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By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Writer
Wenly and Bea Fowler have always been drawn to the artistic expressions of God, through nature, design, thought and patterns.
But it was not until recently, when they finally gave in to the demands of family and friends to share their talents, that the couple decided to hold their first art exhibition.
On Wednesday August 4- Friday August 6th, Wenly and Bea Fowler hosted an art exhibition under the theme, " Shades of Creation" at The National Centre for the Performing Arts on Shirley Street.
The creative couple had met on a college campus when they were studying education.
Since those early days, most of their artistic expressions were ...
EDITOR, The Tribune.
Firstly, I express sincere gratitude to the family of Rotary Clubs in The Bahamas on behalf of all disable persons who resided in and otherwise benefited from the existence of Cheshire Home, for having undertaken the establishment of that very much needed, disabled-friendly residential facility on Dolphin Drive, in the 1980s. Acknowledgment and gratitude are also extended to Sir Durward Knowles for the leading roll he played in seeing the home come into existence.
Gratitude and appreciation are also extended to members of the general public for having financially supported the various fund raising efforts by the Rotary Clubs, which resulted in the eventual construction o ...
By ERIKA RAHMING
VLAD Marinescu, personal assistant to Marius Vizer, president of the International Judo Federation (IJF), met with several high ranking Bahamian officials to discuss plans for the future of judo in the Bahamas and the Caribbean region.
Mr Marinescu was in town for the Bahamas Judo Open this past weekend.
Bahamas Judo Federation (BJF) president D'Arcy Rahming and Mr Marinescu met with Minister of Youth and Sports Charles Maynard to discuss the possibility of a regional judo training centre for the Caribbean within the sports complex currently being built here in New Providence.
The minister was enthusiastic and expressed interest in reviewing a more detailed plan.
EDITOR, The Tribune.
Teenage prostitution published by The Tribune on July 23 is a report about underage girls exchanging sexual pleasures commercially. The well reported article features primarily Dr Sandra Dean-Patterson, director of the Bahamas Crisis Centre, discussing the matter. Dr Dean-Patterson expresses that the problem of teen prostitution doesn't exist because individuals under the age of 16 cannot give consent to sex; therefore, they are not committing prostitution. She said the girls are being exploited.
On the Tribune's website (www.tribune242.com) some people opined under the article. They aired how much they disagreed with Dr Dean-Patterson's assertion that the kid ...
The United States Embassy in Nassau closely monitors the crime situation in The Bahamas, noting the potential for a “high-profile violent crime tragedy” and resultant media disaster as a result of the high rate of crime in the country. It is also very aware of the immense fear many Bahamians have of the issuance of a travel advisory by the U.S. government, according to several cables in the WikiLeaks cache obtained by The Nassau Guardian.
“Against the background of economic crisis, the crime numbers, trends, and daily headlines, as well as the expressions of concern about the state of society, all indicate that no end is in sight to high crime rates in The Bahamas, & ...
First of all, we are very grateful to God and to URCA
for the privilege of being able to participate in this consultative
process to develop a Code of Practice for the regulation of content
services and audiovisual media services in The Bahamas. This
consultative process is an expression of the rich democracy which we
continue to enjoy in our beloved nation, and we greatly value this
opportunity to speak on behalf of hundreds of the churches represented
by The Bahamas Christian Council and thousands of citizens in our
churches and country who share our views and values on matters of
Without hesitation, we acknowledge that this consultative exercise brings...
Cables obtained by The Nassau Guardian through the whistleblower WikiLeaks reveal deep concerns Perry Christie had about the Petrocaribe agreement with Venezuela while he was prime minister, and his worries about certain moves then Minister of Trade and Industry Leslie Miller was making, allegedly without Cabinet approval.
In fact, the cables reveal that the Christie Cabinet was "sharply divided" on Petrocaribe, a program under which countries purchase oil from Venezuela on conditions of preferential treatment.
One cable claims Christie made a direct negative comment relative to Miller as a minister.
"Some ministers, the PM continued, were brought into the Cabinet because of their qualifications; others, like Minister Miller, were included in an effort, at times unsuccessful, to keep an eye on what they're doing," said the cable, which was classified by then U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas John Rood.
The cable said that at a private meeting Rood had with Christie in July 2005, the then prime minister discussed several energy matters as well as his political future.
"The PM indicated that he has concerns about the Petrocaribe agreement signed on behalf of The Bahamas on June 29 by Trade and Industry Minister Leslie Miller," the cable said.
"He stated that Minister Miller 'got way out in front of the Cabinet' on the issue and suggested that Cabinet's eventual consideration of the Petrocaribe agreement would not be favorable.
"...The PM recalled that there were no disruptions to local fuel supplies during [the 2004] busy hurricane season.
"He doubted that government, given its poor record running hotels, airlines, and utilities, would be able to do as well as the international oil companies had done. The PM confided that the Trinidadian government had expressed to him its displeasure that Minister Miller signed the Petrocaribe agreement."
In another cable penned about a month earlier, a U.S. Embassy official wrote that Christie had up to that point remained silent on the issue but "has shown no inclination to embark on the type of sweeping project that Minister Miller envisions".
"On the other hand, Christie has also shown no inclination to silence a minister whose more outrageous comments regularly make for embarrassing headlines," the June 2005 cable said.
"Minister Miller is an erratic figure within the Christie Cabinet and his frequent dramatic pronouncements on issues ranging from Petrocaribe, to hurricane relief funding, to liquefied natural gas projects are taken with a large grain of salt.
"His recent comments on high gasoline prices have focused less on Venezuela and more on decreasing the fixed markups that local gasoline importers and retailers are permitted to charge," the cable said.
The American diplomat observed: "The Bahamas is sufficiently interested in possibly lowering its energy bill to keep sending Minister Miller to Petrocaribe meetings, but it has little in common politically with President [Hugo] Chavez.
"The one possible exception is Cuba, with which The Bahamas shares a pragmatic working relationship based on migrant issues and other people-to-people matters such as tourism and medical training and treatment."
That same cable reveals that a high level government official had privately expressed concern that a "loose cannon" like Miller would be representing The Bahamas at an upcoming meeting between CARICOM and Chavez.
The Bahamian official suggested to the Americans that rather than request Miller to speak out, "it might be better for both countries (The Bahamas and the United States) if he stayed in the background and made no other substantive comment."
According to that cable, Miller called a U.S. Embassy official to discuss his trip.
Responding to the official's urging that the best long-term solution to the energy situation would be a market-based solution within the context of a stable, democratic political system, Miller said that in petroleum, economics and politics are always mixed, the diplomat recorded.
"He called on the United States to itself construct new oil refineries in the U.S. to relieve supply shortages," the cable said.
"Miller then went on to describe himself as a 'nationalist' saying that he understood why 'dirt poor people in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina' were upset with oil companies.
"When [the embassy official] cautioned against concluding an agreement with an unstable government whose president had a penchant for tearing up and re-writing contracts, Miller responded by declaring that paying royalties from extracted natural resources of 'one percent' was 'ridiculous and unfair'."
The embassy official, according to the cable, told Miller that investment required stability, transparency, and predictability and that all of these were in short supply in Chavez's Venezuela.
In another cable, the Americans wrote that Miller had returned from Venezuela "waving the Petrocaribe agreement and declaring cheap gas prices in our time."
Miller was quoted as saying, "What we got from the Venezuelans is a dream come true. This is an extraordinary agreement, one that I have been behind for the past two and a half years."
But the Americans wrote: "Reducing the price of gas in The Bahamas without reducing either wholesaler or dealer profit margins or the government tax has long been one of Leslie Miller's signature theme projects.
"His past predictions of cheap gas in our time have gone unfulfilled while he has lurched from political gaffe to political gaffe. The local oil companies have long been suspicious of his maneuverings and have challenged his proposals both publicly and privately.
"His permanent secretary, the senior civil servant in his ministry, has long given up trying to explain to him the economics of the oil business in general and in The Bahamas in particular."
The diplomat said the lack of consultation with the local oil companies suggested that any real changes to The Bahamas' energy market "remains a distant dream".
In the comment section of the cable, the American diplomat wrote: "Local reaction to Petrocaribe has been skeptical ever since its signing.
"Minister Miller's actions have been criticized in terms of process (not having Cabinet's authorization) and on substance (creating another inefficient government entity, relying on a single source of supply, and endorsing Venezuela's political agenda)."
The cable said that while Miller was pushing Petrocaribe, Christie indicated to the ambassador that he intended to walk away from the agreement.
