Saturday, August 31, 2013

Political ineptness in The Bahamas... ...

Rights and wrongs of Cuban migrant dispute


By Front Porch
frontporchguardian@gmail.com
Nassau, The Bahamas


Last week was settling into another stretch of bad news for the inept and faltering Christie administration. Suddenly, on Thursday, Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis handed a government in a defensive crouch a line of offense, an unexpected opening to attempt to switch the storyline from that of its gross incompetence to one of Dr. Minnis’ patriotism.

With the announcement of its trading places two-step, swapping the placements of ambassadors to the U.S. and the UN, the bungled appointment of Dr. Elliston Rahming neared a sort of climax, though leaving serious unanswered questions, the government on its heels, looking amateurish and incompetent.

Of alleged abuse of Cuban migrants at the detention center and the domestic and international fallout from what is now widely acknowledged as a fake video of the alleged abuse, the government seemed stuck in Goldilocks mode with Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell often too hot in his rhetoric and Prime Minister Perry Christie too cool when it came to taking charge of the matter.

The opposition was left with two prime opportunities to flex its policy and political muscles. First, continuing to hammer away at the ambassadorial appointment fiasco.

Secondly, in the vacuum left by the government’s too cool indecision and too hot impetuousness on the Cuban migrant issue, Dr. Minnis had a golden opportunity to get it just right on a contentious matter at the intersection of domestic and foreign policy.

Tone-deaf

Prudence and good judgment are synonyms for getting it just right. Gifted by events with the opportunity to demonstrate prudential judgment, Dr. Minnis proved to be foolhardy and tone-deaf.

Effective communication involves not just what one intends to says. More importantly, it concerns what others hear you to say and what they don’t feel they have heard.

There are multiple issues related to the current Cuban migrant affair. Dr. Minnis and the opposition are right in vigorously pressing for the full disclosure of any abuse at the detention center.

But what has been sorely lacking in the opposition’s response is a more comprehensive approach. That approach should have included a clearer message reaffirming the opposition’s support of basic immigration policy relative of migrants.

More so, the opposition needed to be more emphatic in demonstrating national unity in the face of those seeking to scuttle our immigration policy, run roughshod over Bahamian sovereignty and inflict damage to our tourist-based economy.

Dr. Minnis’ failure to ensure the proper sequencing and calibration of the FNM’s messaging left the opposition open to severe criticism. And it has been withering, from charges of recklessness to failing to stand up for the country.

While Dr. Minnis may not have shown the best judgment in handling the complex of issues at hand, attacks on his patriotism and that of the opposition are ridiculous and offensive.

Mitchell is no more of a patriot than Dr. Minnis. And vile and contemptuous are claims by some that various of Dr. Minnis’ remarks were treasonous; which is not to say that such attacks are ineffective.

In his handling of the Cuban migrant issue, Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell has often proven imperious, rattled, undiplomatic, bellicose and belligerent.

Understatement

The Opposition and others are justified in criticizing various elements of his conduct of the matter at hand, as minister responsible for both foreign affairs and immigration. Mitchell himself has admitted that matters could have been handled better. Which of course is an extraordinary understatement.

By failing to act quicker and in a more forthright manner in addressing the abuse claims, the government helped provide fodder to the Florida-based interest group Democracy Movement, endlessly itching for any opening to attempt dictating Bahamian immigration policy to their liking.

As an aside, by interfering in domestic politics in calling for the resignation of Minister Mitchell, the interest group again demonstrated its unbridled arrogance. Imagine how out of bounds it would be for a Bahamian group to call for the resignation of a federal U.S. Cabinet member.

Now Prime Minister Perry Christie is hemming and hawing about whether information will be provided to the public on abuse at the detention center, abuse that is said to be quite gruesome and sickening.

When will politicians learn that covering up certain matters makes a bad situation even worse. The information should be released as soon as possible. Failure to do so will fuel more demonstrations and potential international fallout. Meanwhile the credibility of the Christie administration continues to dwindle.

Amidst its prevarication, ineptitude and bungling, the government has seized the politics of nationalism and the politics of empathy, something Dr. Minnis, thus far, has gotten wrong to the amazement and consternation of many, including many FNMs.

The FNM has often gotten wrong the politics of nationalism and the politics of empathy, despite its record of protecting the country’s national interests and better record than the PLP in areas ranging from social policy to economic empowerment to women’s rights.

Pretending

And yet the FNM has consistently allowed the PLP to get away with pretending to be the more nationalist and empathetic party. A part of the PLP’s winning combination in 2012 was to appear as the feeling party that also put Bahamians first.

In politics, empathy typically beats arguments of competence and effectiveness. And nationalism is usually a trump card, something that many in the FNM seem unwilling to learn.

The PLP’s claim of being more nationalistic than the FNM is laughable and far from credible given its record of allowing drug barons to overrun the country in the 1980s, its dalliances with all manner of shady foreign interlopers, the massive giveaway of land at Mayaguana, clear conflicts of interest by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister with a foreign oil exploration company, and many other examples.

But when Dr. Minnis failed initially and more clearly to express common cause with the government in the face of certain attacks from abroad, it made the FNM seem less empathetic and nationalistic than the PLP on an issue necessitating a demonstration of national unity.

This is yet another blunder by Dr. Minnis, who has now demonstrated an entrenched pattern of misjudgement and shockingly poor judgment.

Increasingly more and more Bahamians and FNMs are concluding that Dr. Minnis is far from up to his current role, which is disheartening as the country desperately needs a more prudent and capable opposition leader who can mount a more effective opposition to a feckless and disaster of a government that is the Christie administration.

In the end, the Cuban migrant affair is not about the opposition’s response. It is about whatever abuse may have taken place at the detention center and the government’s response in getting the facts out and taking appropriate action in a timely manner.

Further, it is the prime minister and his Cabinet who are ultimately responsible for acting appropriately or with “gross stupidity”, negligence and arrogance in handling the domestic and foreign policy elements of this entire affair.

August 29, 2013

thenassauguardian

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What happened to Cuban detainees at Carmichael Road Detention Center in The Bahamas?

The Cuban backlash

Detainee controversy sparks political row


By Candia Dames
Guardian News Editor
candia@nasguard.com
Nassau, The Bahamas


The matter of an obviously fake video purporting to show Cubans being abused at the detention center has exploded into a nasty and venomous spat between the Official Opposition and Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell.

In a stunning but not completely surprising display of bad judgment, Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis called an emergency press conference last Wednesday to announce he had concluded that at least five Cuban detainees were abused back in May.

Prime Minister Perry Christie later said Minnis was bordering on “gross stupidity”.

Mitchell accused the opposition of “siding with enemies of The Bahamas against Bahamians”.

The urgency of the tone of the FNM official advising of the press conference suggested that the party was set to release damning evidence to force major action of some kind — possibly the minister’s resignation.

No such evidence was produced, but Minnis was strong in his conclusions that the Bahamian people had been kept in the dark over an issue that has spilled into the international arena and is threatening the country’s reputation.

