the process along.
"It is also important for the issue of equality of opportunity to be addressed," he said. "The administration should aim to do more to make space for everyone in our society. The most prominent being employment. We are at an all-time high for unemployment and a large majority of this population are young people who sacrifice to qualify themselves and still cannot find work in their own homeland. This is not fair and we should look to turn such a situation around."
The bishop encouraged the government to also look into improving education by making opportunities balanced across the board for all children no matter where they live, what their ethnicity or their family's economic state. He also said he hoped that universal health care and housing issues in the country are addressed so that more less fortunate Bahamians can live a better quality life in their own country.
The bishop also challenged Prime Minister Perry Christie to set the bar higher and encourage accountability and ethics in administration by appointing a national commission for electoral reform. This will allow all institutions in the country to be represented and have a voice in the evolution of the government, and the development of the country. Establishing a code of ethics that those in government must abide by was also something he hoped the government would consider.
"If we do this we will be establishing that we have laws and standards in our country," he said. "I would hope that as we advance more, that such an idea would be utilized because we have to have ethics and our politicians need to be accountable. If we have no kind of standard for them to be held against then anything can go by, and as a developing nation we need to see the merit in such a thing."
Bishop Gomez encouraged the government to be transparent and reliable while in office, and to remember that the people should be a part of the process and not just spectators in their country. He said that if the government could be in constant communication with the people and let decision-making be an effort by all parties concerned, then much of the outcry and anger the people feel at the end of a seemingly failed administrative term can be lessened. At the end of the day, he hoped the government remembered that they were elected to serve the people and should be doing what is best for them and not for themselves.
"And to do all of this you need God. I hope most of all that all members of the government know that they cannot hope to guide the country in the right way without God in the formula. Remember to put your trust in God, be faithful and true to Him and He will guide you to do the works that will benefit the country the most."

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News Article

June 15, 2012
MoT urges GB board restructuring

The Ministry of Tourism says it is committed to working with the Grand Lucayan resort "without looking back" despite its withdrawal from the Grand Bahama Island Tourism Board.
While negotiations are ongoing, the ministry's director general David Johnson said some kind of board or committee to steer Grand Bahama forward is needed, and the government is willing to take whatever measures necessary to make sure that happens.
He suggested to Guardian Business that perhaps the board could be restructured to accommodate the resort.
"We met with them, answered their questions, and gave them an assurance to work with them and review matters to see how we can strengthen the board. A board is useful," said Johnson. "A committee or board is needed. We have agreed to assist them in taking whatever measures they need to be taken."
Top executives from Hong Kong based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa are in Freeport this week to discuss the firm's second quarter results.
Dr. John Meredith, the group managing director and The Bahamas' honorary consul in Hong Kong, was unavailable for comment.
Guardian Business understands that the main cause of the Grand Lucayan's pull out is a disparity in contributions to the promotional and marketing fund. The largest resort in Grand Bahama felt it was better served spending those dollars independently, rather than pooling money with other stakeholders.
The island, which has an unemployment rate of 21 percent, is now at a crucial stage as government officials and local businesses try to turn the country's second city around.
The recently elected Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has appointed Michael Darville at the post of minister of Grand Bahama to help achieve this rebound.
Johnson declined to discuss the particulars of Grand Lucayan's decision to pull out of the board.
"It's optional to be a member and they have chosen not to be involved. But we are discussing the Grand Bahama Tourism Board and what role they can still have in it," he said.
He explained that no stakeholder on Grand Bahama can afford to work independently, and he expressed hope that all parties can continue to work together. Johnson said a "broader picture" must be taken, rather than focusing on grievances and the reason behind the withdrawal.
"We have to talk about the future," he insisted. " What is the future composition of the players, and how we can get the collaboration. So we take a blank sheet, and see what it takes."
The ultimate goal, he added, is to get the whole strip open and entice more tourists to the area. Both sides share this goal, Johnson said.
Guardian Business spoke with the director general from Florida, where he was attending a key conference on the upcoming revamp of Bahamas.com. With the launch just 30 days away, the Ministry of Tourism is planning a new online product to market the Family Islands, including Grand Bahama, and a series of new commercials will be rolled out across North America.