Miller has said he will not ever accept a cabinet appointment again. He has already been ratified by the PLP to run again in Blue Hills, a seat he lost to attorney Sidney Collie in 2007.
The July 2005 cable also revealed that Christie, at the time, was unsure as to whether he would be able to lead the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) into the 2007 general election, as he was still recovering from a mild stroke.
"The PM stated that he has already begun internal discussions on the timing of the next elections, which he must call no later than May 2007," the cable said.
"He believed he would know by his party's annual convention in November whether or not he is strong enough to lead the party into elections for another five-year term. If he is fit enough to run, the PM is confident that no one will be able to defeat him."
Christie was strong enough to lead his party into the election. However, his party was defeated.
When the Free National Movement (FNM) came to office in 2007, it made it clear that The Bahamas government was not interested in the oil alliance with Venezuela.
In a May 2007 cable, a U.S. Embassy official wrote, "We do not expect any warming of relations between Caracas and Nassau.
"Indeed we expect the FNM government to be a stronger partner of the Untied States in addressing Venezuela-related issues."
Not long after, Minister of State for Public Utilities Phenton Neymour confirmed that Petrocaribe was not, and would not be, a priority for the new Bahamian government.
An embassy official later wrote that Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham called the Petrocaribe accord a "stupid proposal".
The Americans noted: "The Bahamas has a wholly privatized oil distribution system that is incompatible with Petrocaribe. Further, both FNM and PLP senior leadership are leery about being beholden to Venezuela."
Everyone's familiar with the phrase "to walk a mile in somebody's shoes", but one organization has been bringing it to life - with a Bahamian-American artist contributing a pair herself.
Multidisciplinary artist Alexis Caputo created a pair of shoes telling her own story of dual identity, including lots of Bahamian flair, as part of a group of artists working with a major organization for a good cause.
This organization, Sole Plus, the brainchild of Brian Keith Miller, combines art, education and activism to help disadvantaged communities. Pairing up with Converse Shoes, Sole Plus ventures into the community and encourages people to use the shoe as a canvas for their story. Such an exercise is not only cathartic and creative, but the results, says the organization on its website, show the closeness of human interconnectivity.
To that end, the project can oftentimes be used to raise awareness and funds for social issues. A group of artists came together to create a pair of their own shoes for Sole Plus which were then auctioned off and the proceeds donated to organizations benefitting the homeless.
The project appealed to Caputo, who has done a significant amount of work with women's shelters and disadvantaged youth.
The homeless component struck a cord with me because it's a universal issue," she points out.
"I lived in New York City where you walk outside of your front door and there's a homeless man, woman or child there and it's something that was very prominent and in my face regularly," says Caputo. "When I navigated to South Florida, I don't see it as much, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist."
In a nod to her Caribbean roots, the proceeds from some of the auctions will go towards funds helping those who lost their homes and continue to live in a state of homelessness in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
"I'm always a staunch supporter of anything that relates to cross-cultural exchanges, something that's educational," says Caputo.
"Because so many people in that nation have remained displaced and homeless, we thought, Haiti is right in our backyard, so why not participate in this? Why not raise funds? Why not be able to call international attention to it? It's not something that has to stop in Florida or stop in Haiti - it's something a lot of people can relate to and identify with."
Yet Caputo took the practice further, inspired to write a poem, "Soul to Sole" that addresses this universal issue and encourages those who find themselves in such a situation to keep their head up and find release and strength in self-expression and creativity. It also encourages literacy, says Caputo.
"I think that there are many different ways to interpret something and to translate something," she says.
"I wanted to find another way I could connect to this project. It doesn't just have to be a visual component. Maybe someone will appreciate or relate to the literary version rather than the visual shoe, or vice-versa."
Indeed, the multidisciplinary artist has been finding many ways to connect disadvantaged communities with art. With a background in writing, dancing, performance and music, Caputo is also an educator and activist, working closely with disadvantaged women, youth and cross-cultural projects.
In 2009, she formed the non-profit "Project Witness" in order to expand on that artistic practice and intention to foster social unity through art, cultural exploration, education and activism.
"I decided to expand my platform rather than just contributing to solo and collective projects and speak to diverse audiences with multicultural projects, and an inter-generational audience," she explains.
"The best way I felt to do that would be to launch a project that has appeal in the arts, has appeal as it relates to cultural exploration and education using arts and education and activism."
It's the reason she responded so positively and passionately to the Sole Plus Project - though it wasn't formed out of Project Witness, Caputo points out that its goals run parallel to her organization.
"That phrase 'walk a mile in my shoes' means absolutely nothing if you can't directly relate to someone who has been in the situation," she says. "I thought this was a fantastic platform to be able to raise awareness about homelessness."
As a Bahamian-American artist living abroad, her next move would be to plan to collaborate with other Bahamian artists to raise awareness about social issues in The Bahamas - perhaps even visiting to lead such an exchange.
"For such a very long time I've had an interest and desire in having a cross-cultural exchange with other Bahamian artists to create a bridge between The Bahamas and the U.S.A to create and debate ideas," she says.
"There's so much access and resource for things that could be done in terms of projects that have international appeal. There are so many great causes and so much room; there's so much great potential there that I would welcome the opportunity to be a part of that in any way."
For more about Sole Plus, check out www.soleplus.org. For more about Project Witness, check out their page on Facebook or www.projectwitnessinternational.org or contact them at email@example.com. To contact Alexis Caputo, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Am I the only Bahamian disgusted to see the cultural shift to Americanize the singing of our national anthem? Is our proximity to the United States invading or pervading this aspect of our culture too? Since when do we stand at attention and become spectators at the singing of our anthem? Since when does the singing of our anthem become an artistic rendition of some soloist? Since when do we clap at the end of the singing of our anthem? Seriously! Since when?
In The Bahamas, at least the last time I checked, we were taught to participate in the singing of our anthem, not spectate. And after the singing we immediately recite, hopefully sincerely, the pledge of allegiance. Most of us adults know of American artists who gaffe at some special national event because they don't remember, more like don't know, the words of their anthem. That is a natural consequence of the average citizen listening, spectating rather than participating.
Let us get back to our tradition. There is no apparent cultural advancement or cultural progression inherent in spectating as compared to participating. So why the shift? As a matter of fact, during last year's senior boys basketball championship, with high level government officials attending, the anthem was sung solo style and the audience broke out in applause. The pledge was completely forgotten until someone yelled out for the pledge. And yes, the announcer said, "Oh yes, the pledge." Is it any wonder that that happened? And apparently no leader sought to correct that even for future references.
When the national stadium opens this week, will we all proudly stand and sing our anthem. Or will we stand and spectate, listening to a soloist? When Prince Harry visits, will he see Bahamian culture at the singing of our anthem, or will he be treated to the American version? Will he hear the voices of thousands of our present and next generation of young people proudly singing their anthem or will he be treated to one of our talented soloists followed by handclapping and hooting?
Let us get back to the participatory singing/pledge and refuse absolutely to let the solo, the clapping and hooting creep into this most unique indispensable expression of our culture. Let us lift up our head, our hearts and our voices and sing proudly our national anthem.
- Alastair "Dr. B." Basden
Finalists to Participate in National Geographic's Photo Camp on Cape Eleuthera
United States Embassy in partnership with the Bahamas National Drug
Council (BNDC) is pleased to announce the launch of the first "Youth
Express" Essay, Rap and Poetry Competition. The purpose of the contest
is to encourage students throughout The Bahamas to consider the harmful
impact of illegal drugs and to reflect on how they can resist negative
peer pressure and act as leaders against drugs in their community. This
exciting program is part of a continuing partnership between the US
Embassy, the Bahamas National Drug Council and the National Anti-Drug
Secretariat to reduce the demand for illegal drugs and foster ...
Criticizing the PLP for permitting Kerzner International to take on a $2.5 billion mortgage in 2006 is "foolishness", according to the chairman of Arawak Homes.
Franklyn Wilson said Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's recent comments in Freeport are misguided because it fails to take into account the country's international reputation.
"In the minds of leaders in 2006, whatever the government of the day, to say no to Atlantis in terms of taking on a mortgage would have had implications," he told Guardian Business. "It's foolishness to say it was a bad decision."
Wilson felt a refusal on the part of the Perry Christie administration would have "sent a very powerful message to the international investing community". He also said the purpose of the funding was not just to build a sister hotel in Dubai, but to also "internationalize" the Atlantis brand.
