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The chairman of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC) plans to improve the organization's outreach to small businesses in an effort to make the sector feel more valued and less isolated in these challenging financial times.
Winston Rolle told Guardian Business the first meeting is scheduled for next Wednesday at St. Angus Church.
"We're trying to reach out and have dialogue with them," he added. "There is a perception that the BCCEC is not about small businesses. The Chamber is trying to combat that and get a better sense of what their needs are and examine ways to get them more engaged in the process."
Noting that many attempts have been made to establish their own association, Rolle threw cold water on the idea of separating from the BCCEC and insisted his organization is capable of championing the interests of this all-important sector of the economy. Next week's outreach program will be the first of many meetings with stakeholders to create a greater sense of community."There have been a number of attempts to start a small business association, but the reality is small businesses by themselves in that manner is not practical," he felt. "The fee structure, for example, for a small business association would end up being such that they couldn't afford it."
Rolle also pointed out that separating from BCCEC would mean smaller operations will lose networking and mentorship opportunities.
During the first meeting next week, he expects crime prevention to be top fo the agenda for many entrepreneurs, especially coming into the Christmas season.
Meanwhile, the new outreach program is expected to complement the pending introduction of small business legislation still to be tabled by the government. Partially funded by Compete Caribbean, a $40 million program jointly supported by several organizations, including the Inter-American Development Bank, the initiative for small business in The Bahamas should establish the framework to encourage growth, according to Rolle.
BCCEC, he said, actually submitted the full proposal and now "we are waiting for the wheels of government to turn so it can get tabled".
The small-to-medium-sized business act will serve as a one-stop shop for stakeholders. Essential to the program, Rolle added, will be the ability to solicit more funding for the sector. He told Guardian Business there were a umber of success models being looked at for the process.
The outreach is expected to provide a head-start in terms of understanding their needs and pay dividends once the legislation comes to ass.
"It's part of my mandate," Rolle said. "We want to reach out to them and see what we can do to help."
National addresses by leaders are significant. They indicate that the topic being addressed is of national significance. They also indicate that the state is placing its full weight behind solving the problem under consideration.
No sensible person disagrees that we have a crime problem in The Bahamas. There have been four murder records in five years. The total murder count this year will be considerably larger than last year's record count. There are also problems with robberies and break-ins. Bahamians, especially residents of New Providence, do not feel safe in their paradise anymore.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's address on crime Monday night was comprehensive. He brought forward new initiatives on the response and prevention sides of the issue of crime. We will first address the response side.
Ingraham announced an amnesty period for illegal weapons to be turned in, tougher penalties for people found guilty of gun crimes, and the addition of two courts at the Magistrates' Court level for gun and drug crimes. Magistrates will now have the power to sentence convicts to a maximum of seven years in prison rather than the five years currently allowed.
An additional criminal court at the Supreme Court level will be active by January, the prime minister said, along with a remand court at Her Majesty's Prison. This new court will reduce the frequency of the bussing of prisoners to the downtown area. This is welcomed and a relief. The change will reduce serious risk to innocent people.
Legislation is also foreshadowed to clarify the sentencing of murder convicts. Based on Ingraham's remarks, there will be three degrees of murder. One will be death eligible; one subject to a full life sentence in jail; and the other to sentences between 30 and 60 years.
We have gone on record with our opposition to the death penalty. Aside from that sentence, we agree that designations are needed for categories of murder.
These initiatives, and others already underway or just announced by the government, are useful. However, more could have been said about the state of the Office of the Attorney General.
While the prime minister said more investigation training is on the way for police, prosecutors at the Office of the Attorney General still present cases in the Supreme Court. It is true that police investigators have to up their performances. The state prosecution office needs to do the same.
We are not convinced that the Office of the Attorney General and its personnel and structure are up to the task of efficiently and successfully prosecuting matters in a timely fashion.
This office somehow escapes public scrutiny. Commissioners of police and ministers of national security should play their parts and lead. However, attorneys general and directors of public prosecution are equally involved in the justice system. Both the AG and his DPP must be more public and demonstrate to the country that they too are feeling pressure and are reforming their area of responsibility.
If our police put together good cases and our prosecutors bring them forward quickly, there would be no issue of bail.
We also think the government should clear the courts and its prosecution register of old cases that cannot be successfully or reasonably prosecuted. This is a difficult task, as it will require informing victims and their families that there will be no trial and punishment via the courts for vile offenses committed. Orders of no prosecution should be issued for all of these cases.
Years of failure to manage the criminal justice system properly have led us here. The Office of the Attorney General's time should not be wasted chasing past failure. We must work to ensure that the state prosecution service is feared.
