Week in Review Continued…

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click times;”>Chief Justice proposes the abolition of jury trials

During his first address to officers of the courts, Chief Justice Hartman Longley decried the huge backlog of cases, stating that the 10 criminal courts now in operation should have been operational 10 years ago. He called for a revamping of the warrant system and the abolition of trials by jury, except in cases of capital offences such as murder. 

He was speaking on Wednesday in the Bahamas Supreme Court at the opening of the 2016 Legal Year. 

On the issue of efficiency in judgments, Sir Hartman told colleagues that he had set down timelines of one month to render judgments on interlocutory matters and three months for trials to improve the efficiency of the judiciary. 

He also opined that a fee cap on court appointed lawyers would reduce court delays as some court delays are motivated by costs. 

Since burglary was nothing more than house breaking and stealing committed at night, the Chief Justice felt that burglary should be heard by the Magistrate Court just as cases of house breaking are currently heard. 

The Chief Justice revisited the vexing issue of the judiciary as a corporate sole where it would have control over its own budget to facilitate ongoing maintenance to court facilities as the physical state of some courts contribute to delays. Of course expenses would be subject to review by the Public Accounts Committee. 

On the issue of jury trials, Sir Hartman questioned the intellectual capacity of the jury pool to fully comprehend and analyze the evidence in a case. He noted that the country’s “national grade levels are at a hush-hush level” and the jury pool is selected from the general community. Additionally, he felt the system was a “cumbersome process” and called for the abolition of jury trials.     

Ambassador Gomez receives instruments of appointment

Bahamas Ambassador to China HE Paul ‘Andy’ Gomez received his instruments of appointment on Wednesday afternoon at a short ceremony at Government House. The oath of office was administered by Governor General HE Dame Marguerite Pindling. 

Prime Minister Christie told Ambassador Gomez and the gathering of well-wishers that the reason he felt so comfortable bringing him to the table was because of his “experience in terms of (his) considerable ability and because this experience is diverse and broad based in this nature.” 

Foreign Minister Hon. Fred Mitchell said that with the rise of China as a global economic and political power, all countries have ensured that they have representatives in China. He characterized Ambassador Gomez as one of the country’s “most able and accomplished sons, thinkers and businessmen” and expressed confidence that the new Ambassador to China would do well in his new assignment. 

In his response Mr. Gomez said his number one objective is to secure arrangements and introduce as many Bahamians businessmen to as many Chinese businessmen for the empowerment of Bahamians. 

Among those in attendance were Minister of Tourism Hon. Obie Wilchcombe and Chinese Ambassador to The Bahamas Yuan Guisen 

Minister Nottage: new crime plan to be unveiled “within days.”

Fresh from his visit to the US State Department and the FBI Headquarters, Minister of National Security Hon. Bernard J. Nottage spoke to reporters at the home of Evangelist Rex Major after his home was invaded and vandalized by 5 masked gunmen early Thursday Morning. 

Nottage said that the new crime plan would be unveiled shortly by the Commissioner of Police and it will incorporate strategies proven successful in other jurisdictions. 

“The commissioner’s policing plan is being completed consistent with many of the innovations that we hope to be able to introduce so I think you will hear from us very soon. 

“I think that we have some issues and we (can benefit from) sharing other peoples’ ideas and some of the things they are doing in other jurisdictions. 

“You know in almost every area of our government we have benefitted from consultants who have been through these things before and I don’t see why we shouldn’t at this time” said Minister Nottage. 

Prime Minister Christie has hinted that the new crime plan may cause some restriction in movement for Bahamians.    

Minister Gray: over 300 farm land leases executed

Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources the Hon. Alfred Gray hosted two press conferences at his ministry on Friday, 15th January 2016. 

The first one was to announce the upcoming 2016 Agribusiness Expo and trade show scheduled for March of this year and the second was a signing ceremony for farm land leases. 

The Minister vowed that his ministry will be more vigilant in ensuring that persons who receive leases for farming use the land for just that purpose and violators will have their leases revoked and face possible court action. 

The 36,000 plus acres of arable land allocated by the government for farming are found on four designated islands – New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco and Andros. 

