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The leaders of the country's three main political parties voted in a historic advanced poll yesterday.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, who was among the first of thousands of 'special' voters to cast their ballots, said the day was a proud one for him.
"It was very pleasing to have 4,000 plus people who were going to travel or were going to be ill who could now vote, and all of the Bahamians who work in the overseas missions as well as students," Ingraham said.
"We've got more than 400 people voting overseas today."
Amendments to the Parliamentary Elections Act made it possible for special voters, who include people scheduled for medical care next week, government workers stationed abroad and students enrolled overseas, to take part in the advanced poll.
Special voters also included candidates in the elections, their spouses, election day workers and employees of the department of the parliamentary commissioner.
Ingraham, who lives in the Fort Charlotte constituency, said he of course voted for Free National Movement (FNM) candidate Zhivargo Laing.
A pregnant woman, who expects to deliver soon, said she was pleased that she didn't lose her constitutional right.
"As you can see it's soon delivery time," said Latoya Sturrup, pointing to her protruding stomach.
Ernelia Dean, of Fox Hill, said she will be traveling on Saturday to her sister's college graduation and will not return until Wednesday.
"It's a big convenience," she said. "My sister is graduating from the University of Tampa. I would not have missed that."
Adelle Thomas, of Fort Charlotte, said she is also traveling next week and would not have been able to vote otherwise.
Now that he has gotten voting out of the way, Ingraham said he will spend Election Day visiting a sick friend.
He said that on election night he expects to get a call from the governor general announcing that he has been returned to power.
Ingraham said he is confident that the FNM will be victorious on May 7.
"The FNM has done extensive polls," he said. "We have polled 3,000 people and we are satisfied that we are ahead. We are very confident that we will be returned to government come next week."
Returning Officer, Harrison Thompson, said people began lining up to vote as early as 5:30 a.m. The polling stations in New Providence closed at 6 p.m.
He revealed that one person voted on a protest ballot.
The name of the man, whose identity was not revealed, was not on the advanced poll register.
However, Thompson said the voter insisted that he be allowed to vote anyway as he was traveling on Monday.
A person can vote on a protest ballot if that person's name is not on the register as long as he or she has a voter's card.
Thompson said the man would have been able to vote ordinarily on Monday.
It is unclear whether his vote would be counted in the final tally.
Commissioner Ellison Greenslade said outside of the regular political arguments associated with elections, there were no serious matters to report.
"It's a day where people get a bit excited; you would hear some loud talking," Greenslade said. "We make interventions when we think it's necessary."
The police separated supporters of the PLP and the FNM outside Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium yesterday after the two groups began to get bit rowdy.
"That was just a proactive measure on our part to ensure that folks in their excitement don't cross the line," Greenslade said. "So we thought it best that we keep them in their respective tents.
By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
WITH the success of its national teams, the Amateur Boxing Federation of the Bahamas (ABFA) wants to ensure that its coaches and executives are also improving to a higher standard.
The ABFA is scheduled to hold a conclave at the Baillou Hills Boxing Gymnasium Saturday with a view to making sure that all of the relevant parties are a part of the growing trend.
Under the theme: "The Way Forward for Amateur Boxing in the Bahamas," the conclave is all set to run from 9am to 4:30pm and feature a number of topics addressed by various speakers.
"We're going to go from the start of amateur boxing in the Bahamas whe ...
Since the resignation of Bamboo Town MP Branville McCartney from the Free National Movement (FNM) Monday, the national airwaves have been dominated by talk of the formation of a third political party to challenge the FNM and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).
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.
At the time Bahamians were upset with the FNM, which was fractured and falling apart. They chose to go with a Perry Christie. He was a part ...
Ballots for four constituencies were not sent to the Atlanta, Georgia, polling station for the advanced poll until yesterday afternoon, severely delaying the election process, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said.
It was the only major glitch reported in the historic advanced poll.
Ingraham told reporters that steps were taken for the ballots to arrive before 6 p.m.
