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THIS WEEK CONTINUED

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tadalafil times;”>Commenting on the Disabilities Act, Social Services and Community Development Minister the Hon. Melanie Griffin revealed that proprietors of all buildings which the public is permitted to enter – banks, supermarkets, churches, schools, sporting complexes, government facilities and medical centers, for example – have until June 30, 2016 to ensure that there are adequate accessible parking spaces for person; “enforcement action” will be taken after December 31, 2017.

The Minister updated the House on the corrective measures being taken to mitigate fraud at the department and touted the reform in the welfare system with the R.I.S.E. program and the consolidated assistance program to include uniform and housing assistance in addition to food assistance.

Minister Griffin also foreshadowed construction on a multimillion facility for adults with special needs to be located on Gladstone Road.

State Minister for Finance Hon. Michael Halkitis responded to Central Grand Bahama MP the Hon. Neko Grant’s inquiry about a $30 million increase in government subvention to Bahamasair beyond the $14.8 million approved by Parliament in the 2015/2016 budget cycle. Halkitis told the House that the seeming $30M increase in Bahamasair’s subsidy was in fact an ‘advance’ to enable the National Airline to purchase its new fleet, which was subsequently repaid to the public treasury upon approval of the loan.

Tall Pines MP the Hon. Leslie Miller lashed out at some unions, accusing them of greed and likening those unionists to “greedy hogs” as he decried the amount of money spent on salaries and benefits at government run corporations. Mr. Miller, Chairman at the Water and Sewerage (WSC), appealed for union representatives and their members to consider the country’s fiscal challenges and plans for national development, characterizing the status quo as unsustainable and “criminal.”

Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner outlined how a ‘new” and “unified” FNM will address national issues such as crime, promote education, and engage members opposite.

Central Grand Bahama MP Neko Grant complained about the fee schedule of a certain bank in The Bahamas, calling the $10.75 charge for non-RBC account-holder to cash a check drawn on another bank “offensive.” He also asked for details on how the $12 million allocated for BAMSI will be spent.

Updating the House on the findings of a recent audit report from the office of the Auditor General on the operations of the Road Traffic Department, Transport and Aviation Minister the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin told House colleagues that the Auditor-General’s findings of multi-million dollar losses at the Road Traffic Department due to “collusion” and “fraud” have been turned over to the RBPF for investigation. She further stated that new “internal controls” have been implemented at the Department following the release of the report.

Addressing the longstanding issues at the General Post Office, Minister Hanna-Martin said she was pleased to announce that a new home was identified for that department – the old City Market in the now defunct Independence Shopping Center on the corner of Tonique Williams Highway and Blue Hill Road. She also outlined a number of “fundamental reforms” to the General Post Office’s operations, inclusive of the planned launch of new products and services.

Minister of Education, Science and Technology the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald stressed the importance of increasing the number of high school graduates in The Bahamas and cited economic research that revealed several socio-economic challenges encountered by the under educated. He further explained that an important goal for his ministry is to increase the graduation rate from 50 percent, as it currently stands, to 85 percent by 2030 in The Bahamas.

He also foreshadowed the establishment of a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art School Management System that will afford educators among other features, the ability to track every student from pre-school to the 12th grade and allow educators to make “data driven” and informed decisions about the child’s education. This Simms Education Management Information System (EMIS) will come at a cost of over $5 million.

Fitzgerald also touted the Standardized Bahamas High School Diploma implemented in 2014. The first class of students under this program will graduate in June 2016.

The number of new scholarships awarded to Bahamian students by the Ministry of Education for international study grew from 425 in 2011 to 633 in 2015, an increase of 50%. The budgetary allocation for scholarships across the board grew from $7.75 million in 2011 to $9.5 million in 2015.

Debate continues in the House on Monday, 20th June 2016

PRIME MINISTER CHRISTIE OPENS CHILD AND ADOLESCENT TREATMENT CENTER
Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie commissioned the 35,000 square feet Child and Adolescent, Robert Smith and Special Education Complex on Monday of this week, calling the state of the art mental health facility a pivotal step in the country’s efforts to help children with behavioral and mental health issues.

Mr. Christie pointed out that additionally, his government has undertaken several initiatives in improving healthcare facilities and that the Health Systems Strengthening projects have been accelerated as part of the implementation of National Health Insurance (NHI).

This view was also expressed by the Minister of Health the Hon. Perry Gomez.

Funded by a loan from the National Insurance Board (NIB), the Hon. D. Shane Gibson, Minister of Labour and National Insurance told attendees that NIB has been able to bring to fruition, the visionary mandate to extend the country’s public health infrastructure in support of National Health Insurance.

