Nassau Guardian Stories

What are they hiding

April 19, 2017

In two days, if all goes according to plan, Prime Minister Perry Christie would be successful in getting Baha Mar opened ahead of the general election -- even if it is only a partial opening.
Christie and his ministers continue to boast about this achievement being a phenomenal development in what has been a significant crisis with grave implications for the economic climate of The Bahamas.
The prime minister has been hailed as a skilled negotiator.
We can expect more praise during Friday's opening.
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) regards this as a boost heading into the high-stakes election that is shaping up to be a rough-and-tumble battle between the hugely unpopular governing party and the Free National Movement (FNM), which is led by ousted Official Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis.
What we ought not lose sight of amidst the fanfare that will surely accompany Friday's soft opening is that the public remains in the dark over what the government agreed to, to get Baha Mar back on track.
With Parliament dissolved and the parties in full election mode, releasing the Baha Mar deal does not appear to be a priority of the government.
Over the last few months, the prime minister and Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson led us to believe that this deal -- announced by Christie last August -- will be available for public scrutiny before the April 21 opening.
That is two days away.
Christie told Parliament that the Supreme Court sealed the deal at the request of the Chinese.
But in January, he told the media that he has directed Maynard-Gibson to make the records public at "the earliest opportunity".
Although she did not commit to a specific date, Maynard-Gibson said in January, the documents will be released by mid-April.
"It's important to note that there is proprietary information that has to be protected as well as the common interest in having all of the information there and we believe that we will be able, in short order, to have both objectives accomplished," she said.
Baha Mar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware in June 2015, but all related cases have since been dismissed.
In August, Christie announced that the government and Export-Import Bank of China (CEXIM), which financed the project, had reached an agreement to resume work on Baha Mar.
Months later, he announced the sale of Baha Mar to CTF BM Holdings Limited, a subsidiary of Hong Kong conglomerate Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Limited (CTFE).
But the government has failed to account for what it did on the people's behalf.
Christie said in January, "We have no difficulty whatsoever of being able to account for what we have negotiated.
"I can tell you this, in the history of this country, that will go down as one of the most brilliant set of negotiations ever done in advancing the cause of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas."
Maynard-Gibson then told reporters, "You have heard the prime minister speak.
"You have heard [Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald] and myself speak and that is that there is nothing that is unusual in the documents at all in terms of the contents of the heads of agreement, and there is nothing unusual about the idea of incentivizing investments in our country.
"We are certainly very happy to see the promise of Baha Mar come into its full fruition."
The Nassau Guardian previously revealed that the government has made value-added tax (VAT) concessions in order to get the resort opened.
Following this revelation, Fitzgerald, one of the government officials involved in the Baha Mar talks, said the VAT waiver was a trade-off to get the former workers and the unsecured creditors paid, a process which cost $100 million.
Prior to that, the government characterized the payouts as a gift from the Chinese -- supposedly out of the goodness of their hearts.
It took a leak for the public to know about the VAT waiver.
Many were left wondering what else is in the agreement.
It is simply unacceptable that the Christie administration has refused to honor its commitment to make it public by mid-April.
Has it even moved the court to unseal the deal?
The public has a right to know what concessions the government agreed to on its behalf.
Could it be that the government is afraid to reveal what is there because it would be a clear indication that it has been overly generous in respect of granting concessions?
It is a grave insult that the information is being kept secret ahead of the election. No matter what the government tells us, the failure to release the Baha Mar documents feeds widespread suspicion that there is information in that agreement that could damage the PLP's chances of re-election.
If the deal was so brilliantly negotiated, and if in fact it would demonstrate strong leadership on the prime minister's part, then the Christie administration should be anxious to make it public.
The fact that it is not raises red flags.
It is abominable that the PLP -- which pledges in its new plan to establish an information and communications ministry in a new term -- is showing such shameless disregard for the public's right to know.
Why really are we as a people being deprived of information that is supposedly so critical to our economic well being?
That kind of attitude in government exists in dictatorships. We are not in a dictatorship. We are operating under the principles of a democracy. We deserve a government that is transparent.
This government's lack of transparency means there is no reason to trust it.
Again, if the deal is above board, there is no reason to keep it hidden in the shadows, out of public view.
It suggests that the government does not respect the people, but the PLP is asking us to trust Christie and crew.
This is warped political thinking, that voters ought to reject in the strongest terms.
It is not enough to tell us that some jobs have been created at Baha Mar-- although clearly the PLP thinks the last-minute creation of hundreds of jobs qualifies it for re-election.
This was demonstrated in the now infamous words of MICAL MP V. Alfred Gray a few months back.
As he expressed the view that the PLP will be well-positioned to win the next election, Gray told reporters in December, "Once we could hire 5,000 to 6,000 people and people have money in their pockets, they don't care who the government is."
It translated into: Once we can throw them some crumbs from the economic pie, nothing else really matters.
But there are other things that matter if the PLP is to convince voters in sufficient numbers to support the party at the polls.
We are entitled to know what our leaders do on our behalf.
If our government does not trust and respect us, then how are we to trust our government?