With the Paradise Island property as the flagship, the result is greater visibility worldwide that, at the time, was in the national interest.
"The first always remains the icon," he added. "Atlantis was going to be a global brand pioneered in The Bahamas. It would have added value to the country tremendously."
On January 19, Ingraham told The Nassau Guardian it was "inappropriate and wrong" for the government at the time to agree for the properties on Paradise Island to be put up as a security for a loan.
"That was a big, big mistake," the prime minister said.
The chairman of Arawak Homes wished to go "even further" and point out Sol Kerzner, the founder of Atlantis, was also undertaking stage three of the resort through the construction of The Cove and The Reef. He felt this completion was also in the national interest and noted that the prime minister attended the opening of this phase last summer.
Kerzner's commitment to The Bahamas is unchallenged, he added, and the fact he was willing to "double-down" in such a debt only validated his belief in the country.
"To say Christie made a terrible error in judgement to put a mortgage on the property is disingenuous. It's not in the national interest for any responsible national figure to put forward that view," Wilson told Guardian Business.
Wilson next turned his attention to Zhivargo Laing, the state minister of finance, accusing him of a "dereliction of duty" for not being fully aware of the court battle between Brookfield and senior lenders of Kerzner International earlier this month.
On January 5, when contacted by Guardian Business, Laing said he was unsure of where the matter stood, but expressed confidence the deal was well in hand.
"That is a serious dereliction of duty. How could you not be following it? What was more important?" Wilson asked.
Nevertheless, the top executive told Guardian Business it remains his hope that the Atlantis restructuring has a good ending both for The Bahamas and Kerzner.
"Let us not be self-centered. As important as jobs are for Bahamians, let us not be so narrow in our thinking as to not recognize the implications of this for Mr. Kerzner and his family," Wilson said. "He has done so much for this country. I hope the outcome will give him the opportunity to improve his standing and come to a more favorable arrangement."
By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
TOURISM executives expressed optimism yesterday that within the next two months Vision Airlines' performance in Grand Bahama will improve, the tourism director-general telling Tribune Business that "there can be no tourism sector in Grand Bahama without a robust airlift program".
Vision Airlines began flights to Grand Bahama on November 11, providing direct non-stop service from five US cities and, with its competitive low fares, was expected to bring an additional 100,000 seats annually to Grand Bahama in its first phase of operations.
In an earlier interview with Tribune Business, though, David Johnso ...
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
LEGISLATION to bring three Las Vegas-style casino mega resorts to South Florida - and in direct competition with Bahamian hotels - has been passed by a US Senate committee.
Florida lawmakers began their examination of the Bills yesterday after a 7-3 vote in the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on Monday.
Last year, Kerzner International Bahamas' managing director George Markantonis expressed concern about the proposal.
He said the establishment of high-end resorts in the immediate area and on US soil would be a problem not just for Atlantis and Baha Mar, but the entire tourism industry of the Bahamas.
The Bahamas Film Commission in keeping with their mandate to
encourage international film making and photographic shoots in The Bahamas, they have
succeeded for the fifth year in a row at welcoming the Orvis Clothing line to return to do yet another
shoot for it's newest line of women's clothing on Grand Bahama Island. The
Bahamas Weekly had the opportunity to go on-location at the Grand Lucayan where
they were shooting models on the beach and at the rear of the manor house at
the famous Gazebo were so many have made their wedding vows.
Sr. Art Director, Rick Ruso took a few minutes off from the
shoot to do an impromptu interview with TheBahamasWeekly.com. He expressed his
pleasure to be back on Grand Bahama Island in the company of gorgeous fashion
models amidst the scenic
In a "frank" discussion with U.S. Ambassador John Rood in 2006, then Prime Minister Perry Christie revealed that he had taken a hands-off approach to the country's foreign affairs policies, according to a confidential U.S. Embassy cable obtained by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks.
Christie was responding to Ambassador Rood's concerns over The Bahamas' voting record in the United Nations and limited multilateral cooperation with the U.S. at the U.N., according to the cable.
"In response to the Ambassador's concerns, Christie distanced himself from Minister (Fred) Mitchell's handling of Bahamian policy, saying
'foreign policy is driven by Fred (Mitchell) and the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), without involvement of my office'," the cable reads.
"Christie, who expressed surprise that The Bahamas was less in agreement with the U.S. than Barbados and Jamaica, conveyed genuine disappointment with Mitchell's handling of these U.N. issues. He said he would consider greater involvement in foreign policy decisions and suggested that he may ask for key international human rights votes to come before Cabinet for consideration."
The August 24 meeting was on the occasion of Christie's birthday. During that meeting, Rood also expressed appreciation for the outstanding partnerships between The Bahamas and the United States, praising the U.S.-Bahamian bilateral relationship, according to the cable.
But Rood expressed concern that "our shared values were not always reflected in common approaches to international problems in the United Nations, where the Department's most recent U.N. Voting Patterns report noted that The Bahamas ranks 29th of 33 countries in the Western Hemisphere on important votes to the U.S," the cable reads.
In a separate cable, a U.S. diplomat noted, "Prime Minister Christie has not been engaged on U.N. and international issues. Sometimes criticized for failing to attend international events, Christie is content to allow Foreign Minister Mitchell to oversee Bahamian foreign policy.
"Mitchell's relationship with PM Christie remains strong, though he is not in Christie's inner circle and there is no personal bond between them. Christie appears to trust Mitchell's formulation and handling of foreign policy. Though Christie has been privately critical of Mitchell on occasion, Mitchell has significant ability to influence The Bahamas's stance on U.N. and other foreign policy matters."
Ambassador Rood reminded Christie of his government's past advocacy against apartheid and encouraged Christie to use The Bahamas' U.N. vote to stand up for its own values and democratic principles elsewhere in the world, according to the August cable.
"The Ambassador suggested that the declining U.N. compatibility figures highlighted a need for closer dialogue on these issues between The Bahamas and the United States," the cable said.
The cable noted that Mitchell subsequently told the Ambassador that Christie had requested an analysis of The Bahamas' recent U.N. votes.
Concern over Bahamas Uncensored website
In that same meeting, Ambassador Rood also expressed to Christie his concern about what he described as the anti-U.S. viewpoints conveyed in the "Bahamas Uncensored website formerly administered by Fred Mitchell and which is seen by the Bahamian public and media as still largely under his editorial control", according to the cable.
Christie told the Ambassador that he doubted Mitchell was still directly involved in the site, but acknowledged that the perception of his continued involvement could contribute to perceptions of problems in the bilateral relationship, the cable reads.
In a "Note" the cable added: " The website (bahamasuncensored.com) is written in Mitchell's rhetorical style with MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) inside information and knowledge that no journalist would have access to."
In another cable, a U.S. diplomat writes: "The private Fred Mitchell is on display in a website previously titled 'Fred Mitchell Uncensored' and now nominally edited by a third-party and named 'Bahamas Uncensored'. In the Bahamian political circles, it is assumed that the foreign minister retains editorial control over the website. Mitchell hides behind the website and makes more petulant and more candid commentary than he normally would in public."
Mitchell has repeatedly stated that he is no longer associated with the website.
Four days after Ambassador Rood met with Christie, Mitchell also met with the Ambassador to express his concern about an Op-Ed released by Rood that called for closer cooperation between the U.S. and The Bahamas in the U.N. that appeared in The Nassau Guardian earlier that month, a U.S. diplomat wrote in a separate cable.
In the wake of the op-ed local media and opposition figures criticized Mitchell's handling of the country's foreign policy, and he requested a meeting with the Ambassador to discuss his concerns about the op-ed and the perceptions it had generated, according to the cable.
"Mitchell, who is sensitive to media criticism, is facing a difficult fight in his coming reelection bid. He said that he felt that the op-ed contradicted recent public statements by the Ambassador about the closeness of the bilateral relationship. He said the press had sought to spin the op-ed as a sign of U.S. support for the Free National Movement," the U.S. diplomat wrote.
"The Ambassador made it clear the U.S. had no intention to pick sides in the election. Both parties were friends. He challenged Mitchell's perception of the op-ed, suggesting he was reacting to the media's spin rather than the substance of the piece itself. The op-ed had detailed a broad range of partnerships between our countries, had maintained a positive, constructive tone, and concluded that the relationship was 'second to none'."
The Ambassador, according to the cable, explained to Mitchell that promoting human rights was a vital element of U.S. policy and one he took seriously. He pointed out that the U.S. and The Bahamas shared the same values, but the U.N. voting record does not reflect that compatibility.
