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THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (9 – 13 NOVEMBER 2015)

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viagra sale patient times;”>colebyChristie praises Dr. Munroe as Diplomat Center renamed

best cialis cialis times;”>On the first anniversary of his death in a tragic plane crash in Freeport, Grand Bahama on the eve of his Third World Believers Conference, the children of the late Dr. Myles Munroe kept their father’s vision and legacy alive with the hosting of a renaming ceremony.

The Diplomatic Center was renamed the Myles E. Munroe Diplomat Center.

In paying tribute to the world renowned motivational speaker, author and teacher, Prime Minister Christie recounted the tragic event as one that will be “scorched across the pages of history forever,” telling those in attendance that this “calamitous” event was a “day of testing” for many and had caused him to pause and grapple with his own faith.

Characterizing Dr. Munroe as a “defining personality” who impacted the Bahamas and the world in a manner that very few Bahamians have been able to, Prime Minister Christie said that as a nation “we should be unstinting in our recognition of what he was able to attain.”

The ceremony was held on Monday the 10th November 2015.

OAG and the IDB team up to strengthen justice system

“We have to be more transparent and more fully accountable about the challenges we are facing; that is what the Bahamian people deserve and expect. While these challenges are our own, they are not unique to The Bahamas and this visiting team allows us to access the expertise of those who’ve helped others overcome similar obstacles,” said the Attorney-General in welcoming the legal consultants.

The obstacles of which the Attorney General speaks are absent witnesses, delays in transcripts, scheduling conflicts, difficulty in empanelling jurors and a general lack of trial preparation. These challenges have all contributed to a substantial backlog of criminal cases said Senator Allyson Maynard-Gibson and her office has taken further steps to address these functional and structural challenges.

The expertise secured by the Office of the Attorney General courtesy of a grant from the Inter-American Development Bank are in the persons of Justice the Hon. Dame Linda Dobbs DBE, Judge Roger Chapple, Mr. Ben Yallop, Senior Listing Officer and Mr. Stuart Hill, justice system administrator. This team of consultants will work with Bahamian prosecutors, the judiciary, defense counsel and the Court Reporting Unit to assess challenges, provide training and strengthen internal communication during a three week official mission in The Bahamas.

Justice Dobbs and Judge Chapple are court case management experts, Mr. Yallop will focus on court reporting and Mr. Stuart will tackle the vexing issue of jury summonsing.

Excited to have the team onboard, the Attorney-General expressed confidence that their work will build on the success and support the work of her office.

“I am excited about the team we have been able to pull together” remarked the Attorney General. “Their work will support the progress we’ve already made.”

This day in The Bahamas Parliament

The House assembly met on Wednesday, 11th November 2015 at 10am and below is a summary of the House proceedings under the agenda item, “Statements by Ministers.”

Foreign Minister the Hon. Fred Mitchell responded to Anglican Bishop the Rev. Laish Boyd on matters of citizenship. He also responded to a Nassau Guardian editorial on the same topic.

Mr. Mitchell denied any acts of unfairness on his part in the application of the law and policy as regards immigration and citizenship specifically. He said the banker, butler and candlestick maker were all subject to the law. He invited those with evidence to the contrary to present the same.

He welcomed a process devoid of political intervention, an independent Citizenship Commission and publicly invited the Lord Bishop of the Anglican Church to lead the public discussion on the most appropriate process for the granting of Bahamian citizenships.

Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie delivered the first reading of the National Honours Bill 2015. This Bill effectively replaces the National Honours Act 2007 and the National Heroes Act 2007.

Unlike the 2007 Acts, this new Bill provides for the establishment of six separate Orders comprising the Societies of Honour, namely:

(a)      the Order of National Hero;

(b)     the Order of  the Nation;

(c)      the Order of The Bahamas;

(d)     the Order of Excellence;

(e)      the Order of Distinction;

(f)      the Order of Merit.

“Appointments to the Order of National Hero” said Prime Minister Christie “will be made by the Governor-General, who will serve as Chancellor of the Order, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition and after consideration of the report of the Advisory Committee” said the Prime Minister.

Sports and Youth Minister Hon. Daniel Johnson paid tribute to many sports legends, some of whom were in the gallery of the House as the government celebrates Sports Heritage Month. The Minister highlighted several Olympic sports that are emerging locally such as rowing and judo. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled for next Thursday (19th November) at Government House and a Gala Banquet is scheduled for next Friday (20th November 2015) at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island.

Deputy Prime Minister the Hon. Philip Davis delivered the first reading of three Bills critical to the reform of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and the national energy sector. They were the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2015; the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (Amendment) Bill 2015 and the Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill 2015.

