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EDITOR, The Tribune.
It is normal to expect that the Free National Movement will be challenged by whatever political parties are in existence next year, but the basis of that challenge will not hinge on whether the current Prime Minister is compassionate or not; it may be a factor but it will not be "the factor." Party members from all sides are looking for excuses to get at each other, and they will take whatever they can find, and that is everyday politics.
The present "compassion issue" is one, that began when The Nassau Guardian took a statement made by Mr McCartney out of context. There was a compounding of the problem this morning as an out of context statement takes on ...
We must all be sensible during campaigns. It is easy to rally up a group of supporters into a state of frenzy but it is difficult to control them when they get out of control.
Prime Minister and Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Hubert Ingraham last week announced that he would conduct a series of walkabouts in the inner city communities of New Providence. These are strongholds of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). Such tours bring lots of attention and lots of FNMs to the areas.
We do not have a history of political violence in The Bahamas. However, it is still not a good idea to bring together large numbers of opposing partisans.
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) brought some of its supporters yesterday to the area where Ingraham and the FNMs were having the tour. Consequently, a portion of Ingraham's tour was diverted after police got reports that nearly 200 "disorderly" PLPs were gathered at Sarah Robinson Park on Meadow Street.
The group shouted in protest of Ingraham's presence in the area. The FNM is hoping to take the seat from the PLP. The FNM's candidate is attorney John Bostwick II. The incumbent PLP MP is Dr. Bernard Nottage.
The PLP should not bring supporters to FNM events and potentially cause a confrontation. And the FNM should not bring its supporters to PLP events. Such acts could easily lead to fights or large disturbances.
The Bahamas has 38 constituencies. Within these constituencies there are many communities. When one party announces an event, the others should have the good judgment to have their events elsewhere in order to keep the peace.
FNM East Grand Bahama candidate Peter Turnquest made a formal complaint to police after his daughter was allegedly sprayed in the face with a fire extinguisher when FNM and PLP supporters came together in separate motorcades in Grand Bahama on March 17.
PLP Deputy Leader Philip Brave Davis also told The Nassau Guardian at the time that he heard that people on his party's motorcade were assaulted by the throwing of rocks and water.
With these small incidents having already occurred, we hope the PLP, and all the other parties, respect the space of others having events and avoid awkwardness and potential confrontations.
The Royal Bahamas Police Force has enough work to do. When these tense situations arise, offices have to be diverted from crime-fighting duties to watch and ensure a major disturbance does not occur. We need our officers to stay on the beat and not get caught up in nonsense.
The political parties are in full campaign mode as we near the general election. The television channels are filled with ads, there are multiple constituency office openings per week and people across the country are talking about politics.
The messages of the Free National Movement (FNM), the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) are quite distinct at this stage of the campaign.
The FNM says it is the party that delivers. The PLP is pushing the message that it believes in Bahamians and the DNA says it is change.
Each message is profound. We want leaders who deliver; we want leaders who believe in Bahamians; and we want change away from some of the dysfunction of the modern Bahamas.
The tests for the parties will be how the voters match up their records with the messages they (the parties) are pushing.
The key for the FNM - and it has been doing this - is to prove that it has delivered good things for The Bahamas over the past five years. It will also need to convince the electorate that what it has delivered was needed, that it will improve the lives of Bahamians and that it is worth the cost.
For the PLP, it will need to further explain what it means by believing in Bahamians. The statement truly is comparative. What the party is attempting to do is to argue that it believes in Bahamians more than its primary rival the FNM. However, the PLP and FNM have similar policies when it comes to foreign direct investment and budgetary allocations to invest in The Bahamas.
The PLP was the "independence party" of the country and many of our institutions of state were created under its 25 years in power from majority rule. Some older Bahamians still focus on those days and achievements, but many younger voters do not. They know Perry Christie's PLP, which in its five-year term from 2002 to 2007 was more defined by its enemies through its gaffes and scandals than through nation building. Hence, the nationalist theme of believing in Bahamians being advanced by the official opposition may not evoke the reaction the party thinks it will.
The DNA has to convince people that it can deliver on the change it promises. More specifically, it needs to convince enough people that it has a real chance of having an impact on the election. Bahamians do not like to think that they are throwing away their votes. The party has done a good job using broadcast advertising to evoke emotion, but the question in the minds of many is still, "Are they for real?"