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The politics of smear

April 19, 2017

They don't call this the silly season for nothing.
Social media has added another dimension to our politics.
With so many people now getting their information from Facebook and through WhatsApp, the spinners have moved into high gear, churning out memes at lightening speed, attacking people maliciously and antonymously in a most cowardly fashion, and dumbing down the national discourse ahead of the May 10 election.
While social media and the tools of modern technology are helping politicians to quickly target a certain segment of voters, a dangerous element has also been introduced in a more forceful fashion this election season.
Facts are being distorted.
Lies are being told.
Reputations are being harmed.
Some are actively engaged in the smear; others are salivating as they watch these attacks. The most recent round circulated on social media yesterday, targeting several outstanding Bahamian citizens for their affiliation with the governing party.
We speak specifically about the "PLP wheel of fortune" memes posted on the Facebook page 'We Care Bahamas'.
It appears to be a popular page, but it is unclear who is behind it.
We Care Bahamas asks: "Why are these same people always on the PLP money wheel of fortune?"
One of the memes targets Lady Sharon Wilson.
She is the wife of prominent Bahamian businessman Sir Franklyn Wilson, as noted in the meme.
It also points out that she served as Senate president and headed the 'Yes Bahamas' campaign ahead of the failed gender equality referendum last year.
It said she headed the PLP's platform committee, and was chairwoman of the transition group from College of The Bahamas to University of The Bahamas.
"What does she know that no one else does that she seems to get all of these top appointments?" the meme asks.
It adds: "Imagine what Christie has lined up for these favorites if he should get another term. Don't you think they have had enough?"
Another meme points to Baha Mar executive Robert Sands, who has had a distinguished career in the tourism industry in The Bahamas.
The meme says, "No matter what happens he gets what he wants from [Prime Minister Perry] Christie. Still the Christie gopher at Baha Mar."
While one person commenting on the post claimed the PLP was engaged in a "wheel of mischief and devious machinations", another said, "Sorry, I have to disagree. Sandy is a good man. and I know that personally."
Another added, "Sandy Sands is an experienced, well seasoned hotelier and if I had a choice he would have also been my top pick to be one of the persons at the helm at Baha Mar."
It is unfortunate that so many these days are using social media to launch smear campaigns on upstanding Bahamian citizens.
People have been targeted from all sides of the political divide.
Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Darron Cash said yesterday that leaders of political parties should send a clear message that such a "race to the bottom" will not be tolerated.
Sadly we know, however, that some are prepared to win at any cost.
Cash said he saw the meme attacking the Senate president, who is not a candidate for office and whose credibility at the bar has not been questioned.
He found it incredible that she is being attacked for her service in the Senate, her role in the gender equality campaign and her reported role in The College of The Bahamas' transition to university status.
"...When we permit our politics to get to the level where that level of personal sacrifice is vilified and demonized, you have to call into question the integrity of the people who are supporting these kinds of things because that's not what a good (candidate for) prime minister ought to be condoning," Cash said.
"And I'm not suggesting that anyone who is in opposition to the PLP who is a leader is condoning it, but I'm saying these are the kinds of things that me as a Killarney voter expects of the person who wants to lead me and be prime minister.
"And it is that level of campaigning that I believe leaders of political organizations have a duty to disassociate themselves from and not only to disassociate themselves from, but to repudiate because that in my opinion is a race to the bottom.
"It's not going to make us great as a country. It's not going to certainly help us to come together after the general election is over.
"And so, in making the case for the kind of leader he wants to be [FNM Leader Dr. Hubert] Minnis has a duty to make sure that his voice is heard on these and other issues."
With three weeks remaining before the general election, it would be helpful if leaders of political parties take strong positions against personal attacks, like the ones we mentioned.
The prime minister set the right tone when he announced the general election date last week.
"Let us contest the forthcoming elections with all the vigor at our command. Let us do so, however, with respect for the human dignity of our opponents, and with respect for the traditions we all hold dear," Christie said.
This should be a constant call from our leaders as the campaign season could get messier in the coming days.
At the end of the day, after the ballots are counted, the new government sworn in and the new Parliament convenes, we will still live in The Bahamas, among each other.
It is our shared country.
We are all Bahamians.
We should be seeing greater maturity in our politics.
The smear is not only wrong; it could have unintended consequences for those engaged in it.

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Time for reflection

April 19, 2017

I do believe, that every now and then, at least once a month, everyone needs to stop their busy, hectic schedule, take a few steps back and spend some 'Quiet Time' reflecting on all aspects of his or her life. So D. Paul, what are some of the things that you think I should reflect on?
Well, what you need to do is to take a snapshot, a video if you will, in your mind of the overall state of your life, across the board. In your personal life ....how is this going? Are you in a relationship with another which you're pleased with, or is there room for improvement in this area of your life? If the answer to that question is in the affirmative; well then, now is the time to draw up a plan to achieve the improvement you'd like to see in the future regarding your personal relationship. Finally of course, you need to implement the plan to bring about the improvements you envision.
Next, how's everything going at work? Are you satisfied with and enjoying your daily activities at work? If you're not, believe me, you'll never excel. So maybe the plan for this part of your life is to start to look for a new line of work, which you'll like a whole lot more, which in turn will assist you in being much more successful. Yes indeed, when you do what you love to do, you will become very successful whilst enjoying every minute of every day at work.
Next, you need to reflect on the financial aspect of your life; are you managing your financial affairs properly? If not, do something about it. Finally, the Spiritual aspect of your life needs to be taken into consideration. If perchance, you're lacking in this area because either you have no Spiritual Life at all, or are not happy with your present Spiritual Belief System; this needs to be put right pronto! Yes indeed, TODAY.

o Think about it!
Visit my website at: www.dpaulreilly.com.
Listen to "Time to Think" the radio program on STAR 106.5 FM at 8:55 a.m. & 6:20 p.m.

