Thursday, June 30, 2011
Bahamas: Many Bahamians have an irrational fear and hatered of homosexuals... It is not popular to support homosexuals in any way in The Islands
Many Bahamians have an irrational fear and hatered of homosexuals. It is not uncommon in this country to encounter people having conversations advocating for violence against homosexuals.
Such hostility is unfortunate. Homosexuality is a normal phenomenon in human societies. A certain small population of every human community is gay. Some display homosexual inclinations as children, suggesting they were born gay, and others come to this place later in life. Homosexuality is not new and it is not rare.
We therefore should all be reasonable enough and accept that homosexuals are people entitled to the same protection under the law as heterosexuals when it comes to discrimination. Certainly, no sensible person should assert that a person should be fired, beaten or molested for being gay.
The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution affirming equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people, passed earlier this month, is a positive progressive step.
The resolution, which narrowly passed in the council 23 to 19 with three abstentions, expressed “grave concern” about discrimination against gays throughout the world and affirmed that freedom to choose sexuality is a human right. Surprisingly, when asked about the issue, both the Free National Movement (FNM) and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) supported the resolution.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette said the government supports the expansion of rights for “people of any persuasion.”
Opposition leader Perry Christie said the resolution is humane and therefore his party is in favor of it.
“I think from our point of view we understand the sensitivity of this matter,” said Christie, adding that the PLP has “always been committed to progressive policies — policies that emphasize our commitment to human rights.”
The parties demonstrated maturity by taking the public stands they did. It is not popular to support homosexuals in any way in The Bahamas. However, at times public officials must lead debates of conscience and not merely follow ignorant popular views.
The Christian church in The Bahamas has been vocal in its opposition to the more welcoming attitudes towards homosexuality that are being demonstrated in developed western societies in recent years. The church, as is its right, has affirmed that homosexuality is a sin.
The Bahamas Christian Council (BCC), in its release after the UN resolution, said it supports the protection of everyone from all forms of discrimination. However, it warned that The Bahamas government’s support of the UN resolution could open the door to all rights afforded heterosexuals to be offered to GLBT people, including marriage.
“We in the Christian church firmly believe that marriage is between a man and a woman — period. As imperfect as that might be at times, it is between a man and woman — full stop,” said the BCC.
For now the issues are separate. The step the Bahamian political parties have taken by embracing the resolution is simply to state that they support the right of homosexuals to live their lives free of discrimination based on their sexual orientation.
This should mean that the parties will not support laws or practices that discriminate against gays.
As the Bahamian democracy evolves, however, the parties will be confronted with more difficult issues. The law in democracies usually evolves through citizens challenging discriminatory practices via the court. The court, which is entrusted with the responsibility of protecting minority rights, has to determine if statues violate the broad principles of liberty enshrined in democratic constitutions.
Courts around the world have forced the hands of legislatures when it comes to gay rights. Some have argued that laws declaring that marriage is between one man and one woman discriminate against homosexuals. Hence, the old way is ruled unconstitutional and gay marriage is allowed.
Homosexuals understand that their fight for equality, as it was for blacks, has to be won one step at a time. As the homosexual lobby becomes more organized in The Bahamas and it understands that the court can help its cause, The Bahamas may be forced to accept gay marriage, gay adoption and further normalization of homosexuality.
Human societies are fickle – norms are always changing. Who knows what will be acceptable in The Bahamas a century from now. A century ago the thought of blacks and whites being equal and then ‘inter-marrying’ was offensive to many. Now, interracial marriage is a non-issue.
A century from now maybe Mr. Smith marrying Mr. Smith on a beach on one of our islands too may be normal.
Jun 29, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
In recent discussions in the UK between Honourable Minister Henry Bellingham’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and an FCO-chosen team of Turks and Caicos Islands “representatives”, the good minister said the following: “I am grateful to the delegation for accepting my invitation to come to London so that I could hear first-hand their views on the Draft Constitution” (he should have added his gratefulness at their acceptance at being chosen by him and his FCO).
Well, good for Honourable Bellingham. He got to hear first-hand where this group stood on crucial issues regarding a document very important to the lives of Turks and Caicos Islands citizens.
Their Constitution. Bellingham is way ahead of Turks and Caicos citizens in this regard, and beat them to the punch. He had the benefit of hearing their positions even before the people this group claimed to be going to represent, the citizens of Turks and Caicos, heard what their positions were.
Yes. No one can dispute this. The group went to Britain without engaging the citizenry in town meetings, or any other informative setting, to hear their views on what was important to them. They did not disclose their own views of where they stood on issues. In fact, they could not wait to pack their bags to get across the ocean to be “representatives” because HE Governor, Honourable Bellingham, and his FCO, designated them as such.
Before leaving they were a fractured and disjointed group, arguing about why the next guy on the team should not be going. They had no common strategy on the issues to be discussed (though one must credit Doug Parnell with making an effort to put heads together so as to speak with one voice), had no foreman to be the lead-off in discussions, and had no idea of what they would hold fast on and what they would give in on (a key strategy of anyone negotiating anything).
The British, and their people set to sit across the table must have been having a good laugh at the Turks and Caicos and its limitations, and their own brilliance at hand-picking.
Now a change of scenery. To England. Turks and Caicos “representatives” are there having discussions with the people who hand-picked them. These people must still be having a good laugh, because here the Turks and Caicos team still cannot agree on anything. Still arguing why the guy seated next to them should not be there; pushing the argument that the Draft Constitution was quite fine, only needing minor changes, and acknowledging the constitutional consultant for her diligence in securing submissions (but putting on the brakes here for a major concern of Turks and Caicos citizens about the glaring absence of their input submissions into the document); taking the opportunity here to outline political party positions instead of matters pertinent to the collective well-being of the Turks and Caicos citizenry.
At the conclusion of discussions there was an FCO press release of the outcome of the event, but no single on-the-same-page Turks and Caicos team release of what was accomplished (how can there have been when we had no single one-minded team). This was a negotiating team? And they were united against the common enemy? And they were negotiating on our behalf? And we should thank the creator, the moon and the stars for what they achieved and not critique them in any way? Please!
There is reason for no “Team TCI” press release. Nothing to report other than they were chosen by, crossed the ocean to the UK, sat in discussions with British career officials and negotiators, and came back with little changed from before. Period!
What is different? The change from “Belonger” to “Turks & Caicos Islander”? That is what we called ourselves since forever. It would only amount to something if those who came to Turks and Caicos and acquired citizenship were differentiated from those born there.
The UK has such a system: Once, we in the Territories were “British Subject: Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies” (as described in my first passport). Then suddenly, in 1985, a notable change to that document labels me: “British Dependent Territories Citizen: Turks & Caicos Islands”. All occurring without Turks and Caicos citizens knowing about or having any input in the process.
The drastic change came about due to British paranoia about possible waves of British citizens from their Hong Kong Territory flooding their shores as handover to the Chinese drew near. That is how my citizenship category was decided.
We should be able to implement such categorizations without the accompanying paranoia, and with respect for all our citizens regardless of category.
I digress. The matter of the Deputy Governor a success? How does that change the price of fish in the Turks and Caicos marketplace where people are losing jobs, are yoked with poorly thought out British tax schemes, are at the whim of British officials and advisors who make decisions “at their discretion”, are having a hard time overall making ends meet, and remain under threat of being undermined by the British disingenuous and unheard of attempt to “expand the franchise”.
Deputy Governor means little when put alongside these hardships. Effort would have been far better served championing issues like the Complaints Commissioner and absentee balloting for Turks and Caicos Islanders abroad.
This Turks and Caicos team going to the UK brings to mind the hilarious and wildly funny British comedian Benny Hill. You name it and he has poked fun at it: The British National Health scheme; British horse racing illegal activity; British intelligence; the Royal family; the French; the British welfare system. And on and on.
However, he does a skit about the British Foreign Office and diplomatic corps that is priceless. Here, Hill plays the part of this stodgy and stuffy high level British representative in discussions with an African leader. They are walking along a path and Hill is going on non-stop, selling his host a line about the British being his ally, how he can rely on them through thick and thin, and how they have his and his country’s interest at heart. During all this the host shakes his head vigorously and says over and over the word “Bulla,” “Bulla,” “Bulla,” as if he is in total agreement. Hill seems quite pleased with the headway he is making until the leader suddenly shouts, “Stop!” Hill freezes, wondering what is up. The leader points at the ground and says, “Careful before you step into that pile of Bulla.” You can figure out for yourself what the translation for “Bulla” was in the African leader’s language. Hill, the British Foreign representative, gives this facial expression of being embarrassed, bested, frustrated, and found out by someone he was sure he had the better of. Quite funny.
