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ELCOTT COLEBY REVIEW

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cialis generic treat times;”>IMMIGRATION DEPT RESPONDS TO WEB DISINFORMATION

viagra viagra times;”>In last week’s commentary, I reported on several vessels interdicted in Bahamian waters transporting illegal immigrants, specifically at Barre Tarre Exuma.

 

Well, in a race against time and with limited resources on this family island, immigration officers transported the migrants from the landing point to the relative safety of an auditorium in Ramsay Exuma, some thirty-five minutes away, before transport to Nassau via a Royal Bahamas Defence Force patrol vessel for further processing. If the 119 migrants were not removed to relative safety before night fall, that would have created additional safety and security risks for both the officers and the migrants.

 

In the age and culture of social media, someone photographed the transport operations and the photograph of migrants sitting on a detached flatbed trailer with a removable screened metal tailgate later appeared on social media. Immediately the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association issued a press statement, referred to the image in their statement and accusing the Bahamas government of treating illegal migrants like “caged animals” and inhumanely.

 

The Department of Immigration quickly responded, pointing out that the construction being given to the photo by “those who are seeking to sabotage the policy of the Department is that somehow the migrants were being mistreated and being held in inhumane conditions. That is a false and malicious construction of events. The photo and comments appear designed to defame the Department” said the department in a press statement 

 

“The people in the photo” continued the statement, “were sitting on the back of a flatbed transport or trailer with an open end at the back of the trailer secured by a removable metal tailgate. The trailer was used to ferry the individuals from where they landed in Exuma to the holding facility the E C McKenzie auditorium in Ramsay, Exuma.” 

 

The migrants were held at that auditorium overnight before transport by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force to Nassau. “At no time was any person under the care or supervision of the Department of Immigration kept in inhumane conditions” concluded the statement.

 

 

JUNKANOO PARADE MIRED IN CONTROVERSY

First the winner of the Boxing Day Junkanoo Parade were the Shell Saxons Superstars with 86.17 points  followed by Roots, One Family and the Valley Boys to round out the top four in the “A” Group category. The fourth place Valley Boys were penalized a whopping 10 penalty points

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. This was Saturday, the 27th December 2014.

 

Later that day the amended and final parade results placed One Family as the overall winner with the Saxons placing second, Roots third and the Valley Boys remaining in fourth place. It was also reported that the Junkanoo Commission of New Providence (JCNP) convened an emergency meeting to address the controversy, public anger and rancor emanating from the parade results inclusive of excessive delays.

 

Coming out of the meeting was a decision to reduce the number of laps from three to one total lap for the New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parade – one on Bay Street and one on Shirley Street for the larger “A” Groups. This decision was intended to shorten the parade and it drew angry responses from the two major Junkanoo groups, the Valley Boys and the Saxons. During the vote, the Valley Boys abstained and representatives from the Shell Saxons Superstars did not bother to attend the meeting to cast a vote.

 

Groups voting in favour of the reduced laps were One Family, the Prodigal Sons, the Music Makers and Roots. Bahamians can look forward to more debate on this parade through all of 2015.

 

 

GOVERNMENT RESPONDS TO MORE WEB DISINFORMATION

The image of a floating oil rig appeared on social media which prompted more inflammatory commentary and baseless accusations against the government to the effect that the government is somehow secretly drilling for oil and “lied to the Bahamian people.”  

 

This prompted the following response from acting Environment Minister Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald on Monday, 29thDecember:

 

“The government of The Bahamas notes the image of a floating oil rig that appeared on social media and in the dailies allegedly spotted off the northern shores of North Abaco and the associated commentary.

It is important to note the given the strategic location of our chain of islands and the vast area of ocean that it covers, thousands of merchant ships, oil tankers and pleasure crafts pass through Bahamian waters annually.

The fact is that the Bahamas government has not contracted, approved or commissioned oil drilling operations within the territorial waters on The Bahamas. This is regarded by the government as another routine passage of a sea going vessel through Bahamian waters.

The record clearly shows that this government has always been frank and transparent with the Bahamian people on the issue of oil drilling in The Bahamas. We promised to table legislation and attendant regulations to govern the exploration of oil in The Bahamas and we did. Debate on the compendium of bills currently before parliament will continue when the House reconvenes in January 2015.

There is no need for anybody to rush to judgment based on conjecture, speculation and mischief. The general public will be duly advised each step of the way as the country progresses through the various stages of this landmark and potentially transformational policy initiative as part of the government’s promised national energy reform efforts.”

The marine tracking website placed the rig some ten miles southeast of the southeastern tip of Abaco. Turned out that the rig, owned by Transocean, was under a two year contract with a firm out of Angola, Africa to provide in transit bunkering services and the rig was on its way to Angola.

 

FORMER BEC CHAIR CALLS FOR “BRIBERY PROBE”

J. Barrie Farrington, the former chairman of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) was again in the news this week expressing outrage that there was a “traitor in our midst” who accepted $300,000 in bribes from a French energy company in exchange for a contract to purchase diesel engines for the BEC power plant.

 

“I am outraged that an official could criminally manipulate the system for personal gain” said Mr. Farrington referring to a US federal court ruling on 22nd December where Alstom was ordered to pay more than $772 million in a plea bargain. He insisted that the guilty party must be revealed and “made to pay a price for this unforgivable transgression.”

 

Claiming that this person brought shame upon the BEC board and the country, Mr. Farrington went further, revealing that he was writing to the Prime Minister to request the appointment of a non-partisan commission to look into this matter.

 

“In the process this person brought shame upon our country and its people, as well as on the members of the board who served faithfully during their time.

