THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (2 – 6 NOVEMBER 2015)
COMMENTARY BY ELCOTT COLEBY
This week in Parliament
The House met at 10am on Wednesday, 4th November 2015 and below is a cursory summary of the House proceedings under the agenda heading “Statements by Ministers.”
Foreign Minister the Hon. Fred Mitchell welcomed a high level South African delegation as he remembered the 30th anniversary of the NASSAU ACCORD, an agreement coming out of the eighth meeting of the Government of the Commonwealth of Nations. It was held in Nassau, The Bahamas, between 16th and 22nd October 1985, and was hosted by the late Prime Minister Pindling.
The NASSAU ACCORD according to Mitchell was an agreement essentially calling on the South African government to abandon its policy of apartheid, negotiate with the country’s black majority and end its occupation of Namibia. The Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group was appointed to investigate the South African issue and report back with recommendations ahead of the special 1986 CHOGM in London.
Mitchell said that a free Mandela visited the Bahamas and thanked Sir Lynden Pindling for his role in opposing apartheid. Thabo Mbeki also visited the Bahamas when he became president of South Africa. The member for Fox Hill hailed the twenty-one years of democracy of the Republic of South Africa.
Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie delivered three communications under this House agenda item. He joined the Foreign Minister in paying tribute to this important historic event that led to the release of political prisoner Nelson Mandela.
The Prime Minister then reported on the launch of the Bahamas Learning Channel (BLC) at COB earlier this week. The BLC will air educational programs on channel 40 when the Parliament is not in session. He believes that this channel could become an effective alternative to traditional learning. To date, seventeen shows have been previewed. The Prime Minister also told the House that $5 million from the INSPIRE program were allocated to computerize physical classrooms, effectively creating virtual classrooms in junior and senior high schools around The Bahamas. This new technology said Mr. Christie, allowed a teacher in a family island to lecture to students in New Providence and vice versa.
The Prime Minister concluded by delivering his third update to Parliament on the post Joaquin restoration and reconstruction efforts in the hurricane stricken islands of the southern Bahamas. The other two communications were delivered on the 7th and 21st of October 2015.
Below is a detailed summary for ease of reference:
Cellular services have been restored in every community except Gordon’s, Mortimers and Roses in Long island and in Majors Cay, Pitts Town and Long Cay in Crooked Island. There is Fixed Line Service at the BTC main offices.
Full restoration of power supply was achieved in San Salvador, Acklins, Long, Cay and Rum Cay and 84% of customers on Long Island have had their power supplies restored.
Most of the water supply was restored within one week of the storm. Currently the provision of a water tanker in Landrail Point and the provision of a Desalination Plant at Colonel Hill and at Lovely Bay/Chesters are on-going. The Water and Sewerage Corporation estimates that it has spent some $1.75m on the capital works, including new water tankers trucks for Rum Cay and Crooked Island.
As for schools in Long Island, repairs to the Simms Primary School should be completed in two weeks. Mangrove Bush and Morrisville Primary Schools are being repaired and these schools should be ready for occupancy by the 19th November, 2015. All other schools in Long Island are opened and in normal operation.
In San Salvador, all of the schools are opened. The students of the United Estates Primary School are being accommodated in the Seventh Day Adventist church while their school house is being repaired.
In Rum Cay, the school has had to be relocated temporarily to a BTC owned building pending the completion of a new school to be opened in January 2016.
In Crooked Island, all of the school buildings suffered major damage and the majority of children have been re-located to Nassau while the schools are being rebuilt.
In Acklins, all of the schools have opened.
For the period 2nd October to 1 November, 2015, the Ministry of Health deployed 79 healthcare workers comprising Medical Doctors, Nurses, Psychiatrists and Psychologists to the Family Islands including 1 Psychiatrist and 1 Psychologist earmarked to travel to Rum Cay.
The HELP DESK established by the Department of Social Services has registered some 119 persons, assisting many of them with food coupons and has provided shelter for eight (8) persons.
Based on technical and social assessments, 600 homes are in need of replacement and repairs. NEMA has sent $392,382 worth of emergency building material to the affected areas and is delivering 7 trailer homes to provide temporary housing.