Adding to the more than 300 leases executed by the government to date for various types and levels of farming operations including livestock farming, the farmers signing leases at the press conference indicated diverse intents for their land. Dr. Dawn Wilson, a cancer survivor, intends to cultivate medicinal plants in Abaco; Errington Thompson wants to cultivate perennial indigenous fruits in New Providence and Captain Colebrook wants to build a fresh water shrimp farm in Andros with the expert assistance of a foreign strategic partner. 

Department of Immigration provides updates on pending matters

The Department of Immigration released a statement Friday afternoon updating the general public on the status of several pending matters. 

The matters were complaints from the Pointe in Nassau, Memories in Freeport and the Cove in Eleuthera. All have attracted public interest and commentary in recent weeks. 

The updates read as follow: 

“The Pointe at the British Colonial, Nassau: The Department is reviewing this project and expects to meet with the developer and the Department of Labour shortly in connection with their project.  

“Memories Resort in Freeport, Grand Bahama: The Department of Immigration received a report from the Department of Labour with regard to the actions of a non-Bahamian employee toward Bahamian employees at this hotel and has acted pursuant to the recommendations of that report – that is the withdrawal of the employee’s right to work in The Bahamas and his recall from The Bahamas. The matter however may be the subject of an appeal.

“The Cove at Eleuthera: Reports of abusive behavior by foreign management toward Bahamian employees is also under active investigation at this project in Eleuthera.” 

In passing…  

Bahamas Ambassador to the Vatican, HE Sean McWeeney visited the Vatican this week where he enjoyed an audience with Pope Francis. 

The Bahamas Telecommunications Company recently announced the appointment of its new Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Bornadata Bain. She will be responsible for running the company’s day to day operations. 

The body of missing Grand Bahama based police officer 33 year old Freddie Munnings was discovered Thursday afternoon in bushes on Fortune Bay Drive near North Star Resort. Munnings was reported missing for several days. 

Former Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham left for Vanuatu earlier this week where he will lead a Commonwealth Observer Group at the general elections there scheduled for the 22nd January 2016. Mr. Ingraham was invited by Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma. The Commonwealth was invited to observe the elections by Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Sato Kilman. 

The Methodist Churches of The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos have a new president-elect: he is Reverend Theophilus Rolle who was elected on Wednesday of this week during the church’s 204th Synod. The new president promised to strengthen the church’s outreach programs to recover many of its membership lost over the years and since the conference split in 1992, especially among the youth. Rolle will officially assume the presidency in September of this year at which time he will be anointed bishop, succeeding outgoing Bishop Derek Brown. 

The Hon. Dr. Daniel Johnson, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, and His Excellency Yuan Guisen, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, hosted a press conference at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium on Thursday to bid farewell to the Chinese technical team for all their work on the stadium. The Minister received a signed document between the Bahamian and Chinese governments that formalized work done to the national stadium by a Chinese technical team. The Minister thanked the Chinese Government, the technical team, and the Ambassador for their assistance. Minister Johnson said the stadium would be put to use over the next 15 months with activities such as the Chris Brown Invitational, the IAAF World Championships 2017, and the Bahamas Games among others scheduled to take place.  

The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture held its awards ceremony for graduates of its work ready training and internship program. The program is a combination of classroom lectures and on the job training. Young people between the ages of 17 and 29 participated and about one quarter of them secured full time employment. Conducting the presentations was Youth Minister Dr. Daniel Johnson.  

The Legal Year officially opened in Grand Bahama on Friday, 15th January with the customary procession and church service of thanksgiving at the Pro Cathedral of Christ the King. The secular component of the ceremony took place at the Garnet Levarity Justice Center where both the Chief Justice and Attorney General delivered a review of the judiciary and outlined their department objectives for the coming year. 

Foreign Affairs Minister the Hon. Fred Mitchell and CARICOM Ambassador HE Picewell Forbes traveled to Guyana this week to participate in the CARICOM Community Council Meeting as preparations are underway for the first 2016 CARICOM Heads of Government meeting to be held in Belize later this year.   

The Passport Office issued a notice on Friday morning of its temporary closure to the public. The notice indicated that the office will be reopened to the public on Monday, 18th January 2016 at 9am. For urgent matters, passport officials could be contacted at 502-9500.