by Larry Smith
Did you know humans can levitate?
by Larry Smith
Did you know humans can levitate?
by Larry Smith
Last November, a regional conference in Guyana focused on abolishing the death penalty, which many Caribbean territories - including the Bahamas - want to keep on the books.
Sponsored by the European Union, the conference went completely unnoticed here. The main conclusion was that, although capital punishment did not deter crime, public support for it was closely linked to fear.
As our murder rate rises to ever more “frightening” levels - which the authorities seem helpless to deal with - it is easy to see why ordinary citizens want to strike back. There is a strong sense that criminals are undermining our society.
Former cabinet minister Leslie Miller recently excoriated the chief justice for pointing out that - under current law - it would take a massacre before the death penalty could be carried out here.
Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez is stylizing himself as a defender of public virtue and ethics in politics. He has lacerated the political class for corruption and an unwillingness to tackle the issue.
He advised of what he deems as conflicts of interest in the Official Opposition. A report in this journal noted that he “told National Review that he is disappointed that the government is not serious about dealing with corruption [and that] it seems the government turns a blind eye to corruption.”
One editorial recently described Gomez’s face as “cherubic”, which one dictionary defines as, “having the innocence or plump prettiness of a young child”, with synonyms such as angelic and sweet. Few would observe Gomez as having an angelic countenance.
Speaking of things angelic, in his public moral crusade, he has the anointed blessing of his father Bishop Drexel Gomez. A story in one of the dailies notes the elder Gomez’s pride in his son’s stance against corruption.
The Bishop declared of his son’s crusade:
by Larry Smith
As the patriotic strains of the Marseillaise drifted over Paris following the recent terror attacks, social media around the world erupted with gushers of hate, anger, sorrow and solidarity.
We were no exception. Many Bahamians superimposed the French tricolour over their Facebook profile picture in a show of sympathy, while others hurled threats, insults and angry condemnations - all wrapped up in dire warnings against Syrian refugees.
The expression of solidarity with the French was a major theme on social media immediately after the attacks. But this soon degenerated into a racial controversy. Some were upset because, in their view, the same kind of attention had not been given to terrorism in non-Western countries like Kenya, Nigeria or Lebanon.
Just before the Paris attacks, a pair of Isis suicide bombers had struck Beirut, killing 43 people and wounding 239. Last April, Islamist gunmen stormed a college campus in Kenya, killing 148 and injuring 79. And in January the brutal Boko Haram Islamist group torched an entire town in Nigeria.
Here are two examples of the objections raised on social media:
by Larry Smith
Politics is a strange game in the Bahamas - full of “crazy per-sons”, as Holly laughs to Megan in the Coca Cola commercial that plays endlessly on television.
You wouldn’t know it from Prime Minister Perry Christie’s tragicomic remarks last week, but Bahamian parliamentarians have been 'crossing the floor’ in one way or another ever since the beginning of party politics in 1953.
Randol Fawkes left the PLP in 1958 to form the Labour Party. And a decade later he cast the deciding vote that enabled his erstwhile rival, Lynden Pindling, to become the country's first black premier.
But a few years before that, three parliamentarians had left the PLP to help form the National Democratic Party, which was wiped out in the 1967 general election that brought Pindling to power.
In 1970, Education Minister Cecil Wallace-Whitfield and other leading PLP’s split the party and went on to form the Free National Movement. And for the next 20 years, opposition politics was heavily fractured, with MPs sloshing back and forth in the House like dirty water.
In the 1980s the PLP suffered another split - when widespread drug lord corruption led Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Hanna to resign from the cabinet, and got Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie fired as they were about to quit.
Ingraham and Christie spent time in the House as independents before returning to one or other of the main parties. Ingraham was to lead the FNM to victory in 1992 while Christie (who became PLP leader in 1997) had to wait until 2002 to become prime minister.
by Larry Smith
In 2005 I wrote a column about human rights abuses in the modern Bahamas.