If it is feared, many offenders would plead guilty to crimes committed when charged because they fear trial and a higher sentence.
"We are confronted by criminals - a criminal class of older seasoned offenders as well as a crop of bloody-minded juvenile offenders and thugs who seem to believe that they can evade the rule of law with little or no regard for life and other people's property," said Ingraham.
"For some, life is cheap; our common welfare is of no value. I share your anguish and anger whether you or a family member or neighbor has been a victim of crime. This vicious assault of crime affects us all. It destroys lives and damages livelihoods."
We are at a crossroad. If the level of crime and violence in our country rises further, we will become an unstable state and more of our citizens will consider living elsewhere.
We do not think the measures the government announced on the response side to crime will solve the problem, but we do think they will help counter the dangerous and violent trends that have emerged. We applaud the initiatives and hope that they will be effectively implemented.
2014 began with crime rates soaring ridiculously high in the Caribbean. Reports have indicated that in the first seven days of this year, the southern twin republic of Trinidad and Tobago reported 19 homicides and counting.
A recent article from Caribbean Journal asked the question, "Can Jamaica control its crime problem?" while the January 8 issue of Caribbean News Now reports that based on a Florida maritime lawyer's opinion the "Bahamas is one gunshot away from cruise lines exit".
In this very issue, fellow Caribbean News Now commentary writer Phillip Edward Alexander, in his article captioned "My plan for fixing crime in Trinidad and Tobago", outlined very practical enforcement steps to curbing, containing and dealing with criminals on a per demographic basis. This reactive template I agree is necessary and must be rolled out if any meaningful results can be realized, starting as he suggests, with the purging of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service of its "rogue" officers.
Even if I do applaud Alexander for his plan and his determination to have it submitted to the minister of national security of T&T, I again want to give the clarion call for a deeper and more serious proactive psychosocial approach to crime reduction and prevention in the Caribbean, an approach that looks at and treats the root causes.
And so on the enforcement front, I could not agree more with Alexander. However, after we may have flushed out the police service and in turn flushed out the criminal elements in their respective communities, if we do not put real social concepts and strategies in place to deal with the personal, family and community dysfunctions at the root, it's only a matter of time before crime and criminals are full grown again and like a volcano begin to spew its deadly lava down on the same communities.
Let me confidently step out and say to the governments of the Caribbean that unless you get out of your comfort zone and professional day-to-day routines and invest in the social empowerment of your people, especially your youth, you are fighting a losing and recurring battle with crime.
As a crime reduction specialist who has worked in Canada, England, Africa, the U.S.A. and the Caribbean, I can honestly say that not too many administrators that I have met are willing to forge an unprecedented path to change. Traditional outdated methods and theories that are not even relevant to this post-modern millennial generation are conveniently and effortlessly engaged and re-engaged, yet with miraculous change expected.
Nobody wants to "rock the boat". No one will challenge the status quo. It's a "just business as usual" attitude in the offices and departments of people who were hired to make a difference on their nation and help to preserve the future, the youth.
You see, my friends, in an "enforcement approach" to crime the status quo demands that criminals are processed through the judicial system and made to stand the consequences of their offense.
Although this approach exemplifies justice at its core and can sometimes cause individuals to think about changing their behavior, the motivation for that change may only be the severity or dislike of the punishment. It does not ensure that the offender has learned any new skill which will help him/her to deal with the circumstances that led to the offense. In this model, recidivism is very likely as soon as the fear or memory of the punishment has faded and the circumstances that motivated the offense in the first place reoccur.
On the contrary, to make serious impact on crime in the Caribbean, or anywhere else for that matter, does not call for an all therapeutic approach either. It would take a good balance between enforcement which is reactive and social rehabilitation which is proactive to engage sustainable crime reduction and prevention.
So Alexander's plan to use enforcement to uproot the criminal elements at a community level is well warranted. However, if during enforcement and institutionalizing, social rehabilitative strategies aimed at addressing the root causes of their social dysfunctions can be engaged, the outcome can be nothing but favorable.
With the criminal elements now contained and treated, the proactive prevention work can begin in these communities engaging children, youth and adults in strategies that will help them deal with issues like disrespectful confrontations, domestic violence, abuse, revenge, impulse control, unemployment and all the factors feeding criminal behavior.
But to successfully accomplish this will take administrators and decision makers who are willing to challenge the status quo while getting out of the comfort zone of traditions, regular routines and eight-to-four operations.
That is when we will realize a sustainable drop in the crime rates on the beautiful island gems of the Caribbean thus reclaiming the names of the once coveted peaceful islands of the Caribbean we were all known to be.
