THIS WEEK CONTINUED…

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Prime Minister and Deputy among sixteen ratified by their party

It was a festive and jovial atmosphere on Thursday night at party headquarters as the governing Progressive Liberal Party ratified sixteen more candidates for the upcoming general elections.

Expressing confidence at the polls, Mr. Christie urged hundreds of supporters to ramp up voter registration efforts as the path will be clear towards the next general elections once the party emerges from its national convention next week. Also urging Bahamians to ramp up registration efforts were National Security Minister the Hon. Bernard J. Nottage and Labour Minister the Hon. D. Shane Gibson. Following is the list of sixteen ratified:

  • Mr. Perry G. Christie: Centerville
  • Mr. Philip Davis: Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador
  • Dr. Bernard Nottage: Bain and Grants Town
  • Mr. Obie Wilchcombe: West Grand Bahama and Bimini
  • Mr. Alfred Gray: MICAL
  • Ms. Glenys Hanna-Martin: Englerston
  • Mr. Shane Gibson: Golden Gates
  • Dr. Michael Darville: Pineridge
  • Dr. Perry Gomez: North Andros and the Berry Islands
  • Mr. Khaalis Rolle: Pinewood
  • Mr. Alex Storr: Elizabeth
  • Mr. Picewell Forbes: South Andros and Mangrove Cay
  • Ms. Reneika Knowles: Killarney
  • Rev. Preston Cooper: East Grand Bahama
  • Mr. Norris Bain: Marco City
  • Mr. Clay Sweeting: North Eleuthera

School brawl renews call for government tracking system

A brawl at the Government High School on Thursday resulted in one student detained in hospital in critical and two more were treated and later discharged. Parents were understandably outraged as they showed up to the school to check on and collect their children.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Stephen Dean told the media that police are still attached to the schools but cannot be everywhere at the same time.

Speaking mostly to Parliamentarians and Cabinet Ministers at the NGC meeting of the PLP on Thursday night, PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts expressed sadness at the level of murder and support for the families of the injured in the school melee. He called on the government to act with haste in establishing the school tracking and remediation component of the Citizen Security and Justice Initiative.

“Councilors, I am deeply saddened over the number of murders so far in 2017 generated mainly by young black men who have lost their way and senses. The event at the Government High School today was tragic and deeply troubling. The news of the incident travel fast and furious. On behalf of the PLP I extend support to the families of the victims as they struggle and travail to make sense of what occurred today.”

Mr. Roberts urged the government “to act with haste in the introduction of a new program for at-risk youth to be located at the former Bahamas Academy Seven Day Adventist School located on Wulff Road. This tracking and remediation system in addition to a comprehensive parole system – all part of the Citizens Security and Justice Program – will allow for better oversight and management of our at-risk youth and the reintroduction of ex-convicts into civil society.”  

Office of the Public Defender officially opens

“With the creation of this office, my government’s commitment to executing a multifaceted strategy in the fight against crime and to providing equal access to justice takes a critical step forward.” This according to Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie at the official opening of the Office of the Public Defender, located on the corners of Bay and Virginia Streets. The ceremony took place on Thursday, 19th January 2017.

Insisting that with a reported reduction in serious crime since 2004—a 26% decline; the concurrent operation of 10 criminal courts; a doubling of the rates of conviction and an increase in the amount of cases disposed of by the Supreme Court, the country is moving in the right direction in tackling crime.

“Today we stand at an intersection where, uniquely, a decrease in serious crimes, a rise in conviction rates and an increase in how swiftly we dispose of trials are all happening together. We are moving in the right direction.”

Mr. Christie said that his government has taken a “holistic approach to addressing the challenge of crime” and the opening of the Office of the Public Defender is a part of this strategy where the poor can access legal representation, ensuring their constitutional rights under the law.

Attorney General briefs industry on automatic exchange of financial data

The status briefing to industry stakeholders on the implementation of the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Act 2016 took place on Friday at the British Colonial Hilton on Bay Street. Senator Allyson Maynard-Gibson, Attorney-General, told stakeholders that the Bahamas government implemented this law rather quickly.

“I am pleased to advise that that the government of The Bahamas successfully enacted the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information Act 2016 (“Act”) to implement the Common Reporting Standard for the automatic exchange of financial account information in December 2016” said Mrs. Maynard-Gibson.

Basically this piece of legislation allows for the implementation of the Common Reporting Standard (“CRS”) approved by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”) in 2014 for the automatic exchange of financial information in tax matters (with the home country) of foreign nationals living in the Bahamas.