Among other cases, I gave a summary of what was perhaps the worst such abuse up to that time. It involved an unfortunate individual named Atain Takitota, who claimed to be a Japanese citizen, although the authorities in Tokyo denied it.
Now about 50, Takitota was arrested by Immigration officers in Nassau in 1992. He had no money, no passport and spoke no English. No-one knew how he had arrived here or where he came from – despite efforts by the honorary Japanese consul, Basil Sands, to establish his identity.
So, for the indiscretion of being a homeless foreigner, Takitota spent the next eight years of his life billeted with hardened criminals in the maximum security wing at Fox Hill prison without charge. He endured the most appalling conditions, attempting suicide at least three times.
Eventually, a prison officer with heart brought him to the attention of sympathetic lawyers, who applied to the court for his release.
Attorney Sean Hanna sued the government on Takitota’s behalf. And in 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that his eight-year imprisonment was unconstitutional. It was not a tough call.
The court set aside the 1992 deportation order and directed the government to give Takitota the right to earn a living in the Bahamas. “One would expect that a certain minimum standard of civility and humanity would be the order of the day,” the court said at the time.
by Larry Smith
The response of the government and its emergency management agency to the recent smashing of the southern islands by Hurricane Joaquin has been astonishingly lacking in at least one important respect - the provision of public information.
From the outset, there were complaints that not enough warning of the storm's approach was given. In fact, this hurricane took most of us by surprise. As comedian Sawyer Boy’s pink-robed ‘Wackeeeem’ character noted: “I came from the behind”.
Early last week Hurricane Joaquin (or ‘Walkine’ as an official memo from the Ministry of Youth put it) was not on anyone’s radar. Then suddenly it was a monstrous thing right on our doorstep. This was followed by two days of intense battering as the now Category 4 storm stalled over the southern islands.
The inevitable result was widespread flooding, major damage to infrastructure, the shredding of poorly-built homes, the wrecking of boats and the loss of all communications and utilities. As late as Monday there was still uncertainty in some quarters over whether any deaths had occurred as a result of the storm.
Prime Minister Perry Christie and NEMA officials held a jaunty press briefing in Nassau on Thursday afternoon, as the storm was already battering the southern islands. This was when Christie used one of his favourite catch-phrases, describing the apparent lack of preparations on affected islands as “a teachable moment.”
by Leandra Esfakis
The Tribune published an interview with lawyer Wayne Munroe on September 23, on the Blackbeard’s Cay matter. Blackbeard's Cay is a small resort island off Cable Beach, which keeps eight captive dolphins as a tourist attraction. It is operated by a company called Blue Illusions Ltd, which is Mr Munroe's client.
When Prime Minister Perry Christie, and his Minister of Agriculture V Alfred Gray, decided to issue approvals to Blackbeard’s Cay without observing the legal process, they broke the laws.
They did what they did, for reasons best known to themselves. Certainly, those reasons were not known to the public, which under our laws, had a right to a public meeting; had a right to raise questions and get answers. This meeting was never held. Correspondence on the topic was ignored – for years. The government, throughout this process, has shown contempt for the law and disregard for the public.
In July 2014, the Supreme Court found that the prime minister and the minister of agriculture failed to comply with our laws. The approvals they granted for the Blackbeard’s Cay re-development, did not meet legal requirements. The court quashed those approvals. This means the approvals and permits are not in effect.
Blue Illusions, the operator of Blackbeard’s Cay, was at all times aware of these proceedings. It had lawyers attending the proceedings; it had opportunity to intervene in the proceedings; it had opportunity to be heard. But did nothing.
Instead, Wayne Munroe’s client sat on its hands. It let the government spend the Bahamian public’s money, fighting this action, in an attempt to defend the interests of a private enterprise.
That attempt failed. The court decided against the government. Now Blue Illusions says it is unhappy with the consequences. It stood by and watched the litigation for almost two years, and did nothing. To complain now that enforcement of the court order would be in breach of its constitutional rights, is mischievous at best.
