Bahamas Blog International
Poll politics, assassination plots and lifestyle rows
By RICKEY SINGH
SHARPLY contrasting national moods prevail this weekend in our Caribbean region, but nowhere more pronounced as in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, St Lucia, Jamaica, and Barbados.
Concerns range from the astonishing, bizarre plot to assassinate the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago and three of her top Cabinet colleagues, to lively controversial debates in Barbados on declining moral behaviour and general lifestyles.
In-between, there is understandably much excitement over election politics with Guyanese and St Lucians trekking to polling stations tomorrow, while Jamaica's new Prime Minister Andrew Holness keeps Jamaicans guessing about the date for an anticipated snap poll.
An eye surgery is keeping me away from on-the-spot coverage of the Guyana elections, where I was expected this past week. But from all reports it promises to be a most challenging contest as the incumbent People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) battles a new combined five-party coalition, under the umbrella of A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), and the six-year-old Alliance For Change (AFC) to retain state power for a fifth successive five-year term.
The Barbados experience, in contrast, is a mix of lively lifestyle issues of homosexuality; the consent age for teenagers; plus the harm being done to more than the nation's youth by the lyrics and sexual performances of the country's own internationally famous celebrity, Rihanna.
Her latest video, We Found Love, has now been banned from viewing before 10:00 pm by, of all European nations, France.
At the time of writing, and with at least a dozen arrests made, the security forces in Trinidad and Tobago were still engaged in round-the-clock investigations and a hunt for suspects linked to the uncovered plot to assassinate Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, her National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy, Attorney General Annan Ramlogan and Foreign Affairs Minister Suruj Ramjattan.
The prime minister herself has already stated that she was not surprised to be advised on the assassination plot, which she deemed as "an act of treason" and associated with her Government's decision to place the nation under a state of emergency, the more pressing curfew dimension of which was recently terminated.
Whatever the coming developments, the uncovered assassination plot against a head of government and a trio of Cabinet ministers is the first of this kind of very unnerving criminal politicking which could also raise serious concerns for other Caribbean Community nations with their challenging mix of divisive and unconventional politics, narco-trafficking and criminal violence.
ELECTIONS: Both in Guyana and St Lucia, on the other hand, the mood is focused on tomorrow's parliamentary elections with the respective incumbents -- PPP/C and the United Workers' Party (UWP) -- showing confidence of retaining control of state power in the face of strong challenges from their opponents.
In Guyana, the private sector and labour movement have called for tomorrow to be declared a national holiday -- as was the case at the August 2006 elections -- though there are dissenting voices that point to this again impacting negatively on overall voter turnout. But the Government has decided in favour of a national holiday. The latest NACTA poll predicts a decisive win for the PPP/C.
Across in St Lucia, Prime Minister Stephenson King was on a collision course with the local bar association for his surprising criticism of a judge of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court for ruling against the transfer, about two years ago, of the then Police Commissioner Ausbert Regis to the Prime Minister's Office as Director of 'Special Initiatives'.
His first-term administration is also under intense pressure from the Opposition St Lucia Labour Party to account for millions of dollars in political funding from Taiwan, one of the crucial issues during the campaign. Prime Minister King is also faced with the Labour Party of former Prime Minister Kenny Anthony showing much confidence, based partly on an opinion poll, for a return to government.
Meanwhile, Jamaica remains in election mode, though by last week it was becoming increasingly unlikely that an earlier anticipated pre-Christmas poll may not now be realised before early next year.
However, in sharp contrast to the mood of election politics in Jamaica, Guyana and St Lucia, and the sensational claim of an assassination plot in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados is focused on sensitive lifestyle issues.
Barbados will mark its 45th anniversary of political independence on Wednesday this week, amid some rather stirring and controversial, statements and comments pertaining to moral uprightness, homosexuality, spirituality as well as the age of sexual consent for teenagers and visitations to doctors -- the latter without prior parental approval.
The growing concerns over the range of issues, as being reported with varying emphases by the media, point to a nation engaged in critical self-examination about lifestyles and declining social mores that could further weaken the fabric of this Caribbean Community state, long reputed for its commitment to established Christian values and family life.
