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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 ...
Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell is threatening to sue the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (BCB) if it does not pull a political ad sponsored by the Free National Movement (FNM) which he said suggests that he was involved in a visa scandal during his time as foreign affairs minister.
The allegation is the subject of a lawsuit Mitchell filed against Ministry of Foreign Affairs official Dorothea Lafleur earlier this year.
Yesterday, Mitchell said his attorney Raynard Rigby sent letters to BCB and industry regulator the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) asking that the ad be pulled.
"The clear innuendo is that I was involved in a corrupt enterprise as a minister of the government and a member of Parliament," Mitchell said in a statement yesterday.
"This is false and defamatory. Political campaigning cannot be used as a cover to repeat untested, untrue and unsubstantiated hearsay to defame me. If the matter is not resolved to my satisfaction by the Broadcasting Corporation a writ will follow."
The letter Rigby sent to BCB and URCA said the ad violated part 6, clauses 6.8(1) and (8) of URCA's content regulations.
Michael Moss, BCB's chairman, told The Nassau Guardian that he heard the radio version of the ad in question and it did not appear to be defamatory.
However, he said he would have to watch the video version of the ad and speak with management at BCB to determine what action to take.
"[Our editorial team] looks at these things before we air them and we have gone back to political parties with ads and said to them that we believe this is inappropriate and needs to be redone," Moss said.
"I'm going to look at this particular one and make contact with the management of ZNS to find out what made them feel it was appropriate to play and in light of the letter [from Mitchell] ask them [whether] they have changed their opinion."
Yesterday, Gabriella Fraser, an official at URCA, could not confirm if the regulator had received the letter and if the ad violated URCA's rules. She said she could not comment on the matter further.
We hope the Bahamian people truly appreciate what has been on display over the last few months. Three leaders and three parties have done all they could do to win what will be a historic election on Monday.
A record amount has likely been spent on broadcast advertising in The Bahamas this election cycle. Radio and television stations have been saturated with ads - and it was not just the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Free National Movement (FNM) spending the money.
Branville McCartney and his Democratic National Alliance (DNA) have run as many ads as the other parties. The new leader and his fledgling party have been tough in this pitch battle for political power.
We have seen or heard in our homes, cars and workplaces every flaw of the opposition and every failure of the government. We have also heard, from each party, why that particular side is the only one you can trust.
Bahamian political parties finally are evolving their methods and expanding their advertising budgets rather than just obsessing over rallies. Rallies are important, but ads hit more people more often. They also hit more of the people who "matter".
Base voters mostly come out to rallies. These are the people comfortable enough to wear party colors and to be seen as associated with the party. Even if 10,000 people come out to a rally, that would only be about six percent of the electorate. Too many draw too much from the size of rally crowds not realizing how small all of them are when compared to the size of the total electorate.
The "silent" group of independent and swing voters decide elections. To reach them you must fill public spaces with your message, as they often do not follow traditional partisan fodder uttered from party podia.
Bahamians should expect the spending on broadcast ads to expand in future elections. But while the parties have spent quite a bit on TV and radio ads, few candidates have produced their own material to sell themselves.
Going forward, individual candidates will need to set aside more of their budgets for advertising if they want to maximize their exposure. The thoughts of people are derived from material pieced together from their socio-cultural environments. If that environment is more filled with your ideas, your message, people are more likely to assimilate your views. There are some critical voters who challenge what they hear or see but many do not, taking these messages in without any resistance.
With this shift in the campaigning process, more people can actually affect the political process. Surrogates and groups can use their own money and operations to unleash aggressive ad campaigns to advance a candidate or party; or to tear down a candidate or party.
This election was a trial run of sorts with modern politicking. Come 2017, or whenever the next election occurs, we should look out for a campaign that even more closely mirrors what we see in developed countries - especially if younger leaders are heading all of our parties.
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.
