This week in the Bahamas –

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Deputy Director at BIS Elcott Coleby.

THIS WEEK IN THE BAHAMAS (6 – 10 APRIL 2015) COMMENTARY BY ELCOTT COLEBY

Prime Minister Christie addresses youth and crime at CARICOM – US Summit

“Mr. President, colleague Heads of Government, the three themes of today’s Meeting, Competitiveness, Security and Energy, could not be more relevant.” With that established theme, Prime Minister Christie outlined CARICOM’s expectations and objectives regarding these critical issues. He delivered the region’s statement at the CARICOM – US Summit in Kingston Jamaica on Thursday, 9th April 2015.

Reiterating the proposition that country competitiveness was intrinsically linked to human capital and youth development, the Prime Minister said that CARICOM is “dedicated to building the competitiveness which would serve to assist us in maintaining the progress we have made in the areas of human and social development while providing much needed jobs, particularly for our youth. That is where our partnership with your country is critical.”

“They are the future of this region” continued Mr. Christie, referring to the region’s youth. “I speak on behalf of us all  when I say there is no more compelling mission than we have today than to help to secure their future; to dispel their sense of hopelessness; to fix the joblessness; to ensure that they get a good education; to help them become a part of the formal economies of our countries.”

Turning his attention to crime, a consequence of youth unemployment and underdevelopment, the Bahamas Prime Minister said “we cannot surrender them to the negative forces of crime and war in far flung climes. If this meeting produces anything today, it must be to ensure the future of our young people. If we fail in that mission, we do so at our peril.”

As regards the threat of transnational criminality to regional security, stability and prosperity, Mr. Christie extolled the value of continued bilateral cooperation in the face of this common and regional threat:

“There is no doubt that crime and security rank high among the principal threats and obstacles to such growth. We therefore value highly the co-operation and the collaboration with the United States in the area of security. We look forward to its continuation. In my own country, as the closest offshore country to the United States, the benefits of security cooperation are obvious to our people; the fight against transnational crime including illegal migration is urgent, the importation of guns from America wreaks havoc and needs to be stopped. That is but one country’s example of the sense of urgency we feel on crime and security across the region. More must be done in a practical way to stop the crime. Let us work together to build a zone of peace; to stop crime; to end the violence; promote our young and ensure our common futures.”

The CARICOM Heads of Government and President Obama headed to Panama City on Thursday evening for the Summit of the Americas where a United States President will meet a Cuban President for the first time in more than fifty years as the two leaders continue to normalize their relations. The Bahamas delegation includes National Security Minister Hon. Bernard Nottage; Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. Fred Mitchell and Labour Minister Hon. D. Shane Gibson.

President Obama announces new initiatives on regional energy

Speaking at the CARICOM-US Summit in Jamaica on Thursday, United States President Barak Obama reiterated his country’s support for energy security for the region. His announcement was essentially a continuation of the dialogue that started when CARICOM Heads of Government met with US Vice President Joseph Biden a few weeks ago in Washington DC.

“Today we are announcing new partnerships including a new fund to mobilize private investment in clean energy projects in the Caribbean and in Central America and I’m confident that given the commitment of the CARICOM countries and the US commitment, that this is an issue in which we can make great strides over the short term and even greater strides over the long term.

Sandy Bottom/Armed Forces assist with CARICOM – US Summit security

As expected in the era of post 911, security was exceptionally tight during the CARICOM-US Summit this week in Jamaica, so much so that the government of Jamaica enlisted the assistance of the Bahamas government to shore up their ports and borders generally as well as to put more boots on the ground to strengthen personal security. The HMBS Sir Durward Knowles, one of the new vessels purchased by the government under the $232 million Sandy Bottom project was sent to Jamaica to assist with security as well as other personnel. Explaining how one of our armed forces and security infrastructure were assisting a regional partner was National Security Minister the Hon. Bernard J. Nottage.

“The HMBS Durward Knowles is here in Jamaica because the Jamaicans (the Jamaican government) asked whether or not we would be kind enough to assist them with the protection of the borders; follow the heads of countries that are here – and of course President Obama who is also here – so this is a major invitation for us” said Minister Nottage. Congratulations to the RBDF as the region called on you because of your proven competence and skills set.

Attorney General reveals updated Bahamas Laws Online

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs the Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson described the re-launch of Bahamas Laws Online as a “red letter day” that offers new opportunities to take The Bahamas to another level and “celebrate” the rule of law and democracy.

The new website, www.laws.bahamas.gov.bs, replaces the previous website at which laws were current to 2009. The Ministry of Legal Affairs has since made the site current to December 31, 2014.