In the interesting mix and commanding, as expected, more headlines than others, is the 23-year-old Rihanna, whose credential as an official roving ambassador of her native Barbados has been coming under increasing criticisms for the "bad messages" she keeps sending -- particularly to youth -- with her gyrating and sexually suggestive performances in the marketing of her albums, the latest of six being Talk That Talk.
Last Sunday, a leading Barbadian pastor, Bishop Dr Marlon Husbands, speaking at a service to launch the official Independence anniversary celebrations, organised by the governing Democratic Labour Party (DLP), unleashed a stinging verbal blast against Rihanna, whom he accused of "always doing foolishness" and "unworthy" of being an ambassador of this nation.
"The bishop also decried "the level of indiscipline, immorality and homosexuality in the country". While I consider myself liberal in my thinking on fundamental social and cultural issues, my immediate family members have long come to be aware that I do not consider Rihanna an admirable role model for the youth of this Caribbean region.
I am not asking others to agree with me, though I hope my own grandchildren would see the serious flaws of a beautiful and wealthy pop star who is proud to sing, rather mockingly, "good girl gone bad".
Then, apart from the controversy over homosexuality — a long recognised lifestyle for which Barbados is known — a conflict has now arisen over the age of consent by teenage girls and when they should be able to make visits to doctors without prior permission of parents or guardians.
While still struggling to effectively cope with lingering controversies over management of the country's health sector and the state-run Queen Elizabeth Hospital in particular, minister of health Donville Inniss has chosen to become actively involved in promoting arrangements for teenagers to make visits to doctors and seek medical care without their parents' permission. He said he will discuss the issue with the attorney general and minister of family, youth, culture and sports, among others.
However, within three days of Inniss' stated position, president of the National Council of Parent-Teachers' Associations Rhonda Blackman was advocating that the age of sexual consent be legally raised to 18. This should also be made applicable, she feels, for the right to visit doctors for medical care without parental permission.
And so the debates continue on a range of sensitive lifestyle issues as Barbados faces up to its varied social, cultural and economic problems and challenges, beyond celebrations marking its 45th Independence anniversary.
For now, we await the results of the intense probe into the uncovered plots to kill Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar and three of her ministerial colleagues; the outcome of elections in Guyana and St Lucia; and for Prime Minister Andrew Holness to ring the bell for Jamaica's now inevitable early poll in 2012.
Meanwhile, in this week of Barbados' 45th Independence Anniversary, Barbadians will continue to concern themselves with vexing lifestyle matters that further threaten moral and spiritual decline.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Caribbean Blog International
|November 28, 2011 | 11:03 PM
Bahamas: With a general election on the horizon, it is past due for Bahamian voters to cease the practice of electing visionless politicians merely on the basis of personality and flair
Related to country: Bahamas
Asking for Accountability
By ADRIAN GIBSON
Over time, it appears that we have been repeatedly electing certain politicians who are outright pinheads and tin men, full of childish braggadocio but devoid of a national plan or any appreciable outlook for the country. For far too long, local politics has been dominated by parochial figures who cannot see beyond their backyards.
With a general election on the horizon, it is past due for Bahamian voters to cease the practice of electing visionless politicians merely on the basis of personality and flair. In our country, an electoral mechanism should be implemented to remove elected legislative members who sometimes are found to be inept benchwarmers.
Frankly, many of today’s politicians—as in yesteryear—fancy themselves to be among an unaccountable elite. After a general election, a number of locally elected politicians have been known to adopt an air of master-like superiority, suddenly becoming scarce and indifferent or unproductive and unconcerned about representing the interests of their constituents while seemingly disregarding the notion that they are servants/agents of the people. No doubt, with an election bell about to toll—to use the words of the multitalented architect Pat Rahming— politicians will be “comin’ out of the woodwork just like worm.”
A process must be instituted to make politicians directly answerable to their constituents in the years between general elections, rather than the current setup where a lousy MP could “live fat of the hog” for five years.
Isn’t it perplexing how certain constituencies remain undeveloped, yet they adopt some form of political tribalism and consistently vote one way every election cycle?
