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News Article

May 21, 2013
Civil Society Bahamas engaged by Office of Attorney General

Nassau, Bahamas -

Civil Society Bahamas, in keeping with its
current operational theme, "Re-education, Training and Development,"
recently engaged with the office of the Attorney General. Personnel from
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration were also present. 
The purpose of the meeting was for Civil Society Bahamas to assist
further with the generation of the country's annual report (Universal
Periodic Review) to the United Nations on human rights issues.

 

During
the meeting, Senator the Honorable Allyson Maynard-Gibson and team
members facilitated an up-date of the representation made at the United
Nations. She thanked Civil Society Bahamas for its contribution to the
final report...

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News Article

October 29, 2011
Nassau Music Society's 2011-2012 season all about strings

The Nassau Music Society launched its 2011-2012 season last week with a concert by Dmitri Berlinsky(violin)and Elena Baksht(piano), setting the public up for a season of strings from soothing to exhilarating.

Indeed, with performers on piano, violin, cello and even classical guitar--covering classical to ragtime and jazz and music with a Spanish flair--there is something for everyone at an affordable cost, says Italia Watkins-Jan, vice president communications/public relations and administrator of The Nassau Music Society.

"We're trying to bring in quality musicians at an affordable cost because not everybody can afford to go away to see these artists,"she says."Our goal is to bring them here to the general public and to give audiences more exposure."

"Once you're exposed to a wider range of music, I think it gives you a better perception of culture in general and it makes you appreciate all types of music as well. Usually most of these artists have classical training, so we think it's important to show that classical music is the root of other types of music."

It's not all as classical as you may think, however--their next performances on November 4 and 5 actually focus on jazz and ragtime by Terry Waldo.

Soon thereafter in the new year, Marco Tamayo and Anabel Montesinos will present a performance on the rarely-heard classical guitar.

Then in February 2012, The Nassau Music Society will show another side of classical music when they present their special event, Bizet to Broadway, in association with the Bizet-Broadway Committee chaired by Cornelia Nihon, which will feature Canadian opera singers in a special night of opera performance.

It will raise funds for a scholarship program to help young Bahamian musicians train either at home or abroad--an important part of The Nassau Music Society's mission. In fact, points out The Society's President, Patrick Thomson, they entered into a 10 year agreement with The College of The Bahamas to fund two students a year pursuing music at the institution.

"We've had in the past students going abroad to study, but the cost of sending a student abroad is horrendous and we can't possibly find enough money to pay for their tuition, so they have to go out and find other funds and most of them find it very difficult to find that sort of money,"explains Thomson.

"So that's why we made the commitment to The College of The Bahamas--at least it gives them a start here and if they want to continue their music career we will try to help them, but it will be more up to them to find the funds."

In further support, their Member's Night--a special performance for members of The Nassau Music Society only, which they are bringing back after a 10-year hiatus--will feature students from The College of The Bahamas music department in Act II of Johann Strauss's operetta Die Fledermaus.

Of course, more traditional classical evenings will be offered to the public like the one that opened their season, including performances in 2012 by the pair Robert Blocker(piano)and Ole Akahoshi(cello), the pair Gilad Karni(viola)and Donald Berman(piano), as well as Sophie Pacini on the piano.

Whether traditional or not, all audiences can expect a great quality performance where they can not only hear such gorgeous music, but also see such internationally-renowned and skilled musicians play up-close. It was, after all, the original aim of The Nassau Music Society's founder, E. Clement Bethel, to expose the public to this music which has such a rich history and range.

"We follow in the footsteps of Clement for our aim is to bring classical music to The Bahamian public and our members,"says Thomson."We really hope that everyone who comes has an enjoyable evening and takes away a great memory of the occasion."

It's therefore unfortunate that so few members of the public take up the opportunity of the affordable$25 ticket prices($10 for students). Furthermore, point out Thomson and Watkins-Jan, they have a lack of professional concert hall venues in which to display such talent, which proves not only to be an embarrassment to the country but also an unfortunate setback in their search for international talent every year. It's something they hope they can see improve as they design their many concert seasons to come.