Mitchell insisted that it was the policy of The Bahamas to "stay out" and "abstain on matters of controversy", and his goal was to maintain a "low profile" in such matters.
"The Permanent Secretary noted that The Bahamas often 'abstains with a reason'. When pressed to defend specific votes, Mitchell acknowledged that he generally did not know the specific wording of the resolutions in question, according to the cable.
In a direct contradiction to what Christie told the Ambassador days earlier, according to the cable, Mitchell "somewhat disingenuously insisted that his role in shaping the government's response on these matters was limited -- that he merely 'took advice' from his ministry and conveyed the decision of the Cabinet".
"He claimed that he had inherited a policy to abstain on voting on country specific resolutions," according to the cable.
In the 'Comment' section at the end of the cable, the U.S. diplomat wrote: "Mitchell has been taking a beating in the local media in the past few months for his handling of the U.S. relationship and perceived closeness to Cuba, highlighted by the mid-July opening of a new Embassy in Havana.
"Although no election date has been set and they could be held as far off as May 2007, the parties are on election footing and will seek to use any perception of difference for political advantage."
The Ambassador reassured Mitchell that he was sensitive to election politics, but made it clear that while the relationship is 'second-to-none', the Embassy would continue to speak up on issues of concern, reads the cable.
"Mitchell's statement that The Bahamas abstains from the country specific resolutions in the United Nations flies in the face of their voting record," said the cable.
During a final courtesy call with then U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas John Rood days before the 2007 general election, Free National Movement (FNM) leader Hubert Ingraham remarked that many of the judges in The Bahamas were "simply not competent, having been appointed for political reasons," a U.S. diplomat claimed in one of the cables in the batch of diplomatic documents obtained exclusively by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks.
"Ingraham acknowledged that the Bahamian courts were dysfunctional, and needed changes in leadership," the embassy official wrote.
According to the cable, Ingraham said he did not have a problem with extraditing major drug dealers, but believed that small time drug dealers should be prosecuted locally.
Ingraham reportedly told the ambassador that cases move too slowly and many criminals are out on bail committing new offenses. "He also noted that Bahamian prosecutors are often wary of taking high profile cases to jury due to possible tampering, and that in non-jury trials the maximum sentence for a drug offense is five years."
The cable revealed that Ingraham and the ambassador sparred over the case of five baggage handlers arrested in December 2006 in Florida on suspicion of drug trafficking.
"Ingraham made it clear he believes the Nassau Flight Services baggage handlers were set up," the cable said.
"The ambassador stated that the training (the baggage handlers were going on) was routine, as others went and came back, adding that if individuals who commit crimes against U.S. law come to the U.S., they will be arrested."
The cable said Ingraham stated that his sources at the airport indicated otherwise.
He further indicated that if he was prime minister, the arrests occurring in this manner would have caused a serious bilateral issue, according to the cable.
Ingraham was quoted as saying, "If they committed the crimes here, they should be tried here".
The cable said he did not dispute the right of the United States to arrest them once they had entered U.S. territory.
In the end, the ambassador and Ingraham agreed to disagree on the manner of the arrests.
According to the cable, Deputy Chief of Mission Dr. Brent Hardt noted that other baggage handlers who did not travel to Florida in December had been picked up by the police but had not been charged.
He asked Ingraham how he would respond as prime minister if individuals engaged in such acts were unable to be prosecuted.
It is then that Ingraham allegedly made the comment about the dysfunctional court system.
"The opposition leader pledged that, if elected, he would make improvements in the Bahamian judiciary to speed up trials and get more criminals off the streets, the cable said.
The state of the judiciary was just one of several issues Ingraham discussed with the Americans, according to that cable.
Discussing aviation, Ingraham reportedly promised to work closely with the Federal Aviation Administration on aviation issues if elected, and stated, according to the cable, that he "knew where his bread was buttered."
The cable said the ambassador raised the issue of airport security and safety problems with Ingraham, stating that he remained concerned by both security vulnerabilities and overall airport management.
He told Ingraham that he would support the imposition of a 90-day review period for the airport if no progress is made on addressing long-standing security concerns, though he acknowledged that the government did now appear to be giving the issue serious attention, the 2007 cable said.
Ingraham reportedly asked the ambassador to elaborate on the problems.
The cable said: "Not needing any further prodding, the ambassador outlined several problems, including: The aesthetic appearance of the facilities, the slow pace in processing passengers, radar problems, and endemic security concerns.
"Ingraham stated that Minister of Transport and Aviation (Glenys) Hanna-Martin was 'out of her depth' and that there is no direction being given to civil aviation."
The cable said charges that his government had purchased a radar system that did not work (the ASR-9) concerned Ingraham.
He reportedly noted that his government had purchased the system upon a U.S. recommendation, and added that if he wins the election, he would make changes at the airport, to include getting the new radar system repaired and on line.
The cable said Ingraham also stated that he supports FAA running the Flight Information Region, observing that he had learned through hard experience that it would be too risky to defy the U.S. on such a sensitive safety issue.
The Christie administration had pledged to gain full control of The Bahamas' airspace and had promised that such an effort would result in tens of millions of dollars in additional revenue for the government. However, this was never achieved.
INGRAHAM ON POLITICS
The cable said that turning to the political scene, Ingraham observed that he would support Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) leader Perry Christie (then prime minister) for many jobs, but prime minister was not one of them.
As he did when he sat down with a U.S. diplomat in 2003, Ingraham in 2007 described Christie as "fatally disorganized and incapable of running a government."
The cable noted that the day before the meeting with the ambassador, the press widely quoted an exchange between Christie and Ingraham in which Ingraham referred to Christie as "impotent."
"Ingraham wryly noted that he was referring only to matters of governance," the cable said.
"He said that in his view, the PLP believes it has 'the right to govern' and that the FNM victories in 1992 and 1997 were accidents.
"He expressed the view that some of the investment projects such as Bimini Bay were too large, and that the environmental bureaucracy was unworkable."
Despite prodding, neither Ingraham nor Desmond Bannister, then chairman of the FNM, would reveal the FNM's budget for the upcoming election, the cable said.
It noted that parties are free to take money from any source, and Ingraham said that most of the money comes from businesses.
Persons outside the country can also contribute to parties, and he said that normally only outsiders with interests in The Bahamas do so, according to the cable.
"Ingraham also said that he had enough money for the campaign, but not all that he could use. Typically, money tends to flow in at the last minute when it is too late to deploy effectively, he pointed out," the cable said.
Observing that the PLP was running many more radio advertisements than the FNM this early in the campaign, he reportedly suggested that this reflected their anxiety about the election.
Much of the money used for campaign paraphernalia is actually spent in the United States to buy T-shirts and hats, he noted, according to the cable.
RACES TO WATCH
The cable said the FNM leader said he expected a short campaign of 24 days, with elections called soon after Easter.
Ingraham provided the ambassador with a "scorecard" of key races to watch to determine the outcome of the 2007 election, the cable added.
"In Fox Hill, he predicted that if the PLP wins that seat, they are going to probably win the election, but he also felt that Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell would be defeated by his candidate," the cable said.
"He also noted his surprise that Tourism Minister (Obie) Wilchcombe may be in trouble in his own constituency.
"On the other hand, if Housing Minister Neville Wisdom is reelected, that would be a sign the PLP was on its way to victory."
The diplomat wrote in that 2007 cable that the FNM expects to win the Exuma seat being contested by former Bahamian Ambassador to the U.S. Joshua Sears.
According to the cable, Ingraham noted that the polls in 2002 were more accurate than often acknowledged, adding that the lesson from that campaign was that undecided voters usually broke against the government.
"Polls are now being taken on the larger islands, but Ingraham refused to divulge the results," the cable said.
"Ingraham said the PLP strategy was to increase the negative perceptions of him and make him a central election issue."
The American diplomat wrote that Ingraham is a very polarizing figure and PLP ads are clearly targeting him personally.
"(Ingraham) alluded that many people are personally benefiting from the PLP government and do not want the gravy train to end with an FNM victory," the cable said.
"Ingraham dismissed the PLP's use of the race card, linking his party to the former colonial UBP party, stating that he had credibility on the issue and noted that Christie's own grandfather was white."
In the comment section of the cable, the American noted that Ingraham is "always engaging and never at a loss for words."
"Ingraham seemed very comfortable on the issues and did not shy away from disagreeing with the ambassador, as in the case of the airport arrests," the cable said.
