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(Nassau, Bahamas) Erin Ferguson, Host and Executive Producer of the Number #1 Rated Television show in the Bahamas, Citizens Review, conducted interviews with two of Hollywood's finest Actors on the screen, the world renowned, Academy award winning actor Morgan Freeman, known for his roles in performances like Glory, Invictus, The Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy and Dennis Haysbert who is well known for the TV hit drama series 24, The Unit, and as the Spokesman for Allstate Insurance company, with the famous phrase "Are you in Good Hands".
The bodies of three men, believed to be a part of a group of Haitian nationals whose vessel ran aground last week, were discovered over the weekend near an Eleuthera shoreline.
Assistant Superintendent Elburt Ferguson, officer in charge of Central Bahamas, told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that the bodies washed ashore on the north side of Governor's Harbour between Friday and Saturday.
"We found two bodies on [Friday] and we also found a dismembered body on [Saturday]," he said, adding that a portion of the man's torso and leg were missing.
"We suspect that it probably would be from a shark, maybe a shark attack, but we can't say that for certain. That's why we are waiting for an autopsy," Ferguson said.
The bodies found on Friday have already been transported to New Providence for an autopsy. Ferguson said the other body will be transported when arrangements can be made.
Ferguson said attempts are also being made to determine the identities of the victims.
On Wednesday night a sloop ran aground at Governor's Harbour, Eleuthera, Wednesday evening. Police picked up 14 of its occupants.
Eddie Ferguson, chief immigration officer, told The Nassau Guardian that between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. residents of the area noticed a group of suspected Haitian immigrants walking near a beach. At that time, Ferguson said authorities apprehended 12 men and two women, who were taken to Governor's Harbour Police Station for processing.
It was unclear where the illegal immigrants traveled from, although Ferguson said based on preliminary reports it's suspected they came from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Meantime, Assistant Superintendent Ferguson said yesterday that authorities apprehended an additional 13 persons since Wednesday.
In total, 25 Haitians have been captured.
Ferguson said the immigrants were transported to Nassau last week for further processing and will be repatriated soon.
He added that authorities will continue to search for any additional migrants who may have gotten away.
Faced with claims from a major international company that their effort to go independent will jeopardize safety in Freeport Harbour, the head of a group of marine pilots said it is the Freeport Harbour Company and BORCO's resistance to their proposal which threatens to create either a "very dangerous" or a very much slowed business environment in Freeport by the end of the month.
Pointing to what may transpire when the resignation of marine pilots - who help guide large vessels into Freeport Harbour - from the Freeport Harbour Company takes effect on March 28, Erin Ferguson, president of the Bahamas Marine Pilots Association (BMPA), said that if the pilots are not permitted by the company to offer their services to large vessels coming into Freeport, then the harbor area will "become a parking lot" full of ships waiting to dock, as there will simply be too few qualified marine pilots available.
If they are not banned from operating in the harbor area, but their former employers attempt to compete with them to provide pilotage services to ships coming into the harbor, a "competitive pilotage" scenario will emerge, which evidence shows could significantly increase the likelihood of major maritime incidents, said Ferguson. He claimed that a number of large companies bringing ships into Freeport have assured the former Freeport Harbour Company pilots that they will try to continue using their services come March 28, out of concern that they have fully qualified and experienced pilots on board their boats.
Ferguson said that having pilots from different companies fighting over who will get the business in the harbor does not bode well for safety. His position is supported by a number of international entities such as the American Pilots Association, the Houston Pilots association, and the International Maritime Pilots Association, in letters seen by Guardian Business. He added that the pilots hope their former employers would step aside and recognize their independent organization as the legitimate provider of pilotage services in the Freeport Harbour area. He went as far as to suggest that unless an independent pilotage authority is established, insurers may reconsider their desire to insure ships coming into the Freeport area.
Since 15 marine pilots resigned at the beginning of the month, BORCO and the Freeport Harbour Company have so far committed to not engaging the services of those pilots, who resigned to form the Freeport Pilotage Company. The pilots had provided services which impact both the Freeport Harbor, the Freeport Container Port, cruise vessel terminal berths and the BORCO island oil terminal.
Stating that they have "contingency measures in place", Freeport Harbour Company called the efforts of the pilots an attempt to "force the Harbour Company to hand over its investments, legal and rightful business to them" and said it "will not succeed".
