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It officially became a four-man race in Bamboo Town yesterday after the candidates vying for the seat filed their nomination papers at Carlton E. Francis Primary School.
The group includes Free National Movement (FNM) candidate Cassius Stuart, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidate Renward Wells, Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader and incumbent MP Branville McCartney and independent Craig Butler.
Each of the contenders arrived with a contingent of enthusiastic supporters who blared music, waved posters and banners and boasted that their candidate was going to win.
The four men all said they would work to create more employment, better education and improve standards of living in Bamboo Town, if elected.
McCartney was the last to arrive at the nomination site. He was accompanied by more than 50 supporters who played Junkanoo music and danced in a circle around him. On his way into the nomination room, McCartney hugged Butler who was exiting the area.
Afterward, McCartney said he was confident he would retain his seat - and that his new party would win the government - in spite of the showings of support for the other candidates. He said if he is re-elected he will expand the social programs he began in his constituency in 2007.
He added that it does not matter who has the biggest rallies this election season, but which party could best address critical social issues.
"It's not about a party, it's not about dancing and entertainment," he said. "It's about the crime rate we have that's the worst we've ever had, the illegal immigration problem is the worst we've ever had, the educational system is certainly not working and we have over 30,000 people out of a job. You can party all you want, but when the rally is over, the issues are still there."
Stuart was the first candidate to go through the nomination process. He arrived at the school at 9:40 a.m. with his wife Sharmaine, two young daughters and around 30 supporters.
As he entered the gates of the school, some members of his crowd danced, waved posters bearing his face and beat on goatskin drums.
After he handed his documents over to returning officer Herbert Brown and paid his $400 nomination fee, Stuart told reporters that he was confident of a win.
"The best will come out on top and we will win this," he said. "This has been an historically Free National Movement seat. . .we will return this seat. People in Bamboo Town don't play with personalities, they just vote for party."
Stuart spent 13 years at the helm of the now defunct Bahamas Democratic Movement (BDM) but was never elected to Parliament despite contesting in two general elections and one by-election. He said that after his failed bids to become a member of Parliament as leader of the BDM, it was a "breath of fresh air" to be running under the banner of one of the major political parties.
"We worked hard in the past and we just have more fire behind us. [Being a part of the FNM] has given us that extra push that we need to go to the top," Stuart said.
The PLP's candidate was the second to arrive at the site.
Wells, a former member of the National Development Party (NDP), was accompanied by nearly 100 supporters who came in several cars, two jitneys and a flatbed truck that blared music.
Although the area is considered an FNM stronghold, Wells said the tide will soon turn in favor of the official opposition.
"The PLP is going to win Bamboo Town. The PLP has not run a candidate in Bamboo Town in  years. The PLPs in Bamboo Town are hungry to vote and to vote this government out," said Wells, flanked by his wife Sara.
"First on my agenda is to work with the new PLP government that's going to right off the bat lower the cost of living for the Bahamian people, deal with the energy situation in terms of BEC, we're going to deal with mortgage situation and expand the economy."
Butler, the only independent running in Bamboo Town, arrived with a group of about 35 supporters.
Butler said even though he is not attached to a major political party he has enough support on the ground to be elected to Parliament.
If elected, he will use his constituency allowance to build a community center, launch a program to reintegrate released convicts into society and help homeowners facing foreclosure.
"We will be victorious, we are confident. It's no longer about just the views of the FNM and PLP," Butler said.
By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
FREEPORT - Minister of Labour and Social Development Dion Foulkes said a tentative agreement has been reached between the Commonwealth Electrical Workers Union (CEWU) and the Grand Bahama Power Company (GBPC).
This brings an end to very protracted and difficult negotiations between the two parties who are now expected to sign a new three-year industrial contract within the next 14 days.
The new agreement covers some 130 employees who will each receive a one-time lump sum payment of $4,500.
Negotiations have been ongoing since the old contract expired on March 31, 2010.
After talks stalled early this week, Minis ...