"What we would like to say is here in Nassau it's very difficult to get venues and we'd hope the government can invest in one,"says Watkins-Jan."In the long run to continue to bring in this caliber of music, we need somewhere they can actually play."

"We would like the public to bear with us and keep an open mind when they come. Our main concern is to have something that's acceptable to the artists so that they can actually show their talent to the Bahamian audience."

For more information and to see videos of the performers below, check out The Nassau Music Society's webpage at www.nassaumusicsociety.org. You may reserve tickets online anytime at http://www.nassaumusicsociety.org/reservations or 10 days before any concert at the box offices: A.D. Hanna&Co., Deveaux St., Tel: 322-8306; Logos Bookstore, Harbour Bay, Tel: 394-7040; Custom Computers, Cable Beach, Tel: 396-1100; Moir&Co., Lyford Cay, Tel: 362-4895.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS FOR THE NASSAU MUSIC SOCIETY'S 2011-2012 SEASON

Terry Waldo--Ragtime, Jazz&Blues: The Roots of American Pop

Friday, November 4, 2011 College of the Bahamas Performing Arts Centre 8 p.m.

Saturday, November 5, 2011 St. Paul's Church Hall, Lyford Cay 7:30 p.m.

Terry Waldo presents one of his very popular programs featuring the music of America's greatest composers including The King of Classic Ragtime, Scott Joplin; Tin Pan Alley's most famous song writer, Irving Berlin; New Orleans Jazz pioneer, Jelly Roll Morton; and the legendary Ragtime and Broadway genius, Terry's mentor, Eubie Blake. Terry will also include famous tunes from"The Great American Songbook"and some of his own original numbers.

Member's Night--Act II of Johann Strauss's operetta Die Fledermaus

Saturday, January 14, 2012 Government House(TBC)7:30 p.m.

Light, funny and entertaining performance in English. Cast entirely of students from the music department at COB except for the two more"advanced"roles of Rosalinda and Eisenstein which will be played by Candace Bostwick and Wil Adderley respectively.

Marco Tamayo&Anabel Montesinos--Classical Guitars

Friday, January 27, 2012 Government House 8 p.m.

Saturday, January 28, 2012 St. Paul's Church Hall, Lyford Cay 7:30 p.m.

Marco Tamayo was born in Havana, where he started to play guitar at the age of three. Winner of major international guitar competitions like the Michele Pittaluga, Città de Alessandria, in 1999, Marco Tamayo has performed concerts together with the Chamber Orchestra of St. Petersburg, the Turin Philharmonic, the Chamber Orchestra of Aix en Provence, the Tampere Philharmonic in Finland and the Havana Philharmonic, among many others.

Anabel Montesinos, one of the leading figures of the classical guitar worldwide, is"a promising star of the classical guitar"according to Maestro Antón García Abril when he heard her play. Montesinos is the winner of several major international guitar competitions like the Francisco Tárrega competition in Spain and the Michele Pittaluga competition in Alessandria, Italy. Her musical expression and taste has enthralled audiences wherever she has performed.

Gilad Karni(viola)and Donald Berman(piano)

Saturday, February 18, 2012 College of the Bahamas Performing Arts Centre 8 p.m.

Sunday February 17, 2012 St. Paul's Church Hall, Lyford Cay 5:30 p.m.

Gilad Karni has been praised throughout the world for his tone and interpretation. His technique and musicality have earned him countless honors, from first prizes at competitions to leadership roles in some of the world's finest orchestras. Equally at home in orchestral and solo or chamber music settings, Karni can be heard on concert stages around the globe in a range of repertoire, as well as on recordings.

American pianist Donald Berman is recognized as one of the chief exponents of new works by living composers, overlooked music by 20th century masters, and recitals that link classical and modern repertoires. His reputation as definitive interpreter of the American new music canon is unsurpassed. He has established an extensive discography in the works of major American composers, including Ives, Ruggles, Kernis, Levering, Wheeler, Boykan, and many others.

