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The Commonwealth: The black and white of it

The Commonwealth: The black and white of it

Sat, Aug 31st 2013, 11:53 AM

Boris Johnson, the mayor of the British capital city, London, has joined in a chorus of voices in the Conservative Party that has been calling for Britain to abandon its membership of the European Union (EU) and to look instead to the Commonwealth of Nations as "countries that offer immense opportunities for British goods, people, services and capital."
This is a huge reversal from 1971 when the then leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister of Britain, Edward Heath, told the House of Commons that the idea that the Commonwealth might become "an effective economic and political let alone military bloc had never been realized."On the contrary, he argued, it was generally accepted that trade with the Commonwealth overseas, unlike that with the European Common Market, held no prospect of dynamic growth. Britain's subsequent entry to what is now the European Union (EU) in 1973 put an end to any further development of the Commonwealth as a preferential trading group.
After 40 years of fundamentally changed global trade arrangements, the Commonwealth no longer offers opportunities as a preferential trading bloc. Those in Britain who continue to pit the Commonwealth as an alternative to the EU are really raising a straw man to bolster their wish to get out of the EU and the conditions of its membership that they find unacceptable. For the majority of Commonwealth countries, there is little benefit today in trying to assemble a Commonwealth trading group even if it would not be severely hamstrung by World Trade Organization rules that disallow preferential trading arrangements for all but the poorest of poor countries. This is not to say that individual Commonwealth countries could not intensify trade bilaterally.
What is of more current interest about Boris Johnson's remarks made in Australia and New Zealand is that, in saying that Britain should "raise our eyes beyond Europe"and not think of "ourselves as little Europeans run by Brussels", he said Britain should open its doors to skilled workers from Commonwealth countries "such as Australia and New Zealand." He went as far as to say that Britain and Australia should set up a "bilateral Free Labour Mobility Zone." All of this is an alternative to persons from the EU entering Britain to live and work, and more importantly, benefitting from its social welfare system.
In promoting the idea of skilled workers from the Commonwealth being allowed to enter Britain, Mr. Johnson mentioned only Australia and New Zealand, whose populations are predominantly white people. But, since he is the mayor of London - a city with a huge multi-ethnic population drawn from all over the Commonwealth and elsewhere - it has to be assumed that Mr. Johnson mentioned only these two countries because he happened to be visiting them when he made his remarks.
Of course, it is every country's prerogative to enter bilateral migration arrangements with any other country that it considers appropriate. In this connection, it is perfectly feasible that Britain could set up "bilateral Free Labour Mobility Zones" with Australia and New Zealand. But, if it were to do so while applying stricter immigration and visa requirements on other Commonwealth countries, such as those in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean whose populations are not predominantly white, the arrangements would be seen as inequitable with overtones of racism. Such a move could be seen as a "black" and "white" division and it would diminish regard for the merits of the Commonwealth association. Further, it would not advance Britain's desire to intensify trade with, and investment from, Commonwealth countries such as India, Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa that are among the top Commonwealth growing economies.
Britain faces a predicament over the free movement of people in the EU. Because of its more generous social welfare system and its greater economic development than all of the newer member states of the EU, it has become a magnet for Eastern Europeans - many of whom do not speak English and have little, if any, appreciation for British culture and traditions. The migration to Britain of Eastern Europeans has caused resentment among Britons, but not only to white ones. People from Commonwealth countries who migrated to Britain in the 1950s and 60s, and who have worked all their lives in Britain contributing to the economy and also adhering to its culture and traditions, also resent the influx of European migrants. This is a problem the British government is trying to resolve, but it will not be solved by Mr Johnson's suggestion that the EU should "stuff it."With regard to the Commonwealth, the Eminent Persons Group (of which I was a member and Rapporteur) that made recommendations in 2011 on reform of the Commonwealth to make it relevant to the people and times of the association, recognized that if the Commonwealth is to have value for its peoples, one of the things that could be done is to give recognition to Commonwealth citizenship by providing means of privileged entry in all Commonwealth states. We had recommended the creation of an expert group to report to the 2013 Heads of Government meeting on ways in which entry by Commonwealth citizens to Commonwealth countries on business or holiday might be gradually improved. A group of three renowned persons from the Ramphal Institute in London has visited 15 Commonwealth countries over the last few months to produce a report and recommendations on easing entry for Commonwealth citizens in various categories including businesspeople and students. The extent to which all governments agree on easing entry requirements for agreed categories of Commonwealth citizens will indicate the value they place on membership of the Commonwealth.
The point is that Commonwealth countries looking to each other for a deepening of investment, commercial and migration arrangements - based on their common laws, shared language, and declared common values - would help to lift all their economies as well as the quality and benefits of their Commonwealth connection. But they should all pursue such deepening on a pan-Commonwealth basis and in a spirit of co-operation and mutual respect that would enhance the Commonwealth Club.
o Sir Ronald Sanders is a consultant and senior research fellow at London University. Responses to: Reprinted with the permission of

Second home rentals should pay tax
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Sat, Aug 31st 2013, 11:43 AM

Preparing for VAT
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Sat, Aug 31st 2013, 11:40 AM

Miami group asks PM to act
Miami group asks PM to act

Sat, Aug 31st 2013, 10:51 AM

Former detainee relives 'hellish' experience
Former detainee relives 'hellish' experience