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Bradley Roberts yesterday refuted comments made by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham that a PLP event was canceled because of poor attendance.
The PLP planned to hold a live town hall event at the Wyndham Nassau Resort on Wednesday night, but canceled it.
"Remember how I told you that the PLP is the party of 'delivery failed'," said Ingraham at a mass rally on Thursday.
"Last night (Wednesday), they failed to deliver big time. They booked two ballrooms at the Wyndham hotel in Cable Beach. They booked ZNS for a live town hall meeting to broadcast from the ballrooms.
"It was a spectacular failure and 'buss-up'.
"The lights were there, the cameras were there. [PLP Leader] Perry Christie was there, [PLP Deputy Leader Philip] Brave Davis was there, Bradley [Roberts] was there, Jerome Fitzgerald and Paulette Zonicle were there and so was Julian Reid making up a total audience and cast of [fewer] than 20.
"It was all about profiling for the cameras, but there was no action.
"They had to scrap the event. Truth is there is never any action from the PLP.
"I hear Christie was vex and 'cussing' up a storm. He was all geared up to talk to the nation on crime and the economy. They booked ZNS for two hours, you know. They were going to have a big panel discussion on securing our borders - town hall style.
"He asked what happened. I could tell him what happened. Everything was 'buss-up' because nobody's in charge in the PLP. Too many cooks stirring the pot, no head cook."
However, Roberts said the prime minister's information was incorrect.
According to Roberts, the party canceled because it felt its event would generate too much noise, disturbing an event next door.
He told The Nassau Guardian that the meeting was supposed to be a private function broadcast on ZNS.
"The event was intended to be a call-in forum," Roberts said.
"The parties concerned were there, waiting to get rolling with the event. Only we discovered that next door a concert was going on. The noise would have made it impossible for such a show to continue."
He also pointed out that the guests who were invited showed up to the forum.
A young community activist who campaigned in Fort Charlotte as an independent candidate in recent months failed to nominate yesterday, blaming circumstances beyond his control.
"It was a fight to this day from a journey that began two years ago," said Delroy Meadows in an announcement on his Facebook page.
"Rest assured, that everything that I began and plan to do, I will carry through in Parliament or out. The wisdom that I have gained on this road, the friendships, the experience, was, for me, all that I need. And I continue. Stay tuned."
Meadows told The Nassau Guardian that he had problems with his paperwork when he went to nominate.
The Free National Movement's candidate Zhivargo Laing and the Progressive Liberal Party's candidate Dr. Andre Rollins were among 133 candidates who nominated nationally yesterday.
Laing and Dr. Rollins will go head-to-head in Fort Charlotte.
It was not clear who Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel was referring to when he said that one person did not nominate successfully because of money.
Candidates are required to pay a $400 deposit at nomination.
Bethel said generally, the nomination process went "quite smoothly" and he was very pleased with his department's management of nomination day.
Bethel said it appeared that all the major political parties' candidates were nominated, including some independents, "but not many".
When asked if anyone else had issues with paperwork or money, Bethel said: "Not to my knowledge. I am trying to get all of the documents so that I can release them to the public."
Of the eight candidates who were expected to run for the Bahamas Constitution Party (BCP) five were nominated, according to founder and BCP leader Ali McIntosh.
After initially promising to challenge Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham in North Abaco, McIntosh conceded yesterday that she would not be able to win that seat.
"We have been evaluating on the ground in Abaco and it seems there was a very wide shift back to Mr. Ingraham and so we just determined to make a change," she said.
"We want to be able to be in Parliament after the general election."
McIntosh was successfully nominated for Englerston and will challenge independent candidate Alex Morley; Democratic National Alliance candidate Nicholas Jacques; Free National Movement candidate Caron Shepard and Progressive Liberal Party MP Glenys Hanna-Martin.
Brenda Harris (Seabreeze); Simon Smith (Nassau Village); James Williams (South Beach) and Colin Miller (The Exumas and Ragged Island) were also nominated for the BCP yesterday.