Let’s consider our constitutional democracy. It mandates that we have a rule of law; that no man is above the law; that all are equal before the law; that breaches of the law bring consequences.
The government broke the law when it allowed Blue Illusions to proceed with an illegal development. Blue Illusions broke the law by proceeding with an illegal development. But Mr Munroe claims it is "not cricket” to enforce the law.
Here’s where we would ask ourselves:
When the parties to the development, and these proceedings, (being prime minister, minister of agriculture, the director of town planning, international businessmen, developers and financiers), set out on a path which avoided compliance with our laws, did they not contemplate the potential consequences?
To add to the issues, Blue Illusion’s attorney indicates that it may sue the government if Blackbeard’s Cay has to return to its permitted use. Mr Munroe says the company’s claim would cost the Bahamian people $12 million in damages and 60-100 Bahamians would lose their jobs. Whether Mr Munroe’s client has a valid claim is a discussion for another place.
Before we are alarmed by these numbers let’s ask ourselves:
If our government cared about liability to the Bahamian people, why did it allow the Bank of the Bahamas to mismanage $100 million of people’s money? And why has it put $200 million more of the people’s NIB money, into a bank that is rocked by corruption?
If the government truly cares about Bahamian jobs, why has it forced Baha Mar into a chronic and probably fatal liquidation process, with the potential loss of about 2,500 Bahamian jobs?
But the fundamental question here is: Does the government care about good governance?
The government did not do right in the first place - by Blackbeard’s Cay - when it broke the law. It is not doing right in the second place, by ignoring the court order. This amounts to contempt of court. Court orders can be enforced by committal proceedings.
Justice Stephen Isaacs’ ruling on Blackbeard’s Cay requires the prime minister and his minister of agriculture, to act within the limits of our laws. This is how an independent and impartial judiciary in a democracy is supposed to function: it prevents the misuse and abuse of power, or corrects it.
And here’s where the PM could brilliantly lead by example - comply with the court orders, and uphold the law of the land. It would set the gold standard this nation so very much needs to follow.
It’s an historic moment in our development as a nation. It’s an historic decision, and not just for dolphins. It’s about our democracy, and administration of the rule of law: without prejudice, without fear or favour, without corruption. It’s about prudent government, with vision. It’s about us, and what we want for our country. It’s about making it better in the Bahamas
Let’s take a look at the short list of government issues so far: BAMSI; Bank of the Bahamas; Baha Mar; Bahamasair; BTC; BEC; crime; education; carnival accounts; Urban Renewal accounts - and now Blackbeard’s Cay.
Shooting the messenger, whether it is ReEarth, or the Public Accounts Committee, is not the answer. The problems will still exist.
But the beauty of the Blackbeard’s Cay case, is that these wrongs can be put right – the dolphins can be relocated to a suitable place, and the island can be restored to its legally permitted use - once the rule of law functions in our democracy.
Justice Isaacs’ ruling in the Blackbeard’s Cay case, gives the prime minister, the minister of agriculture, and all of us, a window of opportunity to do the right thing. If we are truly proud to be Bahamian, we can make it happen.
Leandra Esfakis is a daughter of the late Dr Andrew Esfakis. She is a lawyer practising with King & Co.
by Larry Smith
This weekend, social media land was in a tizzy - with many Bahamians aghast at a spoof produced like a promotional video. The film featured a syrupy narration illustrated by scenes showing some of the underside of Nassau's tourist core. Here are some excerpts:
At one time in their relationship Prime Minister Perry Christie and Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian were as thick as old comrades. They cooed compliments and encomiums to each other.
The prime minister and the developer saw Baha Mar as a shared grand legacy. Izmirlian lauded the prime minister who in turn praised the developer for his vision.
The love match has ended in mutual recrimination, anger and wounded pride, as employees of the resort are devastated with many facing dire consequences in an economy in which there is a high rate of unemployment. Employee anxiety and frustration grow by the week.