Civil Aviation Repairs are estimated to cost $1,696,939.53. The particulars are:
Crooked Island Terminal – $119,247.08
Acklins Island Airport Terminal Building – $180,374.77
Acklins Apron and Taxiway – $427, 818.57
Deadmans Cay Long Island Terminal Building – $162,279.68
San Salvador Island Terminal Building – $807,219.44
Acklins road repairs at existing elevations estimated to cost $22,085,347.22. The rebuilding cost with a 5 feet elevation is estimated cost of $43,937,358.33. The estimates cover the roads in Lovely Bay (temporary road); Queens Highway from Spring Point North to Lovely Bay; Camel Point Road; Spring Point Clinic Road; Salina Point Secondary Road; Chesters Road; Airport Access Road and the Airport Parking Lot.
The severely damaged dock at Spring Point Acklins is estimated to cost $1,388,136.75 to replace.
Repairs to Government buildings in Crooked Island are estimated at $255,051.84.
Reconstruction of the Landrail Point Dock is estimated at $1,317,186.75.
The total cost of repairs to infrastructure in Crooked Island has been estimated at $3,374,187.14 and includes culverts and carriageway reconstruction, the carriageway and bridge at Bullet Hill.
Repairs to Government buildings such as the Clarence Town Administrative Complex, the Packing House and various clinics are estimated at $682,581.32. This includes reconstruction of repairs to the Clarence Town Clinic.
Repairs to the docks at Clarence Town, Salt Pond, Simms and other infrastructure including seawalls and roads are estimated to cost $2,940,952.27.
Infrastructure in Long Island is estimated to cost $1,321,384.63, inclusive of road repairs, airport airside repairs, dock replacement and the reconstruction of a concrete boat ramp.
Repairs to public buildings in San Salvador are estimated at $830,000.00 and include residences, the Police Station, the administration buildings, the Graham’s Harbour Fish Fry and Recreational Buildings at Graham’s Harbour.
The infrastructure costs are estimated at $1,445,016.41 with the principal costs being attributed to the resurfacing of the Graham’s Harbour dock.
The total estimate for Government Buildings and Infrastructure comes in at $56,483,471.47. If the Acklins Road works at the 5ft elevation were subtracted, and the government proceeds with the road works at the existing elevation, then the total revised costs come in at $34,398,124.25.
Minister of Transport and Aviation, Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin reported to the House on the discovery of the merchant ship El Faro that allegedly sunk in Bahamian waters during the storm, Joaquin. All American and Polish crew members perished in that tragedy. With the use of an unmanned submarine, the merchant ship was discovered in an erect position and buried in approximately thirty feet of sediment; the ship’s structure containing the data recorder became detached and has not been found. Debris from the vessel washed up ashore on at least six islands including Long Island and Exuma.
Social Services Minister Hon. Melanie Griffin reported to the House on her participation in the ratification of the Persons living with Disability United Nations Charter in New York recently. She announced to House members that she received the instruments of power for persons living with disability and the accession to the protocol on the rights of the child.
Youth and Sports Minister Hon. Daniel Johnson reported on activities commemorating youth month and the schedule for both the junior and senior junkanoo celebrations. The Minister also outlined the new schedule of government subvention to junkanoo groups as they prepare for the Boxing and New Years Day junkanoo parades. These subventions were the highest ever.
In the ‘personal statements’ segment of the House agenda, Bamboo Town MP the Hon. Renward Wells resigned from the Progressive Liberal Party Parliamentary Caucus and joined the Parliamentary Caucus of the Free National Movement (FNM), citing a political fallout stemming from his unauthorized signing of a Letter of Intent as the principal reason. The Independent MP from Fort Charlotte, the Hon. Dr. Andre Rollins, also joined the Parliamentary Caucus of the FNM.
Minister Griffin announces “Rehabilitation Week” activities
Touting the commitment of her staff “to assisting at-risk youth and reformed citizens in becoming functional and productive citizens,” Social Services and Community Development Minister Hon. Melanie Griffin announced activities for Rehabilitation Week to be held November 9-13 under the theme “Restoring Hope through Rehabilitation.”