Minnis accused Mitchell of keeping this information under wraps and using “strong, combative and undiplomatic language intended to deflect attention from the underlying legitimacy of the issue raised by the demonstrators” in Miami in recent weeks.

Mitchell, meanwhile, prayed for “the patience of Job” as he fired back at Minnis, accusing him and the Free National Movement of being “unpatriotic” and “un-Bahamian”.

The foreign affairs minister also denied that there was a cover-up in relation to abuse claims against Cuban detainees.

He accused the FNM of “talking a jumble of foolishness” and prayed that its “allies in the press do not go walking into a place where fools have rushed in”.

This was followed by a warning from Mitchell that he will be watching every word and accusation.

“And if they miss and make one false allegation or innuendo we will see them in court”.

Minnis reported that the FNM found that in the early hours of May 20, 2013, there was an attempted escape from the detention center by seven Cuban detainees. This escape attempt was prevented.

As punishment for the attempted escape, at least five detainees were physically abused to a severe degree, he said.

The abuse was so significant that three of the detainees had to be taken to Princess Margaret Hospital for treatment.

One person was detained and two others returned to the detention center.

Following the beatings, the remaining detainees performed and videotaped a reenactment of the earlier beatings, according to Minnis.

“Our information is that the reenactment was facilitated with the assistance of one or more Defence Force officers who provided the fatigues for the actors in the performance,” he said.

“The FNM has been further advised that several senior government officials and ministers became aware fairly early that a major instance of abuse had in fact taken place.

“There was at least one major meeting of senior law enforcement officers and Cabinet ministers who were briefed as to what had transpired. As a result of that briefing, a more intensive investigation was ordered.”

Minnis said the FNM is aware that the report of the government’s preliminary investigation has been completed and is in circulation. He said this has been completed from as early as late June.

The videotape in question was aired on a Spanish language TV station in Florida. It sparked weeks of protests against The Bahamas in Miami by a group called the Democracy Movement.

Force

Mitchell first reported on this videotape in a statement on June 17.

He said, “We have had the video examined by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, and it is being further reviewed by the Royal Bahamas Police Force.”

Mitchell noted — and we agree — that the video is a complete falsehood and an outrageous concoction.

“There appears to be a manufactured attempt to create a damaging and defamatory impression of The Bahamas,” he said.

“The television station ought to be ashamed of itself for publishing something which is so patently false.”

The foreign affairs minister added, “It remains to be said that The Bahamas government does not beat those in its custody. All detainees are treated with respect and in accordance with all applicable conventions and with human dignity and courtesy.”

Mitchell also said in that statement that a follow up investigation was being done to seek to find out if by some remote chance there is any aspect of this that bears a scintilla of truth.

At this point, there is much that is unclear about this matter. What is clear is that the government has repeatedly said that it is investigating abuse claims, and both the government and opposition agree that the video that sparked the outrage in Florida is in fact fake.

Mitchell has said, and Prime Minister Christie has reiterated, that the Government of The Bahamas does not condone abusing detainees and the “chips will fall where they may” after an investigation.

Admittedly, it has been at times hard to follow the trail that led to this current controversy.

There was no immediate report about the alleged incident at the detention center. It came a week later after the media made inquiries.

In the brief statement issued on May 31, the Department of Immigration said a Cuban detainee escaped from the detention center during severe thunderstorms a week earlier.

“In response to press inquiries, we wish to advise the public that during the rain storm in Nassau last week, there was an attempt to escape the detention center at Carmichael Road. All were prevented from escaping, but one person,” the statement read.

The statement did not say that detainees had to be hospitalized.

Cuban Ambassador to The Bahamas Ernesto Soberon Guzman told The Nassau Guardian after that statement was released that no one from the government had contacted him about the incident.

Guzman later said that Mitchell failed to inform him until June 19 about the matter.

He called it a “communications break down”.

Guzman said during his meeting with the minister, Mitchell said officers used some degree of force to counteract the attempted escape.

He said he was told that in the process, three Cuban detainees were injured and hospitalized.

Guzman’s revelation was made in The Nassau Guardian on June 21, one month after the alleged incident.

According to Guzman, Mitchell said the incident had nothing to do with the controversial video that purported to show Cuban detainees being beaten by Bahamian law enforcement officers.

When asked if he was satisfied with the explanation, Guzman said, “That was what they informed us.

“In this case, we have a particular situation. Some people tried to escape from the detention center and they used force, and now I have to check if the force was excessive or not.”

But Mitchell has been careful in his public utterances on the matter, staying clear of acknowledging any abuse or hospitalization.

He repeated last week after Minnis’ press conference that the entire matter is being reviewed by a retired justice of the Court of Appeal and a leading cleric.

Mitchell said when the investigations are complete the government will act. He repeated, “The chips will fall where they may.”

But the FNM is demanding that the government release the full, unedited report into any investigation that has already been conducted to date.

Division

Christie has said that Minnis’ comments could give the international community the impression that there is a division in The Bahamas on the controversial issue.

The comments had the immediate effect of the Democracy Movement spokesman calling for Mitchell’s removal from handling this issue.

It is important to acknowledge that Mitchell had opportunities to table in Parliament the preliminary report completed by law enforcement authorities.

The government has instead decided to have a more extensive probe.

On the weekend, a photo purportedly showing the severe injuries of an abused Cuban detainee made the rounds on Facebook after it was posted by activist Rodney Moncur.

Its authenticity could not be verified.

But there is acknowledgement from sources inside the government that some of the Cubans had to be hospitalized. One assumes there are hospital records the investigators will have access to.

It has now been more than three months since the alleged incident occurred.

The government must strike the balance between having a thorough investigation concluded and ensuring the matter does not drag on for much longer that it worsens any perceptions of a cover-up.

It seems the controversy has dragged on too long. The public deserves answers on what transpired at the detention center in May or any other time if it involved abuse.

Transparent reporting and punishing of any officer who may be guilty of wrongdoing are indeed keys to bringing this row to an end.

This would send the right message to the international community as well.

It would have been in the national interest and in the interest of the opposition for its leader to first deal with the government privately on any concerns, or evidence he has to prove his claims of a cover-up.

Many people have grown weary of the sparring over this issue. They want answers and finality.

The war of words between the government and the opposition has created unnecessary noise, and even confusion as the country’s reputation hangs in the balance.

What is required at this time is a unified voice on our foreign policy. In the opposition party itself, there are deep divisions on how the claims have been aired.

Political theatrics and efforts to show up the minister or the government must at all times take a backseat to the national interest.

This was a view expressed privately by several prominent FNMs after their leader’s statement.

The possible emergence of a report confirming abuse might not be enough to vindicate Minnis on this one.

Leadership requires good judgment. On that score, he has so far fallen short.