Many OECD countries have vowed to put an end to what they termed “cross-border tax evasion” by their nationals who hold financial accounts in foreign countries like The Bahamas. This piece of legislation demonstrates the commitment of The Bahamas, one of twenty non-OECD countries, in cooperating with the OECD countries in meeting this 2018 deadline as it strengthens the financial services sector as a highly regulated jurisdiction with probity and transparency as the key watch words.

Minister Strachan announces trade information desk and portal

The government is one step closer to improving the ease of doing business in and from the Bahamas with the establishment of The Bahamas’ Trade Information Service Desk and Electronic Portal. Minister of Financial Services with responsibility for international trade, the Hon. Hope Strachan, provided an update to industry stakeholders on the status of this initiative. The information session was held at Superclub Breezes on Wednesday, 18th January 2017.

These government services are aimed specifically at those Bahamian businesses currently exporting and those interested in exporting to international markets. The service desk and trade portal promises to simplify this process.

“Although the official launch of the Trade Portal is tentatively scheduled for early March 2017, when my Office advised of plans to convene a meeting of current and potential exporters in order to encourage participation in the Portal’s Exporters’ Directory, I thought it an opportune time to offer a few remarks to you and to the business community at large about the importance of this Trade Portal for The Bahamas and what the Government of The Bahamas and the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce & Employers Confederation envisage that the Trade Portal can do to assist local businesses” said the Minister.

The establishment of the Trade Portal is a part of the Government’s ongoing efforts to diversify the Bahamian economy by expanding trade with regional, hemispheric and international trading partners said the Minister.

Bahamas Foreign Affairs Ministry responds to Huffington Post article

The following statement was released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday 20th January 2017.

“The Ministry has seen the article of 19 January 2017 that appeared in the Huffington Post “For immigrants trapped in the Bahamas, a paradise lost” by Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights. The article is replete with errors and exaggerations. The Robert F. Kennedy organization is not a credible source of information. Mr. Kennedy is well known to be associated with a rich individual who is a disgruntled permanent resident, who is funding money to Mr. Kennedy and Save the Bays, a so called environmental organization, who are running a campaign of disinformation and destabilization. The Government puts no reliance therefore on their objectivity or commitment to the truth.”

In Passing

Speaking at the New Providence Women’s Branch of the Progressive Liberal Party on Sunday (15th January), Prime Minister Christie spoke of his energy and enthusiasm to serve another term; the poor state of the economy in May 2012; and the strides the country has made together over the last four and one half years. Speaking on transition, Prime Minister Christie said he will pass the baton when the time is right. As the only united and most stable political organization, he urged party supporters not to “squander” the opportunity to win the general election.

On Monday, Baha Mar began the process of recruiting 1,500 Bahamians in its first wave of hiring for the once stalled $3.5 billion resort according to Robert Sands, the resort’s Senior Vice-President of Government and External Affairs. In an interview, Mr. Sands said the entire process will be conducted online through the company’s website careers.bahamar.com. The amount of applicants numbered more than 4,500 by Tuesday.

BTC presented its Smart City concept to the RBPF this week. The company’s executive management team met with the Commissioner and Senior Officers of the Royal Bahamas Police Force to discuss new trends and how the Force could make use of modern technology.

The Minister of Tourism says the immediate fate of Freeport’s major hotels is still “waiting on Hutchinson Whampoa” to provide confirmed repair and reopening dates.

Freeport News reported that Minister of Tourism, Obediah (Obie) Wilchcombe had high praise for Schumacher Electric Corporation, which donated $1.5 million in power conversion products in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

The Bahamas non-resident Ambassador to the Holy See, Sean McWeeney QC, attended the annual gathering of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican last week.  The high point was the annual “state-of-the-world” address delivered on Monday to the ambassadors by Pope Francis, followed by the traditional exchange of greetings between each of the Ambassadors and the Pope.

Aviation officials on Sunday said they were investigating the circumstances that led to a twin-engine Piper Aztec aircraft skidding off the tarmac shortly after landing at the Lynden Pindling International Airport on Saturday.

Targeting the “racist and misogynistic” statements made by Anglican Archbishop James Palacious last week, noted Bahamian attorney, author and United Nations expert Marion Bethel called for the elevation of women’s voices and institutions to push back against the predominant misogynistic and discriminatory climate in the country.

The Grand Celebration resumed cruise services to Grand Bahama on Saturday (14th January), bringing some 1,300 passengers to Freeport for the first time since the passage of Hurricane Matthew. The ship’s return is good for Grand Bahama because it brings $45m in business every year to the island, according to veteran tourism executive David Johnson.

The Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association’s (BFIA) president has again fired back at critics of new industry regulations, labeling the oppositions as “absolute foolishness”.