He spoke to the media shortly after he voted at Kendal G. L. Isaacs National Gymnasium yesterday morning. The prime minister lives in the Fort Charlotte constituency.
Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel said the ballots arrived in Atlanta around 3 p.m.
He added that voting was extended to accommodate all of the people on the register who wanted to vote.
Bethel was unable to say which constituencies were excluded from the Atlanta package.
Asked what went wrong, he said someone made a mistake.
Ammendments to the Parliamentary Elections Act made it possible for polling places to be established outside the country at Bahamian embassies and high commissions.
Bahamians eligible to vote outside the country included students, the staff of Bahamian embassies, high commissions and other foreign missions of The Bahamas, their spouses or members of their immediate family residing with them.
In addition to Atlanta, overseas registered Bahamian voters cast their ballots at embassies and consulates in Washington, D.C.; Miami, Florida; New York City; Ottawa, Canada; London, England; Kingston, Jamaica; Bridgetown, Barbados and Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
Voters registered to vote overseas on the early ballot had to vote yesterday because they are not be eligible to vote on May 7.
More than 400 people were registered to vote overseas yesterday.
The number of people who actually voted was not available up to press time.
Their votes will not be counted until May 7.
Bethel said the sealed ballot boxes will be returned to The Bahamas and delivered to him.
As previously reported, 7,865 people were registered to vote in the advanced poll, including election workers, agents of political parties, defence force, police force and customs and immigration officers, overseas voters and special voters.
In New Providence, the polling stations included the Kendal G. L. Isaacs National Gymnasium and the Bahamas Tourism Training Center at The College of The Bahamas.
"The tyranny of the minority is infinitely more odious and intolerable and more to be feared than that of the majority."
- Former U.S. President William McKinley
With one week to go before the general election in The Bahamas, we would like to Consider This...is it possible that after the general election on May 7, The Bahamas will be ruled by the tyranny of the minority?
In recent months, there has been easily verifiable and irrefutable evidence that this country is currently ruled by a tyrant, a despot and a dictator. Lest we be accused of political partisanship or personal bias, let's examine the definition of each of those terms to test the veracity of our claims.
The dictionary defines a tyrant as an absolute ruler or an authoritarian person. A dictator is defined as one who rules a country with absolute power and a despot is a tyrant or ruler with absolute powers. Two weeks ago in this column, we addressed the question, "Are we headed for dictatorship?" We presented several unassailable examples then that supported this query.
There are others that we did not mention at that time which also support that premise. For example, the prime minister has himself said that he does not need a deputy leader to replace the current outgoing office holder. Therefore, as we approach the general election, should the prime minister win, Bahamians have no idea who would be in charge of the nation if, God forbid, the chief executive is unable to hold that office for one reason or another. The absence of succession planning is yet another characteristic of the despot, who is one who fails to plan for such an unforeseen eventuality.
In addition, the prime minister has, on more than one occasion, stated that he is "a one man band". We should never forget the dismal fate of those who were led by such a one-man band as in our childhood fable of the Pied Piper.
The opiate of the masses
Therefore, by any objective standard or measure, there is little doubt that the prime minister, more noticeably in recent times, has demonstrated dictatorial and despotic tendencies. These alarming traits, if left unbridled and unchallenged, could undermine the democracy that so many Bahamians, on both sides of the political divide, have fought for so arduously and for so long.
Based on the definitions previously discussed, it is unlikely that any intelligent, free-thinking, sober-minded Bahamian who has not "drunk the red Kool-Aid" and succumbed to the intoxicating and mesmerizing opiate of his absolute control can successfully refute that the prime minister satisfies the definitions of the aforementioned terms. He himself seems to have fully accepted and come to believe his own propaganda as represented in the lyrics of his adopted theme song that was popularized by Tina Turner that he is "simply the best, better than all the rest."