August 26, 2013

thenassauguardian

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The brisk, rude utterances by Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on the recent allegations of abuse of Cuban nationals detained at Carmichael Road Detention Centre in The Bahamas ...suggests that he does not have ...or is ignoring the advice on the matter from professional diplomats

Opinion: The Cowboy Diplomat

 

Tribune 242 Guest Commentary by Kirkland Turner
Nassau, The Bahamas



THERE is a humorous catchphrase about diplomacy – it’s the “art of telling someone to go to hell and having them look forward to the journey”. In a nutshell, diplomacy is not about who carries the biggest stick, who shouts the loudest or who proves to be the rudest in international exchanges. The international landscape is not a school yard where poorly behaved boys scrimmage to prove “who’s the man”.

The dictionary describes diplomacy as the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or nations. Successful diplomacy is polite, well-mannered, respectful and gracious even when it requires the delivery of difficult messages and positions.

With reference to international diplomacy, it describes the conduct of relations between two or more countries through the mediation or negotiation of professional diplomats with regard to issues of peace-making, culture, economics, and trade. International agreements are typically negotiated by professional diplomats prior to endorsement by national politicians.

The Bahamas-US Relationship is the singularly most important relationship for our country. So, our self-interest dictates that this relationship is tendered by seasoned, experienced individuals with a good understanding of the myriad issues that make-up our relationship. Regrettably, today, it appears that those now in charge of Bahamian diplomacy, particularly as regards our relationship with the United States, have not got a clue.

The Consequences of Cowboy Diplomacy

One important area of discussion between The Bahamas and the United States of America, and on a larger plain with the international human rights establishment, has been the treatment of undocumented persons detected, arrested and detained by Bahamian authorities.

The brisk, rude utterances by Fred Mitchell, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on the recent allegations of abuse of Cuban nationals detained in The Bahamas suggests that he does not have or is ignoring the advice on the matter from professional diplomats.

This begs the question of who is advising the Minister. It seems that this Christie-led administration has removed or sidelined its professional diplomatic corps in favour of a cadre of political friends and associates to the detriment of the interests of our country.

For more than a year, we were alone in the Caribbean having no resident Ambassador in the US capital, Washington, DC. Today, 20th August, on the eve of Mr Christie’s 70th birthday and following months of agitation for comment on the matter from the Opposition, the Government sheepishly announced what has long been rumoured – that the Bahamian Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), septuagenarian Dr Eugene Newry, is to switch positions with Elliston Rahming, becoming the Bahamian Ambassador E&P to Washington. The terse announcement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that Mr Rahming will continue to serve as Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC, and assume the Permanent Representative Post at the UN in New York. This compromise is an expensive undertaking. If Mr Rahming is to properly fulfil his obligations before both the United Nations and the OAS, it will require weekly travel between the two cities and often enough require overnight stays.

The Bahamas also continues to be alone in the English-speaking Caribbean in having no American Ambassador resident in Nassau.

This state of affairs cannot be good for our relationship.

Recently, Obie Wilchcombe, the Minister of Tourism, and not the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fred Mitchell, met with US Government representatives in Florida to discuss the most recent allegations about the treatment of Cuban nationals in The Bahamas.

More recently still, we have had the most startlingly irresponsible verbal insults thrown at US Congressional Representatives by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mr Mitchell has opined that US Congressional Representatives do not reflect the views or opinions of the US Administration. In his view, presumably what these individuals had to say on US-Bahamas relations is irrelevant. Mr Mitchell is American-educated; he either knows better or ought to know better. If he is not listening to the concerns of Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, he should know that the US Administration – the same Obama-led Administration that refused to recognise Mr Elliston Rahming as Bahamas Ambassador to the US and who has not bothered to appoint a US Ambassador to The Bahamas – listens to the views and opinions of American Senators and Congressmen! And, Mrs Ros-Lehtinen is the Chairperson of the powerful US House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mr Mitchell has similarly been rudely dismissive of overtures from the Government of Panama regarding the possible interests of that country to offer residence to certain Cuban nationals detained in New Providence. While the Panamanian offer may not be practical given agreements in place between The Bahamas and the Republic of Cuba, there is no reason for the boorish behaviour of the Minister in discussing a proposal commented upon by the Panamanian Honorary Consul in The Bahamas, Mr David McGrath. Mr McGrath is a long time resident of The Bahamas and the McGrath family has long been considered “true friends” of The Bahamas.

That said, The Bahamas has been challenged by the inflow of undocumented persons or illegal immigrants for more than half a century. While people of many nationalities have been arrested, detained and repatriated from The Bahamas over many decades, people from Haiti and Cuba have posed the most difficult to deal with.

Challenges Presented by Undocumented Economic Migrants

Until the first FNM Government came to office in 1992, illegal immigrants found in The Bahamas were detained at Her Majesty’s Prison at Fox Hill together with persons detained for numerous other offences, some violent. This ran contrary to all international agreements and treaties concerned with the treatment of refugees or undocumented persons. Notwithstanding that only a small number of persons entering The Bahamas illegally actually meet the standard of an internationally recognised “political refugee”, the first FNM Government of The Bahamas took early steps to remove immigration violators from the prison and relocated them to more humane accommodation at an Immigration Detention Centre it created at Carmichael Road.

The Detention Centre has had a difficult history not least of all because of the added financial burden its creation, staffing, maintenance and upkeep have created for The Bahamas.

Most Cuban nationals ending up in The Bahamas have come because their intended travel to the United States has been interrupted – by bad weather, shoddy sailing vessels, etc. During the early 1990s, most of those with relatives in the United States were quickly able to arrange a transfer to Florida which kept their numbers in The Bahamas down.

However, with the adoption of the “US wet foot, dry foot” policy during the Clinton Administration, Cuban nationals leaving their home island and being stranded in The Bahamas discovered that they were no longer welcomed in the United States.

The new US policy admitted that most Cubans seeking to depart their home country were economic and not political refugees. The US also agreed that it would accept such Cuban economic immigrants who were successful in landing on US territory; eg “dry foot”. Those immigrants detained at sea “wet foot” would be returned to Cuba. The US Government also agreed to cooperate with The Bahamas in intercepting “refugee-laden vessels” – whether from Haiti or Cuba – when detected in international waters or in Bahamian waters so that the immigrants could be expeditiously and safely returned to their countries of origin.

Reluctant to return to their home island, Cuban nationals successfully landing In The Bahamas and aware of the new US policy which would not permit their easy transfer to that country have sought refugee status in The Bahamas. Most among this group continue to harbour hopes of eventually relocating to the United States.

Enter the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

The small Bahamian economy cannot absorb large numbers of economic immigrants. Moreover, were we to agree to extend economic refugee status to Cuban migrants, we would be forced to adopt a similar position toward requests from large numbers of economic refugees from many other countries, notably Haiti and other near-neighbour Caribbean countries.

Faced with the dilemma, The Bahamas, during the 1990s, engaged the assistance of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in dealing with the growing numbers of undocumented persons arriving in The Bahamas and seeking to remain here. With the assistance of the UNHCR, The Bahamas was able to develop a protocol for interviewing new arrivals, separating out political from economic migrants and arranging for the timely, humane repatriation of economic migrants to their country of origin.