Sat, Aug 31st 2013, 10:41 AM

Police prepared to assist in detention center probe

Police prepared to assist in detention center probe

Sat, Aug 31st 2013, 10:40 AM

While the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) has minimal involvement in the ongoing investigation into alleged abuses of Cuban detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade said his organization is prepared to lend whatever assistance is necessary moving forward.
Greenslade said he has been kept up to date on the probe, but at this time the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) is taking the lead in the investigation, and despite details being leaked from a report on the matter this week, the investigation has not been completed.
"They are very competent people also in the defence force, many of them I know personally, and I have no reason to disbelieve the commodore (Roderick Bowe) when he says that everything will be above board and transparent," Greenslade told The Nassau Guardian.
"I am aware that the commodore and the Minister [of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage] have had many, many conversations.
"I am aware that the light of public scrutiny is shining on the matter, and I think for the sake of The Bahamas, we should all allow due process and natural justice.
"Let it run its course as a proper investigation and wait for that report to be done."
Questions have been raised over whether the defence force should be allowed to conduct an investigation on its own officers.
Some people have suggested that the police should instead take the lead on the investigation to avoid any perception of bias.
During an interview with The Nassau Guardian on Tuesday, Bowe said he would welcome a separate police investigation to "remove that stigma of bias with the investigation process".
But Greenslade said he is confident that the probe will be fair.
He said he believes authorities will provide the Bahamian people with all the facts surrounding the matter.
"I am of the firm view that everything is being done that should be done at the moment, and I believe there will be proper accounting to the Bahamian people," Greenslade said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell has said a retired Court of Appeal justice and a cleric will lead the formal investigation.
Greenslade agreed that it is best for a third party to be involved in the investigation process.
"If it's a matter where there is brutality, allegations of brutality or some harm being caused, then there is another investigation that takes place, and that investigation is ongoing," he noted.
"I can't speak to it because it is another arena. It is not within the purview of the police department.
"My ministry has spoken to it, my minister has spoken to it, the minister of foreign affairs has spoken to it and the commodore of the defence force has spoken to it, but we stand ready to provide whatever support is required of us going forward."

Environmentalists push for FOIA enactment

Environmentalists push for FOIA enactment

Sat, Aug 31st 2013, 10:31 AM

Local environmentalists are calling on the government to enact the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to give them earlier access to information about proposed developments that could impact the environment, Gail Woon, president of Earthcare Bahamas, said.
During a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian, Woon said environmentalists often do not know about developments that could harm the environment until the deals are done. She is hoping that this will change once the FOIA is enacted.
"We are hoping for the government to institute a Freedom of Information Act wherein stakeholders are able to be made aware of impending developments or changing of legislation or anything that impacts them in their livelihoods," Woon said.
"Usually, we hear about things once they have already happened, in the press, and it's a little too late to give your input when the decisions have already been made."
This week, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis also called on the government to enact the law. He said the legislation is needed to ensure accountability and transparency in all branches of government.
The act was passed near the end of the Ingraham administration's last term, however there was no specified enforcement date for the legislation.
In March, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson said the legislation was under review by her office.
She said the government wanted to enact the law "as soon as possible", but added that the law was being reviewed to ensure that the proper mechanisms are in place to support it.
"There are some aspects of it that actually need to be addressed," said Maynard-Gibson at a press conference.
"We don't want to have a situation where we have actually brought something into force and it can't work."
Woon also said environmentalists are advocating for stronger environmental protection laws with stiff penalties.
"We're hoping the government will pass an Environmental Protection Act that has some teeth so that we can actually enforce [it] if someone does something that is a detriment to the environment," Woon said.
"As it stands now, there is really no penalty for doing any environmental degradation, whether it be marine or terrestrial."


Sat, Aug 31st 2013, 10:23 AM

Arts Calendar
Arts Calendar

Sat, Aug 31st 2013, 10:19 AM

Summer music camp helps develop young musicians

Summer music camp helps develop young musicians

Sat, Aug 31st 2013, 10:18 AM

RBC Royal Bank recently provided sponsorship for the 6th Annual Summer Music Camp & Mentoring Program. RBC has supported the program from its inception. The program's mission is the educational and cultural development of young Bahamian music students. It achieves this goal by incorporating a global approach and providing cost effective methods to expose young persons to a cadre of musical experiences that will further develop their national cultural identity.
Music and arts education play a pivotal role in helping young persons to develop skills necessary for the 21st century workforce - creativity, collaboration and communication.
"RBC is committed to national development through its support of youth development initiatives. As part of this commitment, we support organizations that provide opportunities for young persons to gain in-depth knowledge and skills in music and the arts," said Jan Knowles, RBC manager of public relations and communications. "We are proud to support the 6th Annual Summer Music Camp & Mentoring Program."
The program was launched in 2008 when organizers selected a number of young Bahamian male students to visit the Washington Jazz Arts Institute. For the past five years, the program has operated in tandem with the Washington Jazz Arts Institute, Groovward Publishing, The JWB, 24th Music and other organizations. It has given over 250 Bahamian music students the opportunity to interact with and learn from world class musicians and instructors.
Roscoe Dames, founder/director of the program, said words cannot express what it means to have RBC as a sponsor.
"Without RBC's support, many students would not have the chance to participate in the program and receive the opportunity to experience what professional musicians engage in on a regular basis," he said.
In addition to the musicianship, participants of the Summer Music Camp & Mentoring Program learn about the actual business of music, music management and the intricacies of the music industry. This year, a recording studio was set up on-site for the students to record the music that they created at the camp. Students were also treated to a history lesson on and a demonstration of Bahamian Folk Music (Rake-n-Scrape) by Darrell Hurston and Fred Ferguson.
The 6th Annual Summer Music Camp culminated with a final concert performance held on July 26 at St. Anne's School. The concert was free of charge and open to the public. The concert attracted a large crowd of family, friends and supporters of the young musicians. Students provided stellar performances of music infused with jazz and Bahamian influences.