 

“This matter must be pursued relentlessly” continued Mr. Farrington. “I am today (29th Dec) writing to the Prime Minister to request an appointment of a non-partisan commission with all essential powers to fully investigate this matter and to make recommendations on how to bring conclusion to this unwanted stain on the country’s reputation.”       

 

Alstom pleaded guilty to charges of widespread corruption totaling tens of millions of dollars in bribes to officials in countries around the world including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and The Bahamas.

 

 

 

GOVERNMENT OFFERS CONDOLENCES ON AIRASIA QZ8501 CRASH

In a statement released on Tuesday, 30th December, the government of The Bahamas joined the world community in expressing its condolences and profound regret to the government and people of Indonesia at the loss of life in the tragedy involving the crash of Airasia flight QZ8501 between the Indonesian city of Surabaya and Singapore.

 

The statement indicated that the government also communicated its regret to the government of Indonesia via diplomatic note.  

 

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the government and people of Indonesia and all other countries that suffered losses at this very difficult time as they come to grips with this unspeakable tragedy” concluded the statement.

  

 

IMMIGRATION DEPT BROUGHT ASSAULT CHARGES

Dahene Nonord, a nineteen year old female, was charged on Tuesday of this week before Magistrate Samuel McKinney in Magistrate’s Court #1 on South Street with assaulting immigration officer Avia Beckford and obstruction of justice as the officer was acting in the execution of her official duties.

She pleaded not guilty and was granted $3500 bail with one surety. The case was adjourned to 2nd February 2015in court #6 before Magistrate Carolyn Vogt-Evans.

After the ruling her attorney Fred Smith told the media that “Dahene Nonord is a feisty little lady who is standing up for her rights as a Bahamian citizen and she has every right to walk anywhere in The Bahamas freely, just like you and I.”

Well, there is at least one material inaccuracy in the jurist’s statement to the press. Ms. Nonord was born in The Bahamas to Haitian parents. Under the Bahamian constitution, she is a Haitian, not a Bahamian, but is eligible to apply for Bahamian citizenship between her 18th and 19th birthdays. If she or anybody is stopped and questioned by an officer of the law, they are required by law to cooperate with the officer. It is unlawful to obstruct an officer from executing his or her official duties. I sensed leniency on the part of the prosecution who did not object to the granting of bail which they could have in light of her legal status.

 

 

 

IT WAS THE VALLEY BOYS ON NEW YEARS MORNING

The Valley Boys, fourth place finishers in the Boxing Day Junkanoo Parade after being assessed ten penalty points, came storming back to take top honours in the New Year’s Day Junkanoo parade with 90.02 points (out of a possible 100 pts.). They also won best Shirley Street performance. Rounding out the top four were second place finishers One Family, winners of the Boxing Day parade, third place went to Roots and fourth were the Shell Saxons Superstars.

 

VALUE ADDED TAX (VAT) NOW LAW OF THE LAND

After some two years of preparation, Value-Added Tax (VAT) became the law on New Year’s Day with Prime Minister Christie expressing confidence that the government is ready for VAT, ready to address concerns relating thereto and predicted that the overall impact will not be as bad as some are making it out to be. However, private sector cooperation was very important as VAT is a significant policy initiative to raise revenue for the country.

 

“VAT exists, we are prepared, we are ready for it – we continue to deal with any issues, any concerns and you will find that it’s not going to be as bad as some people are trying to make it out to be and therefore I expect us to continue to have the private sector cooperate with us moving forward because this is intended to be a very significant intervention in raising revenue for the country” said the Prime Minister.

State Minister for Finance, Hon. Michael Halkitis weighed in on the challenges and concerns that were brought to light on the first day of VAT implementation.

 “…we heard about a few concerns, about some businesses maybe not having, not charging (VAT), but we have alerted the compliance department who will be doing some spot checks to make sure that all businesses are compliant. But so far no major hiccups which is expected because as you know we have had extensive engagements with the business community.”

As for the consumers, their reactions were mixed with some conceding that the new tax was necessary to defray the increasing costs of government to those who wanted to see an increase in their salary to offset the impact of VAT.         

 

BREAKOUT AT DETENTION CENTER

The Department of Immigration released a statement earlier today (Friday, 2nd January) advising of a breakout at the Carmichael Road Detention Center.

 

According to the statement, the breakout took place during the late hours of Thursday 1st January where one Haitian male escaped lawful custody and remain at large. A search operation has been mounted to secure his capture and return to the Centre.

“A (second) man also Haitian” said the statement, “believed and suspected to be an accomplice on the outside of the facility, and who is alleged to have obstructed the efforts to apprehend the escapee, was injured when he was hit by rubber bullets used to prevent the breach. He was subsequently detained. He was taken to the hospital for emergency care, treated and discharged. He is presently detained at the Centre.”

The Department advised that it will keep the public informed as information on this matter becomes available.

 

IN PASSING…

Her Excellency Giulia Borghese, the Ambassador of the Republic of San Marino and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, bid farewell to colleagues at the brief ceremony and reception on Tuesday, 30th December at 1 Er Cru Gardens on Gladstone Road. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Philip Miller performed the ceremony in place of the Foreign Minister, Fred Mitchell who was out of town on official business.

 

Broadcaster Steve McKinney will interview Bahamas Prime Minister the Rt. Honourable Perry G. Christie on “STATE OF AFFAIRS” today (Friday), 2nd January 2014. The Prime Minister’s New Year’s message will be aired at 8pm on Friday, 2nd January on ZNS TV 13 and 104.5 FM radio.     

 

 

The public is advised that a delegation headed by the Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell and including security officials will hold meetings throughout the island of Abaco over the coming weekend. The purpose of the meeting is to advise the leaders of the Abaco community about the new immigration measures and of the fact that there will be more intense immigration checks in Abaco in the coming months.