If we are to thwart the designs of tyranny, dictatorship and despotism, we have to recognize the power of the ballot in the upcoming elections. It is widely accepted that the campaign leading up to the May 7 elections has descended to new lows of gutter politics and trench warfare. It is also widely viewed that the elections will be very close, so close in fact that it is extremely difficult to predict the outcome of the elections at this time.
The DNA factor
Given the meteoric ascendency of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), there is a growing and widespread belief that the DNA will, at the very least, be a spoiler in the upcoming elections. This fledgling party could significantly impact the outcome by taking votes away from the two major political parties, something that could result in favor of either party, albeit with razor-thin majorities being polled.
In a recent poll conducted by Public Domain, it is clear that the DNA could be a game changer. Accordingly, Bahamians must not underestimate the fact that a vote for the DNA is actually a vote for the Free National Movement (FNM) to the extent that the DNA could likely have the unintended effect of eroding the support of the majority of Bahamians who clearly do not support the FNM. At last count, the dissenting voice represented 52 percent of the population.
If that 52 percent, as in years past, cast their votes against the FNM by voting for the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), the country would have a clear victor. However, now there are two ways for that 52 percent to show their displeasure with the FNM: by casting their vote for the DNA or the PLP, fracturing a clear majority against the FNM into two parts. This would open up the possibility that neither of those two camps would have more votes than the FNM, who, according to this poll, have a minority 38 percent of all voters. Therefore, this minority could, theoretically, once again become the government for all of us.
The theory of unintended consequences
And therefore, the tyranny of the minority could likely result in a government that will most likely be elected by a minority of the voting Bahamian population on May 7. And this applies to the three major parties that are vying for office. This could result in another five years of the autocratic and tyrannical power of the leader of the FNM, raging unchecked and unquestioned by any of his members, because they do not have the courage to stand up and tell him that he is too powerful, or that his bellicose behavior is potentially destructive and detrimental to our democratic process. Fortunately, we have not witnessed this kind of leadership style from the other two political parties.
It is important for Bahamians to ask the question: which one of Hubert Ingraham's 37 candidates or even fewer of his successful candidates or an even smaller Cabinet will dare to check his unbridled power? It is difficult to imagine that any of his colleagues will demonstrate such audacity and courage because they have all witnessed his authoritarian actions before and have been too quiet and too fearful of the consequences of questioning or, even worse, challenging his despotic leadership style.
Bahamians are aware that for the past five years we have been living under a powerfully autocratic leader who was put into power in 2007 by less than 50 percent of the voters, which is probably why so many Bahamians are so unhappy, discouraged and despondent about their aspirations for the future. We have been guided, maneuvered, manipulated and used by that minority to enrich themselves, their cronies and supporters and have been helpless as they have secured their future, just as the Bay Street Boys did.
There is an overwhelmingly compelling reason that we strive to have a majority government and it's a simple matter of mathematics - the more people who are working on the future of a nation, the more ideas in the mix, the better and more democratic the outcome and the better it is for the majority of our citizens, which is not now the reality.
On Election Day therefore, and even more importantly thereafter, it is critically important that we keep uppermost in our minds the admonition of former United States President William McKinley that "the tyranny of the minority is infinitely more odious and intolerable and more to be feared than that of the majority."
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Respective leaders of the Free National Movement (FNM) and Democratic National Alliance (DNA) on Thursday night made similar pleas for public servants and members of the armed forces to vote for their parties in the advanced poll set for Tuesday.
During the FNM's mass rally on Clifford Park, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham encouraged Royal Bahamas Police and Defence Force officers to consider their futures with the government that has committed to more resources, salary increases, uniform allowances and promotion exercises.
"Going forward we will require more from you and so we will also do more for you," he said.
"You know that when we can, we increase your pay and improve your terms and conditions of employment."
Ingraham added, "I note also that the Public Service Commission is presently completing the resumed service-wide promotion exercise [that was] suspended."
Meanwhile, DNA Leader Branville McCartney predicted that Police and defence force, customs and immigration and prison officers would vote for the DNA in the advanced poll, as they are tired of the Ingraham-led government.