But seriously, was the Turks and Caicos group to the UK comparable to the savvy African leader who could see all the pitfalls and angles, or were they the ones stepping into the “Bulla”? In the Turks and Caicos our best asset are the minds of our people. It is also our worst prison, shutting us away from our future. Was this trip to the UK an example of using our best asset or showing how imprisoned our minds really are?
Ben Roberts is a Turks & Caicos Islander. He is a newsletter editor, freelance writer, published author, and member of TC FORUM. He is the author of numerous articles that have been carried by a variety of Internet websites and read worldwide. He is often published in Turks & Caicos news media, and in the local newspapers where he resides. His action adventure novel, Jackals of Samarra, is available at Amazon.com, and at major Internet book outlet sites. He can be contacted at: email@example.com
June 29, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
On June 12, 2011, in the evening, with the moon shining on the elite of Haitian society, brought together on the plaza of the Police Academy to celebrate the 16th anniversary of the creation of the Haitian police department, the atmosphere was festive and congenial. It was the Haiti of old time, the innocent Haiti in its golden age under President Paul E Magloire. President Martelly, sharp and dapper as Magloire, was singing with Jacques Sauveur Jean, a famous artist for the pleasure of the assistance.
The director of the police department, Mario Andresol, gave with brio a rendition of Charles Aznouvour. The speeches and the artistic part of the evening were at their end. As the buffet style banquet was beginning, two police inspectors seated at my table received a call: the president of Haiti’s National Bank of Credit was either kidnapped or killed at this very moment. They immediately left the festive party to be at the scene of the crime.
The party went on as scheduled but the mood was different. The dancing did not take place. A giant cake prepared for the occasion remained uncut and later mobbed by the service worker attendants.
I did not know Guito Toussaint but I knew something unusual was happening at the Haitian National Bank of Credit. It was transmuted into one of the most efficient banks in the nation. Guito Toussaint had succeeded in turning around a corrupt and decadent institution into the pride of the nation.
My personal encounter with the Haiti National Bank of Credit was not a pleasant one in the past. I had brought into Haiti an American investor ready and willing (a check on hand) to buy a bankrupt sugar mill in the north of Haiti called the Welsh Co., owned by the bank. As we were visiting the plant, a mob allegedly sent by associates of some of the directors of the bank was destroying the very same plant. Producing sugar in Haiti was against the interest of those who were using the bank’s money to import sugar from abroad.
When I visited the bank to urge the directors to save what could be saved from the pilfering of the economic assets of the plant, I was looked at as an intruder.
Guito Toussaint, recruited to lead the bank from its certain death, succeeded in bringing and keeping the confidence of a team dedicated to creating a national jewel for the benefit of the country.
Guito Toussaint hailed from the north of Haiti (the border town of Ouanaminthe) where it is still possible to find men of character not abused by the fifty plus years of ill governance, where corruption, greed and avarice have became the staple of the Haitian ethos.
He studied at the INAGUE – the Institute for International Affairs – the corresponding French ENA for Haiti where generations of young men and women are trained to become excellent public servants.
Along with a group of ten classmates who shared friendship, collegiality and the love for the motherland, Guito Toussaint was engaged in the business of nation building.
His last passion was Kay Pam (my own house) a product of the National Bank of Credit whose inauguration was planned on the very day of the funeral of the director of the Bank. In a land ravaged by the earthquake where housing is at a premium, Guito Toussaint has devised an instrument to provide a mortgage at a low rate of 8% to qualified subscribers.
He belongs in the class of those men and women who defy the interest groups that drag a country down, to create a nation that will become hospitable to all.
The outpouring of love and grief following Guito Toussaint’s assassination was an indication that Haiti is ready to get rid of its demons. Finding the criminal hands (wherever it may fall) who ordered and executed this death will be the signal that Haiti is entering in the domain of the rule of law, the precursor of growth and prosperity.
June 27, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
By LIZZIE PHELAN
The rise of Latin America has been something that I have been very privileged to be able to witness in my lifetime. To see living, breathing examples of socialism, to see vast nations like Venezuela and Brazil lift thousands of people out of poverty and some of the historically most downtrodden and oppressed peoples of this earth regain dignity, to witness the first indigenous president in Bolivia, Evo Morales take power - these are all events that reverberate amongst oppressed peoples throughout this planet.
But the most important lesson that 21st century socialism has hammered home is that socialism cannot develop according to a rigid formula. But it will develop according to the unique dynamics and contradictions that exist in any given location at any given time. It has shown that a political system should be judged on its content and outcomes rather than its form.
In saying that, whilst 21st century socialism in Venezuela may look different from how it looks in Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil or elsewhere, there are crucial commonalities, namely the assertion of sovereignty from foreign interference, which for a continent that for centuries was treated as Europe and the United States’ back yard is an anti imperialist assertion.
The commonality of this struggle stretches to all corners of the Global South, and in that commonality, Latin America and its sister countries in the Global South find a basis for cooperation towards their common anti imperialist goal of sovereignty.
The rise of Latin America is not an isolated story, it is also the story of the rise of China, the growing economic prowess of India, Russia, South Africa and other nations who now provide alternative trade partners to what used to be the only show in town - the US and Europe.
And up until three months ago, this remarkable story of progress away from a unipolar world of US-European control, towards a multipolar world, seemed unstoppable. But on March 31, when Britain, France and the US along with the rest of its friends in NATO and the GCC states, unleashed the first of thousands of bombs on the socialist Republic of Libya, this path of progress suffered a setback of grave proportions, the consequences of which are yet to become clear.
For the war on Libya is AFRICOM’s - the US’ project for military control over Africa - inaugural mission on the continent. It is a war on Africa.
Alongside the illegal sanctions on the nation of Zimbabwe, like Libya -another friend of Latin America’s, it is clear that the imperialists are coming straight for what leading figure in the US Black Liberation Movement, sister Viola Plummer said are the two “stalwart countries, who resist the militarisation of the continent”.
And since 1450, when the first of what is estimated to be 5 million African slaves, landed on the shores of the Americas, Latin America and Africa have shared mirror histories of European conquest.
Brazil itself can be considered an African country - it is often said that it has the largest population of Africans outside of Nigeria. In that sense it is appropriate that former Brazilian president, Lula da Silva, did more than any other leader on the continent to strengthen ties between Latin America and Africa, making 12 visits to the continent in his eight years in office.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also has been a very vocal champion of friendship between the two continents. During his visit to Tripoli, Libya, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the revolution in that African country, he said: "I strongly believe that Latin America will have no future without Africa, the same way Africa will not have a future without Latin America ... both of us share the same dream of a better world, a world of free and equal people....Africa cannot ever allow again that countries from overseas come to impose certain kinds of political, economic and social systems. Africa has to be for the Africans and only through unity Africa will be free and great.”
As well as talking about solidarity between the two continents, Chavez stresses the importance of a united Africa not just for Africa, but also for the Global South more broadly. When that is understood, the basis for his, Lula’s, Morales’ and Latin America’s close friendship with Moammar Gaddafi is put into context because Gaddafi is, as former Black Panther, Deedan Kamathi stressed during an interview with Sukant Chandan in Tripoli, the vanguard of the pan-African revolution.
Kamathi said, “Libya became the vanguard country for the pan-African revolution and it also became the vanguard country for the international revolution in terms of - no other African country, even liberated zones in Africa - provided the kind of material, political and ideological support to the liberation movements throughout the world, especially to the liberation movements in the United States and the Carribean. So we salute brother Gaddafi and the Jamahiriya for that and that's why I'm here today and that's why we conduct some kind of a media campaign and actual demonstrations and protests in support of "Hand Off Libya" , "Stop the Bombing of Libya" and "No Regime Change", in fact we need to uplift the Jamahiriya to a higher elevated position and amongst the anti-war progressive peoples all around the world.”