If you are really serious about crime-reduction strategies and programs for your homeland, visit us at www.motiv-8.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You won't regret it!
o Neals J. Chitan is the Grenadian-born president of Motiv-8 For Change International - a Toronto-based High Impact Social Skill Agency that is specially dedicated to the social empowerment of individuals, families and communities. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.
The following is a Communication by Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham, Prime Minister on the Anti-Crime Legislation Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill.
I wish to advise of the tabling for First Reading, a number of Bills.
Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill
Amendments proposed to the Criminal Procedure Code will when enacted:...
In a modern society,
there is no other issue I believe that is more significant than that of
protecting our assets. Daily most of us are all focused on acquiring
wealth for a better lifestyle and maintaining our freedom, thus it is
only natural that the next logical step would be to protect what we have
obtained. But what have we obtained? It is exactly the people and
things which are valuable to us, that in one way or another, dictate
what and who we are. The debate now is not whether we have misplaced our
values, but rather to what extent are we prepared to go to keep what is
precious to us. That 'extent' is asset protection, that 'extent' is
loss prevention, which we collectively call security or whatever we
choose to call it. Simply put, it is keeping what you have safe and
In a swift response to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's national address on crime, the Progressive Liberal Party said in a statement last night that while some of the plans announced are "perfectly reasonable" and will find support from the PLP, taken as a whole "they are woefully inadequate, far too little, far too late".
"Most perplexing was the tone adopted by the prime minister as if he had just taken office, rather than having presided over the dramatic escalation in crime over the last four years," the PLP said.
"Is he just now discovering that witnesses need protection, that crime prevention programs must be properly funded and that the severity of the crisis demands engaged leadership?"
The PLP said it believes The Bahamas deserves a government focused on fighting crime all the time, not just at election time.
"The prime minister was vague when he needed to be specific, weak when he needed to be strong, and offered watered-down proposals when fully-funded efforts are needed," the statement said.
The PLP pointed to Ingraham's announcement that the government will immediately allocate $1 million for urban social intervention programs.
"Let's put that number in perspective," the party said.
"The FNM government spent $5.8 million on the Miss Universe Pageant -- but with an entire generation at risk, he offers $1 million? Almost six times more on Miss Universe alone rather than putting young Bahamians first."
The statement added, "After raising taxes during tough times, which made the recession worse, after delaying projects for political reasons, resulting in lost jobs, and after failing to put Bahamians first at the bargaining table, the prime minister offers Bahamians a lecture.
"It's time for a government that believes Bahamians are the answer, not the problem."
The PLP said its approach is tougher, and more holistic.
"The PLP believes an holistic approach is necessary to fight crime: prevention, prosecution, punishment and rehabilitation," the statement said.
It added, "On the matter of increased sentences for firearm possession, we have proposed that the possession of high-powered weapons should be tried in the Supreme Court, allowing greater sentencing power than the approach suggested by the prime minister.
Ingraham said last night that after November 4, anyone convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm or ammunition will, upon conviction, be imprisoned for a minimum of four years.
"I highlight the fact that the power of magistrates to impose sentences is being increased from five to seven years and that conviction on drug and gun related offenses may attract the maximum sentence of seven years," Ingraham said.
The PLP noted that the government intends to establish three years as a reasonable period to hold a person without trying him or her.
"The overall effect of the PLP's Safe Bahamas plan is that murders will be tried within 12 months," the statement said.
"Under the Swift Justice initiative, the PLP was able to conduct a preliminary inquiry and subsequent murder trial within 12 months. We did it before and we will do it again."
The statement added: "The PLP believes that we must be able to intervene directly into the cycle of revenge killings, with specially-trained violence breakers.
"Not a word from the prime minister on combating this vicious cycle. The FNM apparently disagrees. The PLP has proposed increased funding for drug rehabilitation, safe havens created by the police in conjunction with the clergy, saturation patrols in crime hot spots, and increased surveillance of repeat offenders. Nothing from the FNM on these matters -- silence."
The PLP claimed that it is the only party with the expertise and the will to see a fully-implemented urban renewal program.
Police analysis suggests that about 50 percent of crimes could have been prevented had "basic" security measures been implemented, Superintendent Stephen Dean said.
Dean said many Bahamians failed to protect themselves and their property and unintentionally gave criminals easy access to their property.
"The criminal element is getting much wiser," he said during a crime prevention press conference at police headquarters this week.
"They are trying all kinds of tactics to get at you. The best defense against crime is you.
"We can put all the technology in place but you have that awesome responsibility in the crime prevention."
Up to July 16 -- the last date crime statistics were revealed this year -- police had recorded 5,726 major crimes.