"Reliable sources tell me that [they] all have gone green," McCartney told supporters during his party's rally in Golden Gates.
"Successive governments have shown little to no respect for the armed forces of this country and every election time they give out promotions to try to gain votes."
Ingraham previously announced that around 7,865 people are registered to vote in the advanced poll, including election workers, agents of political parties, Defence Force, Police Force and custom and immigration officers, and special voters.
Of that figure, there are approximately 420 students and other Bahamians registered to vote abroad, according to Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel.
Sherlyn Hall, deputy permanent secretary at the Parliamentary Registration Department, told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that 3,865 are registered voters, who would not be able to vote on Election Day due to illness, hospitalization or previously scheduled travel.
Those registered voters will be able to vote between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m at two polling stations in New Providence, which will be located at The College of The Bahamas and Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
Changes made recently to the Parliamentary Elections Act allow students and other eligible Bahamians to vote in Miami, Atlanta, Washington, New York, London, Toronto, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
Stations have also been established on the Family Islands and overseas voters will have the ability to vote at Bahamian embassies, high commissions or other foreign missions, including high consuls.
If artists and politicians had a relationship status on Facebook, it would certainly read as "It's Complicated".
Art in its many forms has undeniable power, able to bring groups of people across social strata and cultures and even social beliefs together in an instant - just think of the myriad of pop culture musical references and local performances used in our political rallies. Did people really think Tina Turner would appear at an FNM rally? Did it matter once the turnout stretched beyond the eye? And how many undercover PLPs, DNAs or undecided voters attended - or attentively kept an eye on their TV screens at home - waiting to catch a glimpse of the beloved internationally-acclaimed musician? That's some powerful art.
Yet local artists will openly admit feeling like the jilted sweetheart of their political paramours, finding a lack of funding for their endeavors and no certain systems for their craft that can only be put in place by politicians through law. The truth is being an artist in The Bahamas means paying 45 percent duty on your supplies, battling a one-dimensional view of Bahamian culture that is synonymous with Junkanoo, a lack of government-issued incentives to develop their craft (funding, scholarships, awards, residencies, gallery/performance spaces, public art initiatives) and the push for sun-sand-and-sea tourism over untapped cultural tourism.
On the other side, politicians balance the cries from the art community for such change with the ever-pervasive belief that art is a luxury. Such efforts often give only just enough to artists for boasting rights during election time, yet leave artists unsatisfied and often resentful. The unfortunate inability to commit wholly to the arts in all of its forms just continues to perpetuate the art-as-luxury idea instead of helping the public to realize the necessity of art to expand the definition of Bahamian/Caribbean culture and identity.
After all, here in The Bahamas, the major political parties are reduced to a single color to drive their campaigns - "Red Splash" and "Gold Rush". And if that's not art as the most basic, one-dimensional way to powerfully define Bahamian identity, then I don't know what is.
Yet the resistance too from the political side comes from a long history of spats between artists and politicians - after all, art, as said before, is powerful, and when not in favor of the status quo can be quite problematic for authority figures defining issues for society in black-and-white terms or altogether pulling the wool over the public's eyes. Through socially critical work, artists keep authority figures and societies honest, and complicate objective stances with subjective realities.
Take the work by artist Dionne Benjamin-Smith. In her earliest printmaking pieces, she explored the politics of the feminine in raw, honest linoleum-cuts that confronted viewers with its uncensored imagery and themes.
Now working in digital media and drawing more heavily from her graphic design background, she continues to make work that keeps authority on its toes. For that she's been called an artist that expresses social commentary or a political artist, and has garnered equal shares of criticism and praise for her fearlessness and ability to present troublesome political decisions or social trends in clever representations, such as the "Black Crab Pledge of Allegiance" and "Bishops Bishops Everywhere But Not a Drop to Drink".