"While he pledged cooperation on aviation issues and promised to make the judicial system work better, he also made clear he would not hesitate to disagree with the U.S. if he felt Bahamian interests were not being well served."
The diplomat added: "Ingraham conveyed the self-assurance of a leader who has been in charge before and believes he soon will be again.
"From the United States' perspective, an Ingraham-led government would likely abandon the PLP's sympathetic posture toward Cuba and might be less interested in engaging China.
"Ingraham would also give us an interlocutor willing and able to make decisions and follow through on them.
"His ten years as prime minister have given him a good understanding of the United States and how to work with us, and he certainly looks forward to maintaining our traditionally close relations."
A U.S. Embassy official claimed in a cable penned in 2003 that Bishop Neil C. Ellis -- who is repeatedly described in diplomatic documents as Perry Christie's spiritual adviser -- remarked that the then prime minister was not a "true man of God" although he was trying to be religious.
The American also wrote that at a meeting with Ellis at his Mount Tabor Baptist Church, he also remarked that Hubert Ingraham, at the time former prime minister, was definitely "not a man of God" even if he does attend church.
When we sat down with Ellis a few days ago at Mount Tabor to discuss the cables that mentioned his name, Ellis denied most of the claims documented by U.S. diplomats.
But it is the claim regarding his purported comment on Christie and Ingraham's spirituality that he seemed most taken aback by.
"I don't qualify to determine who is a man of God and who is not a man of God," he told The Nassau Guardian.
"...For me to say I think Christie is a pretender would be very hypocritical of me because I've always said publicly and I would say again, I believe Perry Christie is one of the greatest humanitarians I've ever met."
A read of at least two cables shows that while Ellis was growing his church, American diplomats were placing the spotlight on him and his relationship with Christie in a major way.
"Quite a bit of it surprises me," said Ellis, when asked about what his general impression was of what the Americans attributed to him.
According to the cables, obtained by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks, despite not being a member of the government, Ellis wielded considerable influence in the Christie administration, as did businessman Franklyn Wilson.
One of the cables, which was classified by then Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Witajewksi, said, "Ellis openly uses his pulpit in one of Nassau's largest and fastest growing churches to advance the PLP's political agenda, and by allying himself so closely with Christie, has surpassed many of his more established (and perhaps more respectable) religious brethren in influence."
The name at the end of that particular cable is Richard Blankenship, who at the time was United States ambassador to The Bahamas.
Ellis told The Guardian he was not well liked by Blankenship because he had made a statement about the involvement of diplomats in the local affairs of a country.
He said it arouses curiosity that the Americans want to know everything that is happening on every level in the Bahamas.
'A CONTROVERSIAL FIGURE'
The Americans documented two meetings they say they had with Ellis at his church in Pinewood Gardens.
Ellis told The Nassau Guardian he recalled at least one of those meetings, but he remembered it being very informal with no detailed discussion about Christie or Ingraham.
According to one of the cables, on December 2, 2003, a U.S. diplomat paid a courtesy call on Ellis, described as "hard to pin down" and "charismatic".
"During the nearly two-hour meeting, Ellis described the enterprise his parish has become," the cable said.
"He also outlined his role as the local Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, of Bahamian politics -- the one visit that all aspiring politicians must make in order to confirm their legitimacy."
Ellis totally dismissed this claim when he spoke with The Nassau Guardian.
"Why would any sensible, logically thinking person make a statement like that?" he asked
The cable added: "Ellis has come far, from a humble background, mentored and supported by prominent businessman Frankie Wilson, with whom he maintains a close personal and business relationship."
The American diplomat wrote in 2003 that conventional wisdom holds that Ingraham had sealed his fate by displaying arrogance toward the religious leadership while he was prime minister.
"The electorate of the Bahamas is devout, and the church leaders refused to remain silent after the former PM had expressed views antithetical to religious conservatives, such as welcoming to port a cruise liner catering to gay clientele and advocating for constitutional reform targeted toward improving women's rights," the diplomat also wrote.
According to the diplomat who wrote the cable on the heels of the December 2, 2002 meeting, Ellis described "a strange ritual" whereby Christie had sought a meeting with him over a several week period as he was gearing up for the 2002 election campaign.
The cable said: "Ellis kept rebuffing [Christie's] request, offering him only a 10 minute slot.
"Finally, however, Ellis offered [Christie] the opportunity to travel with him on a religious speaking tour in the U.S., promising that if [Christie] attended three of his sermons, he would be available to counsel [Christie] throughout the tour.
"Thus, the two men spent many intense hours together, during which time Ellis looked into [Christie's] soul and concluded that [Christie] has religious inclinations, but is 'not yet there'."
But Ellis said this could not be further from the truth.
"I can't look into a person's soul," he told The Nassau Guardian. "I'm not the savior of the world. Jesus is."
The cable said though Christie was not one of Ellis' regular parishioners, since the 2002 election, he had attended from time to time, as did all but three cabinet ministers.
An embassy official said in another cable after reportedly meeting with Ellis in late May 2002 that the bishop had expressed his desire for closer relations with the embassy, bemoaned his treatment in the press and offered a fascinating, intimate account of how he came to publicly endorse Christie in the last election.
The official said that as Wilson did in a separate meeting, Ellis unconvincingly denied having or wanting any real influence. Both men were described as "powerbrokers" as it regards the PLP -- a claim Ellis laughed at as he denied it to the Guardian.
The embassy official described Ellis as one of the Bahamas' most controversial figures.
The cable said: "He publicly endorsed Perry Christie during the 2002 campaign and reportedly told his congregation from the pulpit during a religious service that they must support Christie if they wished to remain members of his church."
The diplomat also wrote that Ellis also held a huge religious revival featuring a renowned U.S. evangelist that was a magnet for criticism about the reported "greediness" of its fundraising appeal.
"Establishment religious figures now sometimes preface fund-raising remarks by noting that the funds 'will not be used to build a vacation house in Bimini' to distinguish themselves from the self-proclaimed bishop," the cable said.
"The press hounds him constantly about his flamboyant personal lifestyle and open political preferences.
"Ellis was another protégé of (the late former prime minister) Sir Lynden Pindling, who identified him as a promising young man growing up on the small island of Bimini and brought him to Nassau to complete his education."
The diplomat wrote that Ellis is affiliated with the Full Gospel Baptist Church headquartered in New Orleans, and is its "bishop" for international churches, theoretically having all Full Gospel Baptist churches in The Bahamas under his leadership.
"Prime Minister Christie has openly referred to Ellis as his spiritual adviser, and many Bahamians assume that his influence runs deep within the administration," the cable said.
In the cable that came out of the May 2002 meeting with Bishop Ellis, the diplomat goes into amazing details about what was allegedly observed.
For instance, the cable said the embassy official was met by the first of Ellis' personal assistants upon arrival, and was passed on to the second, who entertained him while Ellis finished a meeting with his seven associate pastors.
According to the cable, Ellis then received the official in his "nicely appointed, bordering on lavish, but not quite passing over into poor taste, office."
"He was dressed in a loud magenta clerical shirt with gold and diamond cufflinks, a thick gold chain, several large gold rings and a gold Rolex watch," the embassy official wrote.
"Ellis is a thin, energetic man of middling height, in his early 40s. He is married and has three adopted daughters." (Ellis said he does not have three adopted daughters).
Ellis also strongly denied the American diplomat's characterization of him.
In fact, he said he never owned a Rolex watch or diamond cufflinks in his life.
"Anybody who knows me knows that I am not given to much jewelry," added Ellis, now 50.
When The Guardian visited him, he was wearing his gold bishop's cross around his neck, his wedding band and a wristwatch (definitely not a Rolex).
In fact, Ellis said he shops for $10 watches at Bijoux Terner in the Atlanta airport and has one watch that is a little more expensive that was a gift from someone in the ministry.
Ellis said he wears his bishop's ring only at special services -- a fact later confirmed separately by his associate pastors and assistant who had not been privy to his earlier discussion with The Guardian.
They all said they have never seen the bishop with any Rolex watches and that he barely wears jewelry.
The cable alleges that Ellis described "the remarkable story about how he came to endorse Perry Christie in the 2002 elections."
The diplomat wrote: "According to Ellis, he barely knew Christie before the run up to the 2002 election.
"After that time, he says Christie began seeking an appointment with him, saying he needed to speak with him for several hours.
"Ellis says that he kept putting Christie off, both because he didn't have that time to spare and because he had a bad initial impression of him."