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Woman charged with murder

April 19, 2017

A 21-year-old woman was yesterday charged with the shooting murder of Marcian Edgecombe earlier this month.
Prosecutors say that Linique Brennen, of Malaysia Way, Elizabeth Estates, is responsible for Edgecombe's death on April 8.
According to police, Edgecombe was sitting in the front room of an apartment in Fox Dale when a gunman fired through the window.
Edgecombe died on the scene.
Brennen was charged with non-capital murder during her appearance before Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt.
The magistrate remanded Brennen to the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services as she does not have the jurisdiction to consider or grant bail on the charge.
Brennen makes her next court appearance on May 31 when the case will be transferred to the Supreme Court, where she will be arraigned and informed of a trial date.
Defense lawyer Mark Rolle alleged that officers at the Central Detective Unit placed bags over Brennen's head.
Brennen is the second woman to be charged with murder this year.
Earlier this month, Victoria Gibson, 19, of Key West Street, was charged with the March 31 stabbing murder of Terenova Stubbs at Potter's Cay Dock.

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More CLICO payments next week

April 19, 2017

CLICO (Bahamas) policy holders will get some "much-needed relief" this year, according to an official notice the government released yesterday announcing that qualified policyholders will receive three tranches of payments throughout 2017, with the first beginning next week Monday.
This revelation comes four months after the government had eyed making 2017's payments. Guardian Business previously reported that government was hoping to issue the final payouts to distressed policyholders in January.
"Further to the notice to policyholders dated October 3, 2016, The government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas has decided to continue making direct interim payments to all qualified policyholders of CLICO in a series of three tranches during 2017, to ensure that qualified policyholders receive the full benefits of their policies," the government notice states.
"The government wishes to advise that while this represents a slight change from what was previously communicated following the first interim payment exercise, this decision was taken to enable the government to more expeditiously render much needed relief to CLICO's policyholders."
The government will limit payments to only those qualified policyholders "of record" as of December 31, 2016, according to the statement.
CLICO (Bahamas) went through a court-ordered liquidation back in 2009.
The proposed payments, government said, are scheduled for April, July and November 2017, with the first tranche taking place between Monday, April 24 and Wednesday, April 26 in New Providence, and on Friday, April 28 in Grand Bahama.
The first payout took place from March 1 to June 30, 2016, encompassing approximately 3,389 issued checks, totaling just over $11 million.
This year, according to the government, policyholders will receive up to $5,000 depending on their outstanding claim balances.
"This exercise is expected to fully address some 1,595 claims or 70 percent of outstanding surrendered accounts," the government notice states.
"Policyholders are advised that any balances outstanding at the end of 2016, and not fully settled in the 2017 tranches, will be covered by promissory notes to be issued by the government and paid out over a period of four years in equal installments. These notes will bear interest at 4.25 percent per annum.
"Policyholders with in-force policies are to continue making their premium payments in accordance with their policy contracts, to ensure that they continue to receive coverage and benefits under their policies.
"CLICO's policyholders should note that the government continues its efforts, in good faith, to bring relief to those affected by the liquidation of CLICO."
The government notice explained that a further public notice on payment collection details will be announced imminently.

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Ministers deny any side Baha Mar deals

April 19, 2017

Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald and Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson yesterday shot down claims made by The Punch tabloid that they have deals with the Chinese owners of Baha Mar.
Both ministers, who were heavily involved in the negotiations to sell the resort to Hong Kong conglomerate Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE), suggested the accusations are a ploy from the Free National Movement (FNM) to distract voters from the resort's opening this week and the general election early next month.
"I don't have any contracts whatsoever, none, zero," said Fitzgerald outside the Office of the Prime Minister.
"I think at the end of the day, it is a great day for The Bahamas, as I have said over and over.
"There were those who said that the contractors weren't going to get paid, they got paid.
"Those who said the employees weren't going to get paid, they got paid.
"Those who said we weren't going to find a buyer, we found a buyer.
"Those who said it wasn't going to open, now it's opening.
"I don't know what else they are going to say.
"Obviously, now they are trying to get some personal attacks based on information that is not cogent and so forth, but at the end of the day, that's fine.
"This is the season we are in and we expect that sort of stuff.
"But at the end of the day, nothing will diminish from the fact that a major resort is opening in The Bahamas."
When asked about the claims, Maynard-Gibson said, "That is an unmitigated, outrageous lie.
"I am not benefitting from anything at all in relation to the negotiations that we worked so hard as a government, for the Bahamian people, in relation to the Baha Mar transaction.
"I ask those who are going to be voting on May 3 and May 10 to recognize that from day one, the FNM led by [Hubert] Minnis has been saying it's not going to happen, it's not going to open.
"It is opening of Friday and they said they were going to sell the hotel.
"I am asking voters to stay focused from all kinds of distractions, smoke and mirrors to move voters away from the fact that the PLP, the prime minister, put a negotiating team out there, for the benefit of Bahamians to get the hotel, that would have been closed, open."
Baha Mar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware in June 2015, but all related cases in that jurisdiction have since been dismissed.
Maynard-Gibson, Fitzgerald, and Sir Baltron Bethel, senior advisor to the prime minister, were a part of the government's delegation that traveled to China to negotiate the new deal.
In August 2015 it was revealed that Maynard-Gibson's two daughters and her husband had interests in Baha Mar.
The attorney general, however, denied having a conflict of interest insisting that Prime Minister Perry Christie was fully aware of her family's interest in the Cable Beach resort.
In August 2016, Prime Minister Christie announced that the government and Export-Import Bank of China (CEXIM), which financed the project, had reached an agreement to resume work on the project.
The agreement with CEXIM remains sealed by the Supreme Court, a move that caused great public backlash.
In December, the prime minister confirmed that Baha Mar was being sold to CTFE.
Baha Mar will begin its phased opening on Friday with a soft launch.
Maynard-Gibson said yesterday that the documents are still on target to be released this month.
In January, she indicated that the documents would be released before the opening of Baha Mar.