"What drives me is speaking the truth - showing the naked emperor - so people can make their own decisions on how they view a situation," said Benjamin-Smith. "I am constantly thinking about issues I see before me. I pray about them and I am often moved to express them in some way through the work. Hopefully, people will see the truth of a situation and that the authority figures will see that the people aren't stupid. Hopefully, it helps bring truth to a world that is very messed up."
Her latest collection of work, "Birthright for Sale" which was on display at Popopstudios Center for the Visual Arts during the Transforming Spaces 2011 tour, aimed to bring new perspective to recent political decisions regarding the sale of Bahamian land and Bahamian companies. Ripped-from-the-headlines issues such as the BTC sale to Cable & Wireless and the Mayaguana land sell-off are repackaged as everyday cheap Bahamian products like Mahatma Rice, Wesson Oil and Carnation Cream, shown as individual products then represented in ubiquitous food store ad placements, all shared on a loop of digital image slides to non-descript elevator music.
"All these huge swaths of land being given away for such little in return; it grieves me," said Benjamin-Smith. "I'm witnessing these things and I wondered how to express this indignation, how to show people what's being done because so many people don't see. How do I express that our land is being sold away from under our feet?"
"The idea of them selling The Bahamas as a product came to me, selling these places that were and are special to me and is the birthright of me and my Bahamian brothers and sisters," she continued. "I included the details of the transactions on each product so people could see the truth of the matter - that their birthright was being sold like a product off the shelf - for a pittance."
Like in her earlier pieces, Benjamin-Smith brings the absurdities of reality to extremes in order to shake a response from her viewers. Indeed the pieces, critical of both politicians' decisions to sell off Bahamian land like a cheap product and of the public for not holding them accountable, are a case of "laughing so as not to cry" - the product design itself is enough to weigh on any viewer's conscience.
Indeed her work is a powerful voice in contemporary Bahamian art, being one of those artists who feel the responsibility to keep authority figures and their decisions in check for the greater good - and in a smart, respectful way, too. She even makes her pieces first and foremost for the people she's questioning, allowing society at large to bear witness to such confrontation and find their own voice in the crossfire.
"I'm respectful of the position of authority, and God says to be so, however when they're doing wrong or they're not honoring or doing the things they need to be doing, then they need to be shown," she said.
"I want them to see how their actions affect society. I'm always wanting the politicians to see - and to understand that they're not doing these things in darkness, they're not doing this without people seeing and knowing, and hopefully they will be convicted that some of their actions are hurtful and detrimental and affect people."
With work like that by Benjamin-Smith, the fear shared by many politicians is always that the art itself will not supplement them and their decisions but rather come to define them or usurp them and become the center of controversy - and a force for social or political change - themselves.
Indeed when it comes to politics, often a single image can define an entire political movement or change - from J. M. Flagg's 1917 Uncle Sam "I Want You" poster to Shepard Fairey's 2008 Obama "Hope" poster, artists have been taking their social and political beliefs to the public eye. But whether to slant public opinion or shed truth on a matter, such work has great power that stays in the public's consciousness throughout time - whether they consider such work fine art, tribute, or extreme propaganda.
Take a mural recently designed by Kishan Munroe, commissioned by the Democratic National Alliance candidate, Wayne Munroe. The impressive piece shows Wayne Munroe close to the front of a pack of people from a wide cross-section of Bahamian society walking in the glow of a lighthouse toward a better future, leaving catastrophe - in the symbol of a shipwreck and natural disasters - behind.
It's easy to label the work as a piece of political propaganda, yet Munroe insists it's an idea he's been manifesting for some time during his travels abroad. As quite the global political and social activist, Munroe has traveled worldwide to find the source of the human experience which he reflects in his artwork. He's attended protests for Occupy Wall Street and stood in solidarity with global groups calling for justice. Knowing this progressive background may be the difference between taking a cursory look at his mural and searching for the deeper meaning he always aims to incorporate into his work.
"The sketch wasn't specifically for them, it was an idea I've always had, a theme I've always wanted to work with," said Munroe. "Wayne Munroe has always supported my endeavors, and he wasn't trying to take advantage of me for political reasons."
