THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS BY ELCOTT COLEBY

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(8 – 12 MAY 2017)

FNM WINS 10 May 2017 GENERAL ELECTION IN A LANDSLIDE
There were thirty-nine seats contested in the 10th May general elections and when the hotly contested battle was over, the opposition Free National Movement had secured thirty-five of the thirty-nine seats. For the first time in our history, a sitting Prime Minister lost his seat. Former Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie lost to Reece Chipman 1909 to 1905 in the constituency of Centerville, the area he represented for forty years. Incoming Prime Minister the Hon. Hubert Minnis secured 74% of the votes cast in the Killarney constituency.

In its defeat, the PLP won just one of the twenty-four seats contested in New Providence, Englerston, and no seats in Grand Bahama where five seats were up for grabs.

  1. HUBERT MINNIS SWORN IN AS THE BAHAMAS’ FOURTH PRIME MINISTER
    Pronouncing a “new day” in The Bahamas and pledging to honour the mandate of change, the newly sworn-in Hon. Hubert A. Minnis became the fourth Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas on May 11, 2017 at Government House.

“We will honour this mandate for change,” said the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Minnis said that although The Bahamas is a small country, its democracy is rightly the envy of many countries throughout the world that “mark the manner of our bearing.”

“Yesterday’s general election was peaceful and free from violence,” he pointed out. “With civility and nobility, Bahamians from all walks of life joined hands and hearts to forge a new direction for our country.

“Now we are witnessing another orderly transfer of power,” he noted.

Prime Minister Minnis pledged that his Government would honour the public trust with an unwavering commitment to good governance, the rule of law, transparency, accountability and the common good.

“We will respect the Constitution; and we will abide by the longstanding and tested conventions of our parliamentary democracy,” Prime Minister Minnis said.

“We commit ourselves to the common good of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas,” he said. “We rely on the blessings of Almighty God, who is the source of all power and grace.

“I thank you and good evening and God bless us all” concluded our newly sworn-in Prime Minister.

FORMER PRIME MINISTER CHRISTIE CONGRATULATES DR. MINNIS
The following statement was issued by former Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie late Wednesday evening, conceding the defeat of the PLP and congratulating incoming Prime Minister the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis on the victory of his party, the FNM.

“I called Dr. Minnis earlier this evening to congratulate him on his party’s victory.

“I understand as perhaps few others the challenges that await Dr. Minnis, and I wish him only success on behalf of our nation. He has my full support for a smooth transition.

“It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as the Prime Minister of this great nation. I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Bahamian people for that opportunity. To those who served alongside me, I thank them for their dedication to our shared ideals.

“May God Bless Us All, and May God Bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”

ACTING PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSIONER QUASHES “FAKE NEWS” ON SOCIAL MEDIA
The following statement was released by the Acting Parliamentary Commissioner, Charles Albury, on Election Day, 10th May, in the wake of social media claims of a call by international election observers to cancel the 10th May general elections due to widespread voter fraud.

“It has come to the attention of the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner that there are claims on social media that international election observers have called for the cancellation of the 10th May 2017 general elections in The Bahamas.

“These social media postings are absolutely false and are categorized as Fake News.

“Under law, only the Parliamentary Commissioner has the constitutional power to cancel elections in whole or in part.

“The general public is advised that voting has been going on smoothly across The Bahamas since 8am this morning as scheduled and with the exception of a total of three Polling Divisions in Elizabeth and Seabreeze, all other polling divisions will close at 6pm this evening as scheduled.

“Specifically, Polling Division 11 in Elizabeth will close at 8:15 pm and Polling Division 13 has been extended to 6:26 pm due to a medical emergency experienced by a staff member. Polling Division 4 in Seabreeze will close at 8pm.

“Bahamians are urged to disregard these acts of mischief and peacefully exercise their constitutionally guaranteed democratic rights to vote.”

INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS CONCLUDE ELECTIONS “CREDIBLE” AND “TRNSPARENT” 
There were numerous posts in social media suggesting the electoral process was chaotic and filled with fraud. There were accusations that the governing party were conspiring to steal the general elections. These accusations were all false and massive efforts must be made to protect the international reputation of The Bahamas against injury due to irresponsible behavior.

At one point there was a fake news post claiming that the international election observers called for the elections to be stopped and rendered null and void because of fraud. The Parliamentary Commissioner issued a press statement refuting these claims, pointing out that the elections were proceeding smoothly and with the exception of a few polling divisions, all polling stations would close at 6pm.

On Friday, 12th May, the election observers released a joint statement and their conclusion is quoted below:

“Our overall conclusion is that the voting, closing and counting process at the polling stations on 10 May were credible and transparent. Where any petitions may emerge regarding any aspects of the elections, we call upon those aggrieved to file formal complaints as prescribed in the electoral laws, and for the relevant institutions to investigate and pronounce on these allegations.