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News Article

June 18, 2012
Lawyer outlines three-step plan for aircraft registry

Callenders & Co. Senior Associate Llewellyn Boyer-Cartwright, a former commercial jet pilot and the first Bahamian to be admitted to the Lawyer Pilots Bar Association, today outlined a three-step process he says could pave the way for the establishment of an aircraft registry in The Bahamas.
The first step is to ratify the Cape Town Treaty (Aircraft Convention), says Boyer-Cartwright, who has actively led the call for an international aircraft registry in The Bahamas. "Becoming a signatory to the Cape Town Convention builds international confidence in The Bahamas as a serious and competitive aviation jurisdiction, by eliminating uncertainty about who has a right to buy, sell, lease or even repossess an aircraft or its engines," said Boyer-Cartwright. "It is the equivalent of having a GPS or tracking device so you always know where what you own or lease is at all times. Without that protection, an engine could be sold while it is thousands of miles away from its owner whether that owner is a corporation, institution or individual. It sounds bizarre, but it can and has happened where engines have been sold to third parties. The only protection is to be covered under the Cape Town Treaty Convention. This is really important in a world where the biggest increase in the aircraft industry is in smaller planes, in fractional ownership and corporate jets."
The United States, the full European Union, India, China and, in our own region, Aruba - all countries that would be competitive international aircraft registry jurisdictions - are signatories, he noted.
"Not being a signatory to the Cape Town Convention puts us at a great disadvantage," said Boyer-Cartwright. "And I think the only reason we are not is that it has not been a priority. It was just not at the forefront of anyone's mind. There are no drawbacks. It's totally a win-win situation."
The second step is to create and appoint a committee or body to establish the framework for an aircraft registry and create an Aviation Authority.
"This should involve representatives from all interested sectors, finance, law and, of course, Civil Aviation," said Boyer-Cartwright, who flew thousands of air miles before turning his attention to law and joining the country's oldest law firm, Callenders & Co., headquartered in Nassau with satellite offices elsewhere.
The third step, but one that is not immediately essential to the start-up of an aircraft registry, is the removal of 10 percent stamp duty on aircraft.
"Elimination of duty on aircraft would not be a great loss to government as little duty is collected now because there are so few aircraft on the register in The Bahamas. It would also be more of an incentive for domestic or Bahamas-based airlines to own rather than lease aircraft," said Boyer-Cartwright. "There are so many other ways to generate revenue through dutiable goods and supplies for aircraft maintenance and operation that the way we are doing it now is actually, in my opinion, costing rather than creating revenue."
But, he said, duty-related discussions should not stop government from taking immediate action to set the establishment of an international aircraft registry in motion.

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News Article

November 10, 2012
BeBe Winans, You're PLP For real though

Dear Editor,

Initially I did not intend to write a commentary on the weekend's events over at Atlantis, but since persons have asked: I have said in past op-eds and it bears repeating, national events should always be apolitical meaning no political party should at any time be the focal point or muse for such events.
Why BeBe Winans, an American gospel artist, felt the need to state from the stage that he was PLP was beyond stunning for among other things this key reason: all musical artists, especially American artists know that when they perform in a foreign country, they are to never make statements of any kind from the stage about that country's politics or its government.
BeBe Winans is already a singer. So if he also felt the need to sing for the "PLP", I am on the one hand left to wonder what his precise affiliation with the governing party actually is; and on another hand, left to assume that the government was paying for him to both appear and perform in The Bahamas. If so, how much did we pay Winans, since it is my money and your money as taxpayers that paid him if the government paid for his appearance, either in part or the whole?
Bebe Winans is a gospel singer. God is not PLP, so his statement clearly had nothing to do with praising God and was out of order in the context of the music business, not to mention ridiculous from the standpoint of entertaining those in attendance since he cannot be silly enough to believe that an entire nation of people in a democracy only supports one of several political parties therein. And this is precisely one of the reasons behind artists being prohibited by their record labels from doing what Bebe Winans did.
As for statements made by Sir Sidney Poitier to or about Prime Minister Perry Christie, I do not have the direct quote of his comments, and therefore do not want to comment on what I am not certain of.
But, if he did make comments of a political nature, those too, would have been completely inappropriate at what is supposed to be an event celebrating being Bahamian, not being a supporter of the governing party.
And for the armchair patriots who are rearing up to say "every political party does this" - no they do not and no they did not. When the national stadium, as one example, was officially opened, the former administration (thanks to the late Charles Maynard) was so focused on having authentic Bahamian artists as headliners that it brought in Johnny Kemp.
I will never forget when I saw Johnny step on stage singing "Just Got Paid". I said to myself, "well muddo, where they found Johnny Kemp from?"
But he is Bahamian, so wherever he was, he ought to have been found, and he was.
To the government of the day: one does not have to be a supporter of yours to be Bahamian. One is no less Bahamian if he or she does not, never did or never will support your party.
If you know that, please remember it. If not, please do learn it.