BORCO, in a statement issued yesterday, suggested the pilots do not have the financial capability or experience to go solo, while other Freeport sources against the pilots' efforts have questioned their ability to get a business license to operate.
Both companies have suggested they will simply replace the pilots, and have begun advertising for replacements, but Ferguson told Guardian Business that there are too few qualified pilots remaining with the two companies at present to handle the workload, and any new pilots that arrive between now and March 28 will be far from qualified to guide ships into the harbor, given the stringent experience requirements.
"Even if a qualified pilot came over from Nassau to Freeport tomorrow it would take him two years to train to be qualified to guide ships in Freeport," said Ferguson, describing the vast array of training and qualifications pilots need to be deemed qualified to operate in any given environment.
For this reason, and in light of what he said have been commitments from the government to date not to provide work permits to foreign pilots given the existence of qualified Bahamian pilots, he charged that the BMPA is in a strong position to achieve its goals and he only hopes that its former employers will back down. He suggested that the Freeport Harbour Company has collected significant revenue from providing the pilotage services itself, and larger questions about "who controls Freeport" are standing in the way of a resolution.
The Bahamas Marine Pilots Association was established by a group of former Freeport Harbour Company marine pilots who are seeking to now provide their services to vessels coming into the area independently, rather than as employees of the Freeport Harbour Company or BORCO, as before. Out of this grouping, the Freeport Pilotage Company was established, and will operate based on a license obtained in the 1990s, suggested Ferguson.
They claim that it is in the interests of safety and security in the harbor that they render their services in this way, pointing in particular to claims that they suffered from an insufficient training as employees of BORCO and the Freeport Harbour Company, and evidence that it is considered best practice to have independent pilotage in most major ports. The pilots have pointed to incidents such as when a ship dropped an anchor on a Bahamas Telecommunications Company undersea cable, and the grounding of the crude oil tanker Formosa Falcon on a nearby beach, as examples of why the harbor would be better served by an independent and appropriately trained pilotage service.
Ferguson said that as an independent grouping, they would ensure that funds raised from fees charged for piloting services would go towards ensuring all pilots receive the appropriate training that they need to be considered fully qualified.
Their efforts to form a pilotage association and operate independently in a non-competitive pilotage have won the support of international groups such as the American Pilots Association, the Houston Pilots Association and the International Maritime Pilots Association.
BORCO and the Freeport Harbour Company have denied the pilots' claims regarding safety issues in the Freeport Harbour under the former system of pilotage.
Contrary to claims by BORCO, in a statement released yesterday, that the group is simply seeking a monopoly over pilotage in Freeport, Ferguson said that they simply want to see The Bahamas abide by International Maritime Organization (IMO) standards that call for a legal framework that would allow for an authority that would set fees and standards. "The pilots only want to pilot," he said, suggesting financial gain is not the motivation for their move.
Responding to statements made by BORCO yesterday in which it condemned the actions by the pilots, and pointed to the fact that "there are many ports throughout the world where the pilotage services are provided by the port users and not an independent association", Ferguson said the difference between the jurisdictions highlighted by BORCO where pilotage is provided by the port itself and The Bahamas is a matter of scale.
And in response to an assertion that the group lacks the financial capability to launch its services, Ferguson said that this is a red herring since their primary resource is their intellectual property, and the remaining infrastructural needs can be easily obtained.
BORCO stated: "Maintaining management control of our marine operations is the best option for BORCO and Grand Bahama. Establishing a for-profit, monopoly pilotage service without resources or sustaining capabilities will not increase safe marine operations, and is in fact irresponsible and driven by financial gain."
Efforts to reach the Freeport Harbour Company were unsuccessful, as representatives did not respond to requests for comment up to press time.
Beware the ides of August, the ghost month, according to the Chinese, is prone to fatalities. Julius Cesar may have popularized the term of the ides of March since he was assassinated in that month in spite of the warning to avoid Rome at that time. My own empirical observation has indicated that the month of August has its load of bad omens that one should be careful about.
To start with, the tropical hurricanes with their sexy female names and their devastating consequences arrive usually in August. I remember several airplane disasters that fell in August. To name two: the Japan airline flight 123, and the Saudi flight 163. Is it the effect of the hottest time of the year that social upheavals tend to pierce the ordinary daily lot of up and down to erupt and change the canvas of a city or a nation?
