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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dr. Hubert Minnis - The Bahamas Official Opposition Leader is grossly and irredeemably incompetent as party leader as he continues to implode

Dr. Hubert Minnis: From very bad to much worse to disastrous

Within the first two months of 2015, Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis has caused as much or perhaps even more damage to the FNM as he has over the previous two years-plus. His performance has not improved. He has gotten dramatically worse. We are witnessing a political wreck of titanic proportions as he continues to implode.

Even some who supported his recent election as party leader are exasperated, having second thoughts: “Too many mistakes too soon”.

From the Bank of The Bahamas (BOB) episode to abandoning a party conclave to an extremely damaging senatorial firing and appointment fiasco – all within a matter of mere weeks – Minnis has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is grossly and irredeemably incompetent as party leader.

The party is hemorrhaging support from core supporters. Many die-hard FNMs have decided that they will either not vote at the next general election or will vote DNA because they cannot bring themselves to vote PLP and they cannot support the FNM under Minnis. The party is in a crisis of grave proportions.

Minnis has drafted a fatal political calculus. Not only has he failed to rally the party’s base but he has also alienated much of that base. He continues to divide the party because he seems incapable of sincerely reaching out to opposing voices beyond platitudes of unity. A demoralized base and wider disaffection multiplied by disunity equals electoral disaster.

Since January, the party’s fortunes have been sinking weekly, fortunes which cannot be recovered under Minnis, whom arguably the bulk of the electorate has now written off as hopelessly and irretrievably out of his depth.

Having organized and begged for a second chance to prove himself and granted a reprieve, Minnis inexplicably imploded in breathtaking speed. His actions bespeak a noxious concoction of unwarranted arrogance and inexhaustible political stupidity.

He and some avid supporters typically blame the news media, critics and others for his problems. Their criticisms are misplaced. His unending and mega-blunders are all self-inflected wounds, the result of arguably the worst political and policy judgment of any opposition leader since the advent of party politics. His political judgment is hopelessly flawed.


It was not just the dull, vision-deprived, droning and dreadfully-delivered New Year’s address. On top of this was the failed BOB march and Prime Minister Perry Christie’s subsequent withering assault on the opposition in the House of Assembly as Minnis sat dumbstruck, clueless and speechless.

It is unthinkable that Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Sir Kendal Isaacs, Henry Bostwick, Hubert Ingraham and other opposition leaders would have sat so passively, dazed, out of their depth, unable to defend their party and themselves as they were getting licked with verbal two-by-fours – and over an issue where the governing party is acutely vulnerable. Absent his cue-cards and those who cue his actions, the leader of the opposition was clueless.

This was a singular test of Minnis’ leadership. He failed – spectacularly. It is his failure alone. He cannot play the victim. His colleagues and rank-and-file FNMs were left leaderless on the field of battle as PLPs made sport of the FNM.

Minnis has demonstrated that he never possessed, does not now possess, nor will he likely ever possess the critical skills necessary to be an effective opposition leader, much less prime minister.

Those still nurturing the fantasy that he can be groomed for either office are living in a dream world that is resulting in nightmarish prospects for the FNM. Six months more will make no difference.

How much more support does the FNM have to hemorrhage before it becomes so anaemic and weakened that it will have no time to recover its electoral prospects? The good doctor is clearly not good for the recovery and health of the FNM.

Question for those who reluctantly or self-servingly organized and authorized his reprieve: How did you blindly imagine that things would be different?

In January, Minnis invited the party’s top brass as well as representatives from every constituency, a total of approximately 200, to a conclave convened to unify the party and to chart a strategy going forward.


Then in one of the more inexplicable, supremely arrogant and politically stupid acts in modern Bahamian politics, he blew off the second day of the conclave to attend Junior Junkanoo in Eleuthera.

Wearing a pharaonic crown, he rushed his way into the political almanac, becoming, it appears, the only head of the FNM or PLP to abandon a conclave of his own party. Sir Lynden Pindling, Ingraham nor Christie would have pulled such a dismissive stunt. Then again he is not remotely in this league.

What made Minnis’ Eleuthera escapade even more bizarre is that the flight to the island is short and the event was held at night as seen in the photo inexplicably publicized by his team.

Party Chairman Michael Pintard unhelpfully advised that Minnis agreed the Junkanoo date earlier, suggesting that the latter is so gravely incompetent as to be unable to do basic scheduling.

Minnis likely abandoned the conclave for the very reason that he could not respond to Christie when challenged on the BOB march: he was hopelessly out of his depth and had no idea what to say.