The success of this programme of repatriation has been dependent on The Bahamas also reaching agreement with the Governments of the Republic of Haiti and the Republic of Cuba, to accept their undocumented nationals being repatriated from The Bahamas. It should be recognised that having entered into such agreements with Cuba and Haiti The Bahamas cannot arbitrarily renege on the terms of the agreements and approve select number of economic migrants who may arbitrarily be facilitated in relocating to a third country if and when such offers might materialise. This would not augur well for orderly relations between The Bahamas and the governments of Haiti or Cuba.

Arrests, detention and repatriation exercises of primarily Haitian and Cuban nationals have been continuous over the past 15 to 20 years. They have been costly for The Bahamas, a small developing country with limited financial resources. No foreign country and no international agency, that we are aware of, has ever made financial assistance available to The Bahamas Government to defray these costs. Further, no country has ever agreed to offer undocumented economic migrants arriving in The Bahamas safe passage and residence in their country.

The costs of detaining, housing and repatriating undocumented nationals have been aggravated by the sometimes violent protests against confinement by immigration detainees. Apart from damage to furniture and supplies, these protests have resulted in serious damage to portions of the Detention Centre, including destruction of a dormitory by fire.

Protesting Cuban Detainees

Protests at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre have been almost exclusively carried out by Cuban nationals, sometimes with the vociferous support and financial backing of some Cuban nationals’ resident in either The Bahamas or in the United States of America.

In the most recent staged protest against their confinement in The Bahamas, Cuban nationals have released a staged video in which it is alleged that Cuban detainees at the Carmichael Detention Centre are subject to abuse by their Bahamian minders. The video is universally believed to be a fake by Bahamians of all political persuasions. However, there is a growing unease among some Bahamians that notwithstanding the bogus video, some allegations of abuse made against some Bahamian Immigration or Defence Force Officers posted at the Carmichael Road Immigration Detention Centre may have elements of truth.

After vehemently denying the authenticity of the staged video, the Government maintained a period of silence on any allegation of abuse at the Detention Centre. As leaks of reports of Cuban nationals being treated at the Princess Margaret Hospital for wounds possibly sustained during a break-out from the Detention Centre, the Minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed that investigations of allegations of abuse or use of excessive force in the recapture of escapees from the Detention Centre were underway.

Bahamian human rights activists have long campaigned against allegations of abuse against police and prison officers. And reports of human rights abuse have long been attached to tactics employed by immigration officers conducting immigration raids at the residences or in neighbourhoods frequented by undocumented migrants. It is not too far-fetched then for some to believe that some Immigration Officers might, in their exercise of their duties, exceed acceptable and sanctioned “use of force” when dealing with escaping immigration detainees.

Minister Mitchell has said that it is not Bahamian Government policy to abuse detainees. Of course, he is correct on that score. But that does not mean that abuse does not happen. Allegations of abuse must be investigated, vigorously and expeditiously. It is not good enough to say that allegations are being looked into and then carry on with “business as usual”.

The Minister has also engaged in juvenile bully diplomacy suggesting that Bahamian nationals adopt a “my country right or wrong” attitude in the face of allegations of abuse from Cuban Americans and threaten a Bahamian boycott of South Florida businesses.

Mr Mitchell’s suggestion of a Bahamian boycott is so immature and childish as to provoke laughter. Mr Mitchell must have some new secret market for Bahamian tourism and a more convenient source for the importation of so many of the essentials to life in The Bahamas now obtained from and through South Florida.

Certainly, the Minister has forgotten that tourism is the mainstay of our economy; that 90 plus per cent of our tourists come from the United States and that fully half of those originate from or transit South Florida on their way to our shores! Mr Mitchell has clearly forgotten that the money which Bahamians spend in South Florida is money made from American investments and American visitors to our country.

This is not child’s play. It is now urgent for the Minister of Foreign Affairs who also holds responsibility for Immigration, to bring the investigation into the alleged abuse of Cuban nationals to a speedy conclusion.

The results of that investigation should be made public and if it is determined that any officers or group of officers inflicted unnecessary harm on escaping detainees, they should be disciplined up to and including having criminal charges laid where warranted.

Fire Mitchell

A casual attitude toward physical violence in law enforcement circles cannot be tolerated by a democratic government which maintains its respect for the human rights of all individuals living or resident in our country and which, as a member of the United Nations, has affirmed its commitment to respect and observe the international human rights conventions.

And, The Bahamas Government must do the necessary to restore Bahamian-US Relations to the warm and mutually advantageous footing. This can only bode well for the progress of both our peoples. That requires Prime Minister Christie placing responsibility for the conduct of the foreign affairs of our country in the hands of a new foreign minister, one capable of making appropriate recommendations for senior diplomatic and consular posts that would not cause embarrassment to the country, one not given to wasting scarce dollars pretending to open a Consulate General in Washington, DC, where a full Bahamas Embassy exists, one who will not needlessly rent extravagant accommodation for the high commissioner in London and one who will not undertake at public expense questionable travel around the globe unaccompanied by professional officers.

August 21, 2013


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Florida Congresswoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen says: “It is unconscionable that the Bahamian authorities have decided to forcibly repatriate Cuban freedom seekers back to their brutal oppressors under the Castro regime.”

U.S. lawmaker blasts Bahamas

Calls decision on Cubans ‘spineless’


By Krystel Rolle
Guardian Staff Reporter
krystel@nasguard.com
Nassau, The Bahamas


A Florida lawmaker has branded as “spineless” and “immoral” The Bahamas’ decision to repatriate a group of Cubans last week.

In a press statement posted on her website, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the U.S. representative for Florida’s 27th congressional district, said, “It is unconscionable that the Bahamian authorities have decided to forcibly repatriate Cuban freedom seekers back to their brutal oppressors under the Castro regime.”

Ros-Lehtinen said the Bahamas government took this “misguided approach” despite the fact that Panama had offered to grant asylum to 19 Cuban nationals.

She added: “Cuba maintains one of the world’s worst human rights records, and this spineless decision to send them back is not only unacceptable, it is immoral.”

Additionally, U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and Congress members Mario Diaz-Balart, Albio Sires and Ros-Lehtinen wrote a letter to Prime Minister Perry

Christie asking that the government halt any further Cuban repatriations.

At a press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell confirmed that 24 Cubans were repatriated on Friday.

He said another group of 20 is expected to be returned to Cuba shortly.

Last week, Honorary Consul General of Panama to The Bahamas David McGrath said Panama intends to offer humanitarian exile to 19 Cuban nationals.

However, Mitchell said the government has not received official word from the Panamanian government.

Yesterday, Mitchell also shot down an assertion made by Ros-Lehtinen, who suggested that a video purporting to show Cuban detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre being beaten by Bahamian officers is legitimate.

According to an article appearing in the Miami Herald, Ros-Lehtinen said on Friday that U.S. State Department officials told her that Nassau officials have confirmed the video was real and fired the “guilty guards”.

However, Mitchell said, “The Bahamas has not admitted to the authenticity of the video which the protestors themselves have admitted is a fake.”

The government has been criticized in the past several months for law enforcement officials’ alleged treatment of Cuban detainees.