Case in point, on August 18, 2014, a young black man, age, 19, named Michael Brown, was shot dead by a white policeman named Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Commotion arose immediately in the city, followed by outrage in the nation and concern all over the world. United States President Barack Obama dispatched his attorney general, Eric Holder, himself a black man, to attempt to calm spirits. It was refueled by comments, visits and speeches by some black activists, like Al Sharpton, who may have added more fire to the tumult.
Ferguson entered into the hall of infamous cities like Selma, Watts, East St Louis, where social upheaval has stamped the town putting in circulation the issue that black integration is still a work in progress. It started one-and-a-half centuries ago, when Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, made a bold decision to go to war with the southern states, which were bent on maintaining slavery and its social heritage as an accoutrement of the fabric of the society.
Relying less on cotton as an export commodity, the north realized that slavery was not advantageous for building a vibrant economy. It accompanied President Lincoln in pursuing a policy of engaging the United States to pursue war in order to build a land united from sea to sea.
Soon after victory, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, deferring the dream of a United States where the color of the skin would not determine the way one is treated before court and on the street. The black population suffered the Jim Crow laws that perpetuated slavery without the name. Some 100 years later, in 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, with the strategic support of President Lyndon Johnson, rekindled the flame of equality for all.
Several laws were passed to promote the concept so cherished in my essays, to wit the Renan doctrine that a nation-state will agree to push forward those who are left behind. Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination and the demise of President Johnson due to the imbroglio of the Vietnam War put a brake on the flurry of initiatives to render whole the determination that the black citizen will no longer be a second class citizen.
Ferguson is the latest saga of a population tired of the discrepancy between what the United States professes and what it practices. In spite of the fact that a black American in the person of Barack Obama is now occupying the highest honor of leading the United States, the fate of the ordinary black person is still in the hands of the more often white police officer with discretionary authority to inflict harm.
The facts are still murky. Did the white officer Darren Wilson shoot Michael Brown in legitimate defense or did he overreact? A court of law, after reviewing all the facts, will make that decision.
The Ferguson saga
Will there be more Ferguson-like incidents in the future, prompting more social upheavals in the United States? The answer is a qualified yes. Race relations in America since the Moynihan report of 1965 have not been au beau fixe. The commitment to national action has been timid with the exception of the Lyndon Johnson initiatives.
If the United States has not succeeded in integrating its 40 million blacks and other minorities after 50 years of the civil rights agenda, China at the same time has succeeded in ushering some 800 million Chinese citizens from existing in extreme poverty to the bliss of middle class status.
We are going back to the concept promoted so often in this column, whether the entire population will agree to move forward the segment of the nation that is left behind. Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat from the South, could easily rally the troops of the conservative sector to convince them it was in their interest to bring the black population forward.
President Richard Nixon, a Republican, albeit close to impeachment and resignation, was the closest one to Lyndon Johnson in pursuing an aggressive policy of helping the black citizen to feel he is welcome and useful in America.
In conclusion, the end of tumultuous reactions like Ferguson will depend on whether a southern Democrat or a northern Republican gains the seat of power after President Barack Obama and can rally their base and convince America that the 40 million blacks and minorities need not revolt to achieve full emancipation. I have not seen any such candidate on the horizon.
o Jean H. Charles, LLB MSW, JD, is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti. This is published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.
Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie confirmed yesterday what many Bahamians knew for years - that she 'bleeds black, gold and aquamarine', and will do anything to help her country progress athletically.
With The Bahamas on the borderline, as it relates to qualifying for the 2012 Summer Olympics in the women's sprint relay, all hands needed to be on deck. In stepped The Bahamas' second fastest woman ever, Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie. Originally thought to be out of this weekend's action, and next weekend's BTC/Scotiabank Olympic Trials with a bone bruise in her right ankle, Ferguson-McKenzie said yesterday she decided to give it a go and will do whatever she can to help The Bahamas qualify.
Tape up that ankle, take some pain killers and let's go! That's the mind frame that Ferguson-McKenzie is taking this Saturday heading into the Thomas A. Robinson Track Classic at the Thomas A. Robinson Track and Field Stadium. The one-day meet is being staged by the Silver Lightning Athletic Club and will get underway at 9 a.m.