McIntosh said three of the people who were expected to run for her party did not nominate.
She explained that they ran into "some personal situations" and the pressure of the election was a contributing factor with at least one of them, although she did not elaborate.
The BCP leader also said many undecided voters were now considering voting for the BCP and despite the "widespread support for the major parties...our candidates are not intimidated".
Over the past months the media was riddled with accusations being hurled by the prime minister and the leader of the official opposition at each other. But after the election date was announced, they seem to have escalated to fever pitch.
It reminds one of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. Bahamians are going through the worst economic downturn in living memory; political leaders are actively engaged in the blame game while crime is escalating out of control; hundreds of our middle class citizens are losing their status; thousands of our young people are being denied their dreams of a college education because of their parents and/or guardians inability to pay; thousands of citizens are losing their homes, businesses and transportation because of their inability to meet their mortgages; many more small businessmen have lost their businesses due to the disastrous road program.
Neither of these two leaders is addressing these concerns but instead they are trying to out do each other in making ridiculous promises that they know can't be kept.
What amazes me is that they, leaders, have a knack like some grassroots preachers in working up the crowds at their rallies to an unbelievable emotional frenzy that borders on fanaticism. It is absolutely amazing to see some of these persons frothing at the mouth while waving pompoms and flags and shouting their party slogans or their leader's nickname.
I am sure that these drooling party followers are not giving the slightest thought to their economic plight brought on by the action or non-action of those leaders. Thousands of them at these rallies whose lights were turned off by the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) for nonpayment, and later turned on by instructions from their leader, had given no thought to the fact that after election, if their bills are still unpaid, the service would again be disconnected. They would be saddled with two reconnection bills plus what they originally owed along with their current bill. The Biblical saying "oh, what mortal fools we be" is never more true than in the case of many a Bahamian voter.
Crime began to escalate in this country from 1968 and continued with every successive administration up to this present one. None of them could solve the problem simply because they were and are the problem. Yet from 1992, each administration has been accusing its predecessor of being the problem and not doing anything about it.
As odd as one will find the scenario, they were all accurate in their accusations. Now that we are in the closing weeks of this campaign we are getting promises galore, many of which have been in the political recycle bin since 1968; but nonetheless they are still being dished out to the drooling party and/or leaders idolaters.
In every election since 1968 political parties had a slogan. Over the years there have been many and varied from the ridiculous to the humorous. This year proves to be no exception.
The PLP's slogan is "We believe in Bahamians"; the FNM's is "We Deliver"; and the DNA's is "The Change". Let us now examine these slogans to see how they connect and/or relate to the current dilemma that the electorate is faced with in this nation today.
"We believe in Bahamians"
I find this one more than a bit confusing for the following reasons:
1) Who were they believing in before?
2) Were they believing in foreigners before now? And if they were, what made them change their minds for this election?
For the past four and a half decades, we in this country have not had a change of government, as it has always been the same or more of the same. Perry G. Christie led the country for five years - 2002 to 2007 - and he is now telling us that for those years of his administration that he did not believe in Bahamians? Absurd, to say the least.
1) find this one to be not only true, but accurate. Let us now examine the manifesto of their deliveries: 1) A crime and murder rate unprecedented in this nation.
2) An economic downturn that robbed thousands of middle class Bahamians of their status.
3) An unemployment rate second to none.
4) Denial of tertiary education to thousands of young Bahamians.
5) Closure of scores of enterprising small Bahamian businesses due the out-of-control catastrophic road works.
6) Run-a-way government borrowing.
7) The unfair treatment of the public service.
8) An untold amount of hardship and misery suffered by an untold number of Bahamians because of ill-judged policies.
9) The granting of thousands of citizenships in so short a period before elections and allowing the head of a foreign nation to advise Bahamian citizens how to vote.
10) A massive national debt that cannot be paid for in generations to come.
There are so many more deliveries that time and space do not allow me the luxury of naming all at this time.