In addition to Gaddafi’s Libya being a vital source of trade and political cooperation between Latin America and Africa, exemplified by the fact that between 2003 and 2009 Brazilian exports to Libya increased by 289 per cent, while Brazilian imports from Libya grew by 3,111 per cent. 41 years of the Jamahiriya also serves as a vital source of revolutionary inspiration for leaders like Chavez, which he paid homage to when he said, “What Simon Bolivar is for the Venezuelan people, Moammar Gaddafi is for the Libyan people. He's the Liberator of Libya."
So, returning to my point about the symbolic impact of having living examples of socialism in Latin America and how socialism develops according to the unique dynamics of any given location, for 41 years we have also had the example of Libya, which kicked out the British and the Americans, closed their military bases, and nationalised their oil - and has achieved for its people the highest standard of living in Africa in a country that was the poorest on this planet. In the west, and in that I do not include Latin America or other nations of the geopolitical sphere that we term the Global South, our orientalist disdain for Gaddafi has meant that in all of those 41 years, we have blinded ourselves to, and missed out on learning from the incredible progress that has taken place within Libya under the Jamahiriya.
And while for Latin America and the Global South, the Jamahiriya provides a great example of what can be achieved, the war on the Jamahiriya also exposes the great vulnerabilities of all nations of the Global South which assert their sovereignty and identity at the expense of US-European domination.
While people across the world, from David Cameron, to so-called anti-imperialists in the west were calling what was in fact a counterrevolution, a revolution against another “Arab despot”, Chavez knew exactly what was going on. Because in another time and in another place, the narrative being parroted out to the world by Al Jazeera and the western media against Gaddafi, could have been the same narrative being spun against him.
And so he said: “I am not going to condemn from afar. That would be cowardly with someone who has been my friend and our friend for a long time, without knowing what is happening in Libya … I am not a coward, I am not fickle.”
Similarly in the very early days of the attempted counterrevolution, Fidel Castro called it out for what it was, an opportunity for NATO to finish off what the US had attempted to start when it bombed Libya in 1986.
But neither Chavez’s attempt at a peace plan, nor denunciations from across the Global South were enough to stop the imperialists in their mission to take the oil rich Benghazi for itself, begin the recolonisation Africa and in the process leave Libya in ruins to the Libyan people and all the other African migrants who have been welcomed by the Jamihiriya
Drawing back for a moment to Latin America, the first victory in the rise of Latin America began at the end of the 18th century with the liberation of Haiti by African slaves and the establishment of the world’s first Black Republic. Today, on behalf of the same oppressor Haiti rose up against, black people are being lynched in Libya by NATO’s “revolutionaries”. Progress is hard won, but easily destroyed.
The lessons from this are twofold. The internationalism once expressed by nations like Cuba who bravely sent soldiers to fight in Angola are no more. Then the Cubans had behind it the threat of a nuclear ally in the Soviet Union. So, until nations in the Global South develop a military prowess that can temper that of the United States, all nations in the Global South are vulnerable to their achievements being snuffed out by Tomahawk cruise missiles in the blink of an eye as we are witnessing in Libya.
The second lesson comes from the way in which the war in Libya has been termed a “humanitarian war”. This has been possible not just by the criminalisation of Gaddafi himself, but also by the criminalisation of the whole of Africa in the western media.
On the one hand we have the image of Gaddafi the “mad dog”, who dresses “eccentrically” (a racist assertion in itself, when one considers that he wears traditional African dress). That he is a crazy dictator controlling his own people. Nothing then of the universal health care, mass social housing, free university education, equality between black and white people, the high status of women, or the fact that far from being a dictator, Gaddafi has no official power in Libya, he is the symbolic leader of the revolution in much the same way Fidel is in Cuba today. And in regards to Libya being a dictatorship, democracy in Libya works through a system of people’s councils which is far more representative than anything we could dream of having here in England.
On the other hand we have images of Africans, starving, helpless, conflict hungry and unable to do much for themselves. For minds subjected to such images for the length of a lifetime, it is not such a surprise that people cannot contemplate an African Libya that is developed, where people live in peace, with dignity and a high quality of life.
This is cultural imperialism, and the western criminalisation of Asia, Latin America and Africa is perpetrated via imperialisms’ media machine. Al Jazeera was meant to be our beacon of hope in the west, until it became clear what game the Qataris were playing.
Chavez said it himself once, to a Fox news reporter: “The stupid people from Fox News”, he said. So the global South needs to stop allowing the stupid people to speak for it and it needs its own mass media machine to tell the world its own story from its own mouth.
If imperialism is victorious in Libya, not only Africa, but Latin America and the whole of the Global South will have lost a crucial friend. The lessons must be learnt quickly and as the Libyan people know as each day of bombing destroys a bit more of their hard fought for revolution, time is not on our side.
Long live Libya, only together will Africa, Latin America and the Global South rise.
This speech was delivered at Bolivar Hall, Venezuelan Embassy, London at the Latin America Rising event on June 16 2011.
June 24th 2011
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Cabinet Office Bahamas: The United Nations (UN) has not made a direct request to The Bahamas for the suspension of repatriations to Haiti
BY CHESTER ROBARDS
Guardian Staff Reporter
The United Nations (UN) has not made a direct request to The Bahamas for the suspension of repatriations to Haiti, a press release from the Cabinet Office revealed yesterday.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette also told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that Haiti has had no drastic changes on the ground that would warrant ceasing repatriation exercises.
“We’re a sovereign country and obviously we have to review issues on the ground (in Haiti) and unless things change in Haiti our policy will remain the same,” Symonette said.
The Bahamas suspended repatriation exercises following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti for several weeks last year.
This week, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Adrian Edwards, speaking at a press briefing at the Palace of Nations in Geneva, urged countries with high Haitian refugee populations like The Bahamas to halt repatriations until the situation in Haiti improves.
Edwards suggested that “precarious conditions continue to persist” in Haiti since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated its capital city.
“UNHCR and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights are renewing their appeal to governments to suspend, on humanitarian grounds, all involuntary returns to Haiti,” he said.
“Despite the recent elections and ongoing reconstruction efforts, Haiti, weakened by the earthquake, cannot yet ensure adequate protection or care, especially for some vulnerable groups in case of return, such as unaccompanied minors, disabled persons, people with health problems, victims of trafficking or of sexual abuse.”
The Cabinet Office release said the Government of The Bahamas had taken note of the request made by the UNHCR and ensured that “if a formal request is made by the UN to the Government of The Bahamas, such a request will be considered and a determination made as to the broader implications of such a request for The Bahamas and the best interests of our citizens.”
The release also insisted that The Bahamas has always been sensitive to the plight of the Haitian people.
“The Bahamas' record of dealing with the Haitian illegal immigration issue since the earthquake has been one of sensitivity and prudential judgment with regard to various domestic imperatives and our international obligations and relations,” the release said.
Symonette told The Guardian, “I talked to both the previous (Haitian) ambassador to The Bahamas who was in Jamaica, and Colin Granderson, OAS (Organization of American States) election representative in Haiti, and at the time none of them were aware of any changes in the current situation on the ground in Haiti, neither [is] our ambassador,” said Symonette, who recently returned from Jamaica.
“Therefore, repatriations to Haiti will be guided by if there are any changes on the ground. So we’ll continue obviously along those lines and should situations necessitate ceasing we will cease.
“...We haven’t had another earthquake or a hurricane. Yes, they had some rain the other day which killed some people, but there hasn’t been a drastic change that would affect our repatriation exercises.”
Jun 25, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Last week I had the opportunity to sit in an audience and watch about two hundred students graduate and receive their Masters, Bachelors and Associate degrees from the college where I have been teaching for years now.
While I was sitting down, my mind started to reflect on the years I spent with the New York City Department of Education as a paraprofessional, teacher and truancy counselor for about twenty years. Many of our students in the public schools are being promoted to a higher grade without meeting the academic requirements of the grades and are not gaining any meaningful knowledge.
Throughout my years in the public schools, I have worked in elementary schools, middle schools and high schools. This has equipped me with the tools to analyze and evaluate the differences in all levels of education throughout the New York City public school system.
My worst experience was working in a middle school. The students I encountered there were undisciplined, disrespectful, unmannerly, cutting classes, leaving the school building, disrupting classes, lacking the motivation to learn, failing most of their subjects, violent and engaged in several other anti-social behaviors. Yet, despite all this, most of them were sent off to high schools with the hope of achieving their high school diplomas.