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 beauty of democracy is that power rests with the people and the exercise of this power produces stronger and accountable governance. It is encouraging to see the quality of discussions among the electorate leading up to the next general election. The elevation of our debates in this regard is evidence that the Bahamian populace has matured politically and we are very much in tune with the issues that plague our nation. It is fair to state that Bahamians of all social strata and across the political divide are fed up with the status quo of political rhetoric and propaganda. The Bahamian electorate is unified in demanding true accountability and solutions from our political leaders. This paradigm shift and overhaul of politics as we once knew it constitutes a changing of the guard.
The governing party's problems
In the run-up to the general election, each major political party has intensified its campaign with advertisements, posters and billboards. It is disappointing to say the least that some of our political parties are still stuck in the quicksand of old politics as they have shifted from the non-resonating message of proven leadership to the invocation of scandals that have plagued opposition administrations. The paid adverts have sought to paint each other and the relevant leader as corrupt with recurrent references to the "cookie jar".
In the height of this election season, political strategists must be reminded of the legal maxim that states "he who comes to equity must come with clean hands". In essence, he who alleges wrong against a party or another must show that he is doing so in good faith having done no wrong himself. The maxim is quite similar to the words of Jesus Christ that "he who is without sin should cast the first stone". The Free National Movement (FNM) has been studious in its documentation of the scandals of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) between 2002 and 2007. However, the reality is that the current administration has been plagued with its own share of scandals as well.
In the case of the FNM administration between 2007 and 2012, the allegations against its Cabinet have been numerous throughout its five-year term in office and spans across all ministerial portfolios including local government, education, finance, foreign affairs, national security, immigration, works and transport.
The widely publicized Aga Khan and Bell Island scandal and alleged awarding of contracts to special interests readily comes to mind. It is also difficult to omit the granting of citizenship to immigrants in what was seen as a non-transparent process, as well as the visit of Haitian President Michel Martelly and his controversial remarks to persons of Haitian descent during a meeting also come to mind. The most recent miscue was the prime minister's overt remarks that The Bahamas would not be drilling for oil with full knowledge that exploration licenses had been issued to the British listed public company, Bahamas Petroleum. The remarks caused a one-third decrease in the share value of that company.
The point here is that Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham like many of his predecessors locally and contemporaries internationally has had to deal with his fair share of scandals, some carried out by ministers who have been given the opportunity to run in multiple general elections. It is imperative to state that no political leader is exempt from scandals. Political leaders, however, must display true integrity by exerting honesty and transparency toward those who follow them and have entrusted them with power to administer the proverbial "cookie jar". Any alleged impropriety, corruption or looting of the public treasury should be investigated and not used for political gain or brownie points. Culprits should be prosecuted if there is sufficient evidence to support such allegations.
What we should be discussing
The political parties must return to the issues that are of the utmost importance to the Bahamian electorate. They should be sensitive to, and show some care and concern for, the matters that touch the lives of everyday Bahamians instead of taking us back to the old politics that we no longer welcome. Just to refresh our political leaders' memories, we are concerned about the state of our economy and the multiple downgrades from international rating agencies; the country's borrowing cost increase and level of investor confidence in our Bahamaland. Our economy is in a fragile state; unemployment remains high; illegal immigration is still plaguing our nation; our education system is failing the youth; crime continues to spiral out of control and labor unrest has been the order of the day. Additionally, there has been insignificant and insufficient injection of foreign direct investment to create jobs and opportunities for the Bahamian people to spur economic growth and ultimately increase government revenue.
Each political party must take responsibility for the state of affairs in The Bahamas while they were in office and effectively convince the Bahamian people why they should be given another term in office. Faced with similar socio-economic challenges of the current administration, the Pindling administration did not have the luxury in the 1992 general election of blaming the state of affairs of the country on the worst recession since the great depression which took place in the late 1930s or the ailing world economy. A new generation of Bahamians accepted the FNM's message of change and hence ushered Hubert Ingraham into office in a historical changing of the guard in Bahamian politics since 1967.
The Ingraham-led administration was voted out of office in a landslide PLP victory in 2002; a clear and forceful message by the electorate that it was time to once again change the guard. During the 2007 general election, the FNM campaigned against the PLP on the high crime rate, the country's national debt, scandals and leadership leading yet again to a change of the guard. Five years later, it is ironic that the FNM seems to be faced with a flipped script with a record crime rate, the highest level of national debt in the country's history accompanied with its own share of scandals. Like past governments, the FNM government must face the Bahamian people who have the right, opportunity and privilege to change the guard if they so desire.