"This is no time to think about injury," she said yesterday. "The Bahamas is in danger of not qualifying so I have to do whatever I can to help. Mentally, I feel like I can do it but there is still some pain there. I just met with my coach and we decided to give it a go. The girls that we have, with 'Q' (Sheniqua Ferguson) running well, and Anthonique (Strachan) running well, we have a great shot to qualify. I'm just ready to do my part, work through the pain and help us qualify. This is no time to be selfish. The team needs me so I have to be available to help."
The entire nation can breathe a sigh of relief now. Given the latest London Olympics relay rankings which were released yesterday, The Bahamas is currently sitting in the 15th spot with an aggregate time of 87.36 over two races - 43.62 seconds from last year's BTC Jr. and Sr. National Championships, and 43.74 seconds from last year's Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Sr. Track and Field Championships. The top 16 teams qualify for the London Olympics.
Ferguson-McKenzie last ran at the Jamaica International Invitational in early May. She finished seventh in the 100m at that meet, in 11.26 seconds.
"Well, the ankle was bothering me from then. I competed in Jamaica with the pain," she said yesterday. "I continued to train and it got worst. I didn't want to suffer a stress fracture so I had to rest it a bit. Today at my workout, it felt good. Long-time injury does cross your mind, but the team needs me so I have to be ready to go. This is my last Olympics so I just want to go out there and represent my country well. If I injure it more and have to take the rest of the year off, then so be it. At least I'll know that I was able to do my job and help us qualify for the Olympics. I can't guarantee that I will be healthy for the Olympics, but I have to give it a go this weekend. Together, we could do it. I'm not sure of the condition of the rest of the girls, but I'm confident that once we get the four fastest together, we will stand an excellent chance of qualifying."
Sheniqua Ferguson has the leading time among Bahamians this year, with her personal best run of 11.07 seconds in Auburn in April. Anthonique Strachan follows with her personal best time of 11.22 seconds, and then there is Ferguson-McKenzie's 11.26 seconds in Jamaica. Veterans Chandra Sturrup and Christine Amertil are also expected to be available this weekend. Ferguson, Strachan, Sturrup and Amertil ran 43.97 seconds at the Brazilian Grand Prix last month.
"Experience is always good, but I think that we have to set it up where the four best runners are running," said Ferguson-McKenzie. "We had a team in 2009 with Chandra, myself and Christine which ran 42.29 and won the silver medal at the World Championships. I'm not saying we could do that again, but it just goes to show what can be accomplished when you have four girls working together. That's the key - we have to have the four fastest girls running and we have to work together as a team. Once we do, we should have no problem qualifying."
One of the stipulations of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is that for a meet to be deemed as an Olympic qualifier for relays, a minimum of three international teams must compete in the race. About eight international teams, men and women, are expected to compete against The Bahamas sprint relay teams this weekend. The women's 4x100m relay team is currently in the 15th spot on the Olympic relay ranking list while the men's team isn't in the top 20. The men will have to run two national record times in order to qualify. South Africa, which is sitting in the 16th and final spot, has an average time of 38.90 seconds over two races. The Bahamas' national record is 38.98 seconds.
Sheniqua 'Q' Ferguson not only ran her fastest time ever this past weekend, but it was also the fastest time in the world this year.
The Auburn graduate, still in Auburn training with coach Henry Rolle, ran a blistering 11.07 seconds to win the women's 100 meters (m) at the War Eagle Invitational on Saturday. She initially ran a personal best time of 11.10 seconds in the heats, matching the world lead, and then came back in the final to crack the 11.0s for the first time in her career. Bahamian Nivea Smith, representing the Auburn Tigers, was seventh in that same race, in 11.78 seconds, and Tia Rolle, of Alabama State, was eighth, in 11.81 seconds. Smith ran 11.71 seconds in the heats. Just last week, Ferguson ran a personal best time of 22.64 seconds in the women's 200m, and now she has run a personal best time in the 100m.
"I feel awesome," said Ferguson from Auburn, Alabama yesterday. "I'm very happy with the time. I know I was about to run a fast time, and for it to be the fastest time in the world this year, I'm very happy. I just thank God that I was able to run so fast. I knew that anything was possible. Coming in, my goal was just to run faster than my PR (previous personal best time - 11.17 seconds). I just wanted to run fast and I felt like it was going to happen. To come out early in the season and run that time is a good feeling. Right now, my goal is to go under 11 seconds. I definitely feel like I could do it, but I'm just going to take it one meet at a time. There is a whole lot more running to go."
