This week in the Bahamas Commentary by Elcott Coleby: Feb 29 - Mar 4
By Elcott Coleby
Mar 4, 2016 - 3:48:35 PM
This day in
Parliament – Four Gender Equality Bills passed by the House
History was made in The Bahamas today, Wednesday 2nd
March, as Parliament passed four amendments to the country’s 1973 independence
constitution, effectively removing the remaining vestiges of discrimination
against all Bahamians from the country’s Supreme Law.
On hand for the vote were 37 of 38 parliamentarians as the
Honourable member for Saint Anne’s Hubert Chipman remains ill.
A short description of the bills and the results of the parliamentary
vote are as follow:
bill seeks the grant the legal right to a Bahamian woman to automatically pass
on her Bahamian citizenship to her child born in a foreign country with her non
Bahamian spouse just as a Bahamian male married to a non Bahamian woman
currently has the legal right and privilege of doing under the current
constitution. The results on the vote were 37 yes and 1 absent.
bill seeks to enable a Bahamian woman who marries a non Bahamian man to secure
for her foreign husband the same access to Bahamian citizenship that a Bahamian
man married to a non Bahamian woman currently enjoys under the constitution.
The results on the vote were 36 yes, 1 no and 1 absent. Marco City MP the Hon.
Greg Moss voted no.
bill seeks to grant to an unmarried Bahamian man the legal right to pass on his
Bahamian citizenship to his child he fathered with a non Bahamian woman. Under
the constitution, only an unwed Bahamian woman enjoys that legal right and
privilege. The unwed male must provide proof of paternity by any method listed
under the constitution. The results of the vote were 37 yes and 1 absent.
bill seeks to eliminate gender discrimination by inserting the word “sex” into
article 26 of the constitution to make it unconstitutional to discriminate against
anyone on the basis of them being male or female. The results of the vote were
34 yes, 2 no, 1 abstain and 1 absent. Marco City MP Greg Moss and Bamboo Town
MP Renward Wells both voted no while Central Grand Bahama MP Neko Grant
Moss suggested that if passed into law, amendment four could open the door to
same sex marriage, but Marathon MP Jerome Fitzgerald rebutted, explaining that under
the Bahamas’ constitution that was not possible. Mr. Fitzgerald pointed out
that the Bahamas constitution defines marriage as a union between a man and a
woman and that the sex of an individual is determined at birth by their genetic
(or chromosomal) makeup. He also cautioned House members not to confuse “sex”
with “sexual orientation” as they are entirely different.
fifth bill that addresses paternity provisions was also passed.
his closing remarks after the passage of the bills, Prime Minister Christie
rose to his feet to commend House members for their vote and to underscore the historic
significance of the occasion within the context of the rights of women to vote,
a franchise granted to them in 1962, more than one half century ago.
has been more than fifty-three years since our women won the right to vote but
they still do not have constitutional protection against discrimination based
on their sex. This must be seen as abhorrent to our fundamental values. It is
therefore a moral imperative of the first magnitude that we seize the
opportunity to usher in a new era in our civilization – an era that will proceed
on the righteous and unassailable premise that we are all equal before the law
irrespective of whether we are male or female and that as what is good for one
is good for the other without distinction.”
the end, the entire constitutional reform exercise was about full equality,
nothing more and nothing less argued Mr. Christie.
its core” continued the Prime Minister, “it is for me to say that this is what
the present constitutional exercise is all about – nothing less and nothing
more. Let there be full equality.”
of government business the Hon. Bernard J. Nottage notified House members that
Parliament will convene on Monday, 7th March 2016 when Prime
Minister Christie is expected to deliver the government’s mid-year budget
Mitchell address a
myriad of immigration concerns
of Foreign Affairs and Immigration the Hon. Frederick Mitchell held a press
conference on Monday, February 29, at the Department of Immigration to state
the Government’s position and address material inaccuracies within several Foreign
Affairs and Immigration matters that are topics of discussion in the public
Mitchell told the press that the Cabinet of the Bahamas Government declared the
two Cubans recently released by the courts, ‘security risks’: “These men are
suspected of attempting to burn down the detention centre while housed there,
as well as other crimes,” he said.
found in The Bahamas they will be re-arrested,” Minister Mitchell said, “since
they have no landed status in The Bahamas.
individuals are not going to be allowed to enter the United States with the Government’s
knowledge, nor into their own homeland of Cuba,” the Minister said, “and no
other country is willing to allow them to live within its borders.”
All-Points-Bulletin for them is being considered by the Cabinet and is likely
to be put out later this week.
another issue, Minister Mitchell said the election of the Commonwealth
Secretary General was democratic, and delegates from Sir Ronald Sanders’s home
country threw their support behind the Baroness. “We believe that she is eminently qualified
and will serve the Commonwealth well.”
untrue, he said, that The Bahamas pledged its support for Sir Ronald Sanders and
later reneged on that pledge.