- Sharon Turner

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News Article

June 04, 2012
Demonstrating political maturity

With a change of government, the new administration has the right and the responsibility to make various changes it deems best in the conduct of the nation's business. This includes the reassignment of human resources in terms of civil servants, board assignments and contracts.
A certain level of patronage is to be expected. So, too the reassignment of senior public officers including permanent secretaries.
Still, during transitions from one administration to the next there is the risk of excess. There is the potential excess of a party's more fervent supporters who often give vent to pent up frustration and a desire for "payback".
Oftentimes this is manifested in supporters blowing off steam. Sometimes the result is unacceptable behavior such as the intimidation of the supporters of other parties and other crude behavior that is unacceptable.
The Government of The Bahamas does not belong to any political party. The government of the day is a caretaker and steward, not a proprietor. Today's government is tomorrow's opposition and vice versa.
In terms of right and proper conduct, we do not accept the baseless and immature argument, "Well the other side did it. Now, it's our time." It is never time to indulge certain mind-sets and behavior, a point we have previously made regardless of who is in office.
The tamping down of excess by one's supporters is always an obligation of political leaders. Excusing or ignoring any such excess reflects on the leaders of a party in or out of office.
Equally important is the question of potential victimization. This may include the cancellation of various contracts including for professional services, consultancies, infrastructure, public maintenance or other purposes.
First, there is the reality of a new government's self-interest. A party that the public believes is indulging in victimization risks a backlash and the loss of support from independent voters and its own supporters.
For example, the canceling of a business contract for a supporter of another party may result in that individual having to lay off employees who voted for or supported the incoming administration.
Then there is the national interest. We simply have to progress beyond the temptation to indulge in the petty, knee-jerk and undemocratic victimization of others that we have witnessed in various governments over the years. It is wrong and it generates an unhealthy bitterness in the society.
Those who do not recognize that it is in their self-interest and in the national interest to demonstrate restraint and maturity may pay a price for such behavior even as that behavior exacts a cost on our progress as a nation.
One example of political maturity by the new Christie administration would be to retain some of the talented Bahamians already serving on a number of public boards.
While we expect such boards to be substantially populated by new appointees of the new Government, there are individuals with certain experience, and technical or academic expertise, who should be retained for the national good.
We are too small a country to dismiss certain talent because "they aren't one of us" or because "we don't know how they voted".

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News Article

July 31, 2014
Debate delayed on referendum bills

Debate on the Bahamas Constitutional Amendment Bills was delayed in the House of Assembly yesterday after Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis indicated that the opposition needed more time to properly educate itself and its supporters on the matter.
"This is a constitutional matter that we must deal with," said Minnis in the House of Assembly.
"And as you know, the constitution is the heart and soul of our country.
"Therefore, the opposition would like additional time to review and discuss the matter...so that there is a proper understanding among its constituents, proper understanding among supporters and proper understanding, especially, among all Bahamian women and men at large so that they can understand exactly what this equality bill is all about."
The bills were tabled last week and debate was expected to begin yesterday.
The passing of the bills will pave the way for a referendum that will focus on gender equality. The referendum, which is scheduled for November 6, will follow an "extensive educational process".
Minnis said he supports the bills and will seek to move forward "as quickly as possible".
"No one can debate the fact that the women in this country have fought for a long time," he said.
"In fact, they fought through the women's suffrage movement and, Mr. Speaker, today women still suffer in terms of equality. I know what the female population goes through, coming from a single parent background.
"...I would be the first to agree that we should have equality for women."
Leader of Government Business in the House of Assembly Dr. Bernard Nottage said the government supports the opposition members' move to educate themselves on the issues.
"We got the impression that there was unanimity of support for the bills and if there are questions, we are fully supportive of giving time for that to take place," Nottage said.
"...I think it would be useful for the opposition and ourselves to get together during the course of this week, so that we can fully understand what their concerns are and they can fully understand what our desire is."
Nottage said he hoped to wrap up debate on the constitution bills by next week. However, it is unclear if that is still possible.
The House was suspended until next Wednesday.
Following the suspension, Prime Minister Perry Christie told reporters that he wants the opposition to have as much access to information on the referendum as the government does.
"I think that it is good because the Constitutional Commission can take the opportunity to address the leadership of the FNM, as they should the leadership of the PLP, because part of their job is public education," Christie said.
"There ought to be no difference at all between the parties with respect to this matter, and the only way a referendum will take place is if we are united."
Minnis also said there must be unity in order for the referendum to succeed.

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