Bizet-Broadway--Special Black-Tie Fundraiser--Dinner&Concert

Saturday, March 3, 2012 Old Fort Club

This special event"Bizet to Broadway", in association with the Bizet-Broadway Committee chaired by Cornelia Nihon, features Canadian opera singers and its goal is to raise funds to allow young Bahamian singers to train either at home or abroad.

An enormous success last season, the evening was sold out before tickets were even printed.

Robert Blocker(piano)and Ole Akahoshi(cello)

Friday, March 23, 2012 College of the Bahamas Performing Arts Centre 8 p.m.

Saturday, March 24, 2012 St. Paul's Church Hall, Lyford Cay 7:30 p.m.

Robert Blocker began his study of piano at the age of five, presenting his first public recital two years later. Today, he performs throughout the world with concerts in the United States, Europe, Mexico, China, Korea, Thailand, and several Pacific Rim countries.

Recently hailed by theLos Angeles Times, German cellist Ole Akahoshi began studying cello at the age of four in Berlin. Akahoshi is principal cellist of the Sejong Soloists in New York, as well as member of Seiji Ozawa's Saito Kinen Orchestra since 1998 and the Opera Nomori Tokyo.

Sophie Pacini(piano)

April 13-14, 2012 One night only open to the public

A special concert sponsored by Banque Privée Edmond de Rothschild Ltd. to present the winner of its annual music competition held in Switzerland.

Sophie Pacini is 19 years old and was born in Munich. At the young age of eight she had her debut with Haydn's Piano Concerto in D major and started to study piano at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg, Austria at the age of 10. In February 2011 she performed a recital at the International festival"Sommets musicaux de Gstaad"and won the desired festival award"Marguerite DAtschler". Thanks to the generosity of the Banque Prive Edmond de Rothschild Ltd., we are able to share the exceptional talent of this young piano virtuoso with the Bahamian public.

The Nassau Music Society would like to thank its sponsors, ColinaImperial Insurance Ltd., Societe General Private Banking, PICTET Bank&Trust Ltd., RoyalStar Assurance Ltd., and Banque Privee Edmond De Rothschild Ltd., plus many private sponsors, for making it possible to hold this series of concerts of such great quality this year.

read more »


News Article

October 29, 2011
Nassau Music Society's 2011-2012 season all about strings

The Nassau Music Society launched its 2011-2012 season last week with a concert by Dmitri Berlinsky(violin)and Elena Baksht(piano), setting the public up for a season of strings from soothing to exhilarating.

Indeed, with performers on piano, violin, cello and even classical guitar--covering classical to ragtime and jazz and music with a Spanish flair--there is something for everyone at an affordable cost, says Italia Watkins-Jan, vice president communications/public relations and administrator of The Nassau Music Society.

"We're trying to bring in quality musicians at an affordable cost because not everybody can afford to go away to see these artists,"she says."Our goal is to bring them here to the general public and to give audiences more exposure."

"Once you're exposed to a wider range of music, I think it gives you a better perception of culture in general and it makes you appreciate all types of music as well. Usually most of these artists have classical training, so we think it's important to show that classical music is the root of other types of music."

It's not all as classical as you may think, however--their next performances on November 4 and 5 actually focus on jazz and ragtime by Terry Waldo.

Soon thereafter in the new year, Marco Tamayo and Anabel Montesinos will present a performance on the rarely-heard classical guitar.

Then in February 2012, The Nassau Music Society will show another side of classical music when they present their special event, Bizet to Broadway, in association with the Bizet-Broadway Committee chaired by Cornelia Nihon, which will feature Canadian opera singers in a special night of opera performance.

It will raise funds for a scholarship program to help young Bahamian musicians train either at home or abroad--an important part of The Nassau Music Society's mission. In fact, points out The Society's President, Patrick Thomson, they entered into a 10 year agreement with The College of The Bahamas to fund two students a year pursuing music at the institution.