According to the Deputy Prime Minister, these three pieces of legislation collectively form the requisite legal framework that will facilitate the reform of the energy sector and provide the solution for the financially ailing corporation, BEC, the unacceptably high cost of energy and address the country’s energy security needs.

“This solution now allows for significant and sustainable reductions in the cost of energy, a financially healthy electrical utility company, increased energy security, improved competitiveness and marketability as a country. It is a process of true reform” said Mr. Davis.

Below is a cursory summary of the Minister’s House communication:

In February of 2012, more than five thousand (5,000) BEC customers were without electricity, having been disconnected because they were unable to afford an essential item that was fast becoming a luxury.

Today, when compared to October 2014, the fuel surcharge is dramatically reduced by 60%. It was 27.7 cents per kWh in Oct 2014 and 11.4 cents per kWh in Oct 2015.

The Bahamas government issued the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Management of BEC in August 2013 and executed the Transition Services Agreement on 22nd July 2015 with PowerSecure, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of PowerSecure International, Inc.

PowerSecure’s five-year business plan for management of the Corporation was developed during July to September 2015 and delivered to the Cabinet for review and approval on Tuesday, 3rd November 2015.

The Electricity Bill 2015 facilitates the electricity sector reform by separating the regulatory and operations functions of Bahamas Electricity Corporation. It does this by transferring its commercial operating functions and assets to a wholly owned subsidiary company called Bahamas Power and Light Company Limited (BPL); it establishes URCA as the independent sector regulator. BEC will no longer be the sector’s regulator.

The new Bill also repeals the Electricity Act and the Out Islands Electricity Act respectively.  It will provide for diversification in the generation, supply, and distribution of electricity in accordance with the National Energy Policy, including through renewable energy sources; and modernize and consolidate the law relating to electrical installations.

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority Act (Amendment) Bill, 2015, proposes changes in anticipation of the legislation that will establish URCA as the independent regulator of the electricity sector. The Bill will also enable and facilitate URCA in discharging such regulatory functions in the new electricity supply regime. URCA’s responsibilities will include licensing of public electricity suppliers, tariff approval, new entrants’ approval, competition rules, public education and consumer protection.

URCA is mandated to issue public electricity supplier licenses to BPL and the GBPC within thirty (30) days of the Bill coming into operation. URCA may also grant public electricity supplier licenses to certain entities in the Family Islands with BPL’s approval, such as those entities that are currently operating under Franchise Agreements with BEC.

In respect of renewable energy, the Bill requires public electricity suppliers to submit renewable electricity plans, facilitate renewable energy self-generation projects, and regular review and approval of the plan by URCA.

The Electricity Rate Reduction Bond Bill, 2015 provides the legal framework and infrastructure to enable the issuance of such bonds which are necessary to generate the capital required to satisfy specified debts of the Corporation and BPL. Additionally, the capital will fund the electricity sector reform and restructuring of the Corporation, including the establishment and daily operations of BPL. Specifically, the RRB financing will pay towards eliminating the corporation’s financial liabilities, including bank debts, bonds, environmental remediation, employees’ pension and benefits, and other non-current financial liabilities outstanding on the date the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2015 comes into operation.

Once the existing debt of BEC is paid with the proceeds of the bonds, the current $246 million Government Guarantee, a contingent liability, will be removed from the Government’s balance sheet.

The Minister of National Security, the Hon. Dr. Bernard J. Nottage delivered the first reading of a Bill for an act to amend the Airport Authority Act to provide for the transfer to the Airport Authority of specified family island airports; the establishment within the authority of a family island airport department with responsibility for the operation and Management of the transferred family island airports and for connected purposes. He did so on behalf of his colleague, the Minister of Transport and Aviation.

Christie: Bahamas “obvious choice” for regional arbitration center

“The Bahamas, with its dynamic and emerging services industry and robust legal traditions, makes us the obvious choice for an international commercial arbitration center in this region. We have the capacity to facilitate the highest level of arbitration, and our strength, stability and, most importantly, our sovereignty, are key selling points as well.”

So said Prime Minister Christie as he addressed the centenary celebrations of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators at their Bahamas Branch Conference held under the theme “Arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolution: The Bahamian Agenda.”

The Prime Minister continued to extol the natural virtues of The Bahamas as an ideal jurisdiction for international commercial arbitration for trade disputes.

“For a jurisdiction, such as ours, there are key attributes that continue to make our country attractive to the international market. Our country enjoys deeply rooted and highly sophisticated, well-regulated financial services sector, a demonstrated commitment to long–term planning for economic growth and development, and a highly developed professional services industry.”