This general election will represent the final showdown between two formidable political contemporaries and adversaries. Whatever transpires, we are witnessing the historical end to one of the greatest political eras in the Caribbean region, which would have spanned over 50 years and involved one man and his two prodigies. The 2012 general election will bring about a notable changing of the guard and will usher in a new era in Bahamian politics.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments can be directed at email@example.com.
With more than 6,000 people having cast ballots in Tuesday's advanced general election poll, Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel said yesterday the Parliamentary Registration Department has put measures in place to ensure that none of those people will be able to vote again on election day.
Bethel said his office has been very concerned about the question of 'double-voting' since legislation to expand the advanced poll was passed.
"We're going through a very tedious process right now of making sure that all of the counterfoils that were used [Tuesday] are sorted and put back in those tins," Bethel said.
"We have those marked and we know who the people are who voted. We want to make it clear that we have the counterfoils and we know who did vote and we're going to put all of those in place.
"So if [those persons who voted] appear, once the counterfoil is pulled, immediately the person who pulled the counterfoil will be able to show that to the presiding officer and say, 'this person has cast a ballot already'."
A counterfoil is an identical copy of a stamped voter's card that the Parliamentary Registration Department keeps to record who has voted.
Nearly 8,000 people were registered to vote in the advanced poll.
Though he could not give an exact figure of the number of people who voted Tuesday, Bethel said the turnout was "very high".
Bethel said that thousands voted at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs Gymnasium, one of two advanced polling centers on New Providence.
"At the Kendal Isaacs gym, I know that more than 2,200 people voted," Bethel said. "The other location (The College of The Bahamas' Tourism Training Centre) had more people than the Kendal Isaacs gym, so I'm sure the number from there would be higher. The constituencies with the larger numbers were put at the Tourism Training Centre.
"The numbers in the Family Islands were not big, except for in Freeport, where the number [of voters] exceeded 1,000."
There were 7,865 people 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.
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.
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.
As officials prepare for tomorrow's advanced poll, which will take place across the country, Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel said he expects the process to run smoothly.
"We don't expect to have any problems. I think everything will go as planned," he told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.
As previously reported, 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, overseas voters and special voters.
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 Bahamas Tourism Training Centre at The College of The Bahamas and the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium.
Early voters in Bains Town and Grants Town, Englerston, Fox Hill, Marathon, Nassau Village, South Beach, MICAL, Centreville, Fort Charlotte, Golden Gates, Montagu, Pinewood and St. Anne's will vote at the gymnasium. Early voters in Bamboo Town, Elizabeth, Golden Isles, Mount Moriah, Southern Shores, Yamacraw, Carmichael, Garden Hills, Killarney, Sea Breeze, and Tall Pines will cast their ballots at the college.
As for the locations for the Family Islands poll, Bethel said that information will be published in the newspapers today or tomorrow.
The names of the approved registered early voters will also be printed, Bethel said.
There is some confusion about who has been approved for early voting, he explained.
"We are hoping to have a documentary aired about the procedure before election day so that people can understand the process," Bethel said.
In a statement released yesterday the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) claimed that the government has disenfranchised Family Island voters.
Mario Cartwright, DNA candidate for Long Island, said he only found out three working days before the advanced poll that Family Island residents would be allowed to participate in the early voting process.
He said it was originally announced that Family Island constituencies would not be allowed to do so.
The DNA charged that "the FNM government has secretly changed this position in what appears to be an attempt to disenfranchise voters from the non-governing parties."
However, Bethel explained that the Family Islands were only added to the list after the applications were reviewed.
"We don't normally include the Family Islands in the advanced polls. However, the amendments to the Parliamentary Elections Act allow Bahamians, including Family Island residents, to apply to vote in the early poll.
"So we had to make a determination after looking through all of the applications," Bethel added.
Less than 10,000 of the more than 118,000 registered voters in New Providence have yet to pick up their cards, Bethel said.
People can retrieve their cards up until the election day.