"We've had in the past students going abroad to study, but the cost of sending a student abroad is horrendous and we can't possibly find enough money to pay for their tuition, so they have to go out and find other funds and most of them find it very difficult to find that sort of money,"explains Thomson.

"So that's why we made the commitment to The College of The Bahamas--at least it gives them a start here and if they want to continue their music career we will try to help them, but it will be more up to them to find the funds."

In further support, their Member's Night--a special performance for members of The Nassau Music Society only, which they are bringing back after a 10-year hiatus--will feature students from The College of The Bahamas music department in Act II of Johann Strauss's operetta Die Fledermaus.

Of course, more traditional classical evenings will be offered to the public like the one that opened their season, including performances in 2012 by the pair Robert Blocker(piano)and Ole Akahoshi(cello), the pair Gilad Karni(viola)and Donald Berman(piano), as well as Sophie Pacini on the piano.

Whether traditional or not, all audiences can expect a great quality performance where they can not only hear such gorgeous music, but also see such internationally-renowned and skilled musicians play up-close. It was, after all, the original aim of The Nassau Music Society's founder, E. Clement Bethel, to expose the public to this music which has such a rich history and range.

"We follow in the footsteps of Clement for our aim is to bring classical music to The Bahamian public and our members,"says Thomson."We really hope that everyone who comes has an enjoyable evening and takes away a great memory of the occasion."

It's therefore unfortunate that so few members of the public take up the opportunity of the affordable$25 ticket prices($10 for students). Furthermore, point out Thomson and Watkins-Jan, they have a lack of professional concert hall venues in which to display such talent, which proves not only to be an embarrassment to the country but also an unfortunate setback in their search for international talent every year. It's something they hope they can see improve as they design their many concert seasons to come.

"What we would like to say is here in Nassau it's very difficult to get venues and we'd hope the government can invest in one,"says Watkins-Jan."In the long run to continue to bring in this caliber of music, we need somewhere they can actually play."

"We would like the public to bear with us and keep an open mind when they come. Our main concern is to have something that's acceptable to the artists so that they can actually show their talent to the Bahamian audience."

For more information and to see videos of the performers below, check out The Nassau Music Society's webpage at www.nassaumusicsociety.org. You may reserve tickets online anytime at http://www.nassaumusicsociety.org/reservations or 10 days before any concert at the box offices: A.D. Hanna&Co., Deveaux St., Tel: 322-8306; Logos Bookstore, Harbour Bay, Tel: 394-7040; Custom Computers, Cable Beach, Tel: 396-1100; Moir&Co., Lyford Cay, Tel: 362-4895.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS FOR THE NASSAU MUSIC SOCIETY'S 2011-2012 SEASON

Terry Waldo--Ragtime, Jazz&Blues: The Roots of American Pop

Friday, November 4, 2011 College of the Bahamas Performing Arts Centre 8 p.m.

Saturday, November 5, 2011 St. Paul's Church Hall, Lyford Cay 7:30 p.m.

Terry Waldo presents one of his very popular programs featuring the music of America's greatest composers including The King of Classic Ragtime, Scott Joplin; Tin Pan Alley's most famous song writer, Irving Berlin; New Orleans Jazz pioneer, Jelly Roll Morton; and the legendary Ragtime and Broadway genius, Terry's mentor, Eubie Blake. Terry will also include famous tunes from"The Great American Songbook"and some of his own original numbers.

Member's Night--Act II of Johann Strauss's operetta Die Fledermaus

Saturday, January 14, 2012 Government House(TBC)7:30 p.m.

Light, funny and entertaining performance in English. Cast entirely of students from the music department at COB except for the two more"advanced"roles of Rosalinda and Eisenstein which will be played by Candace Bostwick and Wil Adderley respectively.

Marco Tamayo&Anabel Montesinos--Classical Guitars

Friday, January 27, 2012 Government House 8 p.m.

