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The Director of the Department of Immigration, Jack Thompson, on Thursday made hawkish statements on the illegal immigration problem in The Bahamas while addressing principals at an event at SuperClubs Breezes Resort.
Thompson, said The Bahamas cannot afford to have illegal immigrants in the public school system "absorbing our resources."
"You should call me and tell me where they are living because I have to deal with them," Thompson told the principals.
"We have to hit at the root. The root is the parent. I am not in the business of sending the children home and not the parents or sending the parents and not sending the children. We have to send them together.
"All of them must go and they must go as soon as possible because we can't have people illegally residing and going to school and absorbing our resources. You know how the community feels about this. The communities are outraged."
Thompson also emphasized at that event that his department does not, as a matter of policy, apprehend undocumented children at schools.
Thompson's bold remarks reflect the frustration many Bahamians feel with the failed immigration policy in The Bahamas regarding Haitians. Successive governments have been unable to slow the flow of people from Haiti to this country. Therefore, there are thousands of people here who were not invited.
All right-thinking people would accept that it is impossible to stop unauthorized Haitian migration to this country. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and it has a population of nearly 10 million. Many Haitians want a fresh start away from the struggling republic.
Many Bahamians, however, think that successive more can be done by our leaders to reduce the flow of Haitians to The Bahamas. This segment of society is frustrated and angry. Those Bahamians want illegal shantytowns demolished and those who are here illegally to be sent home.
By echoing this frustration, however, Thompson went in tone beyond the policy position of the executive branch of government. The Free National Movement (FNM) administration has been moderate in its approach. The FNM has held to the traditional apprehension and repatriation policy, but it has also extended an olive branch, inviting Haitians who have been in the country for long periods of time to come in and be regularized.
The Nassau Guardian published Thompson's remarks last Friday. It appears as if Thompson's superiors in the Cabinet were not impressed. On Friday he issued a more conciliatory statement, emphasizing that Immigration will not be targeting undocumented children in schools.
If the Cabinet wants to clarify the position of the government, that's fine. Policy and tone are dictated by Cabinet. We take issue, however, with the insinuation that this newspaper misconstrued what Thompson said Thursday.
"The Thursday's article gives the impression that children are to be targeted by the department's officials. The Department of Immigration regrets this insinuation and strongly condemns any such suggestion or attributions," said Thompson's Friday statement.
This newspaper reported what the immigration director said at a public forum. The comments the Cabinet has a problem with were uttered by its head of department. The dispute it has is not with this newspaper and it should not have statements sent out suggesting improper reporting when the issue is one between the executive branch of government and one of its senior officials.
The Friday statement should have simply said that the immigration director was excessive in tone and that the policy of the Cabinet is more moderate.
The Nassau Guardian needs not be involved with the varied policy positions held between senior civil servants and the executive branch of government.
The government is seeking to "rehabilitate" its failed mortgage relief plan, Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday.
Christie said the government held a meeting on the matter yesterday.
However, he did not provide details as he said the process has just started.
Christie spoke to reporters following the opening ceremony for a UNESCO meeting at SuperClubs Breezes.
The mortgage relief plan, which was touted by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) ahead of the 2012 election, was projected to assist 1,100 homeowners when a watered down version was presented to Parliament.
But it helped fewer than 10, officials admitted.
The government allocated $10 million for that plan in September 2012.
According to the government, there were around 4,000 homeowners in arrears.
In January, Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis said the government was examining an alternative proposal to the plan, which he said fell far below expectations.
He said at the time that until an alternative plan comes into effect, the government hoped to provide homeowners with other forms of protection.
Christie said yesterday the government is still committed to the pledge to bring relief to delinquent homeowners.
"Clearly, from my point of view, our commitment to govern has been mandated by the people of this country," he said.
In its original plan, the PLP pledged to get local banks to agree to a 120-day moratorium on foreclosures and to write off 100 percent of unpaid interest and fees for those facing foreclosure.
The PLP also said that it would encourage banks to reduce the interest rate on the mortgages in question to prime plus one percent.