Resorts World Bimini (RWB) is holding a two-day career fair in Grand Bahama this week in search of potential candidates to fill over 30 positions at the resort and build a talent bank for future employment opportunities.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration last night announced that the government is to introduce a new series of passports at the end of this month. The new passports will have enhanced security features, but will not impact the current holders of e-passports.

Christina “Muffin” Fernander, Chairman of the One Family Junkanoo group – the first woman to lead a major Junkanoo group – was officially recognized as the “Queen of Junkanoo”, a move  government officials said effectively “shattered the glass ceiling” for the advancement of women in the traditional cultural expression.

The Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) is continuing to undertake a series of water supply improvements on several Family Islands. The Corporation has signed a $1.69m contract with Bahamas Hot Mix to extend and improve water supply to San Salvador after a tender process that started in August.

Chairman of the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) Senator Jerome Gomez asserted the need for fair competition within the retail banking sector amid consumer complaints over fees charged for certain banking services.

Both The Bahamas Journal and Bahamas Weekly reported that Minister Draville said that Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Emrick Seymour confirmed that crime is indeed down by 49% since September 2016 in Grand Bahama.

The government signed a $18.4m contract last August with AllScripts and their partner, Infor Lawson, for Integrated Health Information Management Systems (IHIMS) propriety software. The Minister of Health said healthcare modernization had taken a “giant leap forward” through the implementation of an $18.4 million Integrated Health Information Management System (IHIMS). A workshop on this integrated system was held on Tuesday. 

Police Commissioner Greenslade on Wednesday called the country’s murder count so far this month a “disgrace”, but stressed that many of the country’s recent killings stem from feuds over drugs and relationship. He urged family members, friends and associates of serial criminals to “turn them into the police before you become targets”.

Staff of the Parliamentary Registration Department who deny people the ability to register to vote because of their dress must be sent home, National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage said in the House of Assembly yesterday. Although Dr. Nottage said he has instructed Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall to send staff home who have set baseless criteria limiting people’s ability to register to vote, he said “people are still doing it”.

The Constituencies Commission has stalled the release of its boundaries report in the hope that the sluggish voter registration will pick up considerably over the next few weeks. House Speaker Dr. Kendal Major, who is also the commission’s chair, stated yesterday that he was confident that members will be in a position to table the report “within two weeks or very shortly”.

Repatriations of Cuban nationals skyrocketed last year, according to statistics from the Department of Immigration, which indicated that total repatriations increased by some 80 percent over 2015. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell said the department believed that the more than 700 percent rise in repatriations of Cuban nationals in 2016 was driven by anticipation that the United States’ “wet foot/dry foot” policy was coming to an end.

Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Worker Union (BHCAWU) executives Wednesday said they are still seeking a meeting with management at the One & Only Ocean Club to ascertain the status of the 61 persons terminated back in December.

Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell responded in the House on Wednesday to the “hateful” criticism attorney Fred Smith, QC, made about The Bahamas recently. Mitchell was referring to comments Mr. Smith allegedly made during a meeting of the Coral Beach Condominium Association on January 15. 

The Bahamas Maritime Authority (BMA) has contributed $82 million to the Public Treasury since its inception, Glenys Hanna Martin said in the House on Wednesday, adding that its income increased by 6.26 percent to just over $17 million in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

An American woman is suing the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort after she was allegedly bitten by a “colony of bed bugs” living in the mattress of a hotel bed. 

Despite a significant decline in hotel room capacity on Grand Bahama, a tourism executive said there is no plan for a pullout by Sunwing Airlines, which is linked with the currently close Memories Resort.

The Bahamas Hotel, Catering and Allied Workers Union (BHCAWU) yesterday said it was “positioning” itself to become the bargaining agent for Baha Mar’s 5,000-plus workforce.

Bahamas Weekly noted that Minister Dorsett spoke on the management of hazardous waste as being of paramount importance to the health of Bahamians, the environment, and to the sustainable development country, as noted in the National Development Plan.

The release of the sealed Supreme Court Baha Mar documents is “most definitely” expected before the opening of the $3.5bn West Bay Street mega resort, Attorney General Maynard-Gibson said yesterday.

Hope Strachan, Minister of Financial Services and Local Government, Thursday conceded that the Government had been forced to “reconsider” plans to double the permanent residency investment threshold to $1 million, due to the “considerable pushback” by realtors and developers.

The Government has decided it is “high time” that The Bahamas implement a policy requiring more citizens to assume top posts within the financial services industry, Hope Strachan said yesterday.

The Road Traffic Department will introduce its new automated vehicle and driver’s licence system on February 6 in Grand Bahama.

Road Traffic officials are in discussions about the introduction of a points system against traffic violators, according to a Road Traffic Controller Ross Smith. He noted that the points system will be linked with police activities.