Saturday, January 28, 2012 St. Paul's Church Hall, Lyford Cay 7:30 p.m.

Marco Tamayo was born in Havana, where he started to play guitar at the age of three. Winner of major international guitar competitions like the Michele Pittaluga, Città de Alessandria, in 1999, Marco Tamayo has performed concerts together with the Chamber Orchestra of St. Petersburg, the Turin Philharmonic, the Chamber Orchestra of Aix en Provence, the Tampere Philharmonic in Finland and the Havana Philharmonic, among many others.

Anabel Montesinos, one of the leading figures of the classical guitar worldwide, is"a promising star of the classical guitar"according to Maestro Antón García Abril when he heard her play. Montesinos is the winner of several major international guitar competitions like the Francisco Tárrega competition in Spain and the Michele Pittaluga competition in Alessandria, Italy. Her musical expression and taste has enthralled audiences wherever she has performed.

Gilad Karni(viola)and Donald Berman(piano)

Saturday, February 18, 2012 College of the Bahamas Performing Arts Centre 8 p.m.

Sunday February 17, 2012 St. Paul's Church Hall, Lyford Cay 5:30 p.m.

Gilad Karni has been praised throughout the world for his tone and interpretation. His technique and musicality have earned him countless honors, from first prizes at competitions to leadership roles in some of the world's finest orchestras. Equally at home in orchestral and solo or chamber music settings, Karni can be heard on concert stages around the globe in a range of repertoire, as well as on recordings.

American pianist Donald Berman is recognized as one of the chief exponents of new works by living composers, overlooked music by 20th century masters, and recitals that link classical and modern repertoires. His reputation as definitive interpreter of the American new music canon is unsurpassed. He has established an extensive discography in the works of major American composers, including Ives, Ruggles, Kernis, Levering, Wheeler, Boykan, and many others.

Bizet-Broadway--Special Black-Tie Fundraiser--Dinner&Concert

Saturday, March 3, 2012 Old Fort Club

This special event"Bizet to Broadway", in association with the Bizet-Broadway Committee chaired by Cornelia Nihon, features Canadian opera singers and its goal is to raise funds to allow young Bahamian singers to train either at home or abroad.

An enormous success last season, the evening was sold out before tickets were even printed.

Robert Blocker(piano)and Ole Akahoshi(cello)

Friday, March 23, 2012 College of the Bahamas Performing Arts Centre 8 p.m.

Saturday, March 24, 2012 St. Paul's Church Hall, Lyford Cay 7:30 p.m.

Robert Blocker began his study of piano at the age of five, presenting his first public recital two years later. Today, he performs throughout the world with concerts in the United States, Europe, Mexico, China, Korea, Thailand, and several Pacific Rim countries.

Recently hailed by theLos Angeles Times, German cellist Ole Akahoshi began studying cello at the age of four in Berlin. Akahoshi is principal cellist of the Sejong Soloists in New York, as well as member of Seiji Ozawa's Saito Kinen Orchestra since 1998 and the Opera Nomori Tokyo.

Sophie Pacini(piano)

April 13-14, 2012 One night only open to the public

A special concert sponsored by Banque Privée Edmond de Rothschild Ltd. to present the winner of its annual music competition held in Switzerland.

Sophie Pacini is 19 years old and was born in Munich. At the young age of eight she had her debut with Haydn's Piano Concerto in D major and started to study piano at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg, Austria at the age of 10. In February 2011 she performed a recital at the International festival"Sommets musicaux de Gstaad"and won the desired festival award"Marguerite DAtschler". Thanks to the generosity of the Banque Prive Edmond de Rothschild Ltd., we are able to share the exceptional talent of this young piano virtuoso with the Bahamian public.