For each of the parties, as they continue to refine their messages it is critical that they ensure that what they say is true. Voters are not stupid, and a party cannot force its impression of its record on people who know this impression to be untrue.
The party that conveys a message most accurate to its record and capacity will have an advantage. And every advantage is crucial in what will likely be a close election.
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has promised to hold a referendum on gambling within its first 100 days in office if it wins the next general election.
The opposition made the promise in its 'Vision 2030: A Charter for Governance' national plan, which was released last night.
The promise echoes similar pledges by the Free National Movement (FNM) and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA).
Both of those parties also pledged referendums on the issue during the next five years, but were not more specific on the timeframe.
The PLP said the referendum is necessary due to the "extent to which a large percentage of the population engages in the industry".
The party promised to be "guided by the results" of the referendum.
"The numbers racket is nothing new in The Bahamas. The major change, however, is that it has moved from the traditional 'papers for lottery' to virtual 'web shop' casinos," the PLP explained.
"It has been given an aura of legality by online play on various gaming or lotto sites, which allow participants to engage in the illegal racket from the comfort of their own home or office.
"Additionally, more and more people and entities have established these illegal enterprises to the extent that it has become difficult to discern the legitimate businesses from those that are operating within the ambit of the law."
In 2010, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham promised to put the gambling question to the Bahamian public if reelected to office.
DNA Leader Branville McCartney has promised to do the same if his party is successful in the May 7 contest.
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.
The parliamentary bell has rung and the date for election has been set. As expected, the excitement that comes with the season is coming to a boil, but religious ministers are urging people to not allow their judgement to be clouded over the next few weeks leading up to Monday, May 7 when they go to the polls to cast their vote.
Pastor Jay Simms, senior pastor at Christian Life Church says election season is not the time to be divided and warring with one another. He said that no matter what is going on in society, all professing Christians need to put God first and foremost in their lives.
"It disturbs me that every election season politics divides families and churches. As a person I strongly believe that everyone has a right to vote for whomever they want, and their decision should not divide their homes or ruin relationships. At the end of the day, the season will end and you still have to go about your daily life. Therefore, no matter what, all Christians should continue to love the Lord with all their heart, mind and soul, seek first the kingdom of God and of course love their neighbor as themselves."
Pastor Simms said after all is said and done, a group of people will rise as the new leaders of the country and no matter which side of the fence people are on, as Christians, he said it is their duty to pray for their leadership so that it will be fair, just and productive.
The non-denominational church leader said putting God in the backseat during this period is the worst thing professing Christians can do. And that cutting God out of the equation and not praying for guidance and protection can lead the country further astray. He said the most important thing for Christians to be doing at this time is binding together, no matter their political views to pray for the country's safe passage during this period and the rising up of the best people to run the nation.
"When it comes to politicians, particularly those who are professing Christians, it is all too important for them to remember that they are children of God first and then citizens of the country and political leaders second. Therefore, they should represent God in their walk and talk first, then to their respective parties," he said.
The Christian Life Church pastor said that too few politicians stick to their convictions during election season, and let party decisions take precedence over doing what they know is right. But it's a decision he said should never happen because although they may be called to lead, they should not let themselves be blinded into losing their integrity.
"I hope that all leaders use this season not just for political leverage, but to let their light shine so men can see their good works and glorify the heavenly father. Whatever is done in this season it should be done in love of God and fellow man. That's the bottom line."
Abundant Life Bible Church co-pastor, Gil Maycock, warns politicians to be careful in all that they do. Whether they profess Christianity or not, he said they should be wary of how they campaign and represent themselves and the opposing candidates. The minister says it is irresponsible for political candidates to cause unnecessary discord in the population simply for their own agenda.
"In this heated season, politicians should be extremely cautious of how they choose to run their campaigns. They should not let themselves get caught up in the political season and the rush that comes with it, and forget that they have to consider the nation first and foremost," said Pastor Maycock. "If they are to govern this nation they have to be responsible in campaign messages to ensure that in no way shape or form, by innuendo or anything else, that they do not stir up violence among the people. We are a religious people, so we are called to love and believe in the Christian message. So it should be remembered that this is not the season to destroy one another. This is a season to love."
The pastor urges politicians to stick with issues rather than personal attacks. He said they should always be putting others first, finding feasible and honest ways to solve issues and know that at the end of the day, whether they get in office or not, they still have a duty to uphold their integrity and serve the nation wholeheartedly.