"In the beginning he was only asking for something to beautify the place, and me being the artist that I am, I decided to take it to a totally different level, especially after my mural (on 'Da Balcony') burned down on Bay Street," he continued. "I felt compelled to make a statement, another national statement about contemporary issues we have, and something that is more uplifting, relevant, and doesn't sugar coat issues."
So is it propaganda? Then again, it depends whose interests are being served, and how damaging that is to the wider public. Many may find the road signs sharing "abstinence-only" tips or blatantly declaring "homosexuals aren't allowed into my kingdom" as problematic pieces of propaganda Bahamians see every day that perpetuate ignorance and hatred, however well-intentioned they may be by those who placed them in the public's eye.
From the artist's perspective, Munroe believes his piece doesn't exist to gain DNA votes from the public - it's a call to action to the Bahamian public in general, including politicians. After all, it's only DNA-centered because the party commissioned it - he insists he would have made a similar mural had the FNM or PLP approached him instead.
"The message would still be the same, it would have the same feeling. The piece isn't of Wayne Munroe; Wayne Munroe is of the piece," he said. "I don' feel it has that strong of a political implication because at the end of the day this is about the progression of a people to move forward."
"That's why he's closer to the front - not right at the front - because he is of the people. But most of the dynamic figures are those before and behind him, because the composition overall comes from the motion of the people as one."
Indeed, by no means is the poster one-dimensional: from the "in-between" orange hue mixing red and yellow, to the figures - worker, educator, planner - who all have a role to play to salvage society, to Wayne Munroe's garb of half-lawyer, half-everyday man, the mural is an impressive call to arms to not only the public, but to politicians as well, to move through these turbulent times with a master plan to uplift the nation.
Indeed, to Munroe, everything we see and do is a political act whether we are consciously aware of it or not, and has consequences. For him, such work is a rarity in Bahamian culture, and he calls for artists to continue to make work that challenges its viewers with its social commentary.
"Any art is propaganda, because at the end of the day you're trying to get people to respond to your thoughts, to what you believe and what you want the piece to say," pointed out Munroe.
"It's important for me to be able to not only share my international experiences but also to actually use a visual language to create an alphabet for Bahamians to understand. This is a visual language of globally turbulent times but it's also a Bahamian dialect of a visual language they can understand."
In the end, who can say when art crosses into the sphere of propaganda? If an artist's work isn't openly critical and rather praises a politician or a movement, then many may say such a tribute - like Munroe's - is propaganda by nature. Is this fair? Must artists only be critical, or can they be in support of an idea without being blamed for selling themselves out?
A clever way to address political beliefs no matter what the alignment is through humor - and with the road to the 2012 election unfolding the way it has been with a exhausting amount of mudslinging and bipartisanship from three main political parties, there is no shortage of material for satire, as seen in the various comics or cartoons in the daily newspaper.
Especially in this digital age of social media where nothing escapes the public eye, the true ugliness of political races happen in real time - more so now than in any other time in history. For artist Damaso Gray, whose piece "The Amazing Spectacular Circus 2012" has been making the rounds this political season, the use of satire can keep things in perspective. In this outrageous piece, Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie battle it out on sea creatures while Branville McCartney observes from a distance, giving new meaning to "the silly season".
"I wanted to bring humor to the occasion to enlighten the people of the grandeur of events in Bahamian history," said Gray. "I feel that it was about time that we see politics from an unbiased and insightful point of view."
"I think that the audience should see it as just that amusement rather than take it so seriously. I would hope the public sees the election campaign as it really is: a spectacle to amuse and gain the interest of the people at any cost, using multiple props and comedic mudslinging."
Yet Gray also operates from a space of honoring history, recognizing his role as an artist often intersects with that of a historian, and makes his work accordingly. In the diptych, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide", two elderly figures sit in front of two political signs - one for the PLP and one for the FNM. Gray points out that he wanted to show that these people are very set in their ways, but that the younger generation could "capitalize on their mistakes" to move the country forward.