Today there are about 50,000 students in the New York public school system that are over 17 years of age and have less than ten high school credits and still in the ninth grade. The chances of these students graduating from high school are slim to none. The mayor of the city and his old school chancellor have no program for them so they will all end up as high school dropouts.
Despite this, they decided to increase the standards these students should meet in order to graduate, when they have difficulty meeting the old standards. Common sense should dictate that if they couldn’t meet the old standards they will not be able to meet the new ones.
In addition, they have changed the focus to testing and scores instead of curriculum content and gaining knowledge, which means their reading, writing, math, verbal and analytical skills will be lacking. Studies released recently confirmed that these students are not prepared to do college level work or enter the workforce as productive employees.
Since Mayor Bloomberg took over the New York City schools, he has acted as if he is an educational expert. The parents of the students in the New York City public schools have little say and are not consulted on many things regarding their children’s education. The school district boards have become insignificant and there are a series of re-organizational schemes that have been implemented. There is no proof to date that these changes have led to the students gaining more knowledge and becoming better functioning adults.
Today, when you are on the trains, buses or the streets of New York City and you look at how most of these students dress, speak and behave, you would wish that you could be in another place at that time instead of being in their presence. These students are our future and if we are happy with what we are seeing then we all should applaud our schools for doing a wonderful job. If we are not happy then we should be demanding that something be done about this situation now.
I believe that this is the time for the Governor of New York State to convene a commission to look into the problems of the New York City public schools and other schools that are failing in this state before it is too late. That commission should be given the authority to go to all the schools in the cities to find out why these schools are failing and the children are not graduating with the skills to master reading, writing, computational, analytical and public relations skills.
We cannot continue to blame the children for all the problems we see because their behaviour could be as a result of what is taking place in their homes, neighbourhoods and schools. These children are also experiencing different things from what we experienced when we were growing up. Achieving knowledge and education, is only a part of growing up but, for our children to make it in this world today, they will have to portray a positive attitude at all times when they are in public.
June 23, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
by Naomi Glassman, COHA Research Associate
Cuba’s economy has struggled during the fifteen years since the fall of the Soviet Union, bringing economic disparity of an increasingly racial nature. Cuba’s population is split primarily between whites, mestizos and Afro‑Cubans (blacks and mulattos), with the percentage of Afro-Cubans varying between 62 percent[i] and 33 percent[ii] depending on the source. Like most former colonies, Cuba’s history of racism originated with the arrival of colonial Spanish settlers and their subordinated African slaves. Cuba was the last Latin American country to abolish slavery, by means of a royal decree issued by the Spanish King in 1886.
In his 1891 essay “Nuestra América,” Cuban author and independence fighter José Martí stated that there is no racism in Cuba because there are no races.[iii] He argued that Cuban unity and identity depended on all Cubans identifying as Cubans, instead of racially. White Cubans have often cited Martí’s position subsuming race to national unity as an argument that racism is not an issue in Cuba because “we are all Cubans.” But the legacy of slavery lingered, and was exacerbated by Cuba’s semi-colonial status under U.S. hegemony. Interactions with wealthy, white, prejudiced visitors from the U.S. contributed to social and economic divisions along racial lines. Afro-Cubans endured segregated facilities, discrimination under the guise of eugenics, and blatant racism at the hands of groups as extreme as the Ku Klux Klan Kubano.[iv]
After the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro acknowledged the prevalence of racism and launched a set of reforms intended to eliminate racial disparity in public spaces, education and employment. However, he failed to adequately address its cultural and societal roots. After a few years, he declared his policies a success and made any further discussion of race or racial inequality a counterrevolutionary crime, insisting that talk of race would divide the nation. During Castro’s reign, the silence on issues of racism made further debate or improvements impossible, countering the initial benefits of his reforms. Even though the Castro government achieved more for blacks in fifty years than previous administrations had in the last 400 years,[v] his policies only addressed issues of unequal access without changing structural biases underlying society. With a new wave of economic changes affecting the country, race and racism are once again becoming important issues in Cuba.
Race and the Revolution
When Castro first came to power in Cuba, the Afro‑Cuban population was disproportionately poor and marginalized, lacking sufficient medical care, social services and educational opportunities. Castro believed that such overt racism was in direct conflict with his commitment to social justice and equality and passed policies to desegregate beaches, parks, work sites and social clubs. He outlawed all forms of legal and overt discrimination, including discrimination in employment and education. Castro also worked to increase the number of Afro-Cuban political representatives, with the percentage of Black members on the Council of State expanding from 12.9% in 1976 to 25.8% by 2003. However, overall, Afro-Cuban representation decreased as the institutions become more powerful.[vi]
Castro’s redistributive social and economic reforms had a positive and measurable impact on the quality of life for Afro‑Cubans. The government’s great achievements in extending education and medical benefits to all Cubans have narrowed racial disparities in life expectancy and matriculation rates. Alejandro de la Fuente, Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh, used statistics from the 1981 census to illustrate the progress made during twenty years of Revolutionary rule. He found that by 1981 there was a gap of only one year in life expectancy rates between whites and non‑whites, which proved that Cuba had achieved relatively equal access to such indicators as “nutrition, health care, maternal care and education.”[vii] Moreover, educational reforms contributed to improved literacy and education levels across the island. By 1981, the percentage of blacks (11.2 percent) and mulattos (9.6 percent) who had graduated from high school were higher than those for whites (9 percent) leading to equivalent proportions of blacks, mulattos and whites in professional jobs.[viii] With education came improved opportunities for social mobility, as a mass exodus of wealthy white professionals to the United States after the Revolution, created many more professional opportunities for the previously marginalized Afro-Cuban.[ix] Similar social justice initiatives such as “wage increases, social security improvements, the provision of public services gratis or at nominal cost, and the gradual spread of rationing” further benefited the economically marginalized .[x] Government jobs were often distributed in a non-confrontational affirmative action style, giving “hiring preference to those who had the greatest family need and lowest income,” which again had a disproportional benefit for Afro‑Cubans.[xi] In areas with complete government control, such as education, employment and health care, social justice policies led to increased equality and improved services and opportunities for Afro-Cubans.
Three years into his rule, Fidel Castro declared that the Revolution had eliminated racism, making any further discussion of racial inequalities a taboo subject. Official discourse directly tied racism to capitalism, and thus the development of an egalitarian society officially ended racism. The government connected racial discrimination to the colonial and ‘semicolonial’ legacies[xii] and “to the capitalist elite, who had emigrated to Miami, officially making it a nonissue in Cuba.”[xiii] Castro’s government sought to develop a national Cuban identity and discussions of race and inequality were seen as creating divisions where none existed. For fifty years of Castro rule in Cuba, race and racism were taboo subjects, making debate, discourse, and study impossible.[xiv] Later developments have proven that racism was not actually eliminated, just improved and pushed underground.
Economic Reforms and Racial Inequality
The Special Period, the difficult decade following the fall of the Soviet Union, caused economic hardships for all Cubans. The government stopped numerous social services and the country struggled with widespread shortages. During this period, the structural legacy of racism meant that Afro‑Cubans faced a greater brunt of the economic challenges. Many of the economic reforms passed to bring the Cuban economy out of its deep recession served only to exacerbate these racial inequalities. When faced with a economic stagnation, the Revolution’s commitment to social justice lost ground to the need for economic recovery, especially given the official belief that racism was no longer an issue, the racist implications of economic reforms were not an issue for the Castro government.
Without Soviet sugar subsidies, Cuba’s economic development shifted to the growing tourist trade. While the tourist industry is currently the most profitable sector because of the availability of USD, it is also the industry with the greatest racial disparity in employment opportunities: Afro‑Cubans hold only five percent of jobs in the tourist sector.[xv] The tourist resorts hire primarily whites, drawing on the structural legacy of racism and the pervasive cultural belief that white is superior. Jobs in the tourist sector require less education and skills, meaning that Afro‑Cuban advances in education in the early years of the Revolution no longer translate to economic success.
Remittances -- transfers of money into Cuba from Cubans living and working abroad -- are a new source of unregulated USD in the Cuban economy. Remittances primarily benefit white Cubans, because the majority of Cubans who emigrated after the Revolution were white or lighter‑skinned mestizo. Statistically speaking, “83.5 percent of Cuban immigrants living in the US identify themselves as whites. Assuming that dollar remittances are evenly distributed among white and non‑white exiles and that they stay, roughly, within the same racial group of the sender, then about 680 out of the 800 million dollars that enter the island every year would end up in white hands.”[xvi] Cuba has limited data on the quantity and distribution of remittances, but a 2000 survey in Havana found that “although income levels were fairly even across racial groups before remittances, white households outspent black households in dollar stores and in the purchase of major household appliances.”[xvii] Both in the sending and consumption of goods, remittances provide greater economic benefit to white Cuban households.