However, these details were not included in the modified mortgage plan, which was later presented to Parliament.
Twenty proud security personnel representing 17 airports in 13 Family Islands received Train the Trainer certification at the closing ceremony of the five-day “Excellence in Screening Techniques Course,” held January 21-25 at the SuperClubs Breezes Resort.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Relays are approaching fast, and the Bahamas government and local partners - known as "friends of the event" - are doing their all to ensure that it is a success.
"People often say that this is the biggest sporting event to ever happen in The Bahamas, but I always tell them that it's not just a sporting event, but one of the biggest events in general to ever come to the country," said Local Organizing Committee (LOC) Chairman Keith Parker.
The inaugural IAAF World Relay Championships is set for May 24-25, at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.
The friends of the event were introduced to the public yesterday at the stadium. Some of them include Jemi Health and Wellness, Thompson's Trading, Mario's Bowling and Entertainment Palace, Senor Frogs, SuperClubs Breezes, BCG Ltd., Sports Radio, The Nassau Guardian and Cash N' Go Bahamas.
"We have almost 50 countries that said yes. They are coming down for the relays, so that means we can expect at least 1,000 athletes, as well as their coaches and other staff, which could bring up to almost 1,300 persons per nation," said IAAF World Relays Senior Director of Marketing Kathy Ingraham. "Hopefully the effect of having all of these people present can trickle down to our economy."
The economic boost that The Bahamas is set to receive from hosting the relays is significant. Hotels will be filled to capacity at a time that is usually slow for them, especially the ones closer to the stadium, but not only the hotels will benefit from the relays. Businesses all around the island are expected to receive a financial boost from the traffic that the relays will bring in.
Ingraham and her marketing team are well aware of the kind of boost the relays can provide to the Bahamian economy, and are working tirelessly to ensure the word gets out about the event. They have invested in radio advertisements on most major stations, as well as television and newspaper advertising as well. Billboards will be put up around the entire island as well as on the Family Islands within the next week.
Athlete profiles will be a part of the advertisement for the event; the profiles will include both Bahamian athletes as well as others from the participating nations.
The friends of the event were also introduced to Breezy, the official mascot of the World Relays. Known by its Nassau Grouper head, Breezy is the mascot designed by 14-year-old Kirshon Smith, a ninth grade student at Temple Christian High School.
Manager of the National Sports Authority (NSA) Jeffrey Beckles gave the sponsors and partners a tour of the stadium yesterday to show them the progression of the work that is being done, assuring them that the stadium will be completed in time for the relays. The supporters also got a chance to view the section of the stadium that has been specially dedicated to the friends of the event, where they can enjoy comfortable spectatorship, complete with complimentary refreshments.
The track is coming along well, and the painting of the surrounding buildings has commenced. The painting on the inside of the stadium is due to begin within the coming days.
Ticket sales are exceeding expectations; both Bahamians and international visitors have purchased tickets early, leaving space at the stadium very limited. Those who want to attend and have not yet purchased their tickets are advised to do so as soon as possible.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in conjunction with the International Development Bank sponsored a five-day seminar under the theme, "Strategies and Best Practices for Improving the Educational Support Services for Inclusive Education". The seminar was held from Monday, 17th June to Friday, 21st June, 2013 at SuperClubs Breezes, Cable Beach...
Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade announced yesterday that a police liaison officer will be assigned to each government school when schools re-open in September.
Greenslade and other government officials, including the Director of the Immigration Department Jack Thompson, met with public school principals during a forum at SuperClubs Breezes Resort yesterday morning to discuss crime and immigration related issues affecting the public school system.
School violence has been a major concern in public schools, especially in New Providence, over the last few years. The Department of Education and police have had to respond to fights, stabbings and at least one homicide on or near New Providence public schools.
"I've assured principals that they are fully in control of their schools and we stand in full support of them," Greenslade said.