An electoral recall is a political device that would undoubtedly be a valuable check on the power of venal, self-serving public office holders, from the local administrative units to the central government. It would perhaps eliminate the notion of a safe constituency/seat, increase an MP’s accountability and empower Bahamians to rid their constituencies of certain politicians who may be nothing more than lying hypocrites. It is nearly impossible to give any local politician the heave-ho before the end of their five year term!
Furthermore, going forward the Bahamas’ constitution should be modified to limit a politician’s parliamentary stay (elected) to three consecutive/inconsecutive terms, particularly since many politicians have stayed beyond their “best before” (expiry) date and appear to have abused the parliamentary process while stifling the rise of young up-and-comers who may possess new ideas. Moreover, if a formerly elected (or unelected) politician loses his/a seat twice, back-to-back, he should not be allowed to run for a third time in that or another constituency.
Similar to the US presidential term limits, a prime minister—like an MP—should be limited to two five-year terms and the leader of a party should emerge from transparent, democratic primaries.
Relative to electoral recalls, any politician who displays a lack of fitness, engages in an act of malfeasance or misconduct while in office, violates their oath of office, neglects his/her duties, willfully misuses, misappropriates or converts public funds or property associated with their elected/appointed office, is convicted of a felony and/or is corrupt or incompetent, should face the electorate in an emergency, US-style recall election.
In about 36 US states (examples being California, Georgia, Washington, Michigan, Colorado, New Jersey, etc) recall elections are held at the state and/or local administrative levels—from city councils and school boards to state governors.
When petitioning for a recall election, at least 45-55 per cent of the eligible voters casting ballots in a constituency during the last general election should be accounted for.
Moreover, the signature requirement for the recall of district officers such as chief councilors and local government representatives on the Family Islands should be 20-25 per cent of the residents in the settlement that they represent.
Once a recall petition is certified, a special by-election should immediately be called, with a slate of new candidates—and possibly the incumbent—seeking election to the newly vacant post.
California voters have attempted to have 32 gubernatorial recalls since 1911, with only the much-publicized 2003 recall of former Governor Gray Davis actually reaching the ballot. According to CNN, in a most “surreal” campaign Californians elected movie/body building celebrity Arnold Schwarzenegger over 134 candidates to replace Davis as governor. Mr Davis had been recalled after he was seen to have mismanaged the state budget.
In 1921, former North Dakota governor Lynn J. Frazier, along with his attorney general and commissioner of agriculture, was removed from office. Arizona voters also attempted to recall former Governor Evan Mecham in 1988, but he was impeached by the House of Representatives before that election date.
While opponents of recalls may claim that they may prohibit unpopular decisions from being made, the notion of majoritism that works for our five-year election cycles should also apply for a system of recall.
In bolstering their democratic ideals, the New Jersey state constitution addresses recalls by stating:
“The people reserve unto themselves the power to recall, after at least one year of service, any elected official in this State or representing this State in the United States Congress. The Legislature shall enact laws to provide for such recall elections. Any such laws shall include a provision that a recall election shall be held upon petition of at least 25% of the registered voters in the electoral district of the official sought to be recalled.”
Article 72 of the 1999 Constitution of Venezuela allows for the recall of elected representatives—inclusive of the President. In 2004, a recall referendum was undertaken to recall President Hugo Chavez. The citizens of Venezuela decided to retain his services!
Amending the Constitution to include articles on electoral recalls, term limits and electoral primaries would make local politicians more accountable, knowing that their election to public office is subject to revocation, and be demonstrative of the ideals of direct democracy where Bahamians would have a greater sense of choice and trust in our democratic institutions.
If such an amendment does materialize, it should be set out that any MP being targeted for recall ought to be allowed to respond after which time the Speaker of the House of Assembly should publicly declare the petition and forecast an impending by-election.
Nick Clegg, the British Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, has severely criticized the “gentlemen’s club” world of Westminster politics.
In the Bahamas, there appears to be a “gentlemen’s club” as certain unaccountable MPs/politicians are suspected of having a conflict of interest while misusing public funds or making politically and financially expedient decisions, however, there is no prosecution or impeachment of elected, central government representatives. Is there hushed, protectionist code between elected politicians?
Elected politicians should also be subjected to impeachment proceedings, which is a legal process whereby the House can bring changes against an MP with the Senate serving jury.
