ELCOTT COLEBY SUMMARIZES THE WEEK’S EVENTS
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October 23, 2014
Ebola taskforce plays “Meet the Press”
Prime Minister Christie on Wednesday announced Under Secretary in the Ministry of Transport Peter Deveaux-Isaacs as Administrator and Retired Chief Medical Officer Dr. Merceline Dahl-Regis as the Chief Medical Coordinator of the National Ebola Taskforce – an inter-departmental government body assembled to lead the charge in protecting The Bahamas from the threat of Ebola.
“We have taken all reasonable steps to protect our country” said Prime Minister Christie, referring to the work of the taskforce – a grouping he referred to as “the right team.”
He went on to say that “we (The Bahamas) have had experiences with communicable diseases before. We have combated them in terms of our professional people who are involved in these matters professionally. We have combated successfully all of them and this (Ebola) is no exception.”
Mitchell responds to Shantytown comments
“Most people want to be law abiding citizens of a country and have no concern really – despite whatever politicians think – have no concern about politics as such, they just want to get on with their regular lives. And so our role, or the politician’s role and shapers of public policy in those situations in my view is to ensure that people see things in context and in scale and to say ‘let’s not get carried away here and remember the larger picture here which is this is the Commonwealth of The Bahamas – there is nothing which was said which undermines the integrity of our state.’ We have agencies of the government who are responsible for dealing with threats to the state if there are such threats and let them deal with it.” Mitchell appealing for calm, reason, balance and the rule of law instead of public hysteria in the wake of the unfortunate shantytown comments. These comments were made during a press briefing at the Foreign Ministry on Sunday.
Minister Dorsett defends government’s shantytown policy
Also on hand at the briefing was Environment and Housing Minister Kendred Dorsett who told reporters that notwithstanding the emotive nature of the demolition exercises, it is the government’s policy to systematically rid the Bahamas of illegal and unsanitary shantytowns and with Friday’s demolition exercise, his ministry was following and enforcing with the law.
“While it is a highly emotive issue, we are following the law and enforcing the law, but even in doing so I think that the government has been incredibly reasonable”…”we work together with communities and the Ministry of Social Services and the Minister in particular has taken a hands on approach in dealing with these issues because we know how sensitive it is and we want to make sure that we do as best as possible to ensure that we would not have these sort of reactions from persons who reside in The Bahamas.”
Haitian Ambassador “deeply deplores” shantytown comments
In a press release on Tuesday, the Haitian Ambassador to The Bahamas HE Antonio Rodrigue condemned the inflammatory remarks made by a shantytown resident late last week in the wake of a demolition exercise at a shantytown off Joe Farrington Road.
The statement said “the Embassy of Haiti has learned with dismay the inflammatory comments made by a Bahamian national of Haitian descent following the destruction of illegal makeshift homes in a village off Joe Farrington Road, mainly inhabited by Haitian nationals.”
The statement went on to say that the embassy “deeply deplores and vigorously condemns such irresponsible rhetoric, which is totally unacceptable and would not be tolerated.”
Further distancing both the Haitian embassy and the local Haitian community from the controversial remarks, the statement went on to say that “those statements are not shared in any way and at any moment by the Haitian community as a whole; they engage the sole responsibility of the individual who expressed them.”
Diplomatic Week in full swing
Heads of Missions and Consuls General converged on Nassau for a week of activities to commemorate the inaugural Diplomatic Week. On Wednesday, Mission Heads and Consuls General met with the Foreign Affairs Minister and Permanent Secretary at a breakfast meeting at the Melia Resort to discuss the future plans and strategies for the Foreign Service.
At this meeting, Minister Mitchell reiterated the fundamental role of the Foreign Service:
“Your business is to interact with the international community because our job ultimately is to enable Bahamians traveling around the world – whether for tourism, business or education – to have a seamless experience as they cross from one border to the next” said Mitchell.
In addition to a speaking tour at Holy Trinity and various Family Island schools on Tuesday, a public forum at the College of The Bahamas on Wednesday, a Bahamas – European Union dialogue and the official opening ceremony at the Melia Resort on Thursday, Prime Minister Christie will deliver the keynote address later tonight (Friday, 24thOct) at a dinner at the Balmoral Club.
Family Island tourism up
More good news for Tourism as foreign air and sea arrivals to the Family Islands have improved by 10 per cent between January and July 2014, compared to the same period in 2013, according to the latest data from the Research Statistics and Scanning Units in the Ministry of Tourism.
In 2014 according to the press release, air and sea arrivals increased every month except March, which saw a decrease of 7.5 per cent compared to 2013.
“Air arrivals increased to Andros, Berry Islands, Bimini, Cat Cay, Exuma, Inagua, Long island and San Salvador between January to July 2014 compared to the same period of 2013,” officials said.
According to officials, stopover visitor arrivals to the Out Islands between January to May 2014 were better than when the financial meltdown occurred in 2008.
“Stopovers arrivals to the Out Islands grew by nine per cent between January to May 2014. In May YTD 2014, stopover visitor arrivals were up from the United States, Europe, Latin America, Australia, Africa and the Middle East,” officials said.
Sunwing increases flights to Grand Bahama
With over 25,000 new visitors to Grand Bahama as a result of the Sunwing partnership, the Ministry of Tourism announced this week that a significant increase in airlift to that island from western Canada.
The introduction of new direct flights from Vancouver and Calgary by Sunwing increases the number of direct flights into Grand Bahama from Canadian gateways to eight. The airline currently offers direct flights from Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Halifax.
Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, the Director General of Tourism Joy Jubrilu, and Director of the Grand Bahama Tourist Office Betty Bethel made the exciting announcement during a special luncheon for the Canadian press at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver on Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
Sandy Bottom project already paying dividends.