“In the experience of The Group, we note it is sometimes assumed that the foundations of our established democratic societies are so deeply ingrained that they cannot be shaken. Indeed, The Bahamas has committed itself to certain democratic values contained in the national, regional, Commonwealth and International obligations it has chosen to subscribe to. In light of the totality of our observations, The Group is of the view that the time has come for the people of the Bahamas to consider and embrace the establishment of an independent election management body with a modern voting and counting system to safeguard your admirable democratic history. We urge all stakeholders and citizens of The Bahamas to discuss and strengthen the independence of your election management body.”

OUR FOUR FALLEN DEFENCE FORCE MARINES ARE HONOURED
While Bahamians peacefully and solemnly exercised their democratic and constitutionally guaranteed right to vote, members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force honoured four of our national heroes fallen in the line of duty at the hands of Russian made MiG fighter jets from the Cuban Air Force. This fateful event took place on the 10th May 1980 in the southern waters of the Bahamas.

Honoured were Able Seaman Fenrick Sturrup (21), Marine Seaman Austin Rudolph Smith (21), Marine Seaman David Allison Tucker (21) and Marine Seaman Edward Arnold Williams (23).

On May 10th 1980, after arresting two (2) Cuban fishing vessels near the Ragged Island Chain, these young lives were suddenly taken in a hail of gunfire on the HMBS Flamingo at the hands of the Cuban Air Force.

Family members of the 4 fallen Marines along with some of the survivors from the ill-fated HMBS Flamingo were on hand to pay their respects. Remarks were delivered by then Prime Minister Christie, then Attorney General Senator the Honourable Maynard-Gibson and Commodore Tellis Bethel, Commander Defence Force.

Special guests for the occasion included Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling, Governor General of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas; the Right Honorable Perry G. Christie, Prime Minister; Senator the Honorable Allyson Maynard-Gibson, Attorney General and Leader of the Free National Movement, Dr. Hubert Minnis.

A wreath was laid at the HMBS Memorial Monument at the Defence Force Base by Her Excellency and family members of the 4 marines.

IN PASSING …
K. Peter Turnquest was appointed Minister of Finance by Governor General Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling during a brief ceremony at Government House, Friday, May 12, 2017. Mr. Turnquest will serve as Deputy Prime Minister in the new Free National Movement Cabinet.

Carl W. Bethel, Q.C., was appointed Attorney General by Governor General Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling during a brief ceremony at Government House, Friday, May 12, 2017. Mr. Bethel has been named to the Senate, where he will serve as Leader of Government Business.

Immediately following the defeat of the Progressive Liberal Party at the polls, PLP National Chairman Bradley Roberts tendered his resignation as the government appointed member of the board of Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC). The resignation becomes effective at the end of the next BTC board meeting.

Finance Minister the Hon. K. Peter Turnquest told the media that the incoming FNM government will have to borrow to finance short term government operations.

On Monday of this week, former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie addressed the Mobilization for the Construction of the 33,000 square feet Eleuthera Healthcare Centre. During the ceremonies in Palmetto Point he stated that the rollout of NHI Primary Care uplifts healthcare access for all Bahamians; and it is simultaneous with upgrades to healthcare facilities across the nation.

The Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas congratulated the Government of the French Republic on the successful exercise of democracy in its recent Presidential Election. Elected as France’s President was M. Emmanuel Macron. Diplomatic Relations between The Bahamas and the French Republic were established in 1974.

Earlier this week former Prime Minister Christie released a statement advising that the government was considering several proposals on energy solutions for The Bahamas. He said that discussions via a committee comprised of private and public sector stakeholders were ongoing.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration held a Foreign Service Officers Induction Training Programme closing ceremony on Friday, May 5, 2017 at the Department of Labour on Rosetta Street. The class of 16 officers was the first of its kind for the Ministry under the newly established Bahamas Foreign Service Institute. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Sheila Carey and Director General Sharon Brennen Haylock addressed the officers. Also present were Parliamentary Secretary Cleola Hamilton, and Deputy Permanent Secretary and Director of Foreign Service Training Donna Lowe.

The Cabinet Office advised that with effect from 6th May 2017 Mr. Charles Albury will serve as Acting Parliamentary Commissioner until the post is substantively filled.

Mr. Albury has served with distinction in the public service in various ministries for more than 30 years including the Parliamentary Registration Department. Before his transfer Mr. Albury served as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism.

The Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) through its programme to establish greenhouses throughout the Southeastern Bahamas has erected a greenhouse in Hatchet Bay, Eleuthera at the site of the packing house. The greenhouse on Eleuthera commences the setup of the greenhouse network in order to bring new technologies and husbandry practices to the farming communities of the Southeastern Bahamas region. The production system in this region has been centered around pot-hole farming, an indigenous system of food production which is labor intensive.