The 92-bed facility that will also provide outpatient services will open its doors to prospective patients on Monday the 20th June 2016.

DAME ANITA ALLEN CALLS FOR MODERN MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE LAW
President of the Court of Appeal of The Bahamas, Dame Anita Allen, addressed the necessity for the country to modernize its outdated marriage and divorce laws to meet the changing needs of the society at the 8th Annual Eugene Dupuch Distinguished Lecture, Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at the British Colonial Hilton.

“I trust you will also now be satisfied that both the marriage act and the matrimonial causes act require amendment as noted; and moreover, that the present divorce regime should be replaced with a more modern form of family law which will result in more harmonious relationships between former spouses, and between them and their children,” she said.

The eminent Jurist also addressed the controversial same-sex marriage by pointing out that the judiciary is likely to face challenges in determining whether same sex marriages are legal in The Bahamas, while pointing to “difficulties” inherent in the existing marriage laws that do not present any provision that parties to a marriage must be exclusively male and female. Dame Allen said that, arguably, the laws of The Bahamas do not discriminate on the basis of sex and facilitate not only marriages of every description but also the consummation of the same.

The distinguished lecture was hosted by Eugene Dupuch Law School and Dupuch and Turnquest and Co. Chambers on the topics “The Law in a Changing Society: Reconstructing Marriage.”

DOMINICAN POACHERS FIRED ON BAHAMAS DEFENSE FORCE
The crew of Her Majesty’s Bahamian Ship (HMBS) Cascarilla was forced to return fire at a fishing vessel registered in the Dominican Republic at 8:00 p.m. Monday, June 13, 2016 after being fired upon (engaged) first by the crew of that vessel.

The Dominican vessel was suspected of poaching in Bahamian waters.

The details of the incident were revealed by National Security Minister the Hon. Bernard J. Nottage at a press conference on Tuesday at the Ministry’s headquarters. The Minister was accompanied by State Minister Sen. Keith Bell and Acting Commander of the Royal Bahamas Defense Force, Captain Tellis Bethel.

The incident reportedly took place near the Great Bahama Bank. No Defense Force personnel was injured during the exchange.

Captain Tellis Bethel, Commander of the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (Acting), said the Cascarilla’s crew followed the standard Rules of Engagement employed in these cases.

National Security officials say the incident occurred after the crew of the HMBS Cascarilla launched its sea boat in an attempt to board the Dominican vessel after receiving information from local fishermen in the area and confirmation from the Defense Force’s air assets that the crew of the fishing vessel was illegally fishing in Bahamian waters. The crew onboard the HMBS Cascarilla returned fire.

HMBS Cascarilla subsequently engaged the Dominican vessel in hot pursuit south of Cay Lobos near the southern limits of the Great Bahama Bank. The chase continued towards Cuban territorial waters. HMBS Cascarilla called off their pursuit once the vessel entered Cuban waters.

ENVIRONMENTAL MINISTER DORSETT TALKS PRE-PAID METRING
Environment and Housing Minister the Hon. Kenred Dorsett released a statement on Friday to reiterate the government’s energy policy on pre-paid metering, indicating that it will assist with energy conservation, reduce BPL’s receivables while improving the efficiency of reconnections to the benefit of all Bahamians.

“Pre-paid metering will assist with energy conservation, which is supported by global research. It can also reduce BPL’s accounts receivables and provide a less onerous and efficient re-connection process which will benefit all Bahamians. It is for this that the Ministry of the Environment and Housing has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Carbon War Room, looking to deliver on the installation of pre-paid meters in a public rental unit as a pilot project.”

The Government and BPL have agreed on the roll out of this technology said Dorsett and he congratulated BTC for rolling out our pre-paid meters in Spanish Wells, calling it “another energy conservation tool.”

“Pre-paid meters will provide relief for many low income families across the country” said the Minister as he expressed his ministry’s commitment to working towards energy conservation and sustainable solutions for Bahamians “as we build a modern Bahamas.”

IN PASSING…
Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall was adamant yesterday that his department did not do a poor job in its handling of last week’s constitutional referendum despite the piecemeal release of results and apparent errors in figures identified by the media.

The official results of last Tuesday’s constitutional referendum show that in the entire Bahamas, only eight polling divisions – four of them in New Providence – had a majority vote on all four questions. The four New Providence polling stations were in St. Anne’s, Montagu and Elizabeth. The remaining four polling divisions were in Central and South Abaco, Exuma and Ragged Island, and Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins and Long Cay (MICAL).

Interpol’s cybercrime investigative course took place this week at the Paul Farquharson Conference Center. The course aims to equip regional law enforcement agencies with skills necessary to identify and address crimes perpetrated on cyber platforms.