The Nassau Music Society would like to thank its sponsors, ColinaImperial Insurance Ltd., Societe General Private Banking, PICTET Bank&Trust Ltd., RoyalStar Assurance Ltd., and Banque Privee Edmond De Rothschild Ltd., plus many private sponsors, for making it possible to hold this series of concerts of such great quality this year.

read more »


News Article

May 13, 2013
Governor General and Lady Foulkes, host reception at Bahamas Red Cross Society

Nassau, Bahamas -

Their
Excellencies Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes and Lady Foulkes,
hosted a reception at the Bahamas Red Cross Society Headquarters, May 8,
to celebrate International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
Societies (IFRC) 150 years of commitment to Humanitarian efforts.
Pictured from left: Ms. Pauline Allen-Dean, former president; Lady
Ingrid Darling, former president; Brendon Watson, president (greeting
Governor General); Sir Arthur; Caroline Turnquest, director-general,
Bahamas Red Cross Society (in background).

Governor General Sir
Arthur Foulkes and Lady Foulkes strut their stuff at the Bahamas Red
Cross Society reception in celebration of the International...

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News Article

April 11, 2012
Secretary General Insulza Highlights Role of Civil Society in Hemispheric Agenda

The
Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José
Miguel Insulza, participated today in the opening of the Forum with
Civil Society Organizations together with the Vice President of
Colombia, Angelino Garzón, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of
Colombia, María Ángela Holguín, as part of the pre-summit meetings ahead
of the Sixth Summit of the Americas which will take place this weekend
in Cartagena.

Secretary General Insulza stressed the important
contribution of civil society to the continental debate and to the
summit process. "The efforts of civil society to contribute to the
design, formulation and implementation of the hemispheric agenda are
proof of the dynamics of the region," said the chief representative of
the OAS...

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News Article
 Bahamas Humane Society Meet With the Governor General
June 18, 2010
Bahamas Humane Society Meet With the Governor General

Members of the Bahamas Humane Society paid a courtesy call on the Governor General, His Excellency Sir Arthur Foulkes, at Government House on Wednesday June 19.

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News Article

April 15, 2012
Presidents Santos and Morales and the OAS Secretary General highlight role of civil society in the Summit of the Americas Process

TheSecretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Josť Miguel Insulza, stressed the growing role, in number and importance, of social actors in the definition of public policies in the hemisphere, during his participation today in the inauguration of the meeting of civil society organizations and delegations attending the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), which had as special attendees the Presidents of Colombia and Bolivia, Juan Manuel Santos andEvo Morales, respectively.

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News Article
Opening statement by Attorney General Bahamas Delegation at Universal Periodic Review
January 24, 2013
Opening statement by Attorney General Bahamas Delegation at Universal Periodic Review

Mr. President, first of all, on behalf of my delegation, I congratulate you on your election as President of the Human Rights Council for this 7th cycle, and also to the members of the Bureau. Let me also extend sincere thanks and appreciation to Her Excellency Laura Dupuy Lasserre, former President, for her able leadership of the Council during the previous cycle.

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News Article

March 07, 2014
Saving CARICOM, pt. 3

o This commentary is taken from a lecture given by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell on February 6 at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago. Mitchell's address was on "Saving CARICOM".
There were times when the project appeared to be imperiled. It seems to me that most people will say that this was the case during the seven years when the heads of government did not meet. It is interesting reading the 1982 speeches, the first of the conference meetings after a break of seven years. By that time, Eric Williams had passed away and while some of the founders of the project were there, there was a new world order.
By the time the conference took place in 1982 in Ocho Rios, Edward Seaga had become prime minister of Jamaica, with Ronald Reagan in the White House in Washington. Mr. Seaga was embraced by the new U.S. administration as a sign that a more conservative era had returned to the Caribbean after the work in democratic socialism under Michael Manley.
It is not clear why the conference had not met during those seven years. I sought to find the reasons.