The Democracy Movement, a group made up of Cubans based in Miami, Florida, launched a series of protests shortly after the video was aired on a Spanish television station in Miami.

The group is pushing for all of the Cubans to be sent to a third country.

However, Mitchell made it clear that only the immigrants who are judged to have asylum status will be eligible for entry into a third country.

He said 18 Cubans fit the criteria. He added that 10 of those appear to have been accepted by the United States and eight appear to be eligible to go elsewhere.

“If Panama makes an offer for the eight then they are free to go to Panama,” he said.

“One of the things that we are concerned about, and we have said this to our friends across the pond, we do not want a signal to go out to the Cubans, who are a potential pool of migrants, that all you have to do is reach The Bahamas and then you get into some country by some artifice,” Mitchell said.

“That would open the floodgates and then it would be a problem that we cannot contain. So we want to make it clear that the laws will be enforced.”

While the video has been branded as false, investigations into the alleged abuse remains under investigation.

“The chips will fall where they may when the investigation concludes,” Mitchell said.

August 19, 2013

thenassauguardian

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Florida Congresswoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen protested the Bahamian government’s decision to repatriate 24 Cuban nationals to what she called “the Castro Dictatorship”

U.S. Anger As Cubans Deported To Havana


Tribune242
Nassau, The Bahamas



A FLORIDA Congresswoman yesterday vowed to continue to put pressure on the Bahamian government following the repatriation of 24 Cuban nationals, who were at the centre of a months-long protest and a hunger strike, to Havana, Cuba.
 
The announcement of the repatriation came from the Department of Immigration and follows months of protests by Cuban-American human rights activists in Miami over claims that undocumented migrants have been abused to “the point of torture” while detained at Her Majesty’s Prison and the Carmichael Road Detention Centre in Nassau.
 
Two members of the Miami-based Democracy Movement staged hunger strikes and there were demonstrations in front of the Bahamian Consulate and near the piers where Bahamas-bound cruise ships embark.
 
The protest drew support from members of the US Congress and Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado.
 
The Democracy Movement claimed that the detainees had been beaten by guards, denied access to adequate food, water and medical care, and deprived of the ability to file asylum claims, claims all denied by The Bahamas’ Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell.
 
Mr Mitchell said that the government had not received any specific, credible claims of abuse and no investigation had been conducted. He said officials had looked into a ‘video’ released by supporters of the detained Cubans allegedly showing men being struck by guards in the detention centre and determined that it was “cleary a staged event.”
 
Originally it was thought that the men would be taken to Panama after that country granted the Cuban detainees visas and territorial asylum.
 
Yesterday, Congresswoman Illeana Ros-Lehtinen protested the government’s decision to repatriate Cubans to what she called “the Castro Dictatorship”.
 
“Members of my staff and have been coordinating with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) personnel who are on the ground in Nassau. The UNHCR officials inform us that the Cubans who are being repatriated may not be the same ones who have been offered asylum in Panama,” the Congresswoman said in a statement.
 
“The Bahamian government has finally acknowledged that the beatings that were caught on video occurred and we hope that the new security cameras, as well as the removal of these abusive guards, will have some positive impact on the lives of these freedom seeking Cubans. It is shameful that because the Bahamian government rejected their refugee status, the State Department policy states that the US cannot take them in after proper vetting.
 
“I will continue to monitor this sad situation and I will continue to press the Bahamian government that it must cease the deplorable detainment conditions under which Cubans are not fed adequately nor treated humanely; it must honour the generous asylum protections offered by third countries, such as Panama and it must coordinate with US officials and the UNHCR so that the present conditions of a lack of information ceases,” she said.
 
August 16, 2013
 
 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

...reparations for Caribbean slavery and native genocide

Payback for slavery's terror



By Omar Ryan, Guest columnist:



Over the past few weeks, the matter of reparations for Caribbean slavery and native genocide has become very topical, and rightly so, because of the developments in CARICOM and the active media discussions carried out by ourown National Commission on Reparations (NCR).

Despite the NCR's efforts to educate our people about these historical injustices, the sufferings of their ancestors and the contemporary implications of past atrocities, the ignorance, self-denial, even self-hate are still apparent among our people trapped in colonial-style education and historical amnesia.

I was appalled by the view expressed in your Letter of the Day of August 9, 2013 titled 'Stop flogging reparations', in which the writer said advocates for reparations are wasting their time, and even quoted the Bible justifying slavery.

I want us not to forget that the enslavers and colonialists were armed with the Bible while they took away Africans and brought them to the Americas to be treated less than humans. I believe that the voices of the naysayers, the non-interest and apathy with regard to the issue of reparations are mental attitudes resulting from our people not being fully aware of what justice means.

There appears to be a willed ignorance that a great injustice was carried out against their own people.
The fact was that Africans were forcibly taken away from their continent, exploited and enslaved for almost four hundred years, and upon the ending of bondage, the enslavers were paid twenty million pounds for loss of 'property' (enslaved Africans), not land. Hitherto, no compensation has been paid to the victims.

Against slavery

It must be noted that Africans, from the outset, were against the forcible taking away of their people from the continent. One African, King Nzinga Mbemba, wrote to the king of Portugal in a letter dated October 18, 1526 outlining the ramifications of the kidnapping of Africans and his opposition to it.
However, the opposition of the Africans was no match for the military and naval power of the mighty Europeans.

Well over 100 claims for compensation were filed by members of the Church. One such example was the Rev Charles William Davy, who filed six claims for 661 enslaved Africans on properties in Trelawny and who received £12,641 in compensation).

Among the recipients were educators like the Rev Thomas Pierce Williams, principal of Wolmer's, 1813-14, who received £7,054 for 356 enslaved in the parish of Manchester.

They and others amassed wealth that set the catalyst for the economic prosperity we now see countries of especially Western Europe reaping.

It must be known that one Hermann J. Abs, a German Jew, helped to finance the Auschwitz concentration camp where thousands of Jews met their demise. As a Jew, he played a role in the terrible crime against fellow Jews, and it never stopped the Jews from getting reparations from the German State. And it was the offspring of the victims that were compensated, not the victims themselves.

So it must be understood that a crime was committed against Africans and native peoples of the Americas (Caribbean), and no compensation was paid.

Within a world where we hope to move forward as peaceful beings, reparations must be paid to the descendants of the victims who are living with the scars and ills transmitted through generations from slavery.

The NCR urges people to rid themselves of that mental slavery that continues to trap them in a cycle of ignorance, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Such attitudes as displayed in The Gleaner's Letter of the Day and the responses to it remind us that "Aluta continua!"

Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and omaryan@live.com.

August 12, 2013

Jamaica Gleaner


Nicaragua Inter-oceanic canal: A wise move?

By María Julia Mayoral




Nicaragua could, within a few years, become a new international logistics and transportation center, if an inter-oceanic canal megaproject succeeds in this country blessed with an enviable geographic location.