In the end, he insists it's important, once the viewer understand the humor in his work, to move past it and come to the realization that Bahamians have to be for Bahamians - not for a certain party.
"My work I would hope gives an unbiased report of the event and gains a humorous but rationale response where it is plausible to see the event retrospectively," he said. "I would hope the public would embrace and appreciate the art as it is one of the greatest political battles in Bahamian history."
"I would hope politicians value our opinions on the how we feel about the process. It is significant that they engage artist to document Bahamian history and I hope that they see it fit to create historical spaces for the arts."
Indeed, at the root of every politically- or socially-minded piece - despite criticism, despite support, despite humor - is that very hope to be taken seriously as a member of the voting public who wishes to see a better Bahamas - a member of the voting public who sees the potential in Bahamian society and culture as still tragically untapped by their political caretakers.
For the artist, politics continues to offer a torrid affair, a constant balancing act what is and what could be, that irresistible urge to ask "what if?" even when presented with hopelessness. And if their work can help even one other member of the voting public not to decide who to vote for but to think beyond red, yellow and green, then perhaps they too can demand politicians of any party build that bridge between reality and dream together.
In this region there is a trend in politics that we in The Bahamas had better be careful not to follow. I’m talking about the marriage between politicians and violent criminals.
It’s a marriage that comes out of the shadows and reveals itself in the light of day at election time especially. I believe both major parties, despite the differences in how they are currently financed, are likely candidates for this and need to be watched carefully.
When some think of politics and thuggery in the Caribbean they might think of Papa Doc and his boogeymen, the Tonton Macoute. But we in the English-speaking Caribbean have had our share of examples of the political elite reaching ...
Whether or not to drill for oil in The Bahamas is a complex and multifaceted issue requiring extensive study and an open and transparent public debate. As the role of the government will be critical in this process, the major parties have an obligation to clearly outline their full views on the matter in the lead-up to Election Day.
Two weeks ago, Opposition Leader Perry Christie confirmed to The Nassau Guardian that he served as a legal consultant to Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC).
He stated, "I consult on work the firm deems I am qualified by the office I've had, with the knowledge that I have in terms of government."
He further stated: "If there is an issue they need advice on, whether or not they need someone to speak to the issue of environmental impact [studies], the issue of whether or not in my judgment a matter is worthy for the government to approve, whether or not an application is ready, whether or not they should employ and who should go on the board of directors, whatever views they ask of the firm, in the event that firm regards it as necessary, they would consult me on it. Those are the services I provide."
One must presume that Christie was paid for this consultancy work.
A week later, we reported that Christie backtracked on his original statement to this newspaper saying that his consultancy with BPC ended some time ago, but he did not provide a date as to when.
Voters must have no doubt as to whether any of the major parties and their leaders will have a conflict of interest on the matter of oil drilling.
We note that Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Philip Brave Davis, the principal of Davis & Co., serves as a legal consultant to BPC. He would likely serve as deputy prime minister in a Christie government.
For his part, Christie needs to answer why he backtracked on his original statement. He must also answer a series of other questions raised by the consultancy relationship with an oil company to which his former government gave exploration licenses, and which a possible future government of his will be asked to provide additional licenses for exploration and drilling to the very same company.
Various characterizations have been made of Christie's consultancy and his mixed statements on his work on behalf of BPC through Davis & Co. Christie will need to address a number of these.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has noted his party's position: "I have said before, in the media and in the House of Assembly - a government led by me will not agree to any drilling for oil in The Bahamas until all necessary and appropriate regulations are in place and until we are fully and competently in a position to regulate such activity so as to protect our environment and that of the world's ocean beyond from harmful and risky activity in our country and in our waters.
"I am not unmindful of what happened in the gulf off the coast of Louisiana just two years ago. And certainly we do not have the resources, human or financial, nor the billet, to respond as the United States government responded.