However, with the current good ol’ boys network, hell would probably freeze over before this or a recall mechanism is adopted! That is, unless the people rise up and demand it.
Real representative government is that where politicians elected by the people truly represent their constituents, monitor spending of public funds, vigorously debate issues rather than the foolishness about who has sweethearts or is are homosexuals, make decisions that are in the best interest of the nation and monitor the actions of government.
If I conducted a check—and I have and will release my findings at a later date—how many constituency offices have been consistently operational from 2007 to now? How many MPs kept in touch with, and listened to, their constituents in the years preceding the upcoming general election?
MORE QUESTIONS FOR THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL ALLIANCE!
How was the DNA leader elected or selected? Was it a transparent process or did Mr McCartney form the party and automatically assume the leadership? If so, could he be held to have been democratically elected as leader? What was the process, I genuinely would like to know…..and so would the Bahamian people.
Lets be real, what was the thrust behind the formation of the DNA? Was it the betterment of the country as a whole; was it due to Mr McCartney perhaps having a bruised ego and/or could it possibly be seen as an expression of anti-Ingraham sentiment on the part of its leader? Could be possibly be viewed as a political organ with the intent of throwing “politically hot grits” into the political face—Hubert Ingraham— and electoral hopes of the FNM?
Moreover, can all the major political parties—FNM, PLP and the newly birthed DNA—speak to the selection process for its candidates?
Don’t get me wrong, I have no bones to pick with Branville McCartney or the DNA. I support young people and I have an appreciation for Mr McCartney’s political will and his willingness to stand on his own. Frankly, it proves that he has the gumption to step out of his comfort zone—the FNM—and shows that he’s a superb organizer and has the ability to rally the masses—at least at this point. That said, I’m really curious about the DNA, especially since I know much more about the vastly recorded history of the two major political parties and I believe that the Bahamian electorate should know as much as possible about the DNA to make fair decisions about the country’s direction. Whilst I note that the DNA has taken a stance on issues such as immigration and the economy, my conversations with registered voters reveal that they are yearning to hear something new, something innovative, something different from the DNA.
Will the DNA deliver?
|November 26, 2011 | 2:20 PM
Join Volunteer Bahamas and make a difference... We can assure you that you will never regret it
Related to country: Bahamas
Volunteer Bahamas - get involved
Nassau, The Bahamas
LAST night, in the ballroom of the Sheraton Nassau Beach hotel, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham officially launched the Government's Volunteer programme -- a call to all Bahamians to give of their time and talents to help create "safer, healthier and more non-violent communities".
"While Government has an essential role in society," he told his listeners, "it is no substitute for the personal responsibility required for good family life and avoiding criminal and anti-social behaviour."
He pointed out that government was not a replacement for civil society. "This is why," he said, "Government alone cannot fully address matters such as criminality, incivility and anti-social behaviour."
He emphasised that it is the "citizenry acting individually and sometimes collectively, through families, churches, service clubs, schools, Lodges, foundations, businesses and other private groups in collaboration with Government can cause renewal of community life, combat the negative influences harmful to and destructive of our communities and assist in our return to good old traditional Bahamian values like respect for our elders".
He said that community service programmes have been introduced in all of government's junior and secondary schools to make certain that every government school child will have been engaged in "a service-learning experience".
He said that to support social entrepreneurs and community leaders who are "engaged in innovative and effective youth and urban outreach programmes", government will provide a small grant. He said that "the amount of funds available may be increased depending on the needs and available resources".
Mr Ingraham talked of the joy of giving. The satisfaction of seeing someone else succeed as a result of the helping hand that you have extended.
This week, American journalist and TV personality Meredith Vieira was asked by Piers Morgan of CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight Show to recall a moment in her long career that was the most memorable. She thought for a moment and then told the story of a little boy -- about 6 or 7 years old -- who she found in a run-down tenement building. His father had walked out on the family, the mother was high on drugs, and here was this little man at this tender age determined to succeed on his own. So impressed was she by the spirit in this little body that she befriended the child. She did not go into details of what help she might have given him. But over the years, he telephoned her regularly and wherever she was, his calls were always put through by her staff. Today, he holds down a responsible government job. And in her long, exciting and varied career, this little boy, now grown to manhood, is one of her most cherished memories. It is the moment -- among her life's many moments - that gives her the most satisfaction.