According to the cable, Ellis said this bad opinion dated from the PLP leadership battle between Christie and Dr. Bernard Nottage.
"Nottage was a friend and former congregation member of Ellis and harbored a lot of ill will toward Christie because of his loss," the diplomat wrote.
"Christie was persistent in his pursuit of Ellis, whose church membership has definite PLP leanings."
The cable added: "Finally, according to Ellis, he agreed to take Christie along with him on an evangelical trip to the U.S., promising that if Christie attended all the services he preached at, Ellis would give him the time in between to listen to his appeal.
"Ellis said that when given the opportunity, Christie and Ellis spoke for 13 hours straight, about both secular and spiritual matters and that Ellis progressively became more convinced that Christie had been 'sent by God' to lead the Bahamas.
"The meeting ended, according to Ellis, in a scene reminiscent of the Biblical story of Samuel's anointing of Saul, with Christie coming around the table they were seated at, going to his knees and requesting a blessing from Bishop Ellis.
"At the time, Ellis reported, the spirit came upon him and told him that he had to endorse Christie."
The cable also said: "Ellis, on the one hand, denied having or wanting any political influence with Christie, but on the other hand went to great lengths to explain how close their relationship is and how often Christie calls on him for spiritual guidance.
"For example, Ellis recounted that Christie had presented him with the names of his Cabinet nominees before they were announced and asked him to pray over them and give his opinion."
But Ellis told The Guardian that the official's characterization of these events is "totally false".
"First of all, I can't say I had a bad impression of Mr. Christie before I met him," Ellis said.
"But it is true I didn't know him that well (prior to 2002). All I knew of him was his public life.
"As it relates to Mr. Christie seeking my anointing, that is totally false. I don't remember him ever saying that to me and I don't remember saying that to anybody."
Ellis said it is true that Christie traveled with him more than once.
"The first trip he attended with me, he said he just wanted to talk with me and spend a little time with me," the bishop said.
"My office let him know what my schedule was and when they told him of a particular trip that was going on he asked if he could go and I had no objections because people go on trips with me from time to time.
"I did say to him since he was a politician that I would prefer him not to travel alone with me, so he brought two of his other colleagues with him."
Ellis said the trip was to Atlanta. He also recalled another occasion where Christie traveled with him to Baltimore, Maryland.
"I don't see that as an unusual situation," he said of the trips.
Ellis also suggested it was laughable to write that he spoke to Christie for 13 hours straight.
"Just think about that," he said.
"I do know that in the 2002 election, I was very up front with my support for Mr. Christie. I don't believe that if you have a conviction you have to be secretive about it.
"...I felt at that time this was the man to lead our country and I was proven to be right at the time.
"To say he was sent by God to lead the country, I don't know if any of us could be that bold."
Ellis also said he had no recollection of Christie ever getting on his knees to be anointed by him.
"If the person (the embassy official) wasn't even clear about what I was wearing, they were putting things on me that were not on my person, then I don't how much more attention to pay to anything that was said," he said.
According to the May 2002 cable, Ellis claimed that ever since Mount Tabor started to grow and he began to be seen as a successful pastor, he has come under attack by some people, including other pastors, who are jealous of his success.
As a result, Ellis claims he has been unfairly vilified in the press, particularly the scandal-mongering tabloid The Punch, the diplomat wrote.
"Ellis says that during one stretch The Punch printed negative articles about him in 95 consecutive editions.
"...In addition, Ellis has received heavy criticism for the large salary he draws (reportedly a tax-free $180,000 a year), and his penchant for luxurious living.
"Recently, attention has focused on the impressive house he is building for himself in one of Nassau's more exclusive neighborhoods, reportedly costing $1 million.
"Ellis claimed that the stories were exaggerated, but made no excuses for his lifestyle, implying it was only fitting for the pastor of such a large and thriving church."
Again rejecting how he was characterized by the diplomat, Ellis told The Nassau Guardian, "I understand the role I am in...I'm always up for public scrutiny.
"I try to take it gracefully. I've never responded to any attacks in the media...When you're in the public's eye and when you're in public life you have to be open to public scrutiny."
The diplomat wrote in 2002, "As a consequence of his ongoing bad press, Ellis has vowed not to respond to any of the allegations against him.
"Doing so, he said, just legitimizes those allegations and gives them more life. Many in his congregation, he says, have disagreed with this policy and urge him to publicly lash out at his critics, which he admits is tempting, but he continues to maintain his silence, preferring to let the criticism pass."
Ellis told the Guardian he has not collected a salary from Mount Tabor in 17 years.
"I give my services to Mount Tabor free of charge," he said.
He said he earns money from speaking engagements, books and other products he offers.
"If Mount Tabor was paying me $180,000 I wouldn't be going home," he said with a laugh.
He stressed also that he never told his congregation to vote PLP or leave the church.
Ellis insists that the recording to this effect is a compilation of several sermons he delivered that were doctored by critics and sent to the media.
He said Christie never asked him to be his spiritual adviser and he never regarded himself as such.
Asked by The Nassau Guardian if he would be prepared to endorse Christie in the next general election, Ellis said it was not something he wished to discuss publicly as yet.
"Mr. Christie and I shared a wonderful relationship leading up to the (2002) election and thereafter," he added.
"I don't claim to have been any closer to him than any others."
Ellis stressed that he has respect for all of the country's leaders and noted that he was a part of a group of pastors who met with Ingraham last year to discuss important matters.
In the estimation of thoughtful Bahamians, both Hubert Ingraham and Fred Mitchell will have benefited from the U.S. cables' assessment of their stance toward our nearest neighbor.
Although from different political sides, both seem to have been courteous and respectful but independent and not remotely blinded by the more outlandish aspects of U.S. propaganda.
The authors of the Cables themselves do not come off well.
We learn of almost comical scheming between U.S. and Israeli diplomatic staff over an utterly harmless local mosque. Let's hope that neither country expended too much of their taxpayers' money following international terrorist leads along Carmichael Road.
Instead of commenting on the breath-taking arrogance of an Israeli Ambassador who would have liked to thwart a group of Bahamians from following a religion of their choosing, the U.S. cablers seemed to rue the inability of local politicians to deny a right to Bahamians cherished in their own constitution.
The final disappointment of the cables is the casual, chillingly callous hope expressed therein that thousands of Bahamians would soon be denied cheap eye treatment in Cuba in furtherance of a vindictive cold war policy that serves nobody in the US, the Bahamas or Cuba.
On leaving office in 1961, Dwight Eisenhower (no pinko, incidentally) warned of the growth of a 'Military Industrial Complex', answerable to no one and with a life of its own. He could have applied his warning to any entity, organisation or group that becomes accustomed to the pools of unaccountable power that inevitably form below blind spots of public transparency.
As Bahamians we have a right to know how our politicians manage our most important bilateral relationship.
No less important to us (and everyone else on earth for that matter) is that the American public be kept informed of all the things (from the great to the downright miserable) that are done in their name -- and with their money.
Well done, Guardian.
The Americans are of the view that the unaddressed issue of Haitian integration in The Bahamas could eventually lead to ethnic violence in this country, according to a diplomatic cable from the United States Embassy in Nassau.
The detailed nearly 3,500-word cable from June 2009, obtained by The Nassau Guardian from WikiLeaks, is an extensive analysis by the embassy of the tense Haitian situation in The Bahamas.
"The existence of a large, dissatisfied and poorly-integrated ethnic minority is a potential risk to social and political stability in The Bahamas," said the embassy.
There are a wide range of estimates as to how many Haitians reside in The Bahamas. The numbers range from 30,000 to 70,000 in a country of 350,000 people.
Many Haitians live in shantytowns and the majority of these shantytowns are in New Providence. However, two of the largest are in Abaco (The Mud and Pigeon Pea).
Successive governments, for the most part, have maintained the country's traditional policy position regarding Haitians, pushing repatriation of the undocumented and the regularization of those eligible for legal status.
This policy has not solved the problem. There are no official numbers, but many Haitian children born to parents illegally in The Bahamas are 'stateless'. They consider themselves Bahamians, but have no legal status in this country, having not taken up the Haitian status of their parents.
The Americans consider further engagement of the Haitian community as a possible means of preventing conflict between the communities.
"The GCOB (Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas) would be well-served to encourage integration, as some commentators recognize, both to diffuse existing animosities and (to) avoid future manifestations of discontent," said the cable.