The best I could discover was that a row broke out amongst the leaders over some issue and they simply refused to attend.
It was left to the ministers in council to carry on the work and in 1982 the leaders met in Ocho Rios in Jamaica and conferences have met ever since then.
The Bahamas joined CARICOM on July 4, 1983. We had become independent on July 10, 1973. I am not certain why it took us 10 years to join, since we had been participating in the work of many of the institutions of the project from the 1950s. The main one being the University of the West Indies and then the Council of Legal Education and the Medical Council.
Several generations of Bahamians have been trained at the university, in the law school and in the medical school. Our first student was Dr. Cecil Bethel who enrolled in the medical school in 1952.
In 1983, I was then working as a special assistant out of the Bahamas Information Services in the prime minister's office. I recall two things about CARICOM at that time. The death of Maurice Bishop, the prime minister of Grenada took place on October 20, 1983. The question was whether or not The Bahamas and other CARICOM leaders would support the decision of the United States to invade Grenada to restore constitutional order. According to a recollection by former Guyana Foreign Minister Rashleigh Jackson on guyanacaribbeanpolitics.com "... The Bahamas, Guyana, Belize and Trinidad and Tobago were against any military action, whereas Barbados and Jamaica were clearly in favor of the OECS countries issuing an invitation to the United States of America to join with them in an invasion of Grenada... "
I am happy to have included that story because I have travelling with me two researchers and aides from the ministry in Nassau: Joy Newbold and Jamahl Strachan. Ms. Newbold was born in the year the coup took place in Grenada in 1979. Mr. Strachan was born in 1988 well after both the coup and the invasion had taken place. The idea that there had been a coup in a CARICOM country had been news to them and with this inclusion they were enlightened about the story. It led to a full discussion with the secretary general again on the need for a definitive narrative on how we have come to where we are.
That disagreement over Grenada did not break up CARICOM. In fact at the heads of government meeting in The Bahamas from July 4 to July 7, 1984, Nicholas Brathwaite, chairman of the Interim Advisory Council, Grenada was accepted into the conference as the legitimate representative of the Grenadian people and the representative of Jamaica Edward Seaga was also there at the CARICOM table.
The conference continues to meet, often in a most passionate form.
The second thing that I remember from that time with Sir Lynden was that a decision was made on the question of putting the Tourism School for the University of the West Indies in Nassau. He said that he had made it plain to his colleagues that since The Bahamas was then the leader of tourism in the region that was the best place to put the school and they agreed.
That was my introduction to CARICOM.
In 1979, as the director of news and public affairs for our Broadcasting Corporation, I got to meet for the first time one Percival James Patterson, otherwise known as P.J. He was then foreign minister for Jamaica in and around the time of the coup against Maurice Bishop in 1979. As fate would have it, I became minister of foreign affairs of The Bahamas in 2002 and ended up working closely with Mr. Patterson on perhaps the most contentious issue of our era: that of Haiti and the overthrow of Jean Bertrand Aristide as president of Haiti about which I shall have more to say later.
I turn now to a document that was adopted by the heads of government in 1997 which loomed very large when I became minister in 2002 but seems now to have lapsed into obscurity; but you will see why I am arguing now that it should become more central to what CARICOM is and should be revisited and updated. It is called the Charter Of Civil Society. It was adopted in 1997 and while it is not justiciable, or so it appears, in that it is not community law in so far as I am aware, the document says the following at XXVI: "The states declare their resolve to pay due regard to the provisions of this charter."
As lawyers often say, at the very least then this charter is binding in honor. It forms the basis of a descriptive and normative set of values to which we all adhere and aspire and if any country does not agree with those values, then ipso facto they cannot be a member of CARICOM. Thus those who argue in favor of Cuba becoming a CARICOM member without changes in the conduct of the internal arrangements at governance in Cuba may have an uphill battle.
Certainly for The Bahamas, it was the pretext for us to implement consultations in our country through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with civil society. That practice fell into disuse when the PLP lost office in 2007 and we have been seeking to revive it. Article XXV calls for reports to be sent to the secretary general periodically. There are supposed to be national committees reviewing the implementation of the charter.
