Bahamas Signing onto Convention to set tone for Disability Legislation

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Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, bids "safe journey" to the delegation from the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development that will represent The Bahamas at the United Nations in New York. The delegation will be headed by Minister of Social Services and Community Development. the Hon. Melanie S. Griffin and include Ms. Mellany Zonicle, Director of Social Services, Department of Social Services and Mrs. Iris Adderley, Consultant, Disability Affairs Unit. Pictured (from left) are: Minister of Labour, the Hon. Shane Gibson who will act as Minister of Social Services in Minister Griffin's absence; Mrs. Barbara Burrows, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Services and Community development; Minister Griffin; Prime Minister Christie; Mrs. Iris Adderley; Director Zonicle and Mr. Alan Strachan, Under Secretary, Ministry of Social Services and Community Development. (BIS Photo/Peter L. Ramsay)

NASSAU, The Bahamas — The Bahamas will become a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the U.N. Headquarters in New York (on Tuesday (September 24), joining Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Jamaica, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada.

Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie Sharon Griffin, who will sign the Convention on behalf of the Government and people of The Bahamas, said signing onto the Convention will be a precursor to the enactment of Disability Legislation in The Bahamas.

The proposed Draft Bill is expected to get Cabinet consent before reaching Parliament “within the next few weeks.” Officials anticipate that the Draft Bill will be Tabled and Passed in both the House of Assembly and the Senate by December 3, 2013 – a date that is observed as International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Mrs. Griffin, along with a “small delegation” that will include Ms. Mellany Zonicle, Director of Social Services, Department of Social Services, and Mrs. Iris Adderley, Consultant, Disability Affairs Division, are expected to travel to New York this weekend to attend a United Nations High Level Meeting and to sign onto the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Mrs. Griffin, along with Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Perry Gladstone Christie, met with members of the media Wednesday to inform them of the significance of Mrs. Griffin’s New York trip.

“The signing of this Convention, and the enactment of legislation, were two of the commitments made by the Christie Administration and God willing, by next week, this commitment would have been fulfilled,” Mrs. Griffin said.

“I am certain that the community of persons with disabilities is extremely pleased that the Convention will be signed at last (even though) it has taken much longer than they would have wanted to.”

Mrs. Griffin said the “next stop” is the enactment of legislation to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. She said Government, Ministry, Non-governmental and other officials are “actively working on this matter.”

“While there have been consultations with some non-governmental organisations on this matter, I expect that the national consultations on the Draft Bill will commence very soon,” Mrs. Griffin said.

“The enactment of legislation for persons with disabilities is also a commitment of the Christie Administration and God’s willing, this too, will soon be fulfilled,” Mrs. Griffin added.

Minister Griffin met Monday with leaders of several key non-governmental organisations representing persons living with disabilities in The Bahamas ahead of this weekend’s United Nations visit.

The Informational meeting with the groups representing persons living with disabilities in The Bahamas was held to apprise those representatives of the Minister’s agenda during her stay in New York.

Mrs. Griffin said the informational meeting is part of the process of informing key groups about visits to the United Nations, prior to, and following those visits.

Minister Griffin discussed a wide-range of topics with the representatives, among them, the High Level Meeting, the signing onto the Convention, Upcoming Legislation and the appointment of a Task Force for a Facility for post School-Aged Children Living with Disabilities.

Representatives from those groups attended Wednesday’s Press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister.

The High Level Meeting is scheduled to take place Monday, September 23, 2013 while the signing onto the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will take place on Tuesday, September 24. Mrs. Griffin and her delegation will return to The Bahamas on Wednesday, September 25, 2013.

Mrs. Griffin said representatives from countries attending the High Level Meeting are expected to adopt “a concise, action-oriented document” in support of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the realisation of the Millennium Development goals for persons with disabilities.”