"Our Bahamian people, we need to take advantage of this God-given privilege and vote for the person that best represents them - not just the party. I think we all should mature to the point that we want the best for constituencies and not get caught up in party politics."
Pastor Maycock said all Bahamians should pray for a peaceful election and for God to rise up the person he wishes to be in power. He said Christians should also be praying that whoever is elected will do what is right for everyone.
Pastor Leonard Johnson, president of the Atlantic Caribbean Union of Seventh Day Adventists said Christians should respect the rights of others around them. He said God has given man the spirit of choice - and to live in discord because their brother does not share their views is not in accordance with God's law.
"Christians should be using this time to evaluate the best people for the job and making their own personal choices on how they will vote. It is a personal decision that they must make in your own heart. Do not feel slighted when someone else has another view because it is not your right to force others to feel the way you do," said the pastor. "You, as a Christian, can only pray for the best result at the end of the day. God will rise leaders up and take them down accordingly and Christians should not be taking it upon themselves to fight a battle that God has control of."
Pastor Johnson said Christians should show respect for an individual who may have a different view or opinion, and that people have a right to think differently. He said they should use their time instead to pray for the people of the nation so that they would exercise a sense of reason, tolerance and understanding.
"I don't know if all politicians are Christians, but whether or not they are, they need to be mindful to offer themselves in the right way to vie for leadership in this country," said Pastor Johnson. "They should demonstrate a high level of respect for one another, and they should speak to issues that concern the Bahamian people and the nation - particularly the future, as opposed to attacking an individual or their character. We should be operating at a high level since we claim to be a religious people. I also hope that politicians respect the outcome of what is to come and learn to support whichever leader is in power whether it is in their favor or not."
Bamboo Town MP Branville McCartney has formed his Democratic National Alliance and is fighting blow for blow with the big parties. But what will be his fate on May 7?
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was formed in 1953 mostly by a group of white and light-skinned black Bahamians. The party was taken over by others and rebranded as a black nationalist party. That PLP finally won a general election, under the electoral rules of the day, in 1967.
The Free National Movement (FNM) was formed in 1971. It battled the PLP for more than two decades before finally winning a general election in 1992.
There is no easy path for a new party. History has demonstrated that it takes time for the Bahamian people to get to know the new player in town.
McCartney should pursue his dream of leading a third party to victory if he wishes. More choice is good when it comes to elections. However, he should not assume that he will be prime minister in a few days.
The last major politician to try the third party route was former PLP deputy leader Dr. Bernard Nottage in 2002 when his Coalition for Democratic Reform (CDR) took on the two major parties. Dr. Nottage's party failed and he lost his seat. CDR candidates were crushed as non-contenders at the polls.
The CDR disbanded shortly after losing that general election.
If defeat is to be McCartney's fate, he should not give up if he is serious about creating a movement able to challenge the PLP and FNM some day.
The public needs to be convinced that the people seeking to lead the country are dedicated to that ambition. Bahamians also need to be convinced that those seeking to lead have enough experience in public life to do so.
As we have said before, the key for any third party movement would be to determine if dissatisfaction with the main parties could be harnessed into votes. This process may take time.
But what McCartney and his third party would need to survive is some presence in the Parliament. He should work on ensuring that his party wins at least one seat (that is, McCartney's seat).
If Bahamians see that the new party at least has some presence after this election, that would help the party at the following general election.
Ultimately, Bahamians will have to decide if they will accept others at the national table of decision making or if they think only card carrying PLPs or FNMs should lead The Bahamas.
If Bran is serious, he should be patient. The PLP and the FNM had to wait long periods before the people believed in them.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has predicted that the Free National Movement (FNM) will win at least 12 of the 15 Family Island seats.
Last week, National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest declared that the party would sweep all the Family Island seats. FNM Chairman Carl Bethel made the same prediction.
But Ingraham, while confident, didn't go that far.
"We are way ahead in the election campaign," he said at a small rally in South Andros on Wednesday. "In fact, of the 15 seats in the Family Islands, I would tell you that we're fairly certain, God willing, we will win at least 12 of them.
"We are on course in some of the others and we'd like you in the south to come with us."
Speaking specifically about that constituency, Ingraham said he thinks the race is between the FNM and independent candidate Whitney Bastian.
However, Ingraham told Androsians not to waste their time voting for Bastian.
"There's a reason why no party wanted to run him," Ingraham said.
"What you want is you want to have an MP who is respected, who you can hold your head up and say you are proud of. You don't want an MP where you have to hold your head down in shame. So don't waste your vote."