Officers at the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) are crediting the recent success in the apprehension of illegal poachers and migrants in Bahamian waters to the acquisition the new vessels under the Ministry of National Security’s Sandy Bottom project.
Defense Force Operations Officer Senior Lieutenant Ricardo Barry said “I definitely think we are on the upswing
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These encouraging numbers Lieutenant Barry are referring to include the capture of nine Cuban Nationals on Saturday; the arrest of eleven Dominican poachers on Monday and the capture of 96 Haitian migrants on Tuesday of this week. Keep up the good work guys.
Public Service Week kicks off
The 15th annual Public Service Week officially kicked off with a church service of thanksgiving at Bethel Baptist church on Sunday, 19th October. This year, the actual week of celebrations was preceded by a seminar for retirees, a float parade and a volleyball tournament.
At the launch press conference, Minister for the Public Service Hon. Shane Gibson reasoned that democracy and successful governance are built on a competent public service and therefore they should be celebrated.
“Too often our public officers are castigated and not celebrated. This is their time to celebrate and be celebrated under the theme, ‘charting the course, serving the nation and securing the future’ because the government recognizes that democracy and successful governance are built on the foundation of a competent Public Service” said the Minister.
It was in December 2002 that the United Nations ratified Resolution 57/277, declaring the 23rd day of June of each year as PUBLIC SERVICE DAY.
Prime Minister Christie lauds Statoil
Prime Minister Christie lauded the economic impact of Statoil on the local Grand Bahamian economy during the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of its new $3 million administrative complex in East Grand Bahama this past Thursday.
“Over the past three years, Statoil has spent over $250 million in facility upgrades to ensure that they have the best running operation here in East Grand Bahama. I am told they employed some 300 persons during these upgrades and the staff now includes some 70 permanent employees. This new administration building is being constructed at a cost of over $3 million using local contractors who will benefit from the project, ensuring that much of this expenditure is injected into the Grand Bahamian economy” said Prime Minister Christie.
Statoil purchased the 6.7 million barrel crude storage and blending facility from South Riding Point Holdings Ltd in 2009. It remains the third largest seller of crude oil, the second largest gas exporter to Europe and operates in 35 countries worldwide.
Prime Minister Christie in action
Fresh from his trip to Grand Bahama to break ground on the new Statoil building, Prime Minister Christie joined well-wishers in paying tribute to two sporting legends in the names of Sir Durward Knowles and the late Cecil Cooke. They won the first ever Olympic medal for The Bahamas when they struck gold in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, some 50 years ago. The 50th anniversary celebration was under the auspices of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Bahamas Olympic Association.
On Friday morning the Prime Minister chaired another Ebola Taskforce meeting; the members were joined by Drs. Ward and Bartlett from Grand Bahama who will lead the taskforce and strategy on that island.
Later today (Friday) at 5:30pm Prime Minister Christie is scheduled to host a press conference to announce the purchase and expansion of the British Colonial Hilton Hotel on Bay Street. Having transformed the tourism product on Cable Beach, the government of The Bahamas is turning its attention to downtown Nassau with a view to reviving a commercial district that many believe is dying a slow economic death. Representatives from the China Import Export Bank and the China Construction Company will also be on hand.
From the Hilton Hotel the Prime Minister makes his way to the Balmoral Club where tonight he will host Heads of Missions, Consuls General and foreign diplomats to a dinner meeting as we bring the inaugural Diplomatic Week to a close. The Prime Minister is expected to deliver the keynote address on the country’s foreign policy to that body.
The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture officially opened the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival 2014 art exhibition on Monday at the Pro Gallery, College of The Bahamas. Youth, Sports and Culture Minister Dr. Daniel Johnson delivered brief remarks. On Thursday he launched the culture magazine BAAM (Bahamas Ambassador Magazine) at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas.
Under the auspices of the School of Chemistry and Environmental Life Sciences, the College of The Bahamas (COB) launched science week at the Harry C. Moore Library Auditorium on Monday evening. Delivering the keynote address was the head of the BEST Commission, Philip Weech. The purpose of Science Week is to stimulate greater interest in the value and relevance of science to our everyday lives and by extension, national development.
Australian swimmer Chloe McCardel and The Bahamas together made history when in the early hours of Wednesday morning, 23rd October Chloe arrived on Montague shores in east New Providence from South Eleuthera. The 29 year old completed a continuous swim in the ocean for 79.5 miles, breaking the old world record of 67.1 miles held by fellow Australian Penny Palfrey when she successfully swam between Little and Grand Cayman Islands. Well, the legend of Eleuthera continues to grow internationally.
The Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation (CCEC) announced the appointment of Gowon Bowe as the new chairman on Tuesday of this week. He replaced Robert Myers who tendered his resignation late last week after a ZNS exclusive revealed that he made a false customs declaration of some $22,000 on an imported 2013 Porche and failed to declare some $4,000 worth of clothing in the car.
The now infamous Public Hospital Authority (PHA) audit was formally and finally accepted by the PHA Board of Directors after a March 2014 completion date. PHA Chairman Senator Frank Smith claimed that during the interim, the board wanted the Authority’s internal auditors to verify some of the findings submitted by external auditor UHY Bain and Associates with specific frames of reference.
Education Minister Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald called the day historic as he proudly commissioned the pre-school and day care council on Monday of this week. The Council will serve as a regulatory body for early childhood education and daycare. The Council will ensure that children at both public and private pre-school and daycare centers receive a structured education during those formative years.
The Nassau Guardian reported that Grand Bahama based Okyanos Heart Institute has performed five stem cell procedures last week and according to CEO Matthew Feshbach, the institute is capable of performing 1,000 procedures per year.