"Central America sits midway along both North-South and East-West trade routes," said Chinese executive Wang Jing during a visit to Managua, "We believe this is the ideal place for another link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans." The company he leads has been granted a concession to undertake the canal project.

According to international estimates, between 2011 and 2025, maritime trade traffic will increase some 40% and providing a route through Nicaragua for large cargo ships would provide significant savings in terms of fuel and days at sea.

The Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Group (HKND), with headquarters in the Chinese city cited and Managua, is optimistic about the venture, according to Wang Jing, president and executive director of the company.

HKND Group received exclusive rights over planning, design, construction, operation and management of the canal and other related projects, including ports, railroads, free-trade zones on both coastlines, airports and a cross-isthmus oil pipeline.

"Trends in world trade and maritime transportation indicate that there is demand for a new canal. Our intention is to build a world class project, developed in accordance with the best international practices," the company announced.

The framework for the concession was signed in Managua mid-June by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and the company’s directorate, while the country’s Parliament approved two pieces of legislation supporting the agreement.

Experts and established companies have been contracted to undertake studies of the project’s environmental, social, financial and technological feasibility. The British consulting firm Environmental Resources Management will independently evaluate the project’s social and environmental impact, in order to determine the most appropriate route for such a canal, which could require five to ten years to construct.

Building a second Central American canal, substantially larger that the existing one, makes sense to HKND. Estimates indicate that the volume of Panama Canal transactions could increase 240% by 2030, while the value of all goods transported through canals in Panama and Nicaragua could surpass 1.4 billion dollars.

According to this analysis, continual growth in trade volume could lead to congestion in Panama within 10 to 15 years, clearly suggesting that another route is needed.

As for possible savings, HKND has estimated that a ship traveling from Shanghai to Baltimore in the United States, using a Nicaraguan canal, could shorten its voyage by 4,000 kilometers in comparison to a common route currently taken through the Suez Canal and by 7,500 in comparison to a voyage around South Africa's Cape of Good Hope. Considering current fuel prices, an average-sized container ship could save a million dollars on one round trip using a new canal.

Preliminary estimates indicate that a new inter-oceanic canal could capture maritime traffic carrying 450 to 500 million metric tons of goods and serve ships up to 250,000 tons, 400 meters long and 59 wide, with draughts of up to 22 meters.

Paul Oquist, the Ortega administration's secretary for public policy believes that the canal will allow Nicaragua to practically double its gross domestic product (GDP) by 2018 and triple formal employment. With the beginning of necessary studies and works associated with the canal next year, Oquist estimates the GDP could increase by 10.8% and by 12.6% in 2016, to subsequently stabilize around 9.5 to 10% annual growth by 2018.

NATIONAL SOVEREIGNTY DEFENDED

Nicaragua granted a concession for construction and future operation of the canal, but did not privatize its territory. Additionally, the state is participating as a partner and its ownership share will expand over time, Oquist clarified.

The concession granted the Chinese company is for 100 years but should not compromise national sovereignty, since the country will hold 51% ownership within 50 years, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Manuel Colonel Kautz, who is heading Nicaragua's Gran Canal Authority.

A canal connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans through Nicaragua has been a long-standing dream, one which was frustrated by foreign interests in the early 1900's, added Francisco Mayorga, the country's representative to the Inter-American Development Bank.

The 1914 Chamarro-Bryan Treaty mortgaged national territory to the United States government, effectively preventing the development of a canal similar to Panama's within Nicaragua, the official explained.
 
The United States had used its military and economic power to force Nicaragua to forego constructing a canal without U.S. participation, to protect its interests in the Panamanian isthmus, Mayorga concluded. (Orbe)

August 01, 2013




Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bahamas National Citizens Coalition (BNCC) seeks to block the minister of the environment and housing from issuing or renewing any oil exploration licenses in The Bahamas

Pastors sue to block oil exploration


TRAVIS CARTWRIGHT-CARROLL
Guardian Staff Reporter
travis@nasguard.com
Nassau, Bahamas


The Bahamas National Citizens Coalition (BNCC) has filed an action in the Supreme Court seeking to block the minister of the environment and housing from issuing or renewing any oil exploration licenses.

The coalition also wants the court to restrain Bahamas Offshore Petroleum Limited and Island Petroleum Limited, both subsidiaries of Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC), “from operating or using such licenses” until the proper regulatory framework is put in place to govern the sector.

Last month, the government renewed BPC’s five exploration licenses for another three years.

BPC wants government approval to drill an oil well in Bahamian waters.

The BNCC claims that the minister of the environment and housing acted ultra vires of the Petroleum Act 14(2)       by “granting and renewing oil exploration licenses” to BPC and its subsidiaries.

In a copy of the coalition’s originating summons, it states that it is seeking, “A declaration that the minister of the environment and housing has acted prematurely and with procedural impropriety in granting licenses to the aforesaid companies, so as to allow them to commence oil drilling without a modern and proper oil exploration and environmental regulatory framework in place for the ultimate protection of the applicants and the wider Bahamian public in the case of oil spills, etc.”

The coalition also wants, “A declaration that the minister of the environment and housing has failed to provide the applicants and the Bahamian public with copies of the license agreements of associated agreements with respect to the exploratory oil drilling to be conducted by Bahamas Petroleum Company Plc and/or its subsidiaries.”

According to the Petroleum Act 14(2), “A company may be granted a license or lease severally or jointly with another company: Provided that a license or lease shall not be granted to a company which is a member of, or is directly or indirectly owned or controlled by, another company to which a license or lease has already been granted under this Act or which is itself applying for such a licence or lease.”

The coalition states that it represents the views of more than 30,000 members and only wishes to secure the best possible benefits for the Bahamian people through meaningful and positive discussions with the government and the companies it has to negotiate with concerning oil exploration in The Bahamas.

The minister of the environment and housing, Bahamas Offshore Petroleum Limited, BPC and Island Offshore Company Limited are listed as the respondents in the action.

Concerned

The coalition filed the summons and an affidavit on July 29.

“The coalition is deeply concerned that the government is making critical decisions regarding oil exploration and harvesting without seeking the views of the Bahamian people,” the affidavit stated.

“It is clear from the actions of the government that it has set a precedent with the Constitutional Commission whereby it held numerous public forums and gathered the views of Bahamians.

“The commission’s chairman then used such information to prepare a public report for consideration by the government in its preparations for a national referendum on constitutional reform.

“Why is it that the government is not taking the same approach in advance of the draft legislation and referendum on oil exploration and harvesting?”

The BCC, Police Staff Association, the Bahamas Public Service Union, the Prison Officers Association, the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union, the National Workers Health Plan Trust, the Moore’s Island Fisherman Association and the Exuma Citizens and Fisherman Association are listed as members of the coalition.

Minister of the Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett previously said he expects the government to have completed oil drilling legislation and regulations by the end of the year.

He said the legal framework for oil drilling was still being worked on by his ministry’s external consultants along with officials from the Office of the Attorney General.

Dorsett recently indicated that BPC will not be permitted to drill any exploratory wells in Bahamian waters until the regulations that will oversee the industry are completed.