The Castro government began legalizing personal enterprises for profit during the Special Period. Since then, more and more Cubans have opened their own restaurants or repair shops. However, in 2000, the Havana Survey found that 77 percent of the self‑employed were white, and that these white entrepreneurs were more economically successful in comparison to their Afro‑Cuban counterparts.[xviii] Once again, blacks face disadvantages because they lack the capital in USD from tourism and remittances: it often takes an initial investment, such as a bicycle for deliveries, or real estate that could be used as a storefront or neighborhood restaurant to start up a new business. Afro‑Cubans are also disadvantaged when it comes to the development of paladares, or small restaurants run out of the home. The quality of housing was not addressed in the original anti‑discriminatory reforms, and Afro‑Cubans are still concentrated in overcrowded and dilapidated housing areas, limiting their opportunities for owning and opening paladares.
Faced with growing racial inequality from the economic difficulties of the Special Period in a speech on September 8, 2000, Fidel Castro officially reestablished the issue of race as a subject for debate and improvement:
“I am not claiming that our country is a perfect model of equality and justice. We believed at the beginning that when we established the fullest equality before the law and complete intolerance for any demonstration of sexual discrimination in the case of women, or racial discrimination in the case of ethnic minorities, these phenomena would vanish from our society. It was some time before we discovered that marginality and racial discrimination with it are not something that one gets rid of with a law or even with ten laws, and we have not managed to eliminate them completely in 40 years.”[xix]
Castro recognized that he was premature when he declared racism eliminated and admitted that, despite progress, there were gaps in the original reforms. In the documentary RAZA, Cuban citizens remark that there are equal rights before the law, but equal rights do not mean social equality: society is still racist because of widespread ignorance.[xx] While notable achievements were made in education and employment, areas such as cultural representation, police discrimination and housing lagged behind. Cuba still suffers from the legacy of centuries of discrimination followed by decades of silence.
The growing Cuban rap and hip‑hop movements have been instrumental in bringing issues of racism and discrimination back into the public eye. They are often explicit in descriptions of racism as lived experiences, challenging the official silence and the popular belief that it no longer exists in Cuba. In 1964, Afro‑Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén wrote the poem “Tengo” (I have) to celebrate the end of racial discrimination, saying: “I have, let’s see / that being Black/ no one can stop me / at the door of a dance hall or bar … I have, let’s see / that I have learned to read / to count … I have, that now I have / a place to work / and earn.”[xxi] In 2009, with economic difficulties and the reemerging issue of racism, the Cuban hip‑hop group Hermanos de Causa rewrote the poem “to denounce the persistence of racial discrimination and the growing marginalization of blacks.”[xxii] In their rap, also titled “Tengo” the lyrics now say: “I have a race dark and discriminated against / I have a workday that’s exhausting and pays nothing / I have so many things I can’t even touch / I have so many places where I can’t even go.”[xxiii] The shift in music lyrics is paradigmatic of the shifting debate on racism in Cuba.
For Afro‑Cubans, the next step is to continue reopening debate and discussion, including the positive representation of Afro‑Cubans in television programs and classroom curriculum. Cuba must begin with the advances achieved by the Revolution and then work to deepen the Revolution’s commitment to social equality by rectifying the errors now evidenced in growing racial inequality.[xxiv] Television programs and educational materials on the island either completely ignore Afro‑Cuban culture or represent its negative stereotypes. Educational curricula teach the history of white Cuba, while ignoring the cultural roots of Africa, Afro‑Cubans and other marginalized groups. Esteban Morales, a PhD. at the University of Havana, says: “Whitening continues to be present and nourished in our education. We educate without mentioning color … we are teaching each other to be white. … it turns out that while we do not exclude blacks and mestizos from our classrooms, we do exclude them from the content of our curriculums.”[xxv] While the government succeeded early on in passing desegregation legislation, it has failed to effect any changes in the public media and educational representation of Afro‑Cubans, thus perpetuating racial ignorance.
Finally, although Afro‑Cubans are the largest non‑white population on the island, focusing on racism only against Afro‑Cubans ignores the issues faced by Chinese, Jewish and indigenous peoples. Discussions and studies of race and racism on the island have been limited by the official silence, and much more investigation and research is needed to provide an accurate picture of the racial divisions on the island. Afro‑Cubans are economically, politically, socially, criminally, and culturally marginalized, yet many Cubans still refuse to recognize racism on the island. The anti-discrimination advances of the Revolution deserve to be lauded, but they should not leave us blind to the racism that exists and the continuing struggles of Afro-Cubans.
The references for this article can be found here.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded in 1975, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and information organization. It has been described on the Senate floor as being "one of the nation's most respected bodies of scholars and policy makers." For more information, visit www.coha.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org
June 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Bishop Simeon Hall: The Privy Council’s recent ruling on the death penalty in the case of Maxo Tido has unwittingly said to criminals: ‘you can get away with your next crime’... it is clear that if families of murder victims are to ever have justice, The Bahamas must abandon the Privy Council...
NG News Editor
The Privy Council’s recent ruling on the death penalty in the case of Maxo Tido has unwittingly said to criminals ‘you can get away with your next crime’, according to Bishop Simeon Hall, who chaired the government-appointed National Advisory Council on Crime.
Hall said it is clear that if families of murder victims are to ever have justice, The Bahamas must abandon the Privy Council, at least for murder appeals.
One of the recommendations the Crime Council made to the Ingraham administration is to resume capital punishment.
But various Privy Council decisions over the years have set such a strict standard for the imposition of the death penalty, the government has been unable to carry out the law in this regard.
Tido was convicted of the 2002 murder of Donnell Conover. The 16-year-old was found with her skull crushed, and her body burnt.
The Privy Council said while Conover’s murder was “dreadful” and “appalling” it did not fall into the category for the worst of the worst murders and therefore the death penalty ought not apply.
“The ruling by the Privy Council raises serious questions as to what is happening,” Hall said.
“I understand to some degree the Privy Council has the last word, but certainly my big problem I’m wrestling with is what is the justice system saying to families of victims of murder, and then to persons who do the murder?
“It seems that the whole system now is lending its way to criminality. For the law lords to conclude that this was a bad murder but it’s not counted as the worst of the worst, I think it’s time for us to cry shame on the justice system.”
Conover’s mother, Laverne, who recently met with Bishop Hall on the matter, said the ruling re-opened an old wound.
“The murderers have all the rights,” said Mrs. Conover, who added that she learnt of the ruling last week via the evening television newscast.
She told The Nassau Guardian that her daughter was so mutilated she was only able to identify her by her nose.
“What I would like to know is what is the worst of the worst because murder is murder. If this is not the worst of the worst, could somebody explain to me what is the worst of the worst?”
Conover said the murder tore her whole family apart — she and her husband subsequently divorced, one of her sons is on the run from the law, and the other children have had their own emotional challenges.
She said life has not been the same since.
“When I reached the police station and they told me, I was just not myself anymore, especially when I had to go to the morgue and saw what I saw,” Conover said.
“What I saw at the morgue, I don’t know what that was because really it was not my daughter.
“I don’t know what that was because a dog’s head wouldn’t have looked the way her head looked. She had no face, one big bone sticking up, they burnt her over her body.
”How do they expect me as a mother to deal with this and to know Maxo is in prison living?”
While the Privy Council quashed Tido’s death sentence, it upheld his murder conviction and ordered that he be re-sentenced.
In 2009, the government was preparing to read a death warrant to him.
Hall pointed out that a study by Police Sergeant Chaswell Hanna noted that in a five-year period when 349 murders were recorded in The Bahamas, there were only 10 murder convictions and two death sentences issued.
“Last year was a record number of murders and I understand that we had no more than two or three convictions,” Hall said. “This disparity between criminal behavior and the justice system, is it the police, is it the lawyers, is it the justice system?”
He said the law lords of the Privy Council are clearly out of touch with what is happening in The Bahamas.
“How is this family to swallow this latest ruling?” he asked.