"We are not now in a position to so regulate and oversee drilling operations in our waters."
The PLP's statements on oil drilling appear to be more equivocal than the government's. Comments from former Cabinet minister Leslie Miller have not added clarity to the opposition's view on this matter.
The general election is less than a week away. Unexpectedly, the question of oil drilling may play a decisive role in its outcome. It is a question with many facets such as economic development, environmental protection, and accountability and transparency in government.
Even as the parties address other issues, they will have to speak more to the issue of oil drilling. This includes safeguarding a transparent governmental process on such a critical issue and crystal clear clarity on any conflict(s) of interest.
In less than five days Bahamians will go to the polls to elect a new government to manage The Bahamas Incorporated for the next five years. Voting is a right we all enjoy in a democratic society and we encourage all to vote - but please, only once.
All three major parties have issued documents articulating their visions or business plans for The Bahamas for the next several years. We invite all to review and where possible seek clarifications to some of the lists of promises being made.
We invite you as you review the list of promises to ask the following questions:
o Are the promises achievable?
o Are the promises measureable?
o And more importantly, how much will the promises cost our future generation?
From our preliminary analysis the list of promises can range in the billions of dollars. How some of the parties expect to deliver on these promises should they become the government remains to be seen. At best, it would be challenging for the government to raise the necessary funding to make good on the promises, save for increased taxes and major cuts in some variable costs such as employment.
The expected increase in government debt will surpass the $5 billion mark for the first time fairly quickly and unless our income increases proportionately, it could pose significant challenges for the country. In the worst case scenario we could expect a visit from the financial doctors at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with a list of austerity programs, which as we all know, is not a good sign; we need only look across the Atlantic to see what it is doing to those debt-laden economies.
While this in and of itself is not bad, we see no discussions on how we are seeking to raise government revenue. We trust that the new minister of finance will be responsible and do the right thing and make the tough calls.
We also found amusing the media houses highlighting the list of political candidate members of the "millionaire club". A quick review of the financial declarations revealed numerous errors and in some cases a lack of understanding of basic finances. A proper accounting of the list would show that several of the members of the club don't qualify. We trust that they are not appointed to the Ministry of Finance. We have written before on that matter and hoped that at this stage of the process each party would employ the services of an accounting firm to assist their candidates with completing their financial declaration.
What to look for
As we monitor the rallies over the next several days we ask for the following:
o Good governance: We call for the establishment and publication of a set of guidelines for the conduct of public officials (parliamentarians and senior government officials) governing their relationships with goods and service providers in order to improve transparency and to avoid charges of misconduct.
o Accountability: We would like to see major policy decisions of a fundamental nature regarding issues such as, the use of government land, the disposal of government assets, constitutional changes, economic policy, introduction of legislation impacting the conduct of business, and immigration policies are subject to open debate providing for full participation by the public.
o Privatization: It is imperative that we complete this process for the overall competitiveness of our economy.
o Consolidation of regulatory authority: Currently, there are several agencies regulating a single institution. To make matters worse, these regulators do not seem to communicate with each other. It would be wonderful if some of these regulators would collaborate with each other in the provision of basic information.
o Level playing field: We still see inconsistencies in the application of some rules and regulations that raise issues of confidence in the system. On a related matter, the playing field must be available to nationals and we must recognize that Bahamian professionals are just as competent as their foreign counterparts and must be given the opportunity to prove it.
o Pension fund legislation: We have called for the enactment of such legislation on numerous occasions and we do so again.
o Public dialogue on tax reform: That discussion is long overdue. It's similar to a patient being at the critical stage and soon about to die.
o Public dialogue on catastrophe insurance: This matter should be given urgent attention in any new administration.
We are aware that there are many other and equally important items that could be added to our list, however we deemed it prudent to stop here. We are convinced that focusing attention on these items and by implementing the appropriate policies and programs associated with them, our chances of successfully positioning The Bahamas as a competitive player in this complex new global world would be greatly improved.
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: email@example.com.