This one is not really new, it is similar to the one used by the FNM in 1992 - "It's time for a Change".
It is said that "there is nothing new under the sun". The late Sir Lynden Pindling used to say, "What goes around comes around my brudder".
The similarity between the Pindling administration of 1992 and the present Ingraham administration is frightening. The name of the slogan may not have been deliberate, but it is very significant.
Things were so bad in this country that after the votes were counted on that fateful night in 1992 that it started to rain slowly and in about half an hour it appeared as if the skies had opened and it became a torrential downpour so powerful that most streets south of the arch were impassable and it lasted for four hours without let-up. It was said that the gods were cleansing the country of the old order. Is history about to repeat itself? You dear voter must be the judge.
- Errington W. I. Watkins
Friday 15th April 2011
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Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's recent declaration that the next Free National Movement administration would not allow oil drilling in Bahamian waters has hurt the country's reputation with international investors, according to the Council for Concerned Bahamians Abroad (CBA), a think tank.
Last week, Ingraham made the revelation in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
Following the story, the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) lost a fourth of its share value.
BPC is licensed to conduct oil exploration and wants to drill a well in Bahamian waters by April 2013.
Yesterday, CBA called Ingraham's statements 'rash' and 'unwise'.
"The prime minister's public statements denouncing oil drilling are being viewed by the international investment community, already committed and invested in the project, as rash and irresponsible statements by a sitting prime minister, which may have lasting effects on the confidence of foreign investors in future Bahamian-based projects," the think tank said.
"In addition, major institutional investors have invested in this project. To pull the rug out from under these important investors and thousands of others could be a major problem for The Bahamas going forward."
The group said the issue of oil exploration in The Bahamas has "degenerated into a political football" instead of a real discussion on how the country can benefit economically if oil is found and harnessed safely.
"The bantering about oil exploration by all parties is unfortunate, in that this energy could and should be used to propose legitimate and much needed ways for the country and its citizens to benefit from any potential oil in The Bahamas," the group said.
"If oil is indeed within The Bahamas it would seem to behoove every political entity to do its best to see how to find and harvest the resource safely and profitably for the benefit of all Bahamians."
Last week, the prime minister also linked senior members of the opposition Progressive Liberal Party to BPC, including PLP Leader Perry Christie.
BPC began negotiating its current licenses and permits for oil exploration in 2005 with the former Christie administration.
Christie confirmed to The Nassau Guardian on Thursday that he is a consultant for Davis & Co., one of BPC's legal advisers.
He said BPC has benefited from advice he has given. PLP Deputy Leader Philip Brave Davis owns Davis & Co. Jerome Gomez, the PLP's candidate for Killarney, is listed as BPC's resident manager on the company's website.
Ingraham also told The Nassau Guardian that the country's waters are too pristine and dependent on tourism to risk drilling for oil.
"We've seen what happened in Louisiana with oil drilling," Ingraham said, referring to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which devastated the Gulf of Mexico.
According to its website, the Council for Concerned Bahamians Abroad (CBA) is an apolitical, non-partisan group of Bahamians abroad, and friends of The Bahamas concerned about policies and initiatives affecting The Bahamas, its people, its economy and its development.
The council's concerns include the protection and preservation of the economic and family interests of Bahamians residing or domiciled outside The Bahamas. A primary concern of the council is the impact of Bahamian governmental initiatives.
"We need real campaign finance reform to loosen the grip of special interests on politics." - Tom Daschle
Every five years around election time, incessant lip service is paid to campaign financing. It can only be lip service because after the ballots have been cast, counted and catalogued, the notion of campaign finance reform retires to hibernation - that is, until the next general election. Therefore, this week, we would like to Consider This...what practical approaches can we realistically take regarding how we finance political campaigns in The Bahamas?