Tina Roy, Director of Law Reform, gave the media a short presentation on the upgraded website during a Press Briefing at the Office of the Attorney General, JFK, Wednesday, April 8th.  The user-friendly website provides links for Frequently Asked Questions and how to purchase copies of the Official Gazette online. The website can be accessed from the Bahamas Government website.

The Attorney General said from 2015 and beyond the Ministry of Legal Affairs plans to ensure that as laws are passed they are chronologically posted to the website under the year.

“The entire team at the office of the Attorney General has been focused on how we give persons access to the law especially in the day of people interacting with their government on their smartphones,” she said.

Mrs. Maynard-Gibson said making the laws easily accessible is a “real” demonstration of commitment in addition to a big vision that the government has for e-government. It is also her hope that the website will be a wonderful research tool.

Damian Gomez, Minister of State for Legal Affairs, thanked the members of the Law Reform Commission and the Department of Information Technology for their hard work on this project. “I hope the public will enjoy using this facility which is now available,” he added.

In addition to the Law Reform Commission — Government Printing and the Department of Information Technology have contributed to this initiative. Members of the team include: Tina Roy; Deputy Director of Legal Affairs Danya Parker, Latoya Dean, Fern Bowleg, Aramenthea Hepburn, Rudisha Mackey, Tammy Smith and Rubin Rolle.

Consul General Randy Rolle returned to Nassau

Following his arrest on Good Friday in Bimini for what the media reported as “disorderly conduct,” Bahamas Consul General to Atlanta HE Randy Role returned to Nassau for consultations.

Yes there were some delays in traffic flow due to a parade and Rolle, the driver of a golf cart, was advised by police that he could not proceed until the parade had passed. What transpired between the two men that led to the arrest remains unclear.

On Tuesday evening, the Free National Movement issued a statement accusing the Prime Minister of intervening to secure the release of Rolle; the claimed in the statement that this was an abuse of power and called the release of the police report. Rolle responded immediately saying that he did not contact the Prime Minister or any politician for that matter in connection with Friday’s events. He claimed that the misunderstanding was resolved and he was released without charge.

On Wednesday the Commissioner was quoted in the one of the dailies as saying that it was “erroneous” for anybody to assert that he ordered the release of Mr. Rolle. The Commissioner also denied any involvement of any politician and clarified that Rolle’s release was the decision of an Assistant Superintendent on Bimini.

Rolle granted an interview to a local daily and revealed that he was summoned to Nassau to brief Ministry officials on the events and circumstances surrounding his arrest on Bimini on Good Friday.

Later on Thursday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement:

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises the public that Bahamas Consul General to Atlanta Randy Rolle has returned to Nassau for consultations with his principals at the headquarters.”

Prime Minister Christie to sue FNM Chairman

In the wake of the accusations of abuse of power, the following press statement was released late Thursday night via Bahamas Information Services. The statement is printed in its entirety”

“Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon Perry G. Christie, announced today (Thursday, 9th April) that he has instructed his attorneys to take legal action against FNM Chairman Senator Michael Pintard for defamation of character. According to the Prime Minister, Senator Pintard, in a press release, falsely and maliciously accused him of interfering with a police matter involving Randy Rolle, the Bahamas Consul in Atlanta. “What Senator Pintard said about me was completely and utterly false. It was a bold-faced lie.  Now he will have to account for his defamatory assault in a court of law.”

The Prime Minister further announced that he has also instructed his attorneys to take action against those media houses that published Senator Pintard’s release and in so doing had committed defamation as well.”

CARIFTA teams return home after gold rush
Improving on their seventh place finish last year, the 53-member Bahamian CARIFTA track and field team finished second to regional power, Jamaica in the 44th CARIFTA Games which were held in Saint Kitts and Nevis over the Easter holiday weekend. Led by double gold medalist long and triple jumper Charisma Taylor and middle distance runner Shaquania Dorsett, The Bahamas collected eight gold, thirteen silver and ten bronze medals. In 2014, The Bahamas managed to win just one gold medal and nineteen medals overall. The top four finishers were Jamaica, The Bahamas, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.

As regards CARIFTA swimming, The Bahamas successfully defended its 2014 CARIFTA swimming title in Barbados with a point total of 756.50 which translated to 29 gold, 17 silvers and 8 bronze medals. The host country Barbados was second with 642.50 points. Rounding out the top four were Trinidad with 494.50 points and Guadeloupe with 478 points. Our most decorated swimmer was The Bahamas Swimming Federation’s Junior swimmer of the year Joanna Evans who also struck gold in the 5 kilometer Open Water swim.