Bahamian coach Rolle, an assistant at Auburn University, also believes that 22-year-old Ferguson will eventually crack 11 seconds. For The Bahamas, just the 'Original Golden Girls' have accomplished that feat.
"Her training has been going really well," said Rolle yesterday. "She is really focussed. Her training indicated to me that she was ready to run very fast. That's how I knew Anthonique was ready to run very fast as well. These girls have shown tremendous improvement and the sky is the limit for them," he added.
Ferguson trains with fellow Bahamian Anthonique Strachan under the watchful eyes of Rolle down there in Auburn. Strachan ran her personal best time of 11.22 seconds at the Colina CARIFTA Trials last month, and matched that performance at the CARIFTA Track and Field Championships. Also in that camp in Auburn is Beijing Olympic Games silver medalist Kerron Stewart, from Jamaica. The three ladies teamed up with American Joanna Atkins to win the women's 4x100m at the War Eagle Invitational this past weekend, in 42.81 seconds. Ferguson ran the third leg in that relay. Smith ran as a part of the Auburn Tigers team which finished second, in 44.14 seconds. Rolle ran for the Alabama State team and they finished fifth, in 45.97 seconds. Smith also ran on the Auburn 4x400m team and they were third, in 3:42.99.
This upcoming weekend at the prestigious Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ferguson is scheduled to team up with Strachan, Smith and Chandra Sturrup, as the quartet hope to post a fast time on their trek to qualify a Bahamian women's sprint relay team for the London Olympics. The top 16 aggregate times in the world will qualify for the Olympics.
"I'm really looking forward to it," said Ferguson yesterday. "I feel like we just have to develop that chemistry. It's all about getting the girls together in one place. I'm a lil disappointed Debbie won't be there but she has her obligations so we just have to go out there and post a fast time without her. We were looking forward to running with Debbie but there will be more times. Right now, we have other people who could fill in. We will miss her but we have to do what we have to do. The exchange with Anthonique this past weekend went smoothly so hopefully, we could build off that and get faster," she added.
Also on that team, as an alternate, is University of Georgia freshman Tynia Gaither. Ferguson is optimistic that the girls can break 43 seconds in the relay.
Also competing at that meet in Auburn was national record holder in the men's triple jump, 'Superman' Leevan Sands. He opened up his outdoor season and popped a respectable 16.90m (55' 5-1/2") leap to win that event.
"I just want The Bahamas to know that Superman is back," said Sands from Auburn yesterday. "I'm here in full effect. Coach actually had in on the board for me to go out there and do 16.9 as an opening jump, and I was right at that. That's right where I wanted to be. I'm working on my hop and step and it's just a matter of time before I put a big jump together... 16.9 is a good opener for me. I was around that mark back in 2008 as well and I ended up with a great season. I'm looking for another great season this year."
That year, Sands culminated his season with the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics - setting the national record at 17.59m (57' 8-1/2"). He suffered a slight knee injury at last year's International Association of Athletic Federations' (IAAF) World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, but the Bahamian Superman said that he is fully recovered and ready to have a great year for The Bahamas.
"I'm trying a new approach this year," said Sands. "I'm moving back to 18 steps to hopefully get more speed to the board. Health wise I feel good. I'm a veteran now, so I'm focussed on what I need to do to show up at the big meets. It's all about winning another medal at the Olympics. I'm just going to take it one meet at a time and look to pop a big one when it counts - put it all in God's hands. My goal is to get into the Olympics healthy and have a strong performance for The Bahamas."
Also picking up a win on Saturday was former World Champion Donald Thomas in the men's high jump. The Bahamian high jumper leapt 2.26m (7' 5") for the win. Ryan Ingraham had a best jump of 2.17m (7' 1-1/4"), for third. Bahamian national record holder in the women's long jump, Bianca Stuart, also competed at the War Eagle Invitational in Auburn. Stuart shook off an injury suffered at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Instanbul, Turkey, this year, to jump 6.51m (21' 4-1/4"), for second on Saturday. V'Alonee Robinson finished 13th in that competition, with a best jump of 5.44m (17' 10-1/4").