“...It is very difficult to remain philosophical on murder now. The criminals seem to be getting the better end of the stick and families of murder victims seem to be left — as this family — totally disintegrated.”
Hall noted that the level of violent crime has worsened in the last couple years.
“It is true that part of the problem is in fact the social culture we face as a community, but at the same time I think Parliament and the lawmakers must take draconian measures to face this nightmare we are presently confronted with,” he said.
“It is true that the current minister of national security has adopted half of the things we suggested, but it seems to be getting worse. And you feel embarrassed that you served on this thing and [crime] seems to be getting worse.”
Jun 20, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
My empirical observation has indicated that some of the most successful Haitian women in the Diaspora have either a Bahamian or a Turks and Caicos connection. Is it their excellent command of the English language, the high level of the education system in The Bahamas or the leadership skills and the assertiveness traits acquired through resilience that make possible the self assurance conducive to material success?
I am still pondering the question!
The nation of Haiti, in spite of its history as a freedom fighter trailblazer, has trailed in the culture of giving voice to the voiceless such as full rights and possibilities to its women. It does have a minister for women’s affairs, with the same minister (Marie Laurence Jocelyne Lassegue) in charge of that ministry for almost the last twenty years. Yet the outcome and the impact of her tenure are as deceiving and negative as in the other aspects of the life of the nation.
The voiceless who could not make a life in their own land have taken the chance on a leaky boat to The Bahamas or to the Turk and Caicos. They have encountered all types of discrimination and difficulty. They have endured and their children have attended school under the strict discipline accustomed to in the motherland. Yet the children have prevailed, they occupy today the high echelon in business, arts and the media, to wit our esteemed Jacqueline Charles, hailing from the Miami Herald, the recognised black journalist of the year!
The prime minister of The Bahamas has just taken the position that the Haitian people in The Bahamas will be regularized not as second class citizens but as potential belongers who will provide value added human resources to the country.
According to Emil Vlajki, who I have often cited in this column (required reading: Les Misérables de la Modernité), the most important resources of a nation are first its population, second an educated population and third an educated, creative and resilient population.
The Haitian people, in spite of their resilience and their exceptional creativity, are lagging badly in wealth creation in their homeland because the governance has been so repugnant to its people that it has failed to make education a priority. (Michel Martelly, the new president of the country, may change course -- he is building a $300 million National Education Fund (NIF) to reach most of the children of age to attend school.)
The failure to receive hospitality at home has caused many Haitian people to seek a friendlier sky abroad. There are some one million in the Dominican Republic. The Bahamas and the Turk and Caicos have a population with 45 percent Haitian heritage. Dominica has 4,000 Haitian residents. Florida has a least half a million Haitian people.
The welcome mat differs from one country to the other. Dominica sees the Haitian people as a potential asset and, as such, the prime minister has instructed the different ministries to be tolerant towards the new migrants. The result has been positive for the economy of the country. The LIAT leg to Dominica is profitable because of the constant travels of the Haitian residents to and from their motherland.
From ancient Greece until modern New York City, the most enduring city-states have been those that practiced a policy of open arms to foreigners. The synergy and the osmosis of different culture is a fertile ground for growth and development.
My campaign in this column has been constant and focused: promoting under the Caribbean sky an environment where hospitality is queen. Hospitality first for the very citizens of the country and hospitality for all those who want to belong.
This atmosphere of hospitality is possible only if each country takes the responsibility of cleaning its own house by providing the means for enjoying the motherland without the need and the obligation to become a nomad at home or abroad. Haiti with Martelly in power will soon have a responsible government dedicated to stop the human trafficking -- the fermenting ingredient for discrimination.
The Bahamas, by using the conch shell so proper to the land, can send a vibrant echo that the CARICOM region is one, the fortune or the misfortune of one part is linked to the others. The lambi (conch) sound and message will reach the entire Caribbean basin as far as Guyana: discrimination against Haitian people in particular, and citizens of the Caribbean in general, is a nightmare of the past!
June 20, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
In the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, at Article 134, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments made it clear that "efficient, reliable (and) affordable transport services" would be essential if the region was not only to theoretically transform the Community from a free trade and functional cooperative group to a single market and economy, but to consolidate the process.
At Article 135 (1)(f) of the same treaty, Caribbean governments pledged "the removal of obstacles to the provision of transport services by nationals of the member states ... ."
'Nationals', in this context, refers not only to individuals, but corporate persons registered and resident in member states of the Community.
We draw attention to these facts, given the ongoing dispute regarding the operation of REDjet, a Barbados-registered and domiciled low-cost airline, whose Irish principals, and the Barbados government, believe - unless they have very recently changed their minds - are being discriminated against by Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
We must confess that in the absence of clarity on the part of Kingston and Port-of-Spain, it all smells rather fishy to us, and in that context ... we would call into question our Government's declared commitment to the free market and competition, as well as the operation of CARICOM as a genuine single market.
CARICOM has, of course, struggled with a coherent and consistent aviation policy for the nearly 40 years that the Community has been in existence. Indeed, Caribbean nationals often complain of the logistical difficulties and high cost of travelling within the region and the limits these have placed on the conduct and growth of business, including tourism.
The rigidities that regional governments maintained of air services were largely to protect state-owned carriers, such as Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines (CAL), the Trinidad and Tobago carrier that used to be called BWIA.
But these carriers lost huge amounts of money, which the taxpayers of most of the countries can no longer afford. For example, in the decade until it was finally unloaded just over a year ago, Air Jamaica cost Jamaican taxpayers more than US$1 billion, or nearly J$90 billion.
This brings us back to the REDjet issue. When Air Jamaica was finally divested, it was acquired by CAL. Under the arrangement, the Jamaican Government received 16 per cent of CAL, but is insulated from capital calls. There is, on the face of it, reason for Kingston and Port-of-Spain to protect CAL.
REDjet, which operates two MD82 aircraft, first wanted to set up in Jamaica, but was stonewalled. It moved to Barbados, which has no state-owned carrier.
Several months ago, REDjet announced it would inaugurate its cut-rate flights to Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana, but has had regulatory difficulties in Kingston and Port-of-Spain.
Now, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago say they have safety concerns over REDjet, which the airline has to address before receiving the green light. These concerns are new to the company and the Barbadian authorities.
If these countries have genuine safety concerns, it is in the interest of the region that they be resolved. But the process has to be transparent, which this has not been.
Indeed, it is behaviour like Kingston and Port-of-Spain's that has helped to drive the region's scepticism about the usefulness of CARICOM.
The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: email@example.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.
June 19, 2011
Saturday, June 18, 2011
The Bahamas supports the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution that affirms equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people says Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette
BY JUAN McCARTNEY
NG Senior Reporter
The Bahamas supports the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution passed yesterday that affirms equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette.
The resolution, which narrowly passed in the council in Geneva, Switzerland, expressed “grave concern” about discrimination against gays throughout the world and affirmed that freedom to choose sexuality is a human right.
The Bahamas does not have a seat on the council, but is in favor of the resolution in principle, Symonette said.
He noted that he had not seen the resolution, but said the government supports the expansion of rights for “people of any persuasion.”
“Our record is clear, we continue to support freedom of expression and the right for people to express their opinions,” Symonette said.
“We actually voted in expansion of the rights [of GLBT people in a UN General Assembly vote earlier this year].”
The resolution passed in the human rights council also asked the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct a study by the end of the year that would point out “discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity in all regions of the world.”
Twenty-three countries on the human rights council supported the resolution, 19 voted against it and three countries abstained.
The resolution was the first of its kind passed by the council. It was fiercely opposed by Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, among other countries.
The United States supported the resolution, which also asked that the study be conducted before the end of the year to look at how international laws can “be used to end violence and related human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The resolution also said that the council will form a panel once the study is completed to discuss “constructive, informed and transparent dialogue on the issue of discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
One month ago, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay equated homophobia and transphobia to misogyny and racism. She also claimed that hate crimes against GLBT people were on the rise.
“States have an obligation to decriminalize homosexuality and to protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation,” she said.
Jun 18, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
The focus has been on crime in The Bahamas for the last few years. It's playing such an important part in the social dialogue that reports have it that it has become the number one concern in some quarters, with the economy being a very close second. With such a high premium placed on both the economy and on crime, one has to ask the question: are these issues correlated to some extent?