"But we will be more than happy to ensure that there's a school liaison officer assigned to every school in The Bahamas. We have sufficient officers to deal with that and they should be available at all times to the schools and any issues that needs to be pushed further up will be handled by our officers."
Greenslade's announcement came fours years after the Free National Movement (FNM) administration dismantled the school policing program left in place by the last Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration.
This program involved stationing police at public schools.
That initiative was replaced with a community policing approach through which officers are stationed outside schools during peak hours (7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.).
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and his government have held to the position that police officers do not belong in schools.
Responding to claims that he will run in the next general election, Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday suggested the decision will be made by himself, the people and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).
"That's not important to me now, [the fact that] people keep on talking about whether I'm running again," he said in response to a reporter's question on the matter.
"You know who decides whether I'm running again? Firstly, me and my family. Secondly, the people, the members of Parliament and the political organization throughout the country.
"So I'm not going to be distracted by that now. I see people saying I am running again. That's fine. They are able to say that. I am now running to get results from the Progressive Liberal Party government. That's what I'm running for. I am running full speed all the time. I have not taken a day off since the election.
"I am driving the government in this regard. There are going to be people who will make mistakes with this. We will have to correct those mistakes but we are moving forward resolutely to deliver what we promised the people."
Christie spoke to reporters following the opening ceremony for a UNESCO meeting at SuperClubs Breezes.
Christie, 70, said previously that he was grooming the next generation of leaders in the PLP.
In February, PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts and senior party member George Smith said there is widespread support for Christie to stay on as leader and take the PLP into the next general election.
Roberts said while the PLP has "cadre of new generation leaders" many in the party love and are committed to Christie.
"Everybody's got the right to change their mind," he said.
Smith said unless a viable contender for the PLP's leadership emerges before the election, it is likely that many in the party will try to convince Christie not to step down.
He said Christie is likely to garner huge support from the party for re-election.
"I believe that Mr. Christie enjoys tremendous support of the party and unless someone is obviously in a position to demonstrate that individual could command that support, there are bound to be individuals in the party who would push for Mr. Christie to continue."
In January, Christie suggested that if former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham returns to public life there is no guarantee and he, Christie, would exit.
Tourism officials believe that expanding its Canadian market will only have a positive impact on The Bahamas' bottom line.The Ministry of Tourism and Aviation is teaming up with Canadian tour operator Sunquest, as it announced direct flights to Nassau from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Tourism's National Manager for the Canadian office Janet Cuffie said the venture is part of the ministry's expansion strategy.
She believes the key to ensuring that The Bahamas is seen as a strong destination by vacationers is through successfully convincing travel partners to offer more destinations in more markets.
"There will be two weekly departures on Thursdays and Sundays aboard Thomas Cook Airlines' 217-seater Boeing 757 aircraft," she said.
Cuffie told Guardian Business the launch of this newest service is in addition to the year-round flight from Toronto to Nassau that Sunquest currently operates.
Cuffie revealed that in addition to the flights, Sunquest will offer Nova Scotia residents the opportunity to book three, four and seven night stays at any of eight Nassau or Paradise Island area resorts.
These resorts include Atlantis Paradise Island, Comfort Suites Paradise Island, Paradise Island Harbour Resort, Best Western Bayview Suites, Superclubs Breezes Nassau, Wyndham Nassau Resort&Crystal Palace Casino, Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort and Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort.
Sunquest's Vice President Steve Buchart toldGuardian Business the company is delighted to offer direct flights between Halifax and Nassau as part of its winter 2012 program.
He called this move a win-win situation for all involved.
"This new route not only allows our customers in Halifax to experience, first-hand, our Thomas Cook Canada flights and the best-in-class service that goes with that, but it also provides us with the opportunity to further promote Nassau as a fantastic vacation destination.
"Not only does Nassau offer great resorts, beautiful beaches and ample opportunities for fun, it is now easier than ever to visit with this new direct service."
The Halifax program to Nassau with Sunquest is showing strong sales for the month of February.
In fact, last night's inaugural flight was sold out.
