From all accounts, there is a huge succession problem at the upper levels of our civil service - likely due to poor education and hiring standards over the years. That’s one of the reasons retiring senior officers are often rehired on contract (there are other reasons we won’t go into here).
The poster child for this problem is Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall.
He holds a statuary post under the Parliamentary Elections Act. He can be removed from this post if his actions are in breach of that Act, the Public Service Act or General Orders.
The decision to remove him otherwise would be at the discretion of the prime minister, I am told. A case for disciplinary action, outside of actions that are considered criminal offences, would have to be made to the Public Service Commission for this to happen.
Hall was promoted due to longevity, after the retirement of the previous commissioner. But he is clearly not up to the job. Evidence for this lies in his poor handling of the gender equality referendum earlier this year (which included the confusing and delayed release of results) and his obstruction of women trying to register to vote (which led to a protest movement called Too Sexy to Vote).
Hall blamed power outages and fax machine failures for the chaotic referendum result issues, but National Security Minister Bernard Nottage (who is responsible for elections) declined to criticise his performance at that time.
More recently - and despite the fact that voter registration levels are at a historic low - Hall defended his right to turn away any woman who did not meet his arbitrary dress code (men were not mentioned). And this was despite the fact that a voter’s card requires only a head and shoulders shot for identification.
This is what the law says: "to have two identical copies of a photograph taken of him/her by the revising officer, and being of such size as determined by the revising officer, portraying the head and shoulders of the person facing the camera."
In this case, Nottage felt obliged to respond to public outrage, saying no-one had the right to refuse to register a citizen to vote based on arbitrary standards or dress codes. But reports of people being turned away continued unabated, and it often took up to two hours for those who were able to register.
The Parliamentary Commission’s mission includes the following statement: "To afford every eligible Bahamian the opportunity to be registered and to vote in free and fair elections."
I daresay that having an incompetent like Hall in charge of our upcoming electoral process is not a good thing. Brace yourself for a whirlwind.
Every now and then we work ourselves into a frenzy based largely on hearsay and conspiracy theories. Eventually the controversy du jour settles down and is forgotten - until the next time.
There are several of these perennially contentious issues, but the one I want to discuss here today is aragonite.
At the recent ‘We March’ protest downtown, activist John Bostwick argued that our almost inexhaustible aragonite resources could solve our economic problems.
And hackles were raised a few weeks ago when American news reports seemed to suggest that Florida officials were about to steal Bahamian sand for their beaches.
A couple of years ago, union leader John Pinder and others made the preposterous claim that aragonite exports could not only pay off our national debt but give every Bahamian a $50,000 cheque.
“We’re talking about moving from being borrowers to lenders. What China is to the rest of the world, the Bahamas could be to the Caribbean,” Pinder said confidently.
At the same time, lobbyist Kay Smith was touting a $50 million investment in East Grand Bahama to mine aragonite for export and manufacturing. She did not reply to my recent email asking about the current status of that grandiose project.
Meanwhile, the government has said it is investigating the whole aragonite issue with a view to updating all the rules for resource extraction in the Bahamas.