We know just how she feels. Our life's work has been trying to give the voiceless a voice through their newspaper. We have written much, we have listened even more to the misfortunes of others, we have done our best to encourage young people to aim for the stars, but what gives us the most satisfaction is to be stopped on the street, or in the foodstore, by an obviously successful citizen, whose face we no longer remember, and asked: "Do you remember me? You know I started as a paper boy at The Tribune." This opening would be followed by the recounting of many happy memories when Tribune boys were then a part of the family.
"Mum, you know your (name deleted) could not do that! I could never let you down," a young man told us this week. He had had a bad break in life. He went through a period that would have broken the strongest of men. But we believed in him, we stuck by him, and gave him as much encouragement as we could. Today he is a successful young businessman -- one of our many "sons".
Today, as we look around, we see the many "boys" who passed through The Tribune holding important positions in the community -- all respected gentlemen.
If nothing else, this has made life worth living.
If Bahamians want to have a "safer, healthier and more non-violent" community -- and also the satisfaction of being a part of the solution and not of the problem - then join Volunteer Bahamas and make a difference. We can assure you that you will never regret it.
November 23, 2011
<<<Register for Volunteer Bahamas>>>
Caribbean Blog International
|November 24, 2011 | 7:17 AM
Guatemalans are invading Belize and now is the time to take the matter seriously
Related to country: Belize
By Wellington C. Ramos
As a citizen of Belize, it is hard for me to read the news to know that the citizens from Guatemala have been constantly crossing the Guatemalan border at will for years now to cut logwood, rosewood, mahogany and take out other natural resources from our country as if Belize belongs to them, and our government and people are just sitting idly by and taking this abuse and do nothing.
Plus, they have been crossing the border for years, coming into Belize to squat on private and government lands to create new villages and settlements and we must wait for years before we can remove them from our territory. This is a new concept that is taking place that can be described as “Population Invasion”.
No Belizean can cross the Guatemalan border to do what the Guatemalans are currently doing in our country; otherwise they would be shot and killed that same day by the Guatemalan military.
A Guatemalan citizen, despite the fact that he or she was born in Guatemala, cannot even think about doing the things they are doing in Belize in their own country because they would suffer the same fate like Belizeans who trespass on Guatemalan soil. This is the reason why Guatemalans and other citizens from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and the other Central American Republics, choose to come to Belize and live.
While they are getting away with this, thousands of Belizeans have been putting in their applications to own lots and farmlands in Belize but have gotten none. Belizeans in the United States and in Belize have been watching the unfair treatment of native Belizeans for years now and their patience is running thin. Some black Belizeans are afraid to raise this issue because they do not want to be accused of being racist towards Latin Belizeans. The Latin Belizeans are quiet about this issue, which makes many black Belizeans believe that they condone this type of behaviour from their Latin brothers and sisters from the neighbouring Central American countries.
In the last twenty years, the Latin population has grown tremendously and has surpassed the black population by many percentages as was revealed in the last census report. This will give the Latin population a big advantage over the black people in political, economic and social power.
Many black people have left and continue to leave Belize because they do not see this situation getting better but worse. At the trend this population is growing, in the next twenty years black people might only number about 15% of the population.
The only way to counter this population imbalance is to bring in people of African descent from other countries to balance this population. Knowing my people, I would not be surprised to see that some black Belizeans might be against this proposal.
Another plan would be to have a program for black Belizeans living in the Diaspora to go back home and live by providing them with some incentives. Economic conditions facing black people are the main cause for them leaving Belize to come to the United States. Statistics have confirmed that poverty is higher among the Garifunas and the Creoles, the two largest black ethnic groups in Belize.
While the blacks are leaving, the other ethnic groups and people from other countries are coming to Belize and they are planning to take advantage of the land opportunities that the Belizean citizens are being deprived of. It is in the best interest of this government to make lots and lands available to the black people in Belize to stabilize the population and decrease this disparity that currently exists between the ethnic groups.