Unquestionably, politics has become an extremely expensive exercise. When one considers the cost of political rallies, paraphernalia, including T-shirts and other garments now available, flags, posters, signage, printing of flyers, advertisements, including newspaper, radio and television broadcasts and commercials, the cost is staggering. Let's not forget the direct cost of personnel employed by political parties; the cost of constituency offices, sometimes four or five, particularly in the Family Islands; the cost of electricity, water, and telephones; the cost of food and beverages; of political consultants; and the printing of party platforms. When these and other costs are considered, the real cost of staging a general election could very easily cost $250,000 per constituency or nearly $10 million per party. So how are political parties expected to finance such a mammoth undertaking?
Using the public purse
It has become commonplace for the government of the day to use the power of the public purse to significantly finance its party's political campaign. We observed this practice when the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was in power; we witnessed it in the by-election in Elizabeth two years ago; and we are seeing it again in the current general election. While this has been a common practice, the Free National Movement (FNM) government seems to have taken this phenomenon to new heights.
Shortly after announcing the general election of 2012, the government launched a record contract signing marathon. The $12 million contract for the construction of a new clinic in North Abaco and a multimillion-dollar contract for a new hospital in Exuma are a few examples of this.
Last weekend, amidst great public fanfare at police headquarters, the prime minister awarded $1 million to charitable organizations. Ironically, this is the same government that - only one year earlier - reduced the government's subvention to such organizations during the annual budget debate in the House of Assembly. This is the same government that discontinued the extremely effective YEAST program that provided a positive prototype for young Bahamian men at risk and the same government that canceled the effective and internationally celebrated urban renewal program established by the PLP.
No matter which party is in power, an intelligent and discerning public should look askance at the government of the day exploiting and abusing the public purse in order to win votes after elections have been called.
In The Bahamas, political campaigns are predominantly financed by contributions from persons, companies, and organizations that believe in the democratic process and want to ensure that the message of the political party that they support is widely and successfully disseminated.
In the absence of campaign finance laws, there are no restrictions on who can contribute to a political party and how much they can donate. Accordingly, anyone -- Bahamians and foreigners - can contribute any amount to anyone at any time without any accountability whatsoever. The real question that we must address for the future health of our democracy is whether this is a desirable practice?
It has become customary for political contributions to be made in private, sometimes on the condition of confidentiality and often in secrecy with only a select few members of the party knowledgeable regarding the source of the funds.
Campaign 2012 has seen a new development in political funding. During the last few mass rallies, the prime minister has publicly appealed from the podium for campaign contributions, describing it as a further deepening of our democracy by allowing the public to become investors in his party. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, it is unprecedented and uncharacteristic. We have never before seen this prime minister - or any other for that matter - beg for money from a public podium.
It therefore begs the question: why has he done so now, during what he says is his last campaign? He alluded to the answer to this question on Thursday past at a mass rally on R. M. Bailey Park when he said that he will not tolerate anyone in his Cabinet who has financially benefited from conflicts of interest.
We believe that he made this appeal for financial contributions because, while the FNM is still well-funded by those wealthy interest groups who support him in order to continue reaping his government's largess, some of his traditional sources of funding are less generous than they have been in the past. This is possibly because he has cut some of his more financially well-connected candidates for reasons already stated and reiterated again from that podium last Thursday in a purposefully vague but very revealing way.
Campaign finance reform
Clearly, as the prime minister is opening party funding up to the masses in ways never seen before, the time has come to enact campaign financing legislation. There are several things that can be done in order to impose strict controls for campaign fund-raising, primarily to level the playing field and to minimize disparate levels of funding campaigns by the various political parties. Campaign financing legislation should also establish disclosure requirements with respect to funding and spending in elections.
Such a law could introduce statutory limits on contributions by individuals, organizations and companies, which would remove the influence of big money from politics and should also prohibit foreign influences from invading the local political process.
There should also be limits on large potential donors to prevent them from gaining extraordinary political access or favorable legislation or other concessions in return for their contributions. Campaign finance laws should also provide for the capping of such funding and for the disclosure of sources of campaign contributions and expenditures. It should also limit or prohibit government contractors from making contributions with respect to such elections.