I got an email over the past week stating that, in Toronto, where they have five million people, the murder count was 60, and people were furious over it. In 2010, Toronto had 60 murders in total. In The Bahamas, the murder count for the year 2011 is already 58 and will more than likely be higher by this submission is received by the media outlets that have so graciously shared my correspondence with the public.
With regard to analyzing crime statistics, persons sometimes tend to internalize and personalize crime and isolate the person that committed the crime. Partly because it affects us all in some way – my cousin was shot in back of the head, in broad daylight, with witnesses, but the chief witness was killed a year later before he had a chance to testify.
Without question the issue of crime is deep as it is wide. To that extent, you shouldn’t be blustered with the notion that any one person is able to solve crime with one stroke or within a calendar year. I certainly cannot share with you a path to breaking information on a one year 100% crime reduction strategy, and I can assure you that no one else can either. I will tell you, however, that reacting to the crime news and overstating crime statistics instead of analyzing the nature of the criminal behaviour and parameters of this behaviour are not fruitful endeavours.
Going back to the statistics, to some extent and to add further value to the Bahamian murder rate statistic, UN reports indicate that the average murder rate for every 100,000 persons in The Bahamas stands at 22. This is the same rate as Brazil, Haiti and Guyana, but far less than Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica with 43 and 60 per 100,000 respectively. St Kitts and Nevis on the other hand has a murder rate of 35 persons for every 100,000 and their population is under 75,000.
Let's take a closer look at The Bahamas vs. St Kitts and Nevis, with the latter suffering under the weight of a severe murder spree. People have indicated that the size of the population matters with regard to crime, but this matter can be a wash when we examine the population size of both countries as The Bahamas is four times the population size of St Kitts and Nevis.
We may say with some degree of rationale, however, that population density instead of overall population size may be the cause of the differences in crime levels in each country, when we bring into the mix Trinidad with a population density of 254, Jamaica at 252 against that of St Kitts and Nevis at 164 and The Bahamas at 23.27 -- all UN reported statistics. Population density as it relates to urbanization and how that relates to the crime phenomenon has been well documented. To date over 85 percent of the crime in The Bahamas happens in the inner cities of the capital city of New Providence.
Analysts typically link crime between economic performance and criminal activity. Speaking to an authority on the matter in The Bahamas, he assured me that crime is not a result of economic reasons. But the question to be asked is: what economic concerns are we evaluating with criminal statistics?
If we look at GDP per capita in all four of our countries, we see that Jamaica has a lower GDP per capita than all cases and a higher murder rate. But when we look at Trinidad and Tobago we see that they have the second highest murder rate but the second highest GDP per capita and The Bahamas ranked with the highest GDP per capita and the lowest crime rate, relatively speaking.
While analyzing the murder rate alone is not enough to base any determination on with regard to overall crime, so too we cannot base any determinations on the crime by virtue of the murder rate as it relates to GDP per capita either, because there is more to economic performance, and the economy for that matter, than just the GDP per capita alone.
When we speak of the economy, we speak of things not only in the performance indicators, but we also speak to the level of unemployment; urbanization; the size of the informal sector; the size and scope of corruption; the illegal vices trade (gambling, narcotics, illegal immigration trade and the trade in sex workers); the level of economic openness and transparency; business ease; and the level of state and social protection in terms of property rights and transfers relative to population size and scope as well as a host of other issues and concerns.
I take the position, absolutely, that over 70 percent of the total crime in The Bahamas can be traced back to prevailing economic concerns and linked to wider structural deficits in the economic regulatory mechanisms in The Bahamas. Crimes against property in total, realty theft, house breaking and grand theft auto, are crimes that have economic implications, if only from a net positive benefit for the criminal.
To a broader extent when we speak of benefits transfers to underserved citizens -- knowing full well that employees of the Department of Social Services were attacked by irate customers only a few short months back -- we have to look at the amount of those transfer benefits relative to the economic situation we have today in The Bahamas.
We also must examine to the state’s capacity to provide proper services and deliver adequate benefits under prevailing financial constraints in addition to issues of social protection intervention before the turning point of human attitudinal change, particularly pre-school and secondary school assessments of persons that exhibit anti-social behavioural traits, with issues such as violence against women and overall attitudes against women to be taken into serious consideration as well as with the general lack of respect for authority and property.
While we must submit that crime is not a single entity with one single fix, we must begin to think about the links with crime to the wider economy and by virtue the society. Then, we must disaggregate certain crimes, under certain instances, with certain parameters and then determine if they all can be identifiable under those instances and parameters.
The Bahamas has the ability to build the capacity in its institutions and societies to deal with this matter decisively, and I believe that we can deal with this matter absolutely.
June 16, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
WikiLeaks diplomatic cable: ...the unaddressed issue of Haitian integration in The Bahamas could eventually lead to ethnic violence in The Islands
BY BRENT DEAN
NG Deputy News Editor
Hundreds of Haitian migrants land illegally in The Bahamas each year
The Americans are of the view that the unaddressed issue of Haitian integration in The Bahamas could eventually lead to ethnic violence in this country, according to a diplomatic cable from the United States Embassy in Nassau.
The detailed nearly 3,500-word cable from June 2009, obtained by The Nassau Guardian from WikiLeaks, is an extensive analysis by the embassy of the tense Haitian situation in The Bahamas.
“The existence of a large, dissatisfied and poorly-integrated ethnic minority is a potential risk to social and political stability in The Bahamas,” said the embassy.
There are a wide range of estimates as to how many Haitians reside in The Bahamas. The numbers range from 30,000 to 70,000 in a country of 350,000 people.
Many Haitians live in shantytowns and the majority of these shantytowns are in New Providence. However, two of the largest are in Abaco (The Mud and Pigeon Pea).
Successive governments, for the most part, have maintained the country’s traditional policy position regarding Haitians, pushing repatriation of the undocumented and the regularization of those eligible for legal status.
This policy has not solved the problem. There are no official numbers, but many Haitian children born to parents illegally in The Bahamas are ‘stateless’. They consider themselves Bahamians, but have no legal status in this country, having not taken up the Haitian status of their parents.
The Americans consider further engagement of the Haitian community as a possible means of preventing conflict between the communities.
“The GCOB (Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas) would be well-served to encourage integration, as some commentators recognize, both to diffuse existing animosities and (to) avoid future manifestations of discontent,” said the cable.
“In the short term, given the economic and social pressures, GCOB anti-immigration policy is unlikely to change. As a result, well-entrenched Haitian communities are barely tolerated and the risk of ethnic flare-ups rises in proportion to economic hardship and stricter immigration enforcement. The possibility of overt inter-ethnic violence persists.”
No sustained inter-ethnic violence between Bahamians and Haitians has emerged, though Bahamians regularly express frustration, and sometimes hostility, via talk radio about the Haitian situation.
The Americans suggested that in a down economy, with increasing numbers of Haitians coming to the country and increased anti-Haitian sentiment, Haitian-Bahamian conflict could at some point emerge in various parts of The Bahamas.
“Inner-city Nassau neighborhoods are most at risk, but the potential for conflict also exists in suburbs where new subdivisions encroach on existing migrant settlements,” said the cable.
“Conflict is also possible in outlying islands, which are proportionately greater affected by demographic changes or economic deterioration, and the competition for scarce land and jobs is fiercer.”
The Haitian vote
In recent years, the Free National Movement (FNM) has publicly been ‘softer’ in its public tone towards Haitians than the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), which has held more to the traditional policy of repatriation.
At a rally in March at Clifford Park, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham began by reaching out to the Haitian community, acknowledging the return of the former leader of the country.
“Firstly, I want to give a shout out to my Haitian brothers and sisters and say how pleased I am that President Aristide has been allowed to return back to Haiti,” Ingraham said.
Though a casual remark, Ingraham’s reference to Haitians in The Bahamas as his “brothers and sisters” was a significant demonstration of solidarity by a Bahamian politician and leader.
The extent of anti-Haitian sentiment in The Bahamas was evident after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Ingraham suspended repatriations and released Haitians being detained at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
Talk radio across the country was overwhelmed by those expressing anger with Ingraham’s decision.
Thus far Haitians have not organized a political lobby to agitate for their interests in The Bahamas. There are no openly Haitian representatives in Parliament.
With the large number of Haitians in the country, however, the Americans realize that they would have significant power if they came together.