BPC has invested $50 million in the country, with most of that spent on 3D seismic testing, and has completed its environmental impact assessment (EIA). Now, the company is working on its environmental management plan (EMP) to meet its 2015 obligation to the government.

In its interim results for the first six months of 2013, BPC said it has a “clear mandate from the Government of The Bahamas to proceed with exploration drilling with an obligation to commence an exploration well by April 2015”.

August 07, 2013

thenassauguardian

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The independent Jamaican Diaspora

By Hugh Douse





THE word Diaspora gained prominence from its usage with regard to the scattered Jews. The term relates to the people who identify with the nation of their forebears, and still attach themselves through culture in a way that affects their world view, and subsequently, their identity.

The Jewish Diaspora was impactful enough to represent an offence to Hitler, his Nazis, and countless others who begrudged their wealth, talent and success. The events of the Holocaust is the by which all genocide is referenced. This nation has more influence and impact on the world than its size would suggest.

And so does Jamaica.

The truth of Jamaica is that our greatness, our influence and, indeed, our destiny is to, as our pledge states, play our part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race. We will have practised our greatness to phenomenal levels in many areas: the Arts, sports, academia, religion, entrepreneurship, and all the professions in-between.

Now that we are 51 we must confirm, build on and protect this legacy. We must plan not only for the next three or four years as we are wont to do. We must build for the next 15, 50 and 100 years. I am sure that the practice of working hard for a promised land that may never be entered by the present nation is a mindset embraced by the Jews and other civilisations whose legacies seem to have been secured.

So, alongside the necessary rituals which mark Emancipation and Independence, we must reframe our thinking of ourselves as a nation to include more of whom we call, Professor Nettleford style, the Jamaican Diaspora. With about 3 million Jamaicans within the Diasporas of the USA, The UK, Canada (including Maroon descendants at Nova Scotia), Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, Colombia, and all the continents and nations of the earth, it is time that the virtual, borderless nation of Jamaica begins to think of itself in larger terms.

There is nothing worse than a great person or nation “smalling up itself” to be accepted by those who he nor she sees as peers, or worse, as superiors. It is neither profitable nor sensible to be less than you are to meet the low expectations of those whose opinions we esteem over our own. I think we have done too much of that over the last 50 years.

This is why I am excited that the Earl Jarrett-led Jamaica National Building Society — through an initiative led by Paulette Simpson, senior manager, corporate affairs and public policy in the UK, and Dr O'Neal Mundle, lecturer at the UWI School of Education — have put on for the third year a Caribbean Cultural Awareness Camp for the children of the Jamaica Diaspora in the UK. The project engages a team of eight Jamaican facilitators, who, through the performing arts, administer an arts-based curriculum with the aim of leading the children, ages eight to 18, into a deeper sense of identity through the engagement of their heritage. Her Excellency Aloun N'dombet Assamba, Jamaican high commissioner to the UK and Jamaica Diaspora UK, led by Celia Grandison Markey are supportive partners without whom this project could not survive.

The amazing thing is that, at the end of this two-week intensive, the campers mount a full-length production in which they teach what they were taught to large audiences in London, Reading, Wales, and Birmingham. Their parents and grandparents who were born in Britain are, through this production, taught their own heritage by their own children. In this 65th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush which carried the first migrants to the UK, they have found clues for this great diasporic civilisation of six million that Jamaica has become.

Six million. Hmmmm.

Growing pains mean that we may have to go the road alone. Interpret that however you wish, but none of the world’s powerfully successful nations are without a period in their narratives when they walked the road alone. We must decide where this independence is going.

One thing’s for sure. It is good to be here. But we cannot stay here.

So in this year of celebration of our 175th anniversary of full freedom, may we remember and honour our ancestors, not just through monuments of words, but rather through deeds great and far-reaching. Let us create a new trajectory.

Up you mighty race. Accomplish.

hugh.douse@gmail.com

August 06, 2012

Jamaica Observer

Saturday, August 3, 2013

...ethical stem cell research and therapy “holds tremendous potential for The Bahamas.”

Gov’t In Stem Cell Pact





By Macushla Pinder
The Bahama Journal
Nassau, The Bahamas




The government is hoping to partner with the University of Miami (UM) to certify and assist in policing stem cell research activities in The Bahamas.

Prime Minister Perry Christie led a delegation to Miami this week to meet with UM President, Donna Shalala and other senior research experts.

President Shalala served as Secretary of Health and Human Services under former US President Bill Clinton for eight years.

According to Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, who was also on the trip, it was agreed that a working group would be appointed to fully explore how the two sides would work together on the issue.

“Both President Shalala and the prime minister indicated their intention to have that working group nominated in the shortest possible time – certainly within this month – to have the working group named,” Minister Maynard-Gibson said in an interview with the Bahama Journal on Thursday.

“President Shalala said we would operationalise the legislation meaning we would get going on the collaboration and cooperation….President Shalala and others are all extremely excited about the opportunities that exist for collaboration between The Bahamas and the University of Miami not only in the area of stem cell research and therapy but also in terms of medical services,” the minister explained.

Stem cells are “mother cells” that have the potential to become any type of cell in the body. One of its main characteristics is its ability to self-renew or multiply while maintaining the potential to develop into other types of cells.

But despite its potential, parliamentarians are divided on the issue, as evident during ongoing debate the Stem Cell Research and Therapy Bill.

The proposed legislation is expected to create a regulatory regime covering all aspects of stem cell research including testing stem cells in people and on clinical research. This includes bench research in laboratories as well as non-human animal research.

It will also prohibit and deter procedures that are unethical or scientifically unfounded, such as human reproductive cloning.

The overall idea is to make The Bahamas a highly respected world leader in stem cell research and therapy.

“We want to be seen to be associated with and recognised by the highest persons in the stem cell arena nationally and internationally,” Minister Maynard-Gibson said.

The government has established a National Stem Cell Ethics Committee, which according to the minister, will be comprised of highly qualified and respected local and international leaders.

“Some of the people we hope to attract are people who are at leading universities like Duke and Harvard universities. We also have a Scientific Review Committee, so that everyone who intends to conduct stem cell research and therapy must be subjected to procedures,” the minister explained.

But according to Opposition Leader, Dr. Hubert Minnis, the government’s decision to team up with the UM seems to be “some form of recognition by association” on the thorny issue.

“This is something we’ve been talking about,” Dr. Minnis said.

“The government now recognizes the deficiencies moving forward in terms of enforcement, regulation and monitoring what they want to do. They’re a lot of issues facing the country today so why rush with this particular issue. Is there some special interest group that they are trying to satisfy and they must do it? Why the rush?

“Miami’s stem cell programme is clinical research which is FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved. Clinical research means that patients do not pay for the research being done. One has to ask the question, will we embark on clinical research and if that’s the case, will patients be charged. If not, what is Miami’s involvement? This has to be answered.”

It is questions like these why the Free National Movement (FNM) leader is pushing for the Stem Cell Research and Therapy Bill to be sent to a committee.