Campaign financing legislation could even provide for matching funds by the government for all the candidates in order to ensure that the playing field truly is level and to enhance clean elections.
Finally, in order to more vigilantly protect the public purse, the law should strictly prohibit a government from signing any new contracts after general or by-elections are called.
Campaigns will become more expensive as time progresses. As we mature politically, we should seek to ensure that political parties operate on a level playing field and remove the barriers to participation in the democratic process because of a lack of funding. If we want to encourage the best and the brightest citizens to enter into the elective political arena, we should seek to eliminate the observation of U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton that: "Elections are more often bought than won".
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 email@example.com.
The election has been called (or the bell rung as some would say) and the manifestos, plans/vision(s), or whatever you call it, are now available. As usual, we note many promises. We believe promises should be measurable, and achievable.
One of the promises we note in manifesto 2012 (FNM), as well as by the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is if either is elected, they will enact or cause to be enacted an Ombudsman Act. We have not seen the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) plan so we are not aware if this is on its agenda also.
We have heard this promise before dating back to 1992. In the summer of 1992, the FNM in its manifesto promised the Bahamian electorate that "an FNM government will enact legislation to create the Office of Ombudsman, with the following commitments:
1. To safeguard the independence of the ombudsman.
2. To allocate the resources necessary to carry out the mission of the ombudsman.
3. To educate the public so that potential complaints will come forward.
4. To require that a full report with matters dealt with by ombudsman be laid on table of Parliament annually."
Fast forward and today the Office of Ombudsman is still not a reality. We note that the PLP never seemingly, publicly, embraced the concept of an ombudsman. Again, we have not seen the PLP plan so we don't know if it now embraces this office also.
We wrote about this back in July 2003 and believe with the upcoming general election upon us that we should revisit this issue again, and are very happy to see it on two of the political parties platforms seeking office. Today we will look at the role of an ombudsman, examining how it functions.
We must admit that historically we were always intrigued by the concept of an ombudsman, which originated in Sweden and is defined as a government official appointed to receive and investigate complaints made by individuals against abuses or capricious acts of public officials. Many of our Commonwealth sister countries have also seen fit to create an Office of Ombudsman.
In 1967, the United Kingdom through the Parliamentary Commissioner Act, created a Parliamentary Ombudsman (PO) - also called the parliamentary commissioner for administration. The PO deals with complaints from members of the public that they have suffered injustice because of maladministration by government departments or certain other public bodies.
Additionally, this office also deals with complaints about problems in obtaining access to official information. The U.K. went one step further in 1994 when it implemented the code of practice on access to government information.
In the U.K., the ombudsman is independent of government and is not a civil servant. The PO is an officer of the House of Commons, appointed by the Queen, who reports to Parliament. Complaints to PO are confidential; and investigations are private. There is no charge for the services performed by the Office of Ombudsman.
The ombudsman can only consider complaints against central government departments and those other public bodies (or organizations acting on their behalf) that the law allows the office to investigate. The most recent road works complaints by the affected business owners would have been an example of where the Office of Ombudsman would have addressed their complaint. This again would have left the already strained court system to focus on other matters.
Examples of bodies where the PO has no authority to investigate include the police, judges and local authorities.
What can the
The office can consider any complaint of maladministration by those bodies which has caused injustice. Generally, "maladministration" means poor administration or the wrong application of rules.
Some examples include:
o Avoidable delays.
o Faulty procedures or failing to follow correct procedures.
o Not telling you about any rights of appeal you have.
o Unfairness, bias or prejudice.
o Giving advice which is misleading or inadequate.
o Refusing to answer reasonable questions.
o Discourtesy, and failure to apologize properly for errors.
o Mistakes in handling your claims.
o Not offering an adequate remedy where one is due.
What can't the ombudsman investigate?
