This week in the Bahamas by Elcott Coleby

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Deputy Director at BIS Elcott Coleby.
Deputy Director at BIS Elcott Coleby.
THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (21 – 25 DECEMBER)

COMMENTARY BY ELCOTT COLEBY

Honours and Petroleum Bills pass the House

The amended Honours Bill and the compendium of Petroleum Bills including the Sovereign Wealth Fund Bill were passed in the House on Monday of this week. The Honours Bill was passed unanimously but there was division on the Petroleum Bill with 19 government members voting yes, 9 opposition members voting no and 9 House members were absent for the vote.

The bills are on their way to the Senate for further debate and passage.

Of particular significance was the statement by Immigration Minister Hon. Fred Mitchell who once again referred to the Mathew Sewell and Bruno Rufa cases and suggested that these rulings, if sweeping in nature, would cripple the country’s immigration laws as they now apply.

“The Judgment in this case (meaning the Bruno Rufa case in Freeport ruled on by Justice Weeks),” said Mitchell “is the second time (the first being the Mathew Sewell case) in as many months that Judges of the Supreme Court in this country have given rulings which suggest that every case of a landed or “non-landed” migrant to this country requires the rules of natural justice to apply.

“If this situation were to stand as binding law this would effectively cripple the immigration laws as they have been applied in this country. It would mean that every case of a migrant to this country would be justifiable and possibly challenged in the courts on the basis that there is a legitimate expectation of natural justice.”

Suggesting that the ruling appears to apply to people who seek to enter the country as tourists, Mitchell offered a scenario for public consideration.

“The public is asked to consider the following scenario where a tourist is landed by an immigration officer and then shortly after he passes the gate, the immigration officer discovers information which would cause him to cancel the leave. The ruling suggests that even though that might arise within the airport’s precincts there is a legitimate expectation of natural justice and the individual has to be given a right to be heard rather than withdrawing the leave summarily and putting that individual on the plane and out again.

“One can imagine the chaos this would cause with regard to the tens of thousands who make no attempt to come here legitimately but breach the borders and pursuant to these interpretations of the law would now require a court hearing before they can be removed from the country.”

Mitchell told the House that for the moment, the rulings in question are interpreted by the Bahamas government as “peculiar to their own facts.”

Prime Minister Christie releases Christmas message
In delivering his 2015 Christmas national address, the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie focused on the themes peace, love and compassion – qualities attributed to Jesus Christ and argued that if we as Bahamians pursued these qualities in our everyday lives, many of our societal concerns would greatly diminished.

“If we demonstrate love, compassion, peace, and a spirit of reconciliation towards all persons within our borders, many of the concerns that we have with our society will greatly diminish.”

Mr. Christie referred to the outpouring of compassion and generosity in the wake of the passage of Joaquin as an example of the powerful spirit of goodwill that lies within each Bahamian.

“We witnessed real examples of this love and compassion when, in October, a number of islands in the central and southeastern Bahamas were ravaged by Hurricane Joaquin. It was a wonderful, even awe-inspiring example, of the great good that lies within us and of the powerful spirit of neighbourly goodwill that wraps us together into a national family. I cannot commend enough all those civic groups, religious organizations, government agencies and private individuals that partnered with the National Emergency Management Agency in addressing the needs of those ravaged by Joaquin.”

On the issue of crime, the Prime Minister had strong words for those hell-bent on pursuing lives of criminality and promised tougher anti-crime measures in the New Year.

“…those who remain intent on pursuing lives of criminality, who only want to rob and steal or to inflict violence upon others, to such persons, they must hear this: cease and desist because there is no place in our society for those hell-bent on senseless acts of violence. The strong arm of the law will catch up with you, so stop, stop now, and stop before it is too late.

“We will be introducing even tougher measures to combat criminality in 2016. Bringing down crime is a challenge of the highest priority and one that we are determined to wrestle to the ground in the New Year.”

Looking to the future and notwithstanding challenges and setbacks, the Prime Minister spoke optimistically about a number of transformational initiatives such as National Health Insurance, the National Development Plan and an expansion of the national economy. Overall he felt good about the country’s prospects for 2016.

“My Fellow Bahamians, as we look beyond this Holiday Season and into the New Year, we see a road of progress sprawling before us. Yes, we know that we have a way to go. Yes, we will have challenges. Yes, we will have setbacks. Yet we also see milestones ahead of us, like our National Development Plan VISION 2040, the implementation of the first phase of National Health Insurance, and the expansion of the national economy in ways that are bound to create many new jobs and give rise to many more opportunities for entrepreneurial enterprise. You will be hearing more about our specific plans in all these areas as the New Year progresses.

“So, I feel good about our prospects for 2016. It’s going to be a good year for The Bahamas, a good year for Bahamians. I’m convinced of that! And together we can make what already promises to be a good year even better!”