The Minister said the activities are geared toward informing the public of the role the department plays in rendering services to the community; as well as in the development of juveniles who have problems with the law, who are in correctional facilities; and those who seek professional guidance.
The activities planned are as follow:
Monday, November 9, a church service at 10:00 a.m. at Bethel Baptist Church Meeting Street, the public is invited;
Tuesday, November 10, a seminar/workshop at the department from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.;
Wednesday, November 11, a juvenile forum is scheduled on bullying/gang violence, at the College of The Bahamas (COB);
Thursday, November 12, a National Parenting Programme forum is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on “Understanding the Legal and Social Implications of Parenting,” at COB; and
Friday, November 13, a staff motivational workshop.
Prime Minister optimistic about Grand Bahama’s tourism sector
Prime Minister Christie was in Grand Bahama last weekend to attend a major fundraising event and in an exclusive interview with ZNS Northern Service, he foreshadowed a number of projects in the pipeline for Grand Bahama in the near term.
“We are finalizing our approach to the mining of Aragonite, not sand but Aragonite” said the Prime Minister “and we want to put in place a special regime. We are advised that a significant number of Bahamians will be employed. Two of the proposals to us have calculated that they should headquarter their businesses in Grand Bahama and so I am excited about that possibility because we have that in progress and we will wait for it to happen but Grand Bahama could also look forward to that because the people are very substantial business persons.” The Prime Minister further said that the government has taken the necessary steps to ensure that the requisite research finds this industry to be sustainable, renewable, environmentally friendly and with favourable value retention qualities.
Concerning the much talked about cruise port the Prime Minister said his government is “finalizing the position on a new port in Grand Bahama that involves Hutchinson as well as the Government of The Bahamas and Carnival Cruise Lines. We expect that in the not too distance future to be able to bring good news to Grand Bahama.”
He also announced a major investment in a new island destination to be created by the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC)
“…We have an application – a heads of agreement that we are finalizing with Mediterranean Shipping who are minority shareholders of the Container Port. They have cruise ships that are rolling off line. They wanted a destination, an island destination within The Bahamas. We think we have settled which island that should be. They have indicated that they will make a substantial development investment in being able to create jobs on that island; create a source of entertainment for people on that island so we are looking forward to that development starting and creating more jobs” said Mr. Christie.
Regarding Deep Water Cay, Prime Minister Christie revealed that the investors in Deep Water Cay lodge have committed to “re-engineer and rebrand that Bonefish Lodge into a major destination by lengthening the runway, by adding additional rooms and by having a brand major six star hotel” constructed on the Cay.
Additionally, the Prime Minister said that as a result of the success of the Memories Resort Bahamas and Sun Wing partnership, the Lucayan Beach Hotel became more successful and that success has spread to the Lighthouse Towers which the investment group will be opening this winter season. This triggers off confidence in the economy for investors who have hotel rooms or who would wish to add hotel rooms to the inventory said the Prime Minister.
Christie highlights economic import of Financial Services regionally
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie said that regionally, the Offshore Financial Sector has been an “important plank” in supporting the economic platforms of various countries in the region, with some like The Bahamas, being in that sector for decades.
“It is vital to protect our financial services sector and, obviously, to keep abreast of current trends and developments in this area,” Prime Minister said at the Caribbean Regional Compliance Association (CRCA) Conference, held November 5, 2015 at the British Colonial Hilton, and hosted by the Bahamas Association of Compliance Officers (BACO).
Notwithstanding a degree of intransigence from the European Union and an apparent changing of the proverbial goal post, the Prime Minister reiterated the commitment of the government to a fully compliant and credible financial services sector.
“I want to say again, categorically, that in nearly every instance, The Bahamas has been fully compliant with the standards laid down by all major international organizations, and our peer reviews from these agencies have confirmed this,” Prime Minister Christie said.
Reminding Compliance Officers that they are the gate keepers of the industry, Christie stressed to them the importance of remaining abreast with industry developments internationally.