The ombudsman cannot investigate:
o Complaints which are about government policy or the content of legislation. Policy is for the government to determine; and legislation is for Parliament.
o The investigation of crime; judges' decisions, or actions taken under their direction; or matters relating to national security.
o Decisions about whether to begin court proceedings, or how they are conducted.
o Contractual or commercial transactions, except where they involve land subject to compulsory purchase.
o Complaints about public service personnel matters.
o Normally, complaints put to a MP 12 months or more after you became aware of the matters you are complaining about.
o The ombudsman cannot usually investigate any matter for which you can obtain a remedy by appeal to an independent tribunal (for example the valuation tribunal), or by proceedings in a court of law.
Following an investigation, the ombudsman may conclude that the complaint was wholly or partly justified, or that it was not justified. If the ombudsman finds that your complaint is justified, he can recommend that the organization complained about should provide a remedy.
The ombudsman has no power to enforce his recommendations; but the government almost always accepts them. Sometimes investigations reveal faults in procedures or systems; and the ombudsman's report can lead a department or body to revise their procedures so others do not suffer the same difficulties.
We are not suggesting that The Bahamas should create such an institution just because others have done so. To date one has not been established. We believe that efforts should be made to explore and ascertain whether such an institution could be used, if properly structured and respected, to enhance our democracy and a greater level of accountability in our public system. We hope whomever wins the government seeks to explore the benefits of such an office and, if deemed in the best interest of good governance, an Office of Ombudsman be established.
o CFAL is a sister company of The Nassau Guardian under the AF Holdings Ltd. umbrella. CFAL provides investment management, research, brokerage and pension services. For comments, please contact CFAL at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, in the parlance of the day: at last Papa done ring da bell.
Whatever that means.
Don't get me wrong. I can talk the talk like any other Bahamian in 2012. Papa = the current prime minister, Hubert Ingraham. "The Bell" = the announcement of a date for the next general election. I know how to translate the statement.
I just don't know what it means.
Here's why. Some time ago, I wrote up my own manifesto (since the political parties vying for leadership of the country hadn't seen fit to share any of their promises or policies for the next five years) as a voter, a participant in a process that is commonly called "democratic". Since that time, others have joined me in making similar statements, and a few voices have called for our leaders and other politicians to have the courage to step out from behind their carefully crafted propaganda and open themselves up to discussions of issues with reasonable citizens.
The response has been disappointing. And this, to my mind, does not bode well for our future. This is, after all, not like any other election year. For one thing, there are three major parties contesting the general election, a broad slate of independents, and a few fringe parties as well; for another, the two oldest parties are in fact comprised of the political parties that have made some impact over the past 20 years - the Bahamas Democratic Movement in the case of the Free National Movement (FNM), the National Development Party in the case of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), and the Coalition for Democratic Reform split between the two. Even the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has absorbed at least one extant party into its ranks: Rodney Moncur's Worker's Party.
For another thing, for any dispassionate person, it is very unclear who is likely to win the next election. The PLP and the FNM have begun campaigning in earnest, complete with party paraphernalia, the requisite hollering from podia, and a plethora of the kinds of personal and other attacks that politicians seem to think help their causes. Photographs and videos circulate in cyberspace in an effort to compare crowds at rallies, all of them suggesting that one was bigger than the other.
There is a sort of frenzy on Facebook and other places Bahamians gather, where people engage in heated and emotionally charged exchanges of - what else? - propaganda, hurling the same invective our MPs have been hurling at one another across the floor of the House of Assembly for the past five years, instead of attempting to govern the nation. But there is also a very large silence as well, and it is this silence that makes the outcome of the election so difficult to determine.
I'd like to consider that silence at some other time, because I find it very interesting. It's a silence that sits in judgement, that does not buy into the insult-trading, or hop the partisan bandwagon. It's the kind of silence that affected the outcome of the Elizabeth by-election, where a seat was won because the majority of registered voters did not turn out to vote. I know that Larry Smith has argued that low voter turn-out is not uncommon for by-elections, and I agree to a point, but I also sense (as does he) that there is more at work here than that; it seems to me that there is a growing group of Bahamians who watch the antics of all the political parties with a mixture of disgust and despair, because all politicians alike are missing the point. Which is that no matter who wins on May 7, 2012, we will all have to live in this country together on May 8.
