NASSAU, The Bahamas — During her Speech from the Throne, on May 24, 2017, Governor General Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling, DCMG, said that the Bahamian people spoke clearly in the ballot boxes, on 10 May 2017, and gave the Free National Movement an overwhelming vote of confidence to restore to the nation “core values of self discipline, industry, loyalty, unity, good governance and an abiding respect for Christian values and the Rule of Law.”
“Consequently, my Government is fully committed to harnessing the energy of the Bahamian people and is determined to pursue policies that promote harmony and not division,” Her Excellency said, during the Opening of the Parliament, in Rawson Square.
“The mandate given to my Government on 10 May 2017 is a mandate for change,” she added. “This is a time for the accelerated development of all of our people in all spheres of national life. This is a time for the people. This is indeed the peoples’ time.”
Her Excellency said that her Government had, therefore, pledged to listen to the voice, aspirations, dreams, hopes and desires of the Bahamian people. She added that, despite the parallels with the victory of 1992, her Government was well aware that the world had changed significantly. Thus, the policies of her Government, she noted would not be drawn from the experiences of the past, but must be formed in the sunlight of contemporary realities.
“This reality is reflected in the very large number of new faces in our Parliament which tells me that there is a growing number of young people with a strong desire for public service,” Her Excellency said. “My government will be well served by this large contingent of first time members in the halls of Parliament.”
“They will be assisted by a number of experienced Members of Parliament in both the people’s Senate and House of Assembly, on whom we rely to provide the thread of continuity that is so valuable in passing the torch of good governance and experience to new generations,” she said.
Her Excellency said that, when one looked around the world, one easily came to appreciate how fortunate the nation was, and what a privilege it was to be a citizen of The Bahamas. She pointed out that the members of the new Parliament surely recognized what a privilege it was to serve, in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, some of the “most favored people, lands and seas to be found anywhere on God’s earth.”
We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to our God, to focus first, foremost and forever, on restoring those values that our forefathers espoused at the founding of our nation 44 years ago,” her Excellency said. “My government is convinced that our transgressions in governance, our levels of crime, our levels of unemployment, our unhealthy lifestyles, our levels of social injustice and our seeming worship of power over principles, will never abate until and unless we begin to restore those Bahamian values that we cherished and embraced not so long ago.”
Her Excellency said her Government proposed to enlist the religious communities to assist in reawakening and reestablishing those national values, as a persistent, ongoing and ever growing effort.
“And with an eye to the future, we fervently ask for the support of our religious community, in bringing an increasing number of our young people, and especially our young Bahamian men, back to becoming fully engaged members of our spiritual communities,” she added. “We must intervene to save our youth, for this time is indeed, and especially, the younger peoples’ time.”
Her Excellency said that her government is troubled by the perceived increase in talented young Bahamians, seeking their fortunes permanently beyond the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. No country can maximize its potential, if many of its talented young people enlist their talents permanently in the development of economies elsewhere, she noted.
“My Government will implement a national skills register of Bahamians overseas to assist with their participation in national development and to provide them with opportunities for engagement in regional and international organizations,” she said.
“My Government will work assiduously to reduce the high level of youth unemployment to secure the future of this nation,” she added. “We will also seek to reduce total unemployment which will improve the standard of living and quality of life for all of the people of The Bahamas.
“We will address youth unemployment, in collaboration with stakeholders, through the implementation of specialized programmes that will equip our youth with essential job-related skills and provide employment opportunities.”
While addressing the members of the two chambers of Parliament, Her Excellency said that her government will place before them an “ambitious” agenda of reform and modernization.
“My Government will ensure that its Ministers are held to the highest standards of constitutional and personal conduct,” she said. “Consequently, my Government will enact and enforce anti-corruption legislation for all Parliamentarians and Public Officers.
“My Government will, with the consent of the electorate in a referendum, constitute an Independent Electoral Commission and Boundaries Commission, introduce term limits for Prime Ministers and introduce a system of recall for non-performing Members of Parliament,” she added. “The Office of Ombudsman will be created to provide a direct source of relief, where people have legitimate grievances due to the actions or inactions of government or any agency of the government.”
The Rule of Law is critical to the maintenance of the People’s trust in the exercise of public authority, Her Excellency pointed out. Therefore, she said, her government will enact legislation to establish the Office of an Independent Director of Public Prosecutions.
“In support of this endeavor certain functions now performed by the Attorney General, such as the power to issue a Fiat authorizing the commencement of legal actions in sensitive matters or a Nolle Prosequi, will be transferred to the Director of Public Prosecutions,” she said.
To restore the People’s confidence in public administration, her government will create a Bureau of Investigations to investigate matters referred by the Auditor General, the Ombudsman or the public, Her Excellency said.
“My Government will put forward legislation to establish and strengthen the independence of the Office of the Auditor General, allowing it to function properly and without government imposed constraints on its finances,” she said.
“My Government will amend the Public Disclosure Act to broaden the scope of application to include campaign finance reform and to make provision for direct referral to an independent prosecutor.”
Her Excellency added that her government will modernize and increase the efficiency of the judicial system to give wider access to justice. They will improve the efficiency of the Judiciary by enacting a Court Services Act to remove the Office of the Judiciary from the Public Service, and they will require all new Magistrates and Judges to attend the newly created Justice Training Institute, she pointed out.
“To improve the efficiency of the magistrates’ courts, my Government will seek to introduce an audio-visual digital recording system to reduce the need for manual recording of evidence by Magistrates,” Her Excellency said. “This will ensure that Transcripts of Trials or Preliminary Inquiries are prepared and certified in a timely manner to reduce delays in cases.”
“Additionally, to enhance efficiency, my government will amend the 82- years-old Magistrates’ Rules of Court 1934 which govern proceedings so that Magistrate Court summonses will no longer have to be served by police officers only,” she added. “This will release our police officers to actively fight crime.”