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FNM signs stolen, vandalized says chairman

April 19, 2017

Free National Movement (FNM) campaign signs have not only been vandalized but have been stolen, according to FNM Chairman Sidney Collie, who yesterday called for the supporters and leaders of all parties to put an end to the "immature and uncivil" behavior.
With the general election to take place next month, campaigning has intensified among all parties.
Campaign signs have been plastered along almost every major street in New Providence.
But recently, signs from the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) and the FNM have been defaced. Photos of them quickly circulated on social media.
In a statement issued to the press yesterday, Collie said, "It has come to my knowledge that both the FNM and the PLP have had their campaign signs defaced or vandalized in recent days.
"Dozens of FNM signs were placed along West Bay Avenue late last week.
"As of today, the vast majority of those signs have not only been removed, but replaced with a PLP candidate's signs.
"Having heard a similar call for deference by (PLP Chairman) Bradley Roberts, I have no doubt that the PLP has unfortunately had many of their signs vandalized as well.
"Out of reverence to free speech, fair elections and, most importantly, respect for each other, I call upon the supporters and leaders of all parties to end these discourteous and immature tactics.
"Stealing or harming another's property, whether during an election or not, accomplishes nothing and only brings shame upon the perpetrator.
"I ask all party leaders, campaign organizers and party volunteers to do their due diligence in echoing this call for mutual respect.
"Bahamians deserve a government that acts nobly, responsibly and democratically and this must begin with each of us leading by example."
Collie's comments followed that of Prime Minister Perry Christie, who on Sunday urged opposition leaders to make a call to their supporters to "desist".
Among the billboards were those with the images of Seabreeze incumbent Hope Strachan, Golden Isles incumbent Michael Halkitis, and Progressive Liberal Party Long Island candidate Glendon Rolle.
A photo also circulated of a billboard promoting PLP St. Barnabas candidate Cheryl Bazard blocking the billboard of DNA candidate Gerrino Saunders.

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PLP promises thousands of jobs

April 19, 2017

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) plans to create "thousands" of direct and indirect jobs should it be re-elected to government.
In its Charter 2017, the party explains that it would create jobs and bring more money into the country's economy by creating new sectors and further developing the Family Islands.
Among ways the party plans to do this is to expand the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) in Andros.
The plan states, "In the next five years, the PLP plans to...build on the BAMSI foundation by expanding the focus of agribusiness, to include land and marine-based industries, creating tutorial farms and new opportunities linked to BAMSI across our Family Islands.
"This emerging industrial sector will generate thousands of new jobs, ranging from the highly-skilled, technical end of the spectrum, to more low-skilled activities.
"Andros has vast, untapped land and marine resources which can be sustainably farmed and harvested to generate substantial new income into the country and diversify the economy.
"[We plan to] build a new college-based city in North Andros around the BAMSI campus, as proposed under the Draft National Development Plan.
"In the short term, this will generate thousands of jobs in construction and other foundational sectors. Many more sustainable jobs will be created in the medium and long term, as all aspects of city life spring into action.
"Education and technology will play key roles in the development of this new 'smart city', which we also anticipate will attract many people from New Providence, thereby easing the population density there."
The party said it would also seek to explore ways to sustainably harvest minerals and other natural resources for product development and export.
"We will create a statutory body to oversee this sector, and to encourage the development of 'value-added' industries in The Bahamas to retain maximum value in the country," the plan read.
"This will include all resources, including rock, sand, salt and aragonite."
Also in line with its objective to attain more funds, the party said it plans to introduce a "substantial new source of income into the country" with the introduction of a sustainable cultural and creative industries sector.
"This will support our cultural, creative and environmental entrepreneurs with resources, training, business development and access to markets," the PLP said.
"Based on the current number of annual visitors to The Bahamas, if each visitor spends an average of $200 more on cultural and eco-tourism related products, services and/or activities on their visit, we would bring in $1 billion of new, additional revenue into the country each year.
"The creative industry sectors also provide thousands of direct and indirect jobs throughout the country, as many of the skills are easily transferable across sectors.
"As culture is our core tourism product, improving the cultural offering will also stimulate the tourism industry."
In January, Prime Minister Perry Christie said his adminstration created 32,000 jobs in this term "which demonstrates that the economy is on the path to recovery".
The most recent Labour Force Survey from the Department of Statistics placed the national unemployment rate at 11.6 percent in October, down from 12.7 percent in May.

A focus on entrepreneurship
The party plans to concentrate a lot of its efforts on assisting small and medium-sized enterprises "by providing support from start-up idea to production, operations, marketing and distribution" on all islands.
"A network of business incubators or business development agencies will be established on each island, which will assist entrepreneurs in accessing capital and finance, as well as in partnering with successful mentors," the plan read.
"Policies will be introduced to improve the ease of doing business for entrepreneurial ventures."
The party added, "[We would] establish a network of business development centers specifically focused on developing creative industry businesses and clusters to cover training and skills development, business planning, investment financing, mentoring, networking and marketing."
The PLP also plans to develop a small alternative market on the Bahamas International Stock Exchange to encourage investments ranging from $25,000 to $1 million into new businesses.