“As Compliance Officers, therefore, your role is a vital one. You are, so to speak, the sentinels, the guardians of standards and best practices of an industry that means so much to our respective countries.
“It is vital, therefore, that you should be fully abreast of ongoing developments, and quite natural, through BACO and the CRCA share this information for the overall benefit of the industry.”
DPM to address legal seminar on ethics and law firm management
The Law Department of The College of The Bahamas (COB) in partnership with Eugene Dupuch Law School hosted its 2nd annual conference on Ethics and Law Firm Management on the topic “How to choose and Work with Lawyers and Clients.” This conference took place on Friday, November 6, at the Performing Arts Center of COB.
The Hon. Philip Davis, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works and Urban Development, delivered the opening remarks at the one-day event where he urged
LL.B Law Students of The College of The Bahamas (COB) to jealously guard their personal reputation above all by maintaining the highest standards and ethics in their personal and professional lives.
“After money, prestige and popularity leave, your name stands. Make it good,” he stated.
“The road to this noble profession is not an easy one and the later sojourn is even more complex. It is, though, a rewarding profession; and as practitioners of the law you will be called to a very high standard.”
Local and international presenters delivered presentations on the following topics: “Conflict of Interest: Engagement Letters and the Art and of Billing,” “Liability of Partners; Clients from Hell; How to Choose A Lawyer” and “How Ethics Can Be Taught and Learned.”
Bahamasair and IAM ink labour agreement
Executives of Bahamasair Holdings, Ltd. and the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO, District Lodge 142 on November 4, signed a Collective Bargaining Agreement during a brief ceremony at Bahamasair Head Office, Coral Harbour Road.
The three-year contract was made retroactive to January 1, 2015 and covers approximately 40 Florida-based employees of Bahamasair.
The agreement provides for the safety of air transportation, the efficiency of operations, the continuation of employment under conditions of reasonable hours, proper compensation and reasonable working conditions.
Foreign Affairs respond to media reports of missing funds
A front page story in the Freeport News on Wednesday of this week alleging $24,500 in missing funds from the Passport Office prompted a response from the Foreign Ministry as follows:
“Here are the facts as we know it in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as I have been advised about the reported missing funds at the Passport Office:
“The missing funds were discovered some months ago by the Management of the Passport Office and investigated by them immediately. The Auditor General was called in immediately to confirm what had already been discovered.
“The employee concerned with taking the funds confessed to taking the funds and gave the reason why. The matter was immediately turned over to the Police, the Department of the Public Service responsible for disciplinary action, and the Ministry of Finance who is the employer as the employee was on loan to the Passport Office.
“Disciplinary actions against the employee in question are continuing including a criminal investigation.
“Additionally, steps have since been taken to further strengthen the internal controls and management systems at the Passport Office.”
The case of the missing funds became public knowledge when the Auditor General, Terence Bastian, submitted his audit report to the Speaker of the House of Assembly as required by law.
The Ministry for Grand Bahama held a Money Management Workshop at Pelican Bay Resort, October 30, designed to educate employees on good stewarship of their personal resources. Kevin Seymour, an experienced business consultant and chartered accountant, shared with the employees topics including personal financial planning; preparing a personal budget; managing liquidity and investing; safeguarding assets and income; and the pros and cons of debt financing.
Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling, Governor General, attended a celebratory service on the occasion of the Anniversary of the City of Nassau at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, November 1, 2015. He Excellency read the Extracts from the Royal Order of 1861. Also in attendance was the Minister of Tourism the Hon. Obie Wilchcombe. The service was conducted by Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, the Right Rev. Laish Boyd.
Senior Justice, the Hon. Stephen Isaacs was sworn in as the Acting Chief Justice of the Bahamas Supreme Court at a short ceremony at Government House on Friday, 6th November 2015. The oath of office was administered by Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling.
National hero and designer of the Bahamas Coat of Arms and the National Flag, Dr. Hervis Bain was laid to rest today, Friday 6th November 2015 in a state recognized funeral at Saint John’s Native Baptist Cathedral and interred in the Cathedral’s cemetary. May his souls rest in peace.