The Guatemalan government will not do anything to their citizens who are invading Belize because it works to their advantage. When their citizens leave for Belize, more land becomes available to the wealthy families who own and control Guatemala.
Belizeans, Latin and black alike, must realize that, if Guatemalans continue to come to live in Belize, their lives will not be the same because we have already seen some changes in the political, social and economic relations among the various ethnic groups in our country.
Belize must create a plan to address this crisis immediately. This issue will require holding the Guatemalan government accountable for allowing their citizens to freely move back and forth across the border to be constantly engaged in illegal activities.
Also, to lift the freeze on the amount of forces Belize can have to patrol its borders and add about ten thousand more soldiers along that border in the Chiquibul Forest region. The United States government can be of great assistance to Belize because they have a vested interest in the region. Belize does not have the resources to combat this problem by itself and will need foreign assistance. If we cannot do the job by ourselves, we should be appreciative of the countries that are coming into our country to get the problem resolved.
These people are criminals that are engaged in a criminal activity daily. Yet, their illegal actions are affecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all Belizeans. I now call on our fellow comrades who are patriotic to our country, to take this matter seriously before the Guatemalan population invasion takes its toll on our beloved country Belize.
November 23, 2011
|November 23, 2011 | 3:20 PM
Bahamas: AIDS remains a leading cause of death among Bahamians aged 25 to 44 years old
Related to country: Bahamas
AIDS STILL A MAJOR CAUSE OF DEATHS
By CELESTE NIXON
Tribune Staff Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas
DESPITE advances over the past several years AIDS remains a leading cause of death among Bahamians aged 25 to 44 years old, the prime minister said.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham opened the first Caribbean HIV Conference this weekend to discuss the multi-faceted issues facing the region's battle to combat the disease.
Under the theme: "Strengthening Evidence to Achieve Sustainable Action", Mr Ingraham said the Bahamas was pleased to host the regional collaborative effort of the 2011 Caribbean HIV Conference.
"While there has been a decline in new cases," he said, "and a major reduction in mother-to-child transmission and decreasing mortality, AIDS remains a leading cause of death."
According to Mr Ingraham, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) was first recognised in the US in 1981. The first case of AIDS was reported in the Caribbean and in the Bahamas nearly 30 years ago.
Giving an update on the treatment of AIDS in the Bahamas, Mr Ingraham said research into the disease has paved the way for medical advances such as the antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and the generic ARVs that are available and funded by the Bahamas Government for residents through partnerships with international organisations.
He said regardless of immigration status individuals afflicted with the disease are provided with treatment, which includes clinical care and support, diagnostic testing and treatment.
"Sustainable high quality prevention, treatment, care and support services that are accessible by all residents of the Bahamas living with, or affected by, HIV/AIDS regardless of legal status or ability to pay" is the basic mission of the National HIV/AIDS programme in the Bahamas, he said.
Antenatal care and treatment has been important in preventing mother to child transmission, said Mr Ingraham. This, he said, led to no babies being detected with the transmission of HIV from infected mothers in the Bahamas last year.
"The Ministry of Health has been proactive in reaching persons at risk for HIV infection, but there are still significant challenges in accessing vulnerable and at risk individuals for diagnosis, care and treatment," he said.
The Prime Minister said HIV/AIDS infected persons continue to be stigmatised and descriminated against, even as progress has been made. He added that further steps must be made to defuse fears associated with the disease.
"The Bahamas has been a leader in developing legislation to protect the rights of minorities and others living with HIV," said Mr Ingraham. "In 1991, the Bahamas decriminalised homosexuality between consenting adults and was the only Caribbean country to sign the Paris Declaration in 1994 which set global standards for HIV and human rights."
Further, Mr Ingraham said the Bahamas has passed legislation strengthening protection against workplace discrimination for persons infected with HIV.
"Despite the fact that the rate of new HIV infections has slowed and prevalence rates have levelled off globally, the total number of people living with HIV continues to rise," said Mr Ingraham.
He said there are still significant challenges in "accessing vulnerable and at risk individuals for diagnosis, care and treatment".
November 21, 2011
Caribbean Blog International
|November 21, 2011 | 10:31 PM
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