A number of other Bahamians competed at that meet in Auburn on Saturday, especially in the men's 100m. Jamal Rolle was fifth in 10.40 seconds; Aaron Cleare was 19th overall in 10.84 seconds; Shamar Sands was 21st overall in 10.86 seconds; Shawn Lockhart, representing Alabama State, was 22nd overall in 10.88 seconds, and Niles Stuart was 31st overall in 11.12 seconds. Rolle came back and was third in the 200m, in 20.84 seconds, and Lockhart was 32nd overall, in 22.15 seconds.
Nivea Smith also ran the 200m and finished second, in 23.32 seconds. Tia Rolle was seventh, in 23.88 seconds, and Robinson was ninth in 23.93 seconds. Krystal Bodie finished sixth in the women's 100m hurdles, in 13.45 seconds.
Also on Saturday, Andre Williams was third in the men's 400m, in 47.24 seconds, and Nathan Arnett was 13th overall in 48.81 seconds. Arnett was third in the men's 110m hurdles, in 14.14 seconds.
Niles Stuart had a best jump of 7.31m (23' 11-3/4") in the men's long jump to finish fourth, and Douglas Palacious finished seventh with a best of 7.06m (23' 2"). Palacious was fifth in the triple jump, with a best jump of 14.71m (48' 3").
Also this past weekend at the LSU Invitational, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Demetrius Pinder ran 20.46 seconds in the 200m, and at the Tom Jones Memorial, in Gainesville, Florida, Rodney Greene ran 10.63 seconds in the 100m. At the Mt. SAC Relays, Cache Armbrister ran 55.26 seconds in the 400m.
At the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships, in Charlottesville, Virginia, Warren Fraser ran 10.34 seconds in the 100m and 21.10 seconds in the 200m. Also at those championships, Stephen Newbold ran a personal best time of 46.97 seconds in the 400m.
At the John McDonnell Invitational, in Arkansas, Ivanique Kemp tied her national record in the 100m hurdles, running 13.20 seconds; Tia Thompson ran 13.82 seconds in that same event; Jeffrey Gibson ran 50.69 seconds in the 400m hurdles; Andretti Bain ran 47.03 seconds in the 400m, and a pair of Bahamian long jumpers had outstanding performances in the men's long jump. Raymond Higgs leapt 8.07m (26' 5-3/4"), and Rudon Bastian leapt 7.93m (26' 0-1/4").
Next weekend Bahamian athletes will participate at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia and the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa.
Just last weekend, a junior athlete who competes for The Bahamas, ran a junior national record time, but it will never be recognized as such given his current citizenship status.
In his first year at Western Texas College in Snyder, Texas, O'Jay Ferguson, ran a blistering 46.14 seconds in finishing second to American Vernon Norwood at the UTEP Springtime Invitational. That stunning time in El Paso, Texas, was under the junior national record time in the 400m, 46.34 seconds, that was set by Troy McIntosh 20 years ago.
Ferguson competes with the word 'Bahamas' across his chest. As a matter of fact, he's the gold medalist from last year's CARIFTA Track and Field Championships in the under-20 boys 400 meters (m), and also went on to lead The Bahamas to a gold medal in the under-20 boys 4x400m. Ferguson ran a time of 46.49 seconds to win the gold medal for The Bahamas at CARIFTA. The only problem is, he is yet to get his nationality papers sorted out. Ferguson attended high school here in The Bahamas, but his mother is Jamaican.
According to Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA) President Mike Sands, NACAC rules permits Ferguson to run for The Bahamas at the regional level, but he is ineligible to represent The Bahamas at world level meets that are sanctioned by the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF). NACAC (North America, Central America and Caribbean Athletic Association) is an athletic body which represents one of six areas under the IAAF.
"Once an athlete occupies a domicile here in the country, they are allowed to compete at CARIFTA," said Sands
yesterday. "This is a rule that has gotten the support of the IAAF so it isn't like we are breaking any rules. Once O'Jay would have gotten his papers straight, he would be allowed to compete at world level meets under the IAAF but as it stands now, he is not recognized as a Bahamian on the world level. We have no doubt that would eventually be sorted out and he would be allowed to compete at any meet for The Bahamas. This is home to him. The Bahamas is home to him. This is what he knows and where his heart is. He wants to compete for The Bahamas on the world level, and we are hopeful that eventually he will be given that opportunity."