Minister insisted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did all that was
required to assist the family of the late Christopher Adderley, who died in a
jail in Haiti. The Ministry, he said, was
also instrumental in facilitating the transfer of funds by the family to assist
Minister expressed deep regret over the death of Mr. Adderley.
however, it is deplorable for anybody to use the grief of a mother over the
death of her son to lambaste and sully the reputation of public servants.
Education Minister speaks
on the way forward for the ELA
Science and Technology Minister the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald called a press
on Monday morning to discuss the status of the government’s Education
Loan Authority government guaranteed loan program almost seven years after the
program’s suspension due to non-payment.
Minister revealed that after almost three years of auditing, there are 4,300 outstanding
loans, a delinquency rate of over 80% and over $155 million in principal and
accrued interest owed to the Bahamas government. Only 16% of the loans are
current and 76% are delinquent by at least 271 days said Mr. Fitzgerald.
this unsustainable situation, Fitzgerald pointed out that the government “had
no legal authority to pursue delinquent borrowers, or even negotiate with these
borrowers who had legitimately fallen on hard times and wished to repay their
obligations one way or the other. The Education Loan (Amendment) Act 2015, came
into force on the 21st of October, 2015” legally empowering the
government to take action.
said the government has approved a 12 month incentivized loan repayment plan effective
1st March to solve this problem. A summary of the seven-point plan
is as follows:
A twelve-month freeze on interests will
be made available to encourage delinquent borrowers from 1st March
If the entire loan is settled in 12
months, all interest and related charges will be forgiven.
All payments will be applied to the
principal balance only and the accumulated interest will be reduced by a
Accounts that are current for six
months prior to 1st March enjoy the incentives for 36 months if
account remains current.
For loans restructured during the
12-month period, payments will apply only to the principal and the Authority
will forgive 1.5 times the accumulated loan payments for one year. This ‘debt
forgiveness’ will be applied to the accumulated interest and related charges,
then the principal if necessary.
Persons who consistently make their
monthly loan payments for the 12-month period (other than persons mentioned in
5 above) will receive an extension of twelve months of incentives and waivers.
For restructured loans, the maximum
loan repayment period will be changed from 15 years to a maximum of 30 years.
Prime Minister Christie intervenes to re-open beach access
The scene turned ugly on Monday of this week as tempers flared and attempts made to block access to the Sir Sidney Poitier Bridge that connects Nassau to Paradise Island.
Members from the Cabbage Beach Vendors Association were protesting the closure of an access path to Cabbage Beach after a transition period of four months had expired. The police were called in to restore social order and to ensure that trade and commercial activities were uninterrupted.
Prime Minister Christie wasted no time in resolving this issue with the developers and by late Monday evening, the government issued the following statement:
“The sale agreement
between Access Industries andBrookfield required
Brookfield to close the existing beach path adjacent to the Riu resort and
relocate to the access point located on Brookfield-owned property on Garden
Drive off of Paradise Island Drive.
“However, in response to a direct request
from the Prime Minister, Access Industries has agreed to permit the beach path
adjacent to the Riu to remain open for a period of time, to allow the Prime
Minister to work personally on finding an alternative solution for the Beach
Vendors who currently work that area of Cabbage Beach.”
NHI Secretariat concludes
successful week of Family Island meetings
Health Insurance (NHI) Bahamas Secretariat reported on several successful public
consultative meetings this week as the Secretariat kicked off the family island
leg of this consultation exercise.
In a press statement
on Thursday, the Secretariat indicated that meetings
were held in Eleuthera (Rock Sound and Governor’s Harbour), San Salvador,
Spanish Wells and Harbour Island, “to educate and engage residents about the
modern, affordable and accessible healthcare system that NHI aims to deliver
The consultations were led by Permanent Secretary Peter Deveax-Isaacs
and Project Co-ordinator Dr. Delon Brennen with a support staff including Damara
Dillett, Catherine Weech, Charles Hamilton and Kathy Smith. The team answered questions
from hundreds of residents about the importance of national health insurance;
clarified eligibility requirements; outlined the benefits of primary care;
discussed the impact of NHI on private health insurance; explained access to health
services on those family islands; clarified issues around registration versus
enrolment; clarified the
costs of the program to Bahamians
, and shared tax
Participants included business owners, working class
Bahamians, health professionals, pensioners and the unemployed.
“As we speak to more and more Bahamians across the country, it is
becoming clear that the people want NHI. Comments from Bahamians have been very
positive thus far and they are very engaged with this important issue,” said
Permanent Secretary Peter Deveaux Isaacs. “The general tone of these
discussions has been that NHI can't come fast enough.”
Community meetings across the Family Islands will continue next week
with stops in Cat Island, Long Island, Andros and
Gibson announces new NIB online platform
fully operational, our new insurance system will offer all of the modern
conveniences of electronic online transactions, making it easier for customers
to submit claims, register, pay contributions and get information. The end
result will be an improved and easier-to-use insurance system over-all and one
that places the user at the forefront.” This
according to the Minister with responsibility for the National Insurance Board,
the Hon. D. Shane Gibson, as he announced the launch of NIB’s brand new $14
million web-based insurance administration system
on Thursday at a press
conference held at the board.
of two tiers of the rollout will take place on 30th March and the
second tier is scheduled for June. NIB will revert to manual processing from
March 10th to March 30th at which time the new and
improved web based V3 insurance administration system will go live online.
to Senior Deputy Director with responsibility for Information Technology, Dr.