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Minnis: Free electricity promise is baseless PLP rhetoric

April 19, 2017

Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday dismissed as "baseless, empty rhetoric" the promise by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) to give free electricity to certain people based on consumption should it win the next general election.
He said, like many other PLP promises, "nothing would come of it".
"More promises for the Progressive Liberal Party, which means there must be election coming up," Minnis said in a statement.
"This time they are telling the Bahamian people they will subsidize electric utility costs.
"As typical from the PLP, their latest grandiose promise comes with very little to no detail, just a stream of lofty language with a lot of caveats.
"But as with many of their broken promises, the people are wondering - how exactly would such a fiscally irresponsible PLP government pay for this program without taking our economy further down the drain?"
Minnis said it is ironic that the Christie administration would now offer free power to some consumers after overseeing widespread rolling blackouts last year.
"Ironically, this latest campaign promise comes from a party that while in power showed great indifference to families who had lost electricity during the 2016 power outages," Minnis said.
"While many Bahamians were forced to struggle for weeks without power, the PLP allowed a vacant Baha Mar to keep receiving power.
"This was happening even though Baha Mar had tens of millions of dollars in unpaid electric bills. "After years of the PLP's broken promises the people know this is more baseless, empty rhetoric from a party that sees their hold on power slipping away.
"Let's turn to the realities. Plans require action and actions bear consequences.
"Although the PLP's plan doesn't include fiscal data, we all know they have no plan to fund this program, therefore nothing will come of it. It's another election year promise."
Minnis said growing the economy, which the FNM plans to focus on, is the best way to assure Bahamians have an improved quality of life.
"The FNM understands that returning the government to fiscal responsibility and accountability will spur long-term growth," he said.
"And diversification will exponentially improve the standard of living for all.
"Focusing on job growth will strengthen the ability for each and every Bahamian to provide for their families.
"Bahamians aren't buying the PLP's empty rhetoric; they have heard it all too many times.
"They demand a government that does more than talks; they desire one that acts in their best interest."

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An error that haunts the FNM

April 19, 2017

The night of the general election loss for the Free National Movement (FNM) in May 2012, Hubert Ingraham, the then leader, announced he was stepping down.
Of the elected members of the FNM only Dr. Hubert Minnis and Neko Grant had served as full members of Cabinet. Grant was a long-standing MP who was nearer to his political end than beginning. He was also not considered a potential leader.
With Ingraham leaving and no other real option, the FNM gave leadership to Minnis. He appeared to be the only one. The party wanted to quickly find a leader. That was a mistake.
Though he tries, Minnis is not a natural political leader. In four and a half years he has not connected with the electorate. He does not inspire. He has lost 70 percent of his elected members of the House of Assembly. They went to the governor general and had him removed as leader of the opposition.
The FNM could have taken another course. In the aftermath of a major defeat, the loss of a charismatic leader and there being no clear successor, parties can put in place interim leaders while they strategize for the future. Such an interim leader could be an older and respected member of the organization who would pledge not to run for leadership when the party finally decides to have a race.
Having such a caretaker would allow a party time to evaluate all potential leaders, in and out of the legislature. Once the candidates are narrowed, an understanding could be reached with a party member who is in the House and has a safe seat.
That person would resign and let the new leader run in that seat if the new leader is not in the House. For example, Neko Grant could have held the post of interim leader and leader of the opposition while the party put together a proper list of people to run for leader. There would have been no rush to make an unfit person such as Minnis the leader.
The FNM suffers to this day because it rushed. Brent Symonette would have been better. Zhivargo Laing would have been better. Charles Maynard would have been better (though he is now no longer with us). That is not to say that any of these men would have been great leaders. They all just have, or in the case of Maynard had, more ability than Minnis.
The FNM has fractured because the FNM base has fractured. Loretta Butler-Turner's departure from the Minnis caucus came long after many educated and upwardly mobile FNMs had already left the party. It is unclear if they will come back by the election.
Political parties in The Bahamas should learn from the FNM error. Take your time before naming leaders after general election losses. Weigh all options. Let the contenders come forward, be they in Parliament or outside of it.
Have interim leaders to bridge the gap between the old chief and the new. Picking the wrong leader in haste could lead to the destruction of the party.

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A vote for the DNA is a vote for the PLP

April 19, 2017

Dear Editor,

It should be obvious to everyone by now that in this upcoming election, a vote for the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) or for an independent candidate is essentially a vote for the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).
Despite an abysmal five years in office, during which our country has sunk to an all-time low and the average Bahamian has been left more broke, hopeless and miserable than ever before, it is clear that the PLP has somehow managed to energize its base. That means that at least 40 percent of the voting public will be marking their X for a yellow candidate on May 10.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to our history. In all three elections won by the FNM, the PLP was able to get its substantial base out to support it.
Nevertheless, the anti-PLP vote continues to be the larger vote in this country every time, if it can just manage to remain united.
Who knows, maybe in five or 10 years, the DNA will be strong enough to win the government. I certainly hope so, but even a blind man can see that that day has not arrived as yet.
Likewise, any independent candidate lucky enough to be elected will only be taking a seat away from the FNM, because all the traditional PLP constituencies appear to be solidly yellow once again. It's more likely though, that independents and DNAs won't win a single seat, but rather will split the anti-PLP vote in traditionally red seats and hand those areas to the PLP on a silver platter.
I have supported the DNA and its leader Branville McCartney since the party's inception. I plan to do so again in the future.
But in this election, I simply cannot play a part in getting this worthless government re-elected.
That is why I will be voting red come election day.