Be that as it may, Ferguson continues to represent The Bahamas at a very high level. The 18-year-old quarter-miler is the current National High School record holder in the 400m with a time of 47.65 seconds for Galilee Academy last year, and would have been the junior national record holder, if not for his nationality concerns. According to Sands, BAAA rules allow for him to be recognized as a national high school record holder, but not as a junior national record holder.
"It's a complicated issue but that's just how it is right now," said Sands. "It was a very fast time that he ran, but unfortunately it can't be recorded as a junior national record."
Ferguson first cracked the 47-second barrier two years ago as a 16-year-old at C.R. Walker High School here in New Providence. That year, he ran 46.93 seconds at the BAAA Jr. National Track and Field Championships. Since that time, he has taken almost a full second off his personal best time. His gold medal run at the CARIFTA Championships in Montego Bay, Jamaica last year, was four tenths of a second faster than the silver medalist, Javiere Bell, of Jamaica. He then went on to anchor the under-20 boys 4x400m team to a gold medal run. That team was initially disqualified, but was later re-instated as the gold medalists, securing The Bahamas' second place finish in the regional championships.
Ferguson will travel to this year's CARIFTA Track and Field Championships as the defending champion in the men's 400m. He is unquestionably the best junior quarter-miler in the country, and great things are expected from him in Hamilton, Bermuda. A 70-member Bahamian team will leave for the 41st CARIFTA Championships this Thursday on a Bahamasair chartered flight. They are expected to return to the capital next Tuesday.
All children born in The Bahamas irrespective of their parents' status should have automatic entitlement to citizenship at birth, United Association of Haitians and Bahamians in The Bahamas (UHAB) President Dr. Antoine St. Louis has recommended to the Constitutional Commission.
However, Bishop Franklin Ferguson, pastor of Church of God of Prophecy, recommended that the government facilitate those children - who in many cases do not have immigration status - being regularized in the country of their parents' birth and given residency status in The Bahamas until the age of 18.
Babies born in The Bahamas do not automatically become citizens, but the Bahamas Constitution provides that children born in The Bahamas to non-Bahamians could apply for citizenship on their 18th birthday or within the following 12 months.
St. Louis insisted the social impact of this policy is that the children are stateless for 18 or more years of their life.
"We are allowing each person born in The Bahamas to have a sense of belonging and human dignity," he said.
"The individual will be proud of who they are. At present their status suggests that they do not know who they are or where they belong.
"The individuals can be productive citizens. At present they are unable to open a bank account; there is great difficulty to get a job, a driver's license and attend college outside of The Bahamas.
"The individual has the opportunity to be an asset to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas at an early age as much as is possible."
St. Louis also said the government should establish a non-partisan Commission on Citizenship and Immigration, made up of reputable Bahamians, including Bahamians of Haitian descent, to research and present recommendations to Parliament on ways to improve and define citizenship and immigration legislation.
St. Louis and Ferguson made separate presentations during a meeting of the Constitutional Commission at British Colonial Hilton hotel yesterday.
Ferguson said more defined regularization legislation is needed because the present process is not working.
"An alternative would be for our government to act post haste in seeking the assistance of the international community to encourage, and/or help the government of the country from which the parents of these persons are citizens to carry out their international obligation in registering them as their citizens, and providing them with their passport or other form of national identification," he said.
"Should this route be taken, permanent residency status can be given in the appropriate cases and people who are now considered stateless would be free to travel in and out of other jurisdictions, subject to the national law of [those] countries."
Ferguson also said the Privy Council's view on capital punishment directly opposes this nation's cultural belief system, and retaining it would be "futile".
He recommended that The Bahamas make the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) its final appellate court for criminal matters while civil and commercial appeals be sent to the Privy Council.
"We do believe the death penalty is a viable form of punishment, but we recommended that it should be carried out in a manner other than hanging, e.g. by lethal injection," Ferguson said.
St. Louis said legislation should be introduced to provide for the impeachment or removal of elected officials from Parliament and bring about campaign finance reform.
He also recommended that the Office of the Attorney General be charged with heading civil and commercial cases while the director of public prosecutions pursue criminal matters.
He also said Cabinet should be permanently fixed to 12 ministries and the prime minister should not have sole discretion to create ministries.
Both men agreed that the prime minister's powers should be limited; the constitution should be amended to eliminate discrimination against women and provide for the establishment of an independent boundaries commission.
They also support creating a set election date and defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The commission is expected to present its recommendations to the government in June, ahead of the 40th anniversary of independence in July.