At least 2,863 of those crimes could have been prevented if people had taken some precautions.
Dean said too often people give would-be criminals the "opportunity" to commit crimes.
"I just went to an incident this morning where a lady in a populated place took her hand bag and put in the back seat of the car and put a towel over it," he said. "When she came back, it was stolen. The car had been broken into.
"Sometimes you create the opportunity. A person might not want to commit the crime, but you created the opportunity. If you could remove the opportunity for the criminal, there will not likely be a crime."
He added that "someone is always watching".
Dean noted that some criminals will commit crimes whether people put in protective measures or not.
However, he encouraged members of the public to take as many precautions as they can.
He said people should pay attention to their surroundings.
When shopping, he said, consider taking someone.
Dean said people should also avoid carrying large sums of cash.
As for the safety of vehicles, Dean said people should always lock their doors, park in well-lit areas and take all personal property out of their vehicles.
He reminded residents to ensure that all windows and doors on their homes have secondary locks. For those who can afford it, he also suggested they install a burglar alarm system.
"Remember that the enemies of the burglar are time and attention," he said. "The longer it takes to enter and the more noise he makes, increase his chances of being seen and caught. Homes not easily and quickly broken into are most often bypassed for easier targets."
Dean noted that the yuletide season is a time when criminals target people in greater numbers.
He assured that the full complement of the police force will be patrolling the streets.
Assistant Superintendent Matthew Edgecombe, who heads the Business and Technology Crimes Unit, encouraged business owners to watch out for credit card fraud.
He said police have also noted a trend in counterfeit $10 and $20 bills.
Edgecombe said check fraud and employee theft are also increasing.
The attorney general of The Bahamas, Allyson Maynard-Gibson, said recently that there are over 400 accused murderers on bail. This figure represents more than half of the murders committed in The Bahamas over the last 10 years and could be one of the major reasons for the escalation in serious criminal offenses that occur in our country.
Looking at the factual information above, the average citizen can easily deduce that something is wrong with our current system for prosecuting alleged murderers. We have an endemic problem and this type of incompetence seems to be supported by corruption at the highest levels.
The word on the street is that murder raps are easier to beat than armed robbery. Young men today are more fearful of getting caught for committing an armed robbery than they are of committing murder. For every 875 Bahamians, one accused murderer walks freely amongst us. This does not even take into account the murderers amongst us who have not been charged as yet.
The adverse spinoff effect of having accused murderers out on bail is beyond measure. Can you imagine the negative effect this has on our young men who see these thugs commit murder and then within one to two years these thugs are back on the streets? The abysmal failure of our criminal justice system continues to strengthen the resolve of criminally-minded persons who will as long as possible terrorize our communities. These criminals are revered for their illicit acts and young men know that if they perform an act equally as heinous they can also earn a reputation and be "rated" on the streets.
Gibson mentioned that the case files for accused murderers have been poorly kept and she said that this is one of the reasons why so much of these men are out on bail. I have been unable to fathom how a case file for an alleged murderer out on bail can be poorly managed given the fact that we are well on our way to a fifth murder record in six years in The Bahamas.
I hope Gibson sees the wisdom to further investigate this matter, as it seems criminal to me that an accused murderer is allowed to go out on bail because records were poorly kept given the present capabilities that computer programs provide. The protocol standards have not been exercised and as such those responsible need to be held accountable. The investigation of this intentional administrative failure needs to commence as soon as possible and the criminal case should be fast-tracked to the Supreme Court. This needs to be done in the public's best interest.
Gibson also reiterated that the re-introduction of the swift justice program will resolve this apparent "administrative malfunction" and will net positive results going forward.
I say to the attorney general that good and right-thinking Bahamians are supporting her in the government's efforts to bring this mammoth crime problem under control. Many of us want The Bahamas to be a safe haven again for all citizens and if Project Safe Bahamas, Urban Renewal 2.0 or the swift justice program can keep criminals where they belong and then perhaps act as a crime prevention tools, then we are behind you 110 percent.
Successive governments are to be blamed for our current state of affairs and the ball is now in Perry Christie and Gibson's court to deliver. One accused murderer out on bail is too much, but we now have over 400. These accused murderers pose a great risk to the general public because of their willingness to harm others and to themselves because of vigilantes who are constantly seeking street justice.
I say to you Mrs. Gibson, to let's see how fast we can bring these cases to trial and let the chips fall where they may. We will wait and see the results of swift justice and judge its effectiveness accordingly.