Touting this initiative as a Public/Private Sector Partnership (PPP), Mr. Christie pointed out that international arbitration is largely driven by specialization.

“As the Government continues to collaborate with the private sector for the establishment of The Bahamas’ International Commercial Arbitration, we continue to recognize that international arbitration is a market driven area of specialization.  We are therefore committed to the ongoing development of the framework for the establishment of an International Commercial Arbitration Centre on the basis of a public-private sector partnership.”

With regard to areas of specialization, the Prime Minister told delegates that the Bahamas Government “continues to research possible niche areas for attracting the international market. With the development of The Bahamas’ maritime industry – in particular, the expansion of the Freeport Container Port and the sophisticated industrial sector of Grand Bahama – the Government of The Bahamas continues to consider new opportunities for establishing a branch, if not the main body, of the international arbitration centre in Grand Bahama.”

The conference was held at the Melia resort on Friday, 13th November 2015.

Government responds to Road Traffic audit

Responding to media reports of $660,000 in missing resources at the Abaco’s office of the Road Traffic Department, the Controller of the Road Traffic Department (RTD) revealed in a press statement on Tuesday that in light of the Auditor General’s (AG’s) findings on the misappropriation of assets at the Abaco office, internal controls have been strengthened as per the AG’s recommendations.

“The Department has now implemented recommended controls at the Marsh Harbour Abaco office, with effect from March 2015, and is in the process of implementing additional controls system-wide to allow for greater accountability and to prohibit further acts of misappropriation.”

The Minister of Transport in an interview earlier this week conceded that the current system is largely manual with gaps that can be exploited and the current automation project designed to modernize and streamline the operations at the department will rectify many of the systemic weaknesses and close many of the gaps.

Some of the features of this new Transport Management System include a modern and intuitive user interface, future proofed for integration, expansion and growth; improved compliance to increase revenue; improved monitoring and reporting of Road Traffic Department services and revenue and reduced incidents of fraud.

The Minister was adamant that the Department has a “no tolerance” policy on misappropriation by its employees and will pursue the same to the fullest extent of the law, including immediate termination of employment and criminal sanctions when appropriate.

Data Protection must be balanced with Information freedom

“The Data Protection Act will ensure the protection of personal data. It is designed ‘to protect people’s fundamental rights and freedoms and in particular their right to privacy with respect to the processing and access of personal data’.”

This according to Education Minister the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald at the 3rd annual National Data Protection Symposium at Melia Nassau Beach Resort, Cable Beach, Friday, November 13.

He joined Prime Minister Christie and State Minister for Finance the Hon. Michael Halkitis in bringing remarks during the opening ceremony.

The Education Minister emphasized the critical importance of the role of the Data Protection Act and its relationship to the Freedom of Information Act – that is, both are to be given similar attention.

“We must make certain that there is an appreciation of how these two Acts complement each other” said Minister Fitzgerald

The Freedom of Information Act is designed to “give the public a general right of access to records held by public authorities and to make provision for incidental and connected purpose” while attention must be given to the protection of personal information.

Prime Minister the Hon. Perry G. Christie officially opened the one-day Symposium under the theme “The Balancing Act: Data Protection and Freedom of Information.”

The symposium was facilitated by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

Government to appeal court’s judgment on immigration

The media reported on Thursday that the Bahamas Supreme Court had ruled in the case of Meldor vs. the Minister of Immigration that the government should make available all internal and confidential memoranda related to the country’s new immigration policy measures that became effective on the 1st November 2014. The government is appealing the decision.

The government responded as follows:

“The press reported yesterday an interlocutory ruling in the case Meldor vs. the Minister for Immigration that an order has been made for disclosure by the Courts with regard to the policy on immigration that was implemented on 1st November 2014.

“This is not a decision on the substantive matters raised in the application of the applicant. It relates only to an order to reveal the internal and confidential papers of the file relating to the policy.

“The decision in the matter is being appealed by the Minister.”

Bahamas government has “deep regrets” over Paris shootings

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement late Friday evening in the aftermath of the mass killings in Paris on Friday the 13th of November.

“The government of The Bahamas stands with the international community in expressing its deep regrets over the loss of life from the horrific shootings in Paris.

“We condemn these barbaric acts in the strongest terms.

“We extend our condolences to the families of the victims.

“Instructions were given to our Honorary Consul in Kingston to convey these sentiments tonight to the French Ambassador to The Bahamas who lives there.  A diplomatic note will follow.

“The Bahamas stands ready to work with our Caricom allies and the international community to combat this problem.”

At least 127 persons were killed in the attack. Click here to read more…