Sports Minister Dr. Daniel Johnson announced to the team that the government of The Bahamas will take the lead in proposing a CARIFTA Olympics to be held every four years which was the initial intent of the game’s founder Austin Sealy. The CARIFTA Olympics will comprise an estimated seven events. This proposal of course will have to be ratified by the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government.

RBPF Pacesetter chapter for Eight Mile Rock
Expanding on the success of its legendary youth development and community outreach programs, the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) took another giant step when the law enforcement agency officially launched the Police Youth and Athletic Club, dubbed the Eight Mile Rock Pacesetters. The official launch took place at the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Jones Town, Eight Mile Rock on Wednesday morning of this week.

The keynote speaker for the event was Chief Superintendent of Police Ismella Davis. The group also heard from the Administrator for West Grand Bahama, Mrs. Brenda Colebrook. The theme for the occasion was ‘The Road to Excellence through Training.’ Ms. Davis emphasized that the theme should stay with them though childhood and adult life.

She further pointed out that the launch of youth clubs in the various communities is very significant to the Royal Bahamas Police Force as indicated in the Commissioner’s Policing Plan 2015.

The Chief Superintendent of Police explained that the objective of the sporting program is to educate children and young people about crime, alcohol, substance abuse and their personal safety; to institute conflict resolution programs in schools, churches and community group meetings; foster positive relationships between the Police and young people; and provide mentoring and character building among at-risk children.

Senators debate compendium of co-operative bills
Placing its stamp of approval on the compendium of Co-operative Bills passed in the Lower House, the Senate met on Thursday of this week. “This suite of legislation,” said Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Allyson Maynard, “as well as protecting members of Co-operatives, will enhance the financial services sector of The Bahamas, thereby promoting business and job opportunities.”

For my readers’ ease of reference, the list of Bills includes the following:-
The Bahamas Co-operative Credit Unions Bill;
The Financial Transactions Reporting (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill, 2014;
The Co-operative Societies (Amendment) Bill, 2014;
The Central Bank of The Bahamas (Amendment) Bill, 2014; and
The Business License (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2014
The Bank and Trust Companies Regulation (Amendment) Bill, 2014

Mrs. Maynard-Gibson added that “co-operatives manage millions of dollars – they are big business. And, regrettably, administrators too frequently betray trust. To this we must add that every financial institution must have in place the means to protect itself from Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism.”

The bills effectively give the Central Bank of The Bahamas expanded regulatory powers over co-operatives and the bills are also FATF compliant.

Inaugural Customs Marine Division class graduates
After eight weeks of rigorous training by officers from the Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF), fifteen Customs Officers graduated this afternoon to officially form the Customs Marine Division of the Customs Department. The graduation ceremony was held today (Friday, 10th Apr) at the Royal Bahamas Defense Force Base at Coral Harbour.

Delivering the keynote address was State Minister for Finance, Hon. Michael Halkitis who thanked Comptroller Charles Turner for his leadership and the Marine Unit for their dedication. The officers were trained in Leadership Operations Procedures, Seamanship, Fire Fighting, First Aid, Navigation, Small Arms, Boat Handling, Board and Search, Swimming and range exercise.

“The function and expansion of this unit will play an integral part in the collection of our Government’s Revenue and assist in the protection of our borders” said Mr. Halkitis. “Deploying an initial five vessel fleet (3 new and 2 used), will make coastline patrol more efficient. We need you to be ready for any contingency and will make sure you have what you need to succeed in your missions.”

The vessel commissioning ceremony followed the graduation ceremony.

In Passing…
In its bid to train, inform, educate and heighten the awareness of citizens generally about the critical importance of disaster preparedness, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) conducted a seminar on Thursday evening at the S.C. McPherson High School for the local community. By all indications, the seminar was a success and these types of community outreach efforts must continue. Good job Captain Russell and team.

The Department of Public Health (DOPH) is celebrating STD/STI Awareness Month in April and held its opening ceremony at the Mall at Marathon on Thursday morning. Statistics show that persons between the ages of 15 and 24 continue to be among those with the highest rate of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s). The theme this year is STI Prevention is HIV Prevention. DOPH Program Manager Dr. Philip Swann said that safe sex and frequent testing are the keys to prevention.

The Department of Civil Aviation announced the temporary closure of the airport runway at Staniel Cay Exuma for repairs. An alternate landing route announced were Black Point and a short 5 minute ferry ride to Staniel Cay.

The changing of the Guards took place this morning at Government House. This particular ceremony was historic in that for the first time, a female Defense Force participated in the event which has its roots in ancient English tradition. Congratulations to her.