- A diehard DNA supporter

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Calling all prayer warriors against carnival

April 19, 2017

Dear Editor,

"Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" - Proverbs 14:34

I have written two articles about the immoral, pagan, 2017 Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival. The appeal to better judgment has not prevailed, and the ill-fated carnival now seems irrevocably confirmed for May 4-6. For Gatekeepers and prayer warriors, however, there is still one option remaining. This divine option is prayer. I am hereby calling on those of you who with me share the conviction, that this un-Christian carnival is not good for our Bahamas, to join me and hundreds of others in prayer, that God will intervene, and like in the days of Noah, cause rain to wash out the entire event, and like Pharaoh's chariots which were destroyed by God, in the Red Sea, may God allow rain water to do it again.

- Pastor Jeremiah Duncombe

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Response to Galanis on VAT

April 19, 2017

Dear Editor,

Here is my response to an opinion piece by Philip C. Galanis published in The Nassau Guardian on Apr 3, 2017 titled "Where did the VAT money go?"
Mr. Galanis indicated in his writing that he sought to answer three questions: "Why was value-added tax (VAT) introduced, where did the VAT money go and what effect has it had on public finances?" I would challenge him to impart upon a second series to this article and ask: "What effect has VAT had on private finances, i.e. that of households across the country?" or perhaps that one is too obvious...
VAT was implemented two years ago, and as an offset or to dampen the impact of VAT, some other taxes and duties were reduced. Nevertheless, all things considered, overall government revenue has increased. With the government bringing in more revenue and at our expense no less, it then stands to reason that there must be something to show for it.
Mr. Galanis rightly points out that we, as Bahamians, have not been asking where the other forms of government taxes have been spent. I would say that we have always wondered where government has been spending our money. The difference now is that we are reminded of VAT at the time of every purchase, and by extension we are reminded that the government is taking money out of our pockets, and so we want to know where that money is going - and not literally, because we have established that all revenue collected by the government goes into the consolidated fund - but practically, what is this money being spent on?
Mr. Galanis berates current members of Parliament for posing this question. I recall Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis giving some dubious explanations as to "where the VAT money gone" on the campaign trail. Was he doing so "out of disingenuousness, mischief or ignorance of public finances"?
I will say that Mr. Galanis too is being disingenuous as he perpetuates this ruse and not drawing attention to that which is obviously the source of ire for Bahamians far and wide. Recall the quote you used in your piece Mr. Galanis, that of Jesse Ventura: "I have every right to know how my taxes are spent, how every single penny of it is spent." Where we could have benefited, Mr. Galanis, is if you were to fill in this gap and communicate to us an analysis of government's expenditure and list for us those tangible items that we can point to as that which we have gained from this increased taxation. If you point to increased government salaries, then we remain dissatisfied as service levels remain low. If you point to increased spending in the armed forces, then we remain dissatisfied as we feel no safer in our homes. If you point to increased spending in our schools, then we remain dissatisfied as our children seem to leave high school no better educated and no better prepared to enter the real world. If you point to better healthcare at government facilities, then we remain dissatisfied as we see the long lines at Princess Margaret Hospital and the poorly equipped clinics. You could not possibly point to paying down the debt, as we remain dissatisfied as international rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded The Bahamas' credit rating to "junk status", which marks the first time that we have ever held such a low rating.
Mr. Galanis purports that "VAT has already contributed to some instances of tax relief and reduction of costs to our citizens." I challenge him to find men on the street who would support this view.
One point we can agree on, however, is that if we are able to see the positive effects all around us in a more prosperous and stable Bahamas, we most certainly will no longer feel the need to ask "Where did the VAT money go?" But until such time, we need not have Mr. Galanis join the chorus of the evasive lecturing about the consolidated fund. Do, sir, offer something more in the future.

- Hailing the high horse

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Are we witnessing the death of ambition

April 19, 2017

What kind of society puts down people who want to achieve as much as they can? A backward one. I find it ridiculous that some of us seem to want others of us to apologize for achieving great success, or for rising to great heights in many spheres of life. When successful people are treated as pariahs in our country, then we have just given ambition a life sentence, at best, and a death sentence, at worse.
Major political parties do not try to win a few seats; they try to win as many seats as possible; and all if they could. The fact that they believe that they will lose some seats does not stop them from trying to win all. Are they greedy? They are not called that; and if they win, they are celebrated as great political institutions and their leaders, great strategists. Politicians don't often try to win just one term or two; they try to win as many terms as possible; and some will only leave, it seems, in a casket carried by pallbearers. Are they greedy? They are not called that; they are hailed as successful career politicians.
The athlete who goes to two, three, four, or five Olympic games is not considered greedy, but a great champion; an enduring competitor. He or she does not seek to win one gold medal, but as many as possible. Is he or she greedy? No one calls them that; they are called ambitious. What about the individual who gets two or three doctoral degrees; or who obtains thirty or forty patents; or creates more than one hundred apps? Do we call these people greedy? No we don't; we call them successful. How about Warren Buffet and others who are in hundreds of businesses and investments, and who have earned billions upon billions of dollars? Are they greedy? Do they want everything? Or are these people plying their craft to the best of their ability and wildly succeeding at it?
Who does not want to succeed wildly? What teacher, engineer, athlete, scientist, physician, student, or preacher does not want to succeed wildly? God does not want some men to be saved, he wants "all" to be saved. Is God greedy? No! To want to succeed wildly at that which is good or noble is not a vice; it is a virtue; and it is stupid for anyone to suggest otherwise. If we in this country start putting down people for achieving and achieving wildly, we might as well shut down every school, stop telling our children to aim high, and make poverty and failure our national past time. Frankly, sometimes I think that is what we are doing now, and may be the reason we are achieving so much of it.
Ambition is no shame. Achievement is no vice. Wild success is no failing. Ambition, achievement and success should be honored and promoted, in all areas of life, including wealth building and business. The Bahamian who nobly pursues an idea and does the fine work of turning it into a wildly successful business should be honored. If they happen to have a passion for politics or religion, or something else and excels at that, then wonderful, so long as they do good for the society. If they continue to pursue wealth and business in order to continue to wildly succeed, then good for them. The master rewards the servant who grows his talents the most, rather than the one who, in false humility and fear, buries it in the ground, and grows it little. In fact, he takes from the latter and gives to the former. Ambition is no shame. Achievement is no vice.
Only a small mind scoffs at ambition. Only a jealous soul mocks achievement. Only a wicked heart does not want others to be wildly successful at their craft the way it is successful at its craft. If you are a Bahamian desirous of becoming outrageously successful, good for you. If you are achieving awesome success, good for you. If you want to own and buy up as many businesses as you can and lead them to unbelievable success, good for you. You are the type citizen we need, and I pray that you and more like you flourish.

o Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.

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McCartney: PLP peddling dreams with electricity pledge

April 19, 2017

Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney yesterday slammed the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) for its "loose peddling of dreams" with regard to its pledge to provide free electricity to certain consumers after the next general election.
"The Progressive Liberal Party is clearly losing what little grip on reality it has left as it traffics in the loose peddling of dreams as a general election approaches," McCartney told The Nassau Guardian.
"Any sensible, rational person understands that neither the government nor Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) is in a financial position to subsidize free electricity.
"However, more insulting is the notion that Bahamians want to be perpetual beggars, crawling to the government to provide for their needs."
McCartney said "it is the Progressive Liberal Party, and its partner in misrule, the Free National Movement, who have crippled BPL" with a legacy of bad debt and mismanagement.
"After allowing foreign interests to gain control of BPL, and sitting idly by while Bahamians suffered through horrific blackouts and exorbitant electricity costs, the PLP is now trying to peddle nonsense as opposed to trying to provide more affordable electricity to consumers," McCartney said.
"After five years of no growth in the economy and having added billions of dollars to the national debt, while squandering over a billion dollars in value-added tax revenue while failing to do a single thing about the state of BPL, this should lead the PLP to reflect on its record with shame.
"But clearly shame is a foreign concept to the PLP."
McCartney said the DNA is focused on growing the economy and lowering the cost of electricity so that all Bahamians can afford it.
"Basic concepts of good governance, such as making the cost of living and doing business more affordable, are foreign ideas to the PLP," McCartney said.
"The best thing the Bahamian people can do at the polls come May 10 is reject the PLP and its mirror image of the FNM, and vote DNA for a better life for all Bahamians."

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Omar Archer gets bail

April 19, 2017

After being held on a warrant for two weeks for missing his trial, a Supreme Court judge yesterday continued bail for social media crusader Omar Archer Sr.
Magistrate Derence Rolle-Davis issued a bench warrant for the 45-year-old after he failed to appear to present a defense to a charge of criminal libel on December 29, 2016.
The libel complaint was made in April 2015 after Archer posted a woman's picture on his Facebook page and said she had AIDS.
The allegation was disproven by medical evidence.
When Archer was asked why he missed court, he claimed that he had twisted his ankle.
Archer appeared before Senior Justice Stephen Isaacs yesterday seeking to be released.
The prosecutor, Stephanie Pintard, did not object to the application by Martin Lundy II.
Isaacs continued the $9,000 bail on the condition that Archer reports to the East Street South Police Station before 6 p.m. on Fridays, makes no posts about the virtual complainant on social media and surrenders his passport to the court.
Meanwhile, Fred Smith, QC, has filed a constitutional challenge to the criminal libel law saying that it violates the right to freedom of speech.
Rolle-Davis has set a status hearing on libel case for June 21.

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Some parts of FOIA to be enacted this week

April 19, 2017

Parts of the Freedom of Information Act that would allow for its implementation are expected to come into force this week, said Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald yesterday.
"I have signed off on a paper to enact certain parts of the Freedom of Information Act," said Fitzgerald outside the Office of the Prime Minister.
"I think that comes into force this week, if my memory serves me right.
"And that would provide us and allow us the opportunity to appoint the information commissioner who will be responsible for the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, which is really the first and most critical part.
"I am now discussing with the prime minister a Cabinet paper for the appointment of that person.
"That has to be done in consultation with the leader of the opposition, who is Loretta Butler-Turner, and we are hopeful that, that will be done over the next week or so, so that we can have that person appointed.
"But as I said, certain parts of the legislation which would allow for implementation will come into force this week."
The FOIA was passed in Parliament on February 9 and has since been passed in the Senate.
There have been widespread calls for the government to enact a FOIA to allow the public access to government information and ensure the government is accountable and transparent.
The FOIA was one of the central issues raised by participants of the Black Friday march, which saw hundreds of residents occupy downtown Nassau for over 10 hours.
The act was passed in both chambers of Parliament in 2012, under the Ingraham administration, but it was never enacted.
A coalition of 22 civil society private industry groups yesterday questioned the government's commitment to freedom of information and urged voters to demand the enactment of the act.
"Unbelievably, yet another election season has come with no enacted or enforced Freedom of Information Act," the coalition said in a press statement.
"We, as a coalition of civil society and private industry groups working toward a true, fair Freedom of Information Act, and representing over 100,000 people, are gravely disappointed that the government has again neglected to enact the FOIA.
"We see this not only as a lack of political will, but also as a lack of commitment to the people's fundamental right to know on the part of successive administrations and urge the next government to make the enactment of the FOIA a priority.
"...As the current government has had five years to draft, consult, pass and enact a viable FOIA, the prospect of a currently un-enacted FOIA until the next government takes power, signifies insincerity and a failure of leadership on their part.
"Given this, any current campaign claims of support for transparency and accountability ring hollow."
The group called on voters to join the call for the enactment of the FOIA and demand candidates seeking their vote, commit to the enactment and enforcement of it.
The general election has been called for May 10.