I believe that it is time to put the words of this charter into action. I believe that while the CARICOM Single Market And Economy (CSME) is a valuable and valued project and aspiration, you will find that the emphasis on that aspect of our relations and the difficulties of harmonizing economies and market space have caused some of the negativity which we now see toward CARICOM. When you look at the successes of this region and the functional cooperation that has been engendered, the work of the specialized agencies, you will see that CARICOM has been a roaring success. It is time, therefore, to look to human rights issues.
Nothing is more contentious than this issue in our politics that I now raise, given the religious aversion and visceral reactions to discussion of LGBT issues in our region. Some people see it as striking at the very heart and fabric of our cultural identity. The Bahamas is not an exception to that aversion with many people seeing the discussion as a moral and religious one and not a human rights one. My own political career suffers because of my insistence that in this regard like all other aspects of human life, there must be tolerance at a minimum and we must uphold the principle that the general rights for which we fought as being rights for all people, particularly as a formerly enslaved and indentured people, cannot be derogated from because of someone's sexual orientation. In other words, when the charter in article III says: "States shall, in the discharge of their legislative, executive administrative and judicial functions ensure respect for and protection of the human dignity of every person." That in my view means literally every person and not just confined to what article V says: "No person shall be favored or discriminated against by reason of age, color, creed, disability, ethnicity, gender, language, place of birth or origin, political opinion, race, religion or social class."
The charter is a 1997 document so orientation was not included and perhaps even in today's atmosphere cannot be included, but the conversation has begun and the pressure from other societies with whom we deal is upon us to consider what our stand is on the rights of all people. Do we as a society for example condone violence against people simply because of their sexual orientation? The answer to that must be no. And if the answer is not no to that then the charter is not worth the paper it is written on.
The prime minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart, and Dr. Denzil Douglas, [prime minister] of St. Christopher and Nevis, have begun public discussions of these issues in their societies. The prime minister of Barbados even challenged the Anglican Church on the subject at their provincial synod. That was right and just. The Bahamas has decriminalized behavior associated with sexual orientation.
We have available in aid and comfort to any change to amplify the discrimination provision in the charter the constitution of South Africa which admits to orientation as one of the named classes for which there can be no discrimination. There are profound changes throughout the United States and Europe, our main trading and cultural partners on this issue. It would be unwise to ignore it.
I often find that in drafting solutions to contentious problems that one solution is a generic one. One solution is that the charter can become justiciable with enforceable rights across the community. Less coercively, it can be open to the Caribbean Court of Justice as the final arbiter of community law to adjudicate upon the charter and declare the rights of individuals for any aggrieved individual seeking an opinion from the court declaring his rights and the wording of the provision at article V can be reworded to read: "No person shall be favored or discriminated against by reason of including but not limited to the following: age, color, creed, disability, ethnicity, gender, language, place of birth, origin, political opinion, race, religion, social class or some other characteristic which in the opinion of the court deserves special protection."
Of course the short way to deal with this is simply to add orientation as one of the listed characteristics. I have no remit to pronounce on that, however, and I do not do so.
What is important is that our leaders have already begun the conversation and that conversation should continue. That conversation should be underpinned with the principles of tolerance and the protection of the law for another disadvantaged group.
Less contentiously I suspect will be the question of the extent to which the principle of non-interference in the affairs of another CARICOM state still applies given what happened in Grenada in 1979 and again in 1983. When a state disintegrates and is under threat because of natural disasters that is an easy question to answer, but not so easy when one faces the question of civil disorder over political and civic issues.
The experience of Grenada and the restoration of democracy there has perhaps set the precedent that a governor general or president, acting in his own deliberate judgment, can call for outside assistance, even military or policing assistance.
Perhaps the charter ought to be amended to make clear what the position of member states will be when the human rights of individuals in a member state are so violated that it begs the question of outside interference. This is dangerous ground I admit, one on which we tread carefully.
o Fred Mitchell is the member of Parliament for Fox Hill and minister of foreign affairs and immigration.

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