Sunquest has been offering Canadians vacation packaged holidays for over 40 years, specializing in the Caribbean, The Bahamas, Central America, southern Europe and Mediterranean cruises.
Halifax is the largest city in Canada's Atlantic region.
The nonstop seasonal service from Halifax to Nassau commenced yesterday and will end on April 8, 2012.
By PAUL G TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOUNDER and chairman of SuperClubs Breezes John Issa said that he is pleased that the government of the Bahamas has agreed to go ahead with the $2.6 billion Baha Mar project on Cable Beach.
Saying that such a development is not only good for the hotel industry, but for the Bahamas as a whole, Mr Issa said that this new influx of construction and activity will be a welcome change.
"This is a good thing that something is happening, because, like the Prime Minister said in his press conference, there are hotel rooms on Cable Beach unused - for two years in a row now the casino has been closed in the slow periods, so somethi ...
The chairman of the largest Bahamian bank delivered a power-packed report to shareholders yesterday, mixing positive news of an upbeat start to this fiscal year with a serious message: 2013 will not be about growth, but about stability and strength.
"We will forego growth in favor of prudence and that will keep Commonwealth Bank strong, stable and profitable, the number one Bahamian bank in the nation," declared William B. Sands Jr., addressing hundreds who filled the large conference room at SuperClubs Breezes for the all-Bahamian-owned and operated bank's annual general meeting (AGM). With net income of $36 million in fiscal 2012 despite loan write-offs of $44 million, and little hope for major economic recovery until Baha Mar opens in late 2014, Sands said the bank would continue on its conservative path.
"In 2013, the bank will maintain its focus on the consumer market which has served us well," the bank's CFO Patrick McFall said. "Recognizing the challenges of the day, we also intend to be led by quality over quantity. This means we will forego growth over prudence believing that this will benefit the bank and consequently benefit you our shareholders in the long term."
President Ian Jennings echoed and reinforced the conservative path, outlining areas including online banking where the bank with branches in Nassau, Grand Bahama and Abaco would look for modest growth. It also plans to introduce mobile banking. The single physical expansion, Jennings said, would be the Oakes Field branch which, he noted, had outgrown the capacity needed to serve the public. That branch is temporarily closed, the victim of fire less than one week later during the height of a major electrical and rainstorm May 21. Work on the branch, initially scheduled for the fourth quarter, is now expected to be advanced to an earlier date. Meantime, the bank has relocated its Oakes Field branch operations to the Burns House building on John F. Kennedy Drive and Bethel Avenue, a move it made in record time, some eight days after fire forced the closure of the Oakes Field branch.
Despite references to the five-year-long recession, the bank paid $28.5 million in shareholder dividends in 2012, maintaining its policy of sharing 65 percent of income with the more than 4,000 shareholders from every walk of life. And on the day of the AGM, Commonwealth Bank's share price hit the highest price traded this year - $6.79.
"The highest traded shares of BISX reflects the desirability of the shares even in uncertain times," said Jennings, crediting effective management and "absolute dedication to excellence in service by all the management and staff of Commonwealth Bank."
Along with additional scrutiny that goes into every lending transaction now, Jennings and McFall said tighter controls had netted higher efficiency ratios. Those recession-bred refinements, however, will not alter the formula for success identified by Commonwealth Bank, the widespread, broad-based consumer loan with the average loan in the $16,000 range to avoid catastrophic loss in a single default.
The bank also took preemptive action, passing a resolution to amend the rights of $50 million of authorized by unissued preference share capital so they would be well-positioned to comply with the international capital accord known as Basel III. The president said the bank wanted to address the issue in the next two to three years rather than wait until 2023 when the accord would be fully implemented.
For an annual general meeting in a challenging economy, it could go on record as one of the liveliest and most enthusiastic.
After reporting the full extent of mixed news culminating in a better than expected first quarter with more than $12 million in profit, the president took a question from a member of the audience that stunned everyone.
"You all did such a great job I think you should give yourselves more money and then we can all get more dividends, too," she said.