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Man charged with two counts of statutory rape

April 19, 2017

A 41-year-old man of Pinewood Gardens was yesterday charged with two counts of statutory rape.
Sharran Burrows appeared before Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt charged with unlawful sexual intercourse.
Prosecutors allege that Burrows blackmailed his victims, ages 13 and 15, into having sex with him by threatening to publish naked images of them.
The age of consent is 16.
The incident involving the 13-year-old allegedly occurred between September 1 and 30, 2016.
The 15-year-old was allegedly assaulted on November 22, 2016.
Burrows, who did not have a lawyer, was not required to enter a plea to the charges.
He has been remanded to prison and next returns to court on April 29 when it is expected the case will be transferred to the Supreme Court.

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Aliv celebrates Autism Awareness Month with donation

April 19, 2017

In an effort to continue expanding its corporate responsibilities, Aliv, The Bahamas' newest mobile network, has made a significant donation to the Seahorse Institute in recognition of April being observed globally as Autism Awareness Month. The Seahorse Institute is a non-profit organization in The Bahamas directed by Dr. Michelle Major, an internationally acclaimed expert in the field of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The institute provides intensive multidisciplinary interventions for individuals with autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, language disorders, and related behavioral challenges.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. There are many types of autism caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences.
In The Bahamas, the Seahorse Institute is designed as a unique collaboration of parents, professionals and community members who provide a nurturing environment, and assist individuals with developing their full potential by using research-based interventions and multidisciplinary approaches to address individual needs.
"Aliv will continue to fasten its increasing commitment to the people of The Bahamas. A key part of the Aliv brand encompasses creating meaningful experiences not only for customers, but also for those in our communities. The donation marks a shared effort to promote autism awareness and assist individuals, particularly children, with ASD through the Seahorse Institute by providing them the opportunity to experience the highest possible quality of life. ," Aliv Chairman Franklyn Butler said.
Dr. Major said she is grateful for the donation from Aliv and hopes for continued support from the company in the future.
According to statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every 88th child is affected by autism and the disease is predominantly found in boys.
For more information about the Seahorse Institute, please visit http://seahorseinstitute.org.
Aliv is igniting the mobile revolution in The Bahamas and is reinventing how consumers interact with their mobile devices. A true digital lifestyle partner, the Aliv network is built on next generation LTE technology to ensure an unsurpassed consumer experience. With groundbreaking consumer plans and a laser focus on exemplary customer care, Aliv is determined to deliver a never before seen experience for the people of The Bahamas.

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PM: PLP platform not yet agreed

April 18, 2017

The revelation that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration will provide free electricity for certain customers if the party is re-elected has created a stir, but Prime Minister Perry Christie declared yesterday that the party's platform has not yet been formally agreed upon, although it has been made public.
Christie also suggested that someone "put that out" before time, but he did not explain exactly what he meant.
The party announced last week in its action plan on myplp.org, that should the PLP be re-elected it would introduce policies under which the government would "cover the cost of electricity to residential customers who limit their monthly use to below specified limits".
"This means that the use of electricity will be free to those customers," the plan said, though it did not detail the consumption limits.
Asked yesterday to explain his party's free electricity pledge, the prime minister told The Nassau Guardian, "I am going to speak later on my platform.
"There is a major process that I am now engaged in, in my office, that will have an amazing impact on electricity out and beyond what that pledge [says], because the platform has not been formally agreed and settled and somebody put that out.
"But there is an amazing process going on now to do with electricity, and an outcome should be very soon.
"I'm going to rate that outcome, because it will enable me then to speak specifically to the people of The Bahamas as to what is now taking place."
Last Thursday, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) denied knowledge of the PLP's free electricity initiative.
"Our goal at BPL is to provide consistent, reliable and affordable electricity service to our customers while maintaining a viable operation," the company said.
Yesterday, Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller, the former executive chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC), said it "makes no sense" to exempt customers from paying their bills based on power consumption.
"The government cannot afford to give across-the-board, free electricity based on consumption. That makes no sense to me. I don't see how they can do it," Miller said.
The PLP anticipates the initiative to impact "15-20 percent of the lowest income households" and will have a positive impact on energy conservation and help protect the environment by "encouraging the disciplined use of electricity".
The PLP released a press release on Wednesday night announcing the release of the plan.
It outlines the PLP's plan to address six strategic priorities over the next five years: Expanding opportunities, empowering Bahamians, protecting our citizens, caring for our people, preserving what makes The Bahamas special, and strengthening citizen participation in governance, the release said.
"Many of the PLP's Charter 2017 new flagship proposals make up this action plan and reflect the party's strategic priorities," the party said.
"In each area, the PLP indicates how they will build on the foundation set over the last five years with new ideas and plans to take the country forward."
Christie and Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis are expected speak to the PLP's action plan on Wednesday.

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