So my question is this: Given the passion and energy being expended in tearing down the other parties, or the other leaders - in dismissing reasonable questions and observations as "FNM" or "PLP" or even "DNA" - each of these being intended as insult, what happens the day after elections when one party has won and the other(s) has/have not? How do we work on building a nation of Bahamians?
I have heard very little of substance from any party about what the future holds. The PLP has crafted some very general principles for the next few years, but these, when decoded, seem to amount to a reinstatement of what was in the works between 2002 and 2007 when that party was in power. The FNM has focused very much on vague generalities like "proven leadership" and "deliverance", and its manifesto emphasizes what has been done, largely in material, infrastructural terms, in the very recent past (one or two years at most), with short bullet lists of the very easy things it plans to do in the future.
The DNA speaks in broad terms, pushing the buttons that it feels gains it support, but not showing any real coherent ideology about which their philosophy has been crafted (well, OK, to say that the PLP and the FNM have any coherent ideology would be being too kind, but at least their track records suggest that one group makes noises that are vaguely populist while the other tends to appease the local business community).
Election seasons last for no more than six months at best. The remaining four and a half years require some measure of governance. And what frightens me most in this election is how much it seems to be a game to those who are playing it. It's entertainment, a sport, which involves the kind of trash-talking that one expects to hear at a football game (American or soccer, makes no difference) or before a boxing match, but which has very little place in the governing of the country.
One could argue (and I certainly would) that for four of the past five years, there was no governance at all, but just more of this sparring in the House of Assembly, just more trading of insults back and forth across the floor, while the world got on with changing its foundations all around us and the ground on which our society and economy rest crumbles away.
I am not impressed by the roads and the harbor or the extension of the hospital, as every one of these, no matter the expenditure, represents to my mind a kind of patch on a society whose foundations are in danger of falling apart. Nor am I impressed with the way in which the opposition opposed these things, because, well, whining and insults do not an opposition make. And I'm also not impressed with the kinds of "solutions" proposed by either of the opposing parties, because no one is explaining how they are going to implement those solutions. I would venture to suggest that it is time that the era of development-by-foreign-investment comes to a close in The Bahamas. But I see no evidence that the parties who have governed for the last 20 years in that climate have come up with any ideas about how to manage this country all by themselves.
So as we stare down the home stretch, as we slide into these last weeks and days before we Bahamians go to the polls and cast our votes, I would like at least one day to be dedicated to having the people who are contesting the elections to tell us what their visions are for this nation. Where do we go from here? How do we find our place in the twenty-first century? Why should I cast a vote for men who were educated before Bahamian independence, and whose philosophies are, must be, out of place in this digital, global age? Why should I cast one for a man who has ridden the wave of dissatisfaction with our leaders to prominence as a real third-party contender, but who has not yet crafted a vision of his own as to how the country might be different?
Do I have hope for the Bahamian future, no matter who wins the next election? I can't honestly say that I do. I have seen no vision from any of our prospective leaders, but see divisiveness and excess among their followers. So I'm preparing for five more years of struggle, no matter who wins or doesn't win this election; for five more years of escalating violence in our society; for five more years of a contracting economy, traffic problems, and decreasing revenues. I'm preparing for five more years of governmental desperation, of prostitution of the country to the biggest donor (China seems to be the crowd favorite right now), of undereducation and of brain drain, no matter who wins.
The governing of a country - and of a postcolonial, neocolonized country on the edge of America at the turn of the digital age - is a delicate, precious business; governing in such a climate requires more than snap decisions made by a despot, the demurring of a wannabe democrat, or the pontification of a malcontent. And while I've seen a whole lot of politricking, electioneering and consummate game-playing, I have yet to see any real indication that our prospective leaders are interested in governing after one of them wins.
May 7 can't come soon enough. But, people, think what May 8 will bring.
- Nicolette Bethel