In Mangrove Cay, where Ingraham also hosted a small rally on Wednesday, he had a similar message.
"There are two parties in this country. It's either the PLP or the FNM," he said. "Choose which party you will go with. Waste not your vote on anything in between. You are going to want an MP who's going to have some influence. There is no possibility that [Bastian] is going to have some influence."
But Bastian dismissed Ingraham's comments yesterday.
He said the prime minister made similar comments in the run-up to the 2002 general election and his tactics did not work then and will not work now.
He said Ingraham is afraid of him.
Bastian, who won the South Andros seat in 2002, noted that he beat both the PLP and FNM and will do so again.
"I will win by over 300 votes," Bastian said. "I can go down the list of people. I visited every house in the constituency."
The FNM candidate for Mangrove Cay and South Andros is Ron Bosfield. In addition to Bastian, Bosfield is facing off against PLP candidate and current MP Picewell Forbes, and DNA candidate Wayde Forbes.
The three main political contestants have promised to hold a referendum on gambling for Bahamians in The Bahamas if elected to office.
Most recently, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) unveiled its Vision 2030: A Charter for Governance on Monday night at a mass rally at R.M. Bailey Park. In its plan was the promise to hold a referendum on gambling within its first 100 days in office if it wins the next general election.
The Free National Movement (FNM) and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) outlined their intentions in Manifesto 2012 and Vision 2012 and Beyond, respectively. The FNM and DNA released their plans two weeks ago.
The topic of legalizing gambling is one of those hot-button issues that politicians must carefully craft their words around.
Many people feel that the laws on the books governing illegal lotteries cannot be enforced, and as a result it should be legalized.
Numbers houses are now open in their promotions. No longer do you have to go behind closed doors and speak in codes to play the lottery.
Today, the numerous numbers houses use large signs to draw customers. And some local radio and TV stations broadcast the results daily.
Numbers houses are almost as prevalent as churches and bar rooms in Nassau. Customers come and go as they please. And while there is the obligatory police raid, the numbers business flourishes in plain sight of authorities.
It is among the biggest open secrets in the country.
Those who run numbers houses have, for some time, been eager for their operations to be made legal.
Many believe that the people of The Bahamas can benefit greatly from legal gambling through the tax revenue it has the potential generate. It is estimated that anywhere from $30 million upwards can be collected in tax revenue.
Moreover, it may significantly increase the amount of funds made available by the lotteries, as corporate citizens, to a variety of cultural, youth and nonprofit programs.
However, Christian leaders who influence large numbers of congregants strongly oppose the move. This makes the issue a political hot potato that can seriously burn a leader or a party that moves too far out front on such a contentious issue.
Opponents of legal gambling argue that it will result in a range of social problems antithetical to certain Christian and social values.
The Parliament could simply pass a law to make gambling legal for Bahamians. However, the issue is significant enough to be put to a referendum where all voices can be heard. We do not believe that it would be helpful for either side in such a debate to assign poor motives to the other as this is, in a number of ways, a complex issue.
It is worth noting that just about every Caribbean country has a lottery.
The Bahamas has been talking about establishing a lottery for decades. It's high time the question is settled and putting it to the people for a decision to be made will do that. Whatever the outcome, for or against, life will continue.
Much will depend on the precise nature of the question or questions asked in the referendum.
It will also depend upon a fair, open and honest debate. One that is not dragged into unnecessary politics, and one that is not monopolized by any group or groups.
The issue of legalizing lotteries is not a constitutional one and does not have to be put to a referendum, but a properly conducted referendum will be a great lesson in political maturity for the nation.
Interestingly, not only are the main parties agreed on a referendum. We suspect they may also have a shared view on the outcome they would like to see from such a referendum.
By announcing the decision to hold a referendum on the legalization of lotteries, the parties have been transparent about a decision that should be decided in such a special vote.
At least $7-10 million in building value was wiped out by the Valentine’s day fire, which devastated the offices of Betty K Agencies and several surrounding buildings, according to one insurance specialist, and the destruction should serve as a reminder of the value of fire insurance.
Chairman of the Bahamas Insurance Association Timothy Ingraham told Guardian Business yesterday that, without knowing the specifics of each of the properties damaged by yesterday’s fire, there are many factors which come into play in assessing damages and compensation for insured parties. He stressed the value of fire insurance generally, as fire often leaves only devastation in its wake and los ...