- Dehavilland Moss
In announcing the launch of Urban Renewal 2.0 at police headquarters on Monday, June 4, 2012, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade was quoted by reporter Dana Smith of The Tribune as saying, "Many of the murders that we recorded to date are a result of arguments. I am ashamed to tell you, arguments over women, females, where young men are feuding over females."
He further stated that "yes drugs is causing a lot of our problems, but a lot of our problems with our young people stem from these relationships that do not work right".
If the commissioner of police is correct about what he thinks is the cause of the record-breaking spike in our country's murder rate today, then it points to a spiritual problem which cannot be solved by police or any other law enforcement agency. This calls for more direct support of churches and para-church organizations that are actively running programs that affect the spiritual fabric of our nation. Police and other law enforcement agencies are employed to enforce the laws of the land, and are not expected to become social and religious counselors at the flip of a switch.
According to the report in The Tribune on Tuesday, June 5, 2012, the commissioner stated the following: "This is killing us and it's causing our people to die. We are going to have to make that intervention. We're going to have to get right up in their faces and say: 'You're a bigger man than that and I hear you're feuding over this girl - let it go.' And maybe take him for a drive and have a man talk." This sounds more like the job of a local pastor or social worker but not a police officer. I think we need to acknowledge the important role of the church in assisting with the solution of this national crisis. Yes, Urban Renewal 2.0 calls for the involvement of local pastors in its multipronged approach to crime prevention, but there is no talk of financial assistance to pastors who may be called upon to spend many long hours counseling young people. If the problem is considered to be a national crisis by the prime minister, then resources should be made available to the churches that are already in the fight against crime. Ultimately, we in the church believe that unless there is a change in the heart, by a personal relationship with Christ, no amount of policing can stop a criminal from committing a crime.
Now that the heat of the political campaign is over, it should be clear to all that the solution to crime is not found in the change of government policies. Crime should never be used as a political football, and as was stated by the new minister of national security, we should not expect to see any immediate change in the murder rate because of a change in government.
This has already been borne out by the recent record-breaking number of murders committed in a single month, since May 7, 2012. In this regard, it would be safe to say that apart from murders stemming from relationships, mentioned by Greenslade, murders committed since the change in administration have been associated with gang warfare and persons waiting to testify in other murder cases, and committed by individuals out on bail.
- Pastor Edmund Dorsett
Leader of the Free National Movement (FNM) Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday he supports capital punishment.
Minnis said he has made that position known on many occasions. He repeated it while a guest on the Guardian Radio talk show Darold Miller Live.
"In the FNM we believe in prevention, dealing with issues that are there," Minnis said.
"I do believe in hanging, but at the same time one has to go through the legal process which makes it very, very difficult."
The death penalty has not been carried out in The Bahamas since David Mitchell was executed in 2000.
Last June, the Privy Council quashed the death sentence of murder convict Maxo Tido, who was sentenced more than five years ago for the 2002 murder of 16-year-old Donnell Conover. Her skull was crushed and her body burnt, according to the evidence presented in the case.
But the Privy Council, while recognizing that it was a dreadful and appalling murder, said it did not fall into the category of worst of the worst, and therefore the death penalty ought not apply.
Tido was the first person sentenced to death in The Bahamas since the Privy Council ruled in 2006 that the mandatory death sentence in The Bahamas was unconstitutional.
Amendments made to the Criminal Procedure Code late last year as a part of a package of anti-crime bills, set out circumstances under which the death penalty would be mandatory.
The death penalty would be mandatory for anyone convicted of killing a member of the following organizations: The Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Department of Customs, the Department of Immigration, the judiciary and the prison services system.
The death penalty would also be mandatory if a person is convicted of murdering someone in the commission of a robbery, rape, kidnapping or act of terrorism.
However, murder convicts still have the right to appeal to the Privy Council.
The package of bills was passed after the murder count skyrocketed last year, eventually reaching a record 127.
Minnis said while he supports hanging he believes in prevention.
"I am a strong proponent of communication and discussion with the churches and other organizations so that we can work together, strengthen families etc.," Minnis said.
"We know that conflict resolution is a problem so we need to deal with that."
The Bahamas hanged 50 men since 1929, according to records kept at Her Majesty's Prison. Five of them were hanged under the Ingraham administrations prior to 2002; 13 were hanged under the 25-year rule of the Pindling government; and the remainder were executed between 1929 and 1967.
Prime Minister Perry Christie in his last term renewed his commitment to the death penalty, although it was never carried out during his administration.
Then attorney general Alfred Sears had said that the pending Forrester and Bowe case, which led to the landmark 2006 ruling, had prevented the Christie administration from carrying out capital punishment.
That ruling meant that all the men who were under the sentence of death at the time had to be re-sentenced.