Youth Minister thanks Junkanoo sponsors
The Hon. Dr. Daniel Johnson, seated right, Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, hosted a press conference on Monday, 21st December to publicly thank congratulate and thank sponsors of the 2015 Boxing Day Junkanoo Parade and 2016 New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parade for their interest and investment over the years and into the future. Wishing the companies, their staff, and the country a Merry Christmas the Minister announced Bahamas Telecommunications Company Ltd. (BTC) as the title sponsor and Coca Cola as a major sponsor for the third straight year.

Latest jobs numbers released
Well with 20,170 jobs added to the Bahamian economy since May 2012, the unemployment percentage is still where it was four and one half years ago – at 14.8% or an increase of 2.8% over May 2015.

The Department of Statistics attributed a number of factors to the 2.8% increase. The 30% decline in the number of discouraged workers, the mass layoffs of more than 2,000 workers at Baha Mar and the economic fallout from the destruction caused by the passage of Hurricane Joaquin through the central and southeast Bahamas earlier this year were the factors listed.

Unemployment in both New Providence and Grand Bahama hiked to 15.9% and 14.2% respectively with Abaco enjoying a decline into single digits at 9.7%. Unemployment among our youth, that group of Bahamians between the ages of 15 and 24, continued to stubbornly hover around 30%.

The report revealed that the labour force expanded by 1.6% over the last six months to 212,195 persons.

Labour Minister responds to labour report
Labour Minister Hon. Shane Gibson released the following statement in response to the November labour report.

“The government of The Bahamas notes the preliminary results of the November labour survey released earlier today by the Department of Statistics.

“The demands of an expanding labour force continues to drive the government’s intensified efforts to strengthen the major pillars of the economy, diversify the economy and invest more in human capital.

“The Bahamas has made tremendous strides since the global recession and more Bahamians are in fact working. Freeport and Grand Bahama have improved and the family islands, particularly Abaco and Bimini, continue to enjoy sustained economic growth.

“The expansion of the labour force will no doubt continue at a rate of 4,000 to 5,000 persons annually which demands acceleration in the rate of jobs creation. The government is keenly aware of this dynamic and is satisfied that the pending projects and those in various stages of development and completion will significantly reduce the level of unemployment over the next year.

“Certainly in an environment of a subdued and protracted global economic recovery, the government is pleased with the addition of over 20,000 new jobs and Bahamians to the employment lines since May 2012, but the truth is one Bahamian unemployed is too many.

“The government continues to express informed optimism in this area.”

Police announces security arrangements for upcoming junkanoo
As Sports Minister Dr. Johnson looked on Assistant Commissioner of Police Leon Bethel did not mix words during this joint press conference with the MOYS&C to discuss the security measures the police will take during the upcoming junkanoo parades. ACP Bethel said his Selective Enforcement Unit (SEU) will be out in full force to ensure public safety during the upcoming Boxing Day and New Year’s Day junkanoo parades. He said that his team will be vigilant and on the lookout for those wearing ankle bracelets and with outstanding warrants. If caught said Mr. Bethel, the detainee is unlikely to appear before a judge for a hearing until after Christmas and will be detained by police of “lock up” to use a Bahamian vernacular, until the day of the hearing.

His message to the public was plain and simple: BE ON YOUR BEST BEHAVIOR. For those with conflicts with the law and other would be trouble makers, they were given fair warning to avoid the general Bay Street/Down Town area. The RBPF’s Selective Enforcement Unit will be out in full force during the parades.

The second annual Popeye Bahamas Bowl a rousing success.
Airing live on the ESPN Sports Network, the second annual Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl game was played at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium on Christmas Eve.

The international exposure The Bahamas continues to enjoy from these Bowl Championship Series (BCS) games is invaluable to building the country’s sports tourism brand as tens of millions of college football fans tuned in to ESPN to watch both the inaugural and sophomore games. The last play of the inaugural game was nominated for an Espy award. The sophomore game proved to be just as exciting.

With both teams sporting identical records of 7-5, the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders of Conference USA took on the Western Michigan Broncos of the Mid-American Conference. In the end the Western Michigan Broncos won their first bowl game with a score of 45 to 31, improving to 8-5.

West Michigan running back Jamauri Jogan rushed 19 times for 215 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Bay Street came alive for Boxing Day junkanoo parade
The nation’s attention turned to Bay Street for the annual Boxing Day junkanoo parade scheduled to begin at 10 pm on Christmas night.

The ‘A’ Division lineup according to entry is as follows:
Music Makers
Saxons
Prodigal Sons
One Family
Valley Boys
Roots

The ‘B’ Division lineup according to entry is as follow:
Oringinal Congos
Fancy Dancers
Colours Entertainment
Conquerors for Christ
Redland Soldiers
Body of Christ
Mystical Bombers
Englerston Pioneers
Foundation
Z-Bandits
New Vikings

MERRY CHRISTMAS BAHAMAS AND A SAFE AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR!

CASHNGO