There were various reactions to the spate of murders that claimed the lives of three men on Sunday, 12 June 2016. National Security Minister the Hon. Bernard J. Nottage said the incidents were “unusual” and said that crime was down compared to last year. Leader of the FNM Dr. Minnis accused the Government of not doing enough to combat crime in the country and charged that “crime is only getting worse” under the Christie administration. Bishop Simeon Hall called on the government to take draconian measures in order to “restore balance and order to the lives of everyday Bahamians.”

Following a record year in the murder count in 2015, the Nassau Guardian reported this week that as of 12th June 2016, murders were down 18 percent compared to the same period last year.

Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald confirmed that there would be more public consultation in Nassau on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) before the bill is brought to parliament.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its sympathy to the people of the United States and residents of Orlando, Florida, following a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in the city early Sunday morning.

DNA Leader Branville McCartney expressed openness to allowing homosexual couples to form civil unions, as opposed to marriage, so they could enjoy some of the rights that married couples do.

Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) is reportedly “really clamping” down on bill duckers who use their ‘connections’ to avoid paying, its chief executive this week giving the private sector the impression “there’s a new sheriff in town”.

BTC has won three international awards for innovation, excellence and best chief executive in the region. The 2016 Corporate Live Wire Innovation and Excellence Awards recognized Leon Williams as ‘Telecommunications CEO of the Year’. He was also recognized as Best Telecommunications CEO for the Caribbean, and most innovative CEO in The Bahamas by Business Worldwide.

Private sector executives including the Chamber of Commerce met with and reported a “frank and open” discussion with the BPL’s new CEO Ms. Pam Hill. They acknowledged that few details were revealed on BPL’s plan to reduce the cost of electricity and return BPL to profitability. The proposed rates hike was at the center of the discussion.

Government High School graduate Le’Andra Mackey has earned a $40,000 four-year scholarship to pursue post-secondary studies at COB and entry into the prestigious President’s Scholars Program as winner of the Tristar Education Optimization Program (TEOP).

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Hubert Chipman said this week that he will table the committee’s report on the Government’s Urban Renewal program after the budget debate in the House of Assembly.

In the wake of the Canadian travel advisory, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe told the media that all Bahamians should take the blame for the country’s “unacceptable” crime levels, which have sparked repeated visitor advisories. Wilchcombe said while the tourism economy continues to grow, the repeated advisories issued by other countries because of high levels of crime will eventually impact the success of the tourism market.

Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) announced “outage rotations” or rolling blackouts throughout New Providence in two hour intervals as the corporation continues to grapple with “generation challenges” at its power station.

The NHI Secretariat announced that it will host five town meetings on June 22 and June 23 in Acklins, Crooked Island, Freeport and Abaco. Members of the NHI Secretariat including Dr. Kevin Bowe, Deputy Director for NHI; Elizabeth Keju, NHI Consultant, Administration and Public Management of Change; and Damara Dillett, NHI legal consultant will facilitate the presentations and field questions from the audience.

Executive Director of the National Insurance Board Rowena Bethel confirmed that delays in processing claims for both short-term and long-term benefits will extend for another month at least, and that challenges with the transition from the old information technology system to the new $14 million-plus V3 system persist.

The Progressive Liberal Party ratified three incumbent members of Parliament to run on the party’s ticket in the 2017 general election at its monthly General Council meeting on Thursday. They are Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell, Southern Shores MP Kenred Dorsett and South Beach MP Cleola Hamilton.

Bahamas Foreign Minister the Hon. Fred Mitchell told the media that the government of the Dominican Republic has launched its own investigation into the recent shootout between RBDF marines on the HMBS Cascarilla and suspected Dominican poachers on Monday of this week. Mitchell addressed the OAS General Assembly on sustainable development this week in the Dominican Republic.

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) presented ‘Tru Tru Marketplace,’ an initiative designed to tie Bahamian manufacturers with hotel businesses, on Friday, June 17, 2016 at Atlantis Grand Ballroom. Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie delivered the keynote address and officially opened the event.

Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Perry Christie along with Minister of the Environment and Housing, Hon. Kenred Dorsett and Executive Chairman of the Bahamas Public Parks and Public Beaches Authority, Sen. Greg Burrows attended the graduation ceremony of the first group of lifeguard trained by the Bahamas Public Parks and Public Beaches Authority. These twelve young people received 25 hours of training in swimming and CPR techniques. Training for the lifeguards will continue on a monthly basis and it is expected that lifeguards will be initially stationed on public beaches around New Providence before the programme expand to the Family Islands.

Bahamas Governor General HE Dame Marguerite Pindling celebrated 60 years in public life with a reception at Government House on Friday 17th June 2016.