"In the short term, given the economic and social pressures, GCOB anti-immigration policy is unlikely to change. As a result, well-entrenched Haitian communities are barely tolerated and the risk of ethnic flare-ups rises in proportion to economic hardship and stricter immigration enforcement. The possibility of overt inter-ethnic violence persists."
No sustained inter-ethnic violence between Bahamians and Haitians has emerged, though Bahamians regularly express frustration, and sometimes hostility, via talk radio about the Haitian situation.
The Americans suggested that in a down economy, with increasing numbers of Haitians coming to the country and increased anti-Haitian sentiment, Haitian-Bahamian conflict could at some point emerge in various parts of The Bahamas.
"Inner-city Nassau neighborhoods are most at risk, but the potential for conflict also exists in suburbs where new subdivisions encroach on existing migrant settlements," said the cable.
"Conflict is also possible in outlying islands, which are proportionately greater affected by demographic changes or economic deterioration, and the competition for scarce land and jobs is fiercer."
The Haitian vote
In recent years, the Free National Movement (FNM) has publicly been 'softer' in its public tone towards Haitians than the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), which has held more to the traditional policy of repatriation.
At a rally in March at Clifford Park, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham began by reaching out to the Haitian community, acknowledging the return of the former leader of the country.
"Firstly, I want to give a shout out to my Haitian brothers and sisters and say how pleased I am that President Aristide has been allowed to return back to Haiti," Ingraham said.
Though a casual remark, Ingraham's reference to Haitians in The Bahamas as his "brothers and sisters" was a significant demonstration of solidarity by a Bahamian politician and leader.
The extent of anti-Haitian sentiment in The Bahamas was evident after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Ingraham suspended repatriations and released Haitians being detained at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
Talk radio across the country was overwhelmed by those expressing anger with Ingraham's decision.
Thus far Haitians have not organized a political lobby to agitate for their interests in The Bahamas. There are no openly Haitian representatives in Parliament.
With the large number of Haitians in the country, however, the Americans realize that they would have significant power if they came together.
"A well-organized community might already have the power to swing a close election and wield increased influence as a result. Haitians in The Bahamas, however, do not appear as yet to have the will or organizational wherewithal to risk an open challenge to the status quo," said the cable.
"Instead, most prefer to seek integration in place while others move on to the U.S."
With the large number of Haitians in the country, despite the current reluctance by them to openly enter front-line politics, sustained and open Haitian representation in Parliament going forward is inevitable.
The flow of people and discrimination
Cables on China have revealed the American concerns regarding The Bahamas being used as a transit point to smuggle Chinese to the United States.
Many of the Haitians that come to The Bahamas are smuggled into the country by Bahamians. The Americans described these smugglers as experienced.
"Migrants from poorer Caribbean countries are smuggled to or through The Bahamas, destined for the U.S., by well-established, island-hopping networks. Many are run by Bahamian smugglers based in Freeport, Grand Bahama or Bimini, two of the closest points to Florida shores," said the cable.
These migrants risk their lives to come to The Bahamas, as the Americans noted. Haitians have relayed stories revealing that they have been told by smugglers to jump overboard from vessels into the sea and to swim to shore when they approach Bahamian islands. Some who could not swim drowned after paying $2,000 to $3,000 to escape the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
"Such tragic incidents highlight the desperation of the migrants and indicate that the illicit Haitian migration flow to and through The Bahamas is unlikely to stop," said the cable.
After suffering through this ordeal, many Haitian migrants are faced with discrimination once they settle in The Bahamas.
"Bahamians strongly resent the social cost, cultural impact, and crime linked - in popular stereotypes certainly - to Haitian immigration. These sentiments are confirmed in contacts with government officials, political activists, especially the youth, and NGO leaders who interact with both communities," the Americans observed in the cable.
"Haitians are thought to impose disproportionate demands on inadequate social services, primarily health and education, due to the higher birth rate in the Haitian community."
These issues, the Americans observed, have the potential to explode someday in The Bahamas if constructive policies are not introduced to further integration.
The word economy is thrown around a lot in society, but how the world thinks about economic possibility is undergoing a significant change. This Thursday, the multidisciplinary and collaborative network tmg* (the method group) will host their last of three discussions centered on business and design in The Bahamas. After discussing the design and business of producing and promoting "The Bahamian story" and exploring such branding through the case study of architecture, tmg* member Royann Dean brings together a panel of artists, creative entrepreneurs, critical thinkers, economists and politicians to explore how all of this comes together in the creative economy.
On June 16th at 6:30pm at The Hub, panelists John Cox, Jon Murray, Nicolette Bethel, Olivia Saunders and Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Charles Maynard will engage this very complex issue concerning the state of our economy and society.
The creative economy in a broad sense can encapsulate everything at the four-way intersection of art, business, culture and technology. If that sounds hard to pin down, that's because it is -- it's an offshoot of the knowledge economy, and like the knowledge economy, its effects can't entirely be tangibly measured like the imports and exports of other industries. But that doesn't mean it's less valuable or should be overlooked -- on the contrary, creative economy is an extremely important factor in the way a country efficiently and consistently brands itself and grows and thrives. Creative entrepreneurship by artists, nonprofits and businesses can produce goods and services that not only generate jobs and revenue in a country's economy, but also have far-reaching positive societal effects.
"One of the benefits that's been stated about the creative economy is, aside from the economic side of it, that you have social inclusion, because you don't necessarily need to have this division between trained people and less-trained people, because creativity can be reflected in all parts of generating economy," Royann Dean explains. "You have cultural diversity because at all levels people can create something based on culture or heritage and still generate income; and there's more social interaction because you have these people that are going to be bridging these divides to actually create something."
The concept of a creative economy is relatively new; the term began appearing sometime around the turn of the century and has become particularly relevant in the age ofglobalization and rapid modernization. Yet, Dean points out, as the rest of the Caribbean region and indeed world embraces this perspective by encouraging creative entrepreneurship initiatives, The Bahamasseems woefully out of touch with this worldwide shift.
She uses the example of the United Nations Conference of Trade and Development (UNCTAD)'s Creative Economy Report 2010, which analyzes and measures the state of creative economy worldwide. The Bahamas is hardly mentioned alongside varied case studies and efforts by other countries in the region such as Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago. We're essentially ten years behind in terms of creative economy development when we look at our neighbors, Dean points out.
This lack of quantifying our creative industries to gauge its economic benefits is worrying to panelist Jon Murray, who is an entrepreneur in this relatively new and underappreciated sector. He started Downtown Art Tours last year, giving locals and visitors alike a sampling of artistic spaces in our historic city, including the National Art Gallery, The D'Aguilar Foundation, New Providence Arts and Antiques and the murals the Love My Bahamas campaign.
"What's interesting about what I do is that it's service-based," he says. "I provide a service for this stuff that already preexists, so it's almost like a secondary industry where I'm not marketing or selling the works themselves; I have no ownership of the intellectual properties created, which is interesting because so much of creative economy is based on intellectual property."
"I think my business is a service business dependent on there actually being a creative economy," he continues. "Without the other institution and galleries functioning, I can't function appropriately. It shows a level of maturity in our industry if it were on paper."
But, he points out, it's not on paper -- in fact, there are hardly initiatives in place by any sector of society to measure the effects of creative industries and thus investment in potential exports for the country. This is unacceptable for many reasons, one being that our future potential as a destination in the globalized world hinges on culture and heritage -- not the same old sun, sand and sea.
Moderator Royann Dean hopes to also address this idea of "the experience economy" during the talk as it is important to the creative economy. After all, once tourists have their needs met, they seek an overall experience different from any other worldwide, and they are able to get that from culture and heritage.
"For tourism economy-based countries, that's a huge reason to have a good creative industry. This is the same thing Jackson Burnside was talking about 20 years ago -- we have the sun, sand and sea but people aren't going to be coming here for that anymore. Other countries have sun, sand and sea, plus they have mountains," Dean points out. "So the one thing we have going for us in terms of that is accessibility -- but Cuba is right there, and you can already use Euros in Cuba, so where is our experience? Where is our authentic experience? You can't really deliver an authentic experience unless you have something related to some sort of creative or cultural heritage, you can't."
Dean seems to be on point with the global perspective, for in the same UNCTAD Creative Economy 2010 report, their assessment for the region by the organization results in this advice: "In order for Jamaica and the Caribbean to survive in a globalized world, policymakers and stakeholders seeking economic growth and job creation must position the creative industries as the cornerstone of any serious development strategy."
Yet, points out fellow panelist Nicolette Bethel -- educator, anthropologist ,writer and former Director of Cultural Affairs -- we are lacking in that promotion through governmental policy.
