by Larry Smith
Like others, I spend a lot of time grazing on social media these days. Although you have to wade through muddy water, it is one of the best ways to gauge the opinions of a wide cross-section of Bahamians.
by Larry Smith
In her examination of the irregularities surrounding the so-called Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Institute on Andros this week, Nassau Guardian news editor Candia Dames said Bahamians have had enough of the government’s negligent handling of the country's affairs.
“The tolerance for our officials’ flippant and arrogant responses to critical issues is waning,” she said. “The culture of slackness (will) only be addressed if there are clear messages that those responsible for abuse are held to account."
Punch columnist Catherine Kelly went further: “You can hear the frustration as Bahamians call in to radio talk shows, trying to articulate why they think everything has gone so horribly wrong for their tiny country...They point to widespread corruption, criminality and violence…Clearly the people are at the breaking point and the Christie administration seems powerless to diffuse the ticking time bomb."
And fellow Punch columnist Nicki Kelly pointed out that “the fire at BAMSI exposed the lies and illegalities that have become a hallmark of this project since it was first conceived.”
“Egomania -- obsessive egotism or self-centredness ... narcissism, arrogance, boastfulness, imperiousness, cockiness, affectation, airs, show, ostentation, vainglory, braggadocio ... ”
With the country beset by a grave deficit of leadership and on the wrong track on many fronts, especially in the areas of the economy and crime, Bahamians are exhausted by Prime Minister Perry Christie’s tiresome rhetoric and inability to demonstrate leadership even as he pats himself on the back for what a good job he’s supposedly doing.
Meanwhile, with little progress on numerous fronts, the self-declared “defining” prime minister, intoxicated by the trappings of office, pompously presides over a government bumbling from one calamity to the next.
BAMSI, which he claimed would be one of his legacies, is an unholy mess. Even by Christie’s and many of his ministers’ standard of gross incompetence and lack of transparency, the failures at the Institute and the seeming unwillingness to lay bare the facts are mind-blowing. And there appears to be more here than spectacular incompetence.
Ill-conceived from its inception, the Junkanoo Carnival has proven a labyrinth of overblown promises, mass confusion and ineptitude which is likely to cost taxpayers millions.
Much of Christie’s legacy will be that of “daymares”: daydreams, which turn into policy nightmares. Like Peter Pan, he often indulges magical think: “Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough.” This may be true in fairy tales, but in the work of government dreams come true by dedicated action and oversight, and not by wishing upon a star.
by Larry Smith
Despite significant coverage in the American media, the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma, Alabama that led to passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act went almost unnoticed in the Bahamas.
And it’s a safe bet that most Bahamians who didn’t actually live through those tumultuous years are clueless about what happened in their own country at the same time. Hint—the two experiences are closely related.
The substance of these experiences was the suppression of democracy - denying citizens of African descent their right to vote. In the US these citizens were a minority. In the Bahamas, they were the majority. The ancestors of both groups were enslaved for centuries.
The 15th Amendment to the US constitution, ratified in 1870, after the civil war, prohibited states from denying the right to vote based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude.” This superseded laws that had directly prohibited black voting.
"As a result, in the former Confederate States...hundreds of thousands of recently-freed slaves registered to vote,” according to the US Justice Department website. "The extension of the franchise was strongly resisted...in a climate in which violence could be used to depress black voter turnout.”
Southern states passed laws that included poll taxes, literacy tests, vouchers of "good character," and disqualification for "crimes of moral turpitude." These were designed to exclude black citizens by allowing white officials to apply them selectively.
By 1910 nearly all black citizens in the former Confederate states were disenfranchised. The long struggle to restore those rights was one of the major focuses of the US civil rights movement, which was led by Rev Martin Luther King jr.
by Larry Smith
NORWICH, United Kingdom — After spending the last several weeks in this provincial capital of 200,000 people, I was able to gain some insight into the upcoming British general election set for May 7 - and consider parallels with the Bahamian political situation.
Straddling the tranquil River Wensum, Norwich is one of England's most historic towns. Sections of its medieval wall still enclose an impressive Norman cathedral and a castle built by William the Conqueror. And Norwich City is a hugely popular football team, only recently demoted from the premier league.
This is also a city where the once obscure Green Party hopes to score a historic goal in the next general election, helped along by rising popularity among young people. Recent polls put the party at 29 per cent among 18-24s. The Norwich constituency is a marginal seat now held by a Liberal Democrat.
The Greens are one of three small parties competing against the traditional two-and-a-half mainstream parties (Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat) for a fragmenting British electorate. The others are the UK Independence Party, and the Scottish Nationalists.
Victory and defeat are both replete with irony and paradox. Many a victory is the prelude to eventual defeat and many defeats contain mustard seeds which may be nourished to eventual victory.
Even in losing her bid to become Leader of the FNM, Loretta Butler Turner’s stature has risen in the process. She remains one of the premier political leaders, even though she no longer holds any party post. Notably, though women constitute the largest share of the electorate, no women hold any of the major party posts in the PLP or FNM.
Yards away from the bust of her grandfather in Rawson Square and in the same House chamber where Sir Milo Butler championed the rights of the mass of Bahamians, Butler Turner remains one of the more able and articulate Members of Parliament.
Founded in 1915, the Bahamas Girl Guides Association recently kicked-off its centennial commemoration at Government House with a programme of appreciation and celebration.
The Association has done extraordinary work over the past 100 years, helping to mould many generations of Bahamian girls and young women. Thousands of women, many at the most senior levels of the country, were deeply influenced by their membership in Girl Guides.
The Girl Guides movement, inclusive of Sunflowers, Brownies, Girl Guides and Rangers helped to develop confidence and foster a sense of the possible among scores of Bahamian females.
A Guiding song celebrating this sense of the possible is, “Can a Woman?”, which was sung at the launch of the centennial celebrations, its lyrics highlighting the advancement of women:
“Can a woman fly an airplane?
Yes, she can, yes she can!
Can a woman build a building?
Yes, she can, yes she can!”
The song asks if a woman can be a drummer or a doctor, or fix an engine, as well as do and achieve many other things. The resounding chorus throughout is, “Yes, she can, yes she can!”
Consider the complex of challenges before the international community, especially vulnerable small-island states such as The Bahamas and other Caricom members, as well as various Commonwealth countries in Africa and the Pacific.
The threats range from the effects of climate change with rising sea levels and droughts to human trafficking and the trade in guns and illicit drugs, helping to fuel alarming crime rates and piracy, as well as other security challenges including international terrorism and cybercrime.
Many countries are reeling still from the fallout of the Great Recession with trade and financial services and banking regimes often rigged in favor of the global powers inclusive of governments and corporate behemoths. Youth unemployment is staggeringly high. Income inequality is on the rise.
by Larry Smith
The unravelling of Dr Arthur Porter’s life didn’t begin in the Bahamas. But it could be said to have ended here - more or less.