The idea, he said, is for the issue to be further discussed so that “all the enforcement and proper regulatory process would be in place.”

“We don’t want our country to be blacklisted four or five years down the road,” Dr. Minnis said.
But Minister Maynard-Gibson said the mere fact that professionals from places like the UM are willing to come to the table and understand the mutual benefits speaks volumes.

In response to the suggestion that the bill be sent to a committee, Mrs. Maynard-Gibson leaned on comments made by noted cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon and FNM Deputy Chairman, Dr. Duane Sands, who has thrown his support behind the controversial procedure.

According to Dr. Sands, ethical stem cell research and therapy “holds tremendous potential for The Bahamas.”

Debate on the Stem Cell Therapy and Research Bill is expected to continue when the House resumes on August 7.

2 August, 2013

Jones Bahamas

Friday, August 2, 2013

Did Marcus Garvey fail?

BY MICHAEL A DINGWALL:




WHEN Marcus Garvey was urging us black people to take charge of our own destiny and become great, almost a century ago, some admired him, while others thought he was some sort of quack. In this season of Emancipation and Independence, one has to ask: Was Garvey preaching to the wrong people?

At the time when he was preaching, my race, the black race, was the most insignificant on the planet. Africa was under the control of Europe. We blacks in the West were totally dependent on the great white powers for our very existence. Garvey didn't think that black people should be at the bottom of the barrel — being so insignificant and dependent. In this respect, he was one very unusual black man indeed.

I strongly suspect, though, that Garvey would have still felt the need to preach the same message today, almost a century later. Though we blacks have made some progress, we still have a very long way to go. While some of that progress has been had through the efforts of other peoples, other things haven't changed at all.

Take black Africa today. While preaching, and even before, Africa was controlled by the Western powers. Her natural resources were being maximised to the fullest to the glory of these powers. Africans on the continent were either powerless to alter the then situation or willingly gave away these resources.

The same is true today. These days, it is China that is maximising the resources of Africa to create a Chinese superstate. Just as it was in the days of slavery, when we gave away our own for trinkets, we are still doing the same today. The trinkets then were used kitchen utensils, old clothes and even cats; while today, they are cellphones, laptops and shiny new cars. Garvey would have buried his head in shame at the way his message has been ignored.

We in the West also really didn't give two cents about his message either. Our island nation-states in the Caribbean are too insignificant to influence any global issue, except entertainment. Maybe Garvey meant we should be great entertainers; as that is the only area in which we seem good. Nothing great in governance, science and technology can be truly attributed to us black people -- as we keep our exploits to ourselves, or sell them still for trinkets. Garvey would be very disappointed indeed.

We demonstrate how contrary we have been to his message by our actions. We think our own universities are worthless. As such, we crave for the Oxfords, Cambridges, Harvards, and MITs. We think our music is good only when it is validated with an American Grammy. We see our societies as totally hopeless — which explains why we fight so hard to get visas to live in the white paradise of North America and Europe. What was that "Africa for Africans" message again?

I said before that Garvey would have been disappointed, but I sometimes wonder. In the end, it seems, even he became a realist and realised that he may have been preaching to the wrong people after all. When the time came for him to retire, he didn't choose his Jamaican homeland or his African would-be homeland. No, looking at things realistically, he decided that the best place for him after all was Britain.

Maybe the reason he failed to convince us black people that we can be a great people is not only because we think he was nuts — maybe he never really believed his own message either.

July 30, 2013

Jamaica Observer

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Latin America in U.S. line of fire

By Laura Bécquer Paseiro





Revelations made by former CIA analyst Edward Snowden have opened a Pandora’s box and created an international scandal which could easily continue for some time. The United States government’s vast espionage network has not only focused on U.S. citizens, but various countries around the world as well, including many in Latin America and the Caribbean.


The Brazilian daily O Globo recently published documents describing in detail the U.S. surveillance program in the region, which apparently was not only devoted to gathering military information, but commercial secrets as well.

The newspaper reported that U.S. espionage targeted the oil and energy industries in Venezuela and Mexico, and that the most spied-upon country in Latin America was Brazil. The documents indicated that another priority target was Colombia, where surveillance focused on the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces-Army of the People (FARC-EP). Other countries which were continually monitored, albeit to a lesser degree, were Argentina, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and El Salvador.

According to the documents obtained by O Globo, between January and March this year, U.S. National Security Agency personnel monitored the region using at least two programs: Prism - which allows access to e-mail, online conversations and internet voice communication provided by companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and YouTube - and X-Keyscore which can identify the presence of a foreign visitor in the country based on the language used in e-mail messages.

Demands made by Latin American countries that the Obama administration provide an explanation of its participation in the incident with Bolivian President Evo Morales’ airplane, reflect regional indignation. Statements from a variety of leaders described the events as unacceptable violations of international law.

SNOWDEN’S REQUESTS FOR ASYLUM

Speaking with Granma, Cuban professor Alzugaray commented on offers of asylum made to Snowden by Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, saying that no other region in the world is in a better position to take such a stance vis-à-vis the United States. Latin America and the Caribbean, he emphasized, have been a primary target of U.S. intelligence operations and have suffered first hand the consequences of this policy for some time. Although Snowden’s revelations surprised no one, denouncing such espionage is a way of letting the U.S. know that it cannot act with impunity in the region.

The professor pointed out that the Snowden case has brought attention to the expansion of ‘national security’ operations both within the U.S. and internationally, and to the practically unlimited power intelligence organizations have acquired. Some sectors within the U.S. government have reacted with panic, concerned with what more Snowden could reveal, while others have attempted to distance themselves from the phenomenon, he said.

The 29-year-old technician who leaked details of the government’s secret surveillance of telephone calls and internet messages is for Dr. Alzugaray "a time bomb that could explode at any moment and oblige the administration and Congress to review and reduce the autonomy of these intelligence organizations, from Homeland Security to the NSA, the CIA, the FBI and others.

Snowden is not, however, the only concern. The list includes Bradley Manning, the soldier who sent Wikileaks thousands of diplomatic e-mails and other documents about the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, who is currently being prosecuted in military court.

U.S: spying around the world is nothing new. The Spanish daily La voz de Galicia recently summarized the numerous precedents, going back to the Civil War (1861-1865) when Abraham Lincoln authorized supervision of information transmitted by telegraph. His Secretary of War Edwin Stanton invaded the privacy of citizens, detained journalists and decided what messages could be sent.

Professor Alzugaray recalled the warnings issued by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961) about the power of the military-industrial complex and the Church Committee hearings after the Watergate case and the war in Vietnam.

He commented that the Snowden case appears very similar to that of Daniel Ellsberg who revealed the Pentagon Papers in the 1970’s, "Ellsberg himself commented to the Washington Post that the U.S. is not the same as it was in his time and that Snowden’s flight was totally legitimate. It is no surprise that many governments and progressive political forces are sympathetic to the young man and are wiling to offer him asylum."

Given the situation, an unrepentant U.S. government continues to keep an eye on its southern neighbors, putting them in its line of fire. 

July 23, 2013