“A well-organized community might already have the power to swing a close election and wield increased influence as a result. Haitians in The Bahamas, however, do not appear as yet to have the will or organizational wherewithal to risk an open challenge to the status quo,” said the cable.
“Instead, most prefer to seek integration in place while others move on to the U.S.”
With the large number of Haitians in the country, despite the current reluctance by them to openly enter front-line politics, sustained and open Haitian representation in Parliament going forward is inevitable.
The flow of people and discrimination
Cables on China have revealed the American concerns regarding The Bahamas being used as a transit point to smuggle Chinese to the United States.
Many of the Haitians that come to The Bahamas are smuggled into the country by Bahamians. The Americans described these smugglers as experienced.
“Migrants from poorer Caribbean countries are smuggled to or through The Bahamas, destined for the U.S., by well-established, island-hopping networks. Many are run by Bahamian smugglers based in Freeport, Grand Bahama or Bimini, two of the closest points to Florida shores,” said the cable.
These migrants risk their lives to come to The Bahamas, as the Americans noted. Haitians have relayed stories revealing that they have been told by smugglers to jump overboard from vessels into the sea and to swim to shore when they approach Bahamian islands. Some who could not swim drowned after paying $2,000 to $3,000 to escape the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
“Such tragic incidents highlight the desperation of the migrants and indicate that the illicit Haitian migration flow to and through The Bahamas is unlikely to stop,” said the cable.
After suffering through this ordeal, many Haitian migrants are faced with discrimination once they settle in The Bahamas.
“Bahamians strongly resent the social cost, cultural impact, and crime linked – in popular stereotypes certainly – to Haitian immigration. These sentiments are confirmed in contacts with government officials, political activists, especially the youth, and NGO leaders who interact with both communities,” the Americans observed in the cable.
“Haitians are thought to impose disproportionate demands on inadequate social services, primarily health and education, due to the higher birth rate in the Haitian community.”
These issues, the Americans observed, have the potential to explode someday in The Bahamas if constructive policies are not introduced to further integration.
Jun 15, 2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
“But I do not fear prison, as I do not fear the fury of the miserable tyrant who took the lives of 70 of my comrades. Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.”
In a speech that rang synonymous with Socrates at the portico of Athens for the alleged charge of impiety, or with Dr King fighting for the civil rights of African Americans, or even Saint Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica, Dr Fidel Castro, is still cleverly checking his adversaries, both from within and abroad.
Since that fateful arrest in 1953 for assaulting the Moncada military barracks in the eastern city of Santiago in southern Cuba, Castro still controls his mind although nearly subdued by collapsing health.
Fidel Castro Ruz is the world's longest-serving head of government and the leader of the Americas' only communist country. Since he seized power in a 1959 revolution, El Comandante as he is affectionately called by his countrymen, still commands the admiration of the world.
He endured the fall of the Soviet Union, the culmination of communism in Eastern Europe, antagonized ten American presidents and outwitted dozens of assassination attempts.
It is true that the Cuban Revolution is probably one of the most theatrical, polarizing political events of the twentieth-century. Critics and proponents alike may someday eulogize Castro on the pages of history as a tyrant who suppressed freedom, equality, and social justice.
Nonetheless, education and the intelligence of a human being in a revolutionary society have immensely prevailed over instinct. Castro has without doubt offered every Cuban and many Caribbean citizens the opportunity of an education free from discrimination.
Today, Castro’s 1959 revolution provides a compelling picture of Cuba in relation to the rest of the world. Cuba’s influence on Latin America and the Caribbean, its coalition with the Soviet Union from the 1960s until the downfall of the Soviet bloc in 1989, and its riotous relationship with the United States cannot go by unnoticed.
For someone who has reiterated that “all of the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn,” Castro is now preparing his people politically and psychologically for his absence through the power of his pen.
Adhering to his own thoughts that “a revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past and that a revolution is a dictatorship of the exploited against the exploiters,” his name will forever be printed on the pages of history and will again be read overtime for “one just man deserves more respect than a rogue with a crown.”
He has justified his point of view by proving that “revolution is the source of legal right” in Cuba and there is indeed, according to French writer, François Hotman, “a bond or contract between the government and its subjects.”
Yet, assuming all this as truth, John Locke, in his essay on government, seems to refute this socio-politico principle with his assertion “that when the natural rights of man are violated, the people have the right and the duty to alter or abolish the government.”
Hence, stunning doubts persist on who will be the leader who brings Cuba out of decades of seclusion? Who will be Raúl Castro’s heir?
Castro’s retirement draws the curtain on a political career that traversed the Cold War, survived US animosity, and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. As one of the most controversial, combative, and charismatic rulers in history, the assessment by political scientist of how his illness and departure will transform politics continues to raise doubts about the future of the western hemisphere's only communist state.
His wishes have always been to discharge his duties to his last breath for he believes that one has to be consistent right up to the end. After all, it is suffering and death that defines our humanity and as mortals we must die.
As to whether his policies will play a major role in a post Fidel Castro Cuba or continue to plague the US beyond the grave remains to be seen.
Notwithstanding, Fidel Castro Ruz continues to fight in the battle of ideas. That’s all he can now offer his people. His pen has become mightier than his sword after so many years of struggle but that too is irrelevant.
The question is - has history finally absolved him?
June 15, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
I flew to New York one day after the inauguration of Michel Martelly as the 56th president of the Republic of Haiti. I returned to the island nation one month after to gauge and taste the change on the street and in the spirit of the people. I have not seen any change yet. The president has been facing gridlock on all sides.
The former president Rene Preval on his last day in power may have orchestrated a constitutional subterfuge, sending to the national printing house an amended version of the constitution that was not approved by the parliament.
This malicious maneuver is creating all types of setback that the new president finally has rescinded the entire project of constitutional amendment. It took two weeks for him to do so.
The legislature with a small majority in the Preval camp therefore not on the side of the president is lingering, taking its time before engaging the dispositions to receive, hear and approve the program of government of the new prime minister, Gerard Rouzier. Some senators had even openly demanded bribes before sitting for the session. Martelly has firmly stated that he has a popular mandate to bring about change. He will not be bought.
His detractors, mainly those with a sour grape from the Myrlande Manigat camp, his former rival, are criticizing every utterance, every move with an intensity that freezes stupidity.
Item, Martelly has brought back the custom of a national holiday on Ascension Day. He is accused of mutilating the modern republican spirit of God versus State.
Item, Wilson Jeudy the mayor of Delmas, a suburb of Port au Prince, has taken responsibility to dislodge some earthquake refugees on a park leading to the airport. That camp is suspected of being a hotbed for bandits harassing the travelers at night. The full national and international public relations system, including the American legislative Black Caucus, has been engaged to condemn Michel Martelly for this assault on democracy. The mayor of Delmas is accusing a senator from the north, Moise Jean Charles, a fierce supporter of the former president, of being the instigator of the confusion for political reasons. The citizens of Delmas, victims of the hooliganism in that camp, are grateful and thankful to the mayor.
Item, Michel Martelly is also being accused of using sexual innuendos that cannot be printed in this essay to describe his satisfaction of the shape and form of a new school building he was dedicating. Education for all is his passion. Sexual innuendos included.
The Diaspora has its grief against the new president for demanding a tax of $1.50 per international transfer and 5 cents per minute on calls to Haiti. The contribution will augment a fund dedicated to making schooling free and universal in the entire country. Privilege comes with responsibility, legislation is on the way to provide the Diaspora with voice and vote.
The hurricane and the rainy season are already creating havoc in parts of the country. Some thirty citizens have lost their lives due to flooding. There is urgency in protecting lives and limb yet the debate amongst the protagonists of the president has been around comma and style.
Haiti, like a fine flower, is in danger of extinction due to environmental negligence and the pressure of the population, accumulated through sixty years of ill governance, forcing the people to concentrate in the main cities without a proper assessment of its environmental impact.
President Martelly, as the first pilot helping Haiti and its people to take off, must focus on the big picture as well as the small details. I have often said that a nation at its transition is like an airplane taking off. The pilot must use all the power at its disposal so the plane will reach its cruising altitude.
The old guard wants nothing but the crash of the airplane and the pilot, so it can, like the vultures, enjoy the carcass.
President Martelly’s budding passion for Haiti, the genuine love and generosity of his wife for the lowly, can only augur the success of his government in spite of the odds against him. Stay tuned for an update six months from now.
June 13, 2011