"The Bahamas has absolutely no data because we don't think there is anything measurable about the creative economy," she says. "It's sad, but it is a measure of a) who we continue to elect into office and b) who they bring into civil service."
BRANDING & MARKETABILITY
In spite of this and recognizing the need for individuals to drive such change, working with the College of The Bahamas, Bethel has been producing measurable statistics about one of our main cultural industries that have export potential in terms of branding and marketability, and also potential to generate economy within the country: Junkanoo.
These surveys have uncovered quite a bit of information about the cost of Junkanoo, the Junkanoo participant, and also the Junkanoo consumer -- three parts of which can overall address how useful Junkanoo is to the economy, how it functions in branding and tourism, and how it can be used to generate economy in these sectors as well as become a viable source of income for its participants, making it a legitimate and measurable component of our creative economy. Bethel supposes that by making Junkanoo a major part of our creative economy, The Bahamas will see social improvements.
"Junkanoo is our major creative activity. One thing we are able to say is that Junkanoo involves thousands of people every year and many of these people are young men who are not necessarily hugely employable. Now, we have a major problem with unemployment and crime. What we haven't begun to measure is how much in man-hours each person was in the shack, how many hours that is, and just calculate the minimum wage, and thus the value of that particular commodity," she explains.
"If there was some way of generating revenue for some time that they were there -- I think that there are all kinds of ways to generate revenue -- then these people would be working, they'd have jobs. And they'd have jobs they'd generate their own money for that the government wouldn't have to do anything with. In Trinidad for example, this is a major part of their economy. The challenge to the Junkanoo community is how are we going to take all of these man-hours and make them profitable -- make them able to sustain some measure of employment for these guys?"
One way is to up our marketing of Junkanoo--and indeed, all cultural sectors -- to tourists, and this is where our government comes in. After all, they draft the policies that contribute to our branding. Yet this is the area in which Bethel -- and many participants in the creative and heritage sector in this country -- recognize our downfall. While elsewhere in the Caribbean, cultural festivals are seen as a viable source of tourism, employment generation and income, we seem to lack such perspective in The Bahamas, putting cultural events such as hosting CARIFESTA -- which twice we unsuccessfully attempted -- on the backburner.
It's shame because in the same UNCTAD report, they point out that "Heritage tourists are one of the highest-yield tourism groups; they stay longer and spend 38 percent more per day than traditional tourists. Therefore," they continue, " efficient heritage tourism policies and infrastructure at regional level can be an important approach to attract international travelers with special interest in heritage and the arts of the Caribbean region."
So why aren't we catching up to this fact? This is where the creative economy and how it is generated and promoted becomes a chicken-or-the-egg dance between government responsibility and responsibility by the creative community.
GOVERNMENT & POLICY-MAKING
Panelist Charles Maynard, the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, is hoping to add the perspective from the government and policy-making side. Though he agrees that the cultural economy is important and should be developed and structured, his solution lies in the ability by the creative sector to take charge and make the government take notice. He uses Junkanoo to illustrate his point as it's our main creative industry.
"Over a period time Junkanoo has become popular for the general public and the funding followed it. When you have a large sector of your population involved in something and trying to push it forward, those are the kind of things that usually get the attention of the policy-makers," he explains. "The commitment to culture region-wide is always driven by the cultural community itself. If you depend on any government to drive your cultural development in terms of cultural expression and cultural economy, it isn't going to get anywhere."
What Minister Maynard implies in this statement is something many artists already unfortunately -- that they only have each other. In the end, panelist John Cox points out, creative people just make the most of what they have, making connections within the field and with those who can fund them. As founder of Popop Studios -- which recently became an international center of visual arts with their new not-for-profit status, allowing them to invite international artists to work in The Bahamas -- Cox recognizes the power of collaboration and education and the need to move beyond the limited idea of what being an artist or even being creative entails.
"Students say 'I want to do art' but they never really know exactly what they want to do because it's kind of presented to them in these vague terms all throughout primary and secondary school. So they have this vague idea of what it means to be creative, and most of that comes from the idea of well, if they make a hundred paintings and they sell them for a hundred dollars each, that's a hundred thousands dollars, and that's a pretty good salary, right?" he explains. "So we have this kind of basic kind of lemonade stall mentality, which isn't really the way businesses sustain each other. Really the way businesses kind of sustain each other is by networking and partnering and being able to predict long-term relationships with people where you know you're going to be able to build and predict support and also be able to provide an audience for your product, spawning positive future potential and future potential relationships that can build sustainability."
We've already seen that kind of mentality change just in the past five years, for in fact, many artist-run collectives -- the Bahamas Art Collective and Creative Nassau, for example -- are doing just that: bringing together people from all sectors of the creative community to think about creating their own opportunities, self-empowerment and making Nassau a cultural center in the world. Already dissatisfaction about governmental support and a desire to improve the standing of The Bahamas in the creative sector have spawned events just in the past few years such as Shakespeare in Paradise, Carifringe, The Bahamas International Film Festival and the Bahamas Writer's Summer Institute. In the end, it seems artists are always on their own, although they may band together.
But why exactly is this so? And how is the government already investing in the art it sees as having proven itself -- would that be Junkanoo, with already a tremendous amount of untapped potential that we aren't recognizing? The question then seems to become: How do we change what we think is important and worth investing in? Minister Maynard offers the solution of instilling that indefinable "Bahamian spirit" found in Junkanoo in all aspects of the creative sector, but all that offers is more of the same kind of creativity and way of thinking, when creative economy is about reevaluation -- as Royann Dean puts it, "Nobody is looking for new ways to do things, they are looking for new ways to do the same old thing. We need to challenge things." Even Minister Maynard recognizes what's needed is an upheaval of the perception of creativity, even if it is within the perspective of the creative sector simply being responsible for themselves, which is only one dimension of this reality.
"We need to as a country appreciate some of these things we create, to have value for what's ours instead of importing it," he says. "It's cultural awareness, it's a collective thing to be able to team up and do as partners do, not sitting down and feeling sorry for yourself and saying the government isn't doing anything to get you any further in terms of where you want to go -- instead we need to say we need to be more focused not only from an individual standpoint but a collective vision standpoint, we need to have a collective vision."
This is something that panelist Olivia Saunders -- economist and educator -- is most concerned about when she thinks about the economic implications of the creative industry. For when we talk about the creative economy, we're not just talking about the arts -- we're talking about having a creative approach in general to our economy.
"I think I'll look from the perspective that we have to look beyond the boundaries we have set for ourselves in terms of what the economy is and what the economy is supposed to do for us or what the economy is supposed to be. We just have to be creative and think differently about our economy in The Bahamas," she says. "One side of it is how creative we are in this existing economy, whether we think the economy we have is creative. Does it lend itself to creativity, or are we to be considering a brand new kind of economy we can truly call creative? Once we do that, what ought it to mean for us then if we decide to design a sort of creative economy?"
Essentially, she points out, flaws in the systems of our everyday lives contribute to this mindset.
"It's a culture. If you look at our politics, it's not really creative. If you look at so many other aspects of our life, they're not creative," she says. "The economy is an extremely important part of it but it's just a part of how we just look at things, we really don't want too many things to be very different from what we know for sure, so at the very core there has to be people being sufficiently open to accept creativity."
In the end, it would seem it all comes down to how we value ourselves as a culture. After all, if we value intellectualism, if we value creativity, if we value our heritage and indeed ourselves, we become a society open to creative ways to engage and advance our economical structure. And that responsibility is not on any one group, but each group, and each individual, and certainly with response from an open-minded government.
However these only scratch the surface of what the creative economy even is and how to improve it -- the deeper we go, the more we come full circle or stare into an abyss. The first step, Royann Dean emphasis, is to educate yourself about options -- all creative thinkers, government employees, and even people who believe they are not affected by the creative industry, for if the creative economy operates as it should, it affects the entire society positively.
"The whole idea behind tmg* talks was to get the conversation started, to get the ball rolling and to let people know that listen, there are other people thinking the same things you are, asking the same questions and who have ideas. Things can happen," Dean says. "In that way, I'm happy with the result. The question is, what happens after? How do we put the insight that was gained from the talks in motion?"
Have some ideas? Collaboration is the first step, and everyone matters. The discussion begins at 6:30pm at The Hub on Colebrook Lane and East Bay Street and is free to the public though you are welcome to donate to the venue. For more information, visit the tmg* website at www.tmginnovates.com.