Raymond Wells, the new system replaces the “28 year old AS400 green-screen
said that the supplier, Vitech Systems Group, is a leading provider of
administration software for insurance, investment and retirement organizations.
The V3 system being installed at NIB is being touted for its ability to support
a full suite of benefit products across major business functions on one
integrated platform, thereby “dramatically enhancing customer service offerings
and expanding operating capabilities and flexibility” said Wells.
Strachan announces three national standards
established Bureau of Standards is coming into its own as Financial Services
Minister the Hon. Hope Strachan announced three new standards that will take
effect on the 1st March 2016.
made the announcement on Thursday, 3rd March at a press conference.
three standards are the codes of practice for food and packaged water hygiene and
the specifications for packaged water. Minister Strachan said that these are
the first of a number of standards the Bureau will unveil as it brings The
Bahamas in line with regional and international trade standards, such as the
World Trade Organization (WTO).
ensure compliance with regional and international treaties such as the World
Trade Organization and its Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, we have made
revisions to the Standards Act and the Weights and Measures Act to ensure
compliance with respect to these agreements” said Minister Strachan
these standards are in response to a number of concerns expressed by consumers
about the importation of “low grade” food items marked “export only.” Even though
the labelling has more to do with taxes, Board Director Renae Bufford said that
products with such labels do not meet the requirements for domestic trade and
of the loudest cries, however, from the public called for stricter regulations
regarding packaged water.
of the Pricing Commission Ernest Bowe said that unscrupulous individuals would bottle
water directly from the ground in the pine barren during the passage of a hurricane
and sell the product as treated and sanitized packaged water. These new
standards are intended to put a stop to this unsanitary and illegal practice.
Earl of Wessex visits The Bahamas
Edward, Earl of Wessex, is in The Bahamas on a four-day visit. He is here to
visit with participants of the Governor General Youth Award Program and specifically
to honor their achievements at an awards ceremony. The medals and certificates
of achievement will be presented by Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling
and will be pinned by the Prince.
his visit the Earl of Wessex spoke with participants from three of the eight
institutions that are part of the Governor General’s Youth Award Program
including St. Augustine College, C.V. Bethel and a courtesy call on the Royal
Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Rangers at the Coral Harbour Base where he laid a
wreath, inspected the guard and enjoyed a display of physical training
exercises. Some 40 of the 70 Rangers achieved silver medal awards in the GGYA
Prince visited Abaco
on Friday for a pep rally and will depart Nassau on
Saturday. The Earl of Wessex is accompanied by his wife Sophie, Countess of
Edward chairs the International Council for the Duke of Edinburgh International
Award, the universal sect that is active in 143 countries and from which the
GGYA was extracted in 1986.
day following the successful passage of the four Gender Equality Bills in
Parliament, Fox Hill MP Hon. Fred Mitchell issued a press statement pledging
his full support for the bills on behalf of the people of Fox Hill. He
dedicated the bills to the memory of his late mother, Lilla, who was the proverbial
glue that held the Mitchell family together “through thick and thin.” Mitchell
said that there were 15,000 more women on the current voters’ register and that
Bahamian women clearly have the numbers to pass all four bills and that he
would do all that he could to support them.
the current voters’ register set to expire on the 14th July 2016,
Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall urged all Bahamians who want to participate
in the upcoming gender equality referendum to register as soon as possible as
the referendum will be held on the current register. The identification requirement
is a valid passport or a birth certificate. For persons who were born after
1973, they are required to produce a birth certificate along with their mother’s
document to ensure that she was a Bahamian.
to the forum in which she lambasted her parliamentary colleagues, calling them
unelectable, envious and jealous of the leader of the FNM, Senator Lanisha
Rolle offered a public apology for her comments
on Thursday during a local talk
show. The apology was offered weeks after members of her parliamentary caucus called
for a public apology.
Bahamian passport was voted 21st and 27th in two of the
world’s most trusted “passport strength” listings. These rankings place the
Bahamian passports among the most powerful in the world – within the top 33
percentile out of 199 countries ranked. In 2016, Bahamian passport holders have
visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 140 countries worldwide. The United
Kingdom, Sweden and Finland are ranked #1 on the MoveHub list with access to
173 countries; The Bahamas is ranked 21st . On the Visa Restriction
Index, The Bahamas is ranked 27th in the world.
Financial institutions and insurance companies
were among the participants from corporate Bahamas in the annual jobs fair hosted
by the College of The Bahamas
on Thursday. COB President Dr. Rodney Smith told
reporters that as part of his vision in building a well rounded COB graduate and
to enhance the educational experience, the college is designing an educational exchange
program to allow for COB students to experience some study abroad by their
About the author: Elcott Coleby is a Deputy Director at the
Bahamas Information Services. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in
Chemistry (B.Sc) and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). He provides
frequent commentary on public policy and communicates the works of the
government. Address all comments to the following email:
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