Instead of embarrassing himself by speaking unscripted he went mute in the House and fled the conclave. He is petrified of speaking unscripted. When he does, it is usually an unmitigated disaster. He seems to like instead to use subterfuge and politically subterranean tactics to advance his ends.

Despite the abysmal record of the PLP, the FNM is now in worse shape precisely because of Minnis’ re-election. Having witnessed his previous disastrous two plus years, and horrified at his mega-blunders so far this year, voters and FNMs at large have surmised that the party cannot be taken seriously.

The albatross strangling the political fortunes of the FNM was and remains Minnis, replete with his jumble of grave insecurities, autocratic and non-collegial leadership style, vindictive actions and incomprehensible incompetence which often makes even a bumbling Perry Christie seem like a model of political leadership.

All of which may be seen in his senatorial firing and appointment fiasco, a case study in Minnis’ flawed leadership. Every step along the way was a blunder. To begin with, senators should not have been appointed with a de facto time limit. This makes a mockery of the Senate which is the Upper House of Parliament signified by the fact that its members carry the title of honorable.


After the recent convention, the brooding Minnis seemed to have drawn up an enemies list of those not personally loyal to him. In what appears a highly vindictive move, Heather Hunt, a well-regarded political talent, was unceremoniously dismissed because she reportedly backed Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner. Her firing was bungled. Will Minnis now seek to push aside, punish and deny nominations to those MPs and aspiring candidates who did not support his election?

His excuse for the dismissal of Hunt unwittingly put at risk the Senate tenure of a purported supporter in the person of Senator Kwasi Thompson, a fine person and a competent parliamentarian, who people now expect to be replaced based on Minnis’ proffered rationale for dismissing Hunt.

Minnis is incapable of dealing with internal opposition and unifying the FNM because of such paralyzing insecurities. He is making the same mistakes as before. He knows no other way. This pattern is so entrenched that he seems incapable of genuinely changing it, incapable of bringing the FNM “all together”.

Minnis allowed the appointment of a new senator to spin out of control and to become a public spectacle. Instead of effectively mounting an opposition to the government’s mass of mistakes, the FNM has remained on the defensive.

He appears to have courted the hotel union president as the new senator. This was another mind-boggling mistake, with obvious potential conflicts of interest.

There are reports that he offered the appointment to former candidate Monique Gomez and then reneged on the offer. In the event, his appointment has alienated scores in the party including senior figures, some of his supporters and many in the Women’s Association.

The appointment to the Senate of a novice with a meteoric rise, thanks to Minnis, and with little stature and bona fides in the party, has distressed many. It may prove Minnis’ worst blunder yet. Her initial comments, even before her swearing-in, have been inauspicious and problematic, including her dismissal of members of the Women’s Association as “emotional”.

Those who thought that Minnis’ paralyzing weaknesses were malleable and could be mitigated will be proved wrong time and again. He will often continue to coo the right things to certain individuals and then do the wrong thing. It is now up to key members of the party and the rank and file to change direction before it is too late.

Collectively, Minnis’ string of disasters constitutes an overwhelming case for change as soon as possible.,


Thursday, February 19, 2015

US-Cuba: Is the great thaw on ice?

 David Roberts Business News Americas

By David Roberts

Cuban President Raúl Castro's recent comments at a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States that before full diplomatic relations can be established with Washington, first the US must lift the trade embargo on the island, pay compensation for the damage it has caused the country and return Guantánamo military base need to be taken with a pinch of salt.

The US quickly ruled out discussing the Guantánamo base, which is a legacy of the Spanish-American war of the late 19th century, while the embargo cannot be lifted without congressional approval, which given the fact that both houses of the US congress are now controlled by the Republicans will be no mean feat.

So does that mean the end of the US-Cuba rapprochement? That's unlikely, not least because Cuba has a great deal to benefit from the historic agreement announced in December to restore full diplomatic ties, along with President Barack Obama's pledge to work to lift the 54-year embargo and a prisoner swap.

The embargo was, after all, designed to punish the Fidel Castro regime and encourage its downfall, and Obama had said previously he would not support ending the 'blockade', as it is known in Cuba, unless there was political change on the island. While Cuba has partially opened up its economy in the last few years since Raúl took over from Fidel, there has been zero political change.

The thaw in relations involves what Obama's critics have described as a series of concessions to Cuba with nothing in return, such as increasing the amount of money that can be sent to Cubans and allowing exports of telecommunications equipment and building materials, among others. The US also agreed to ease travel restrictions on its citizens wishing to visit Cuba, and allow US credit and debit cards to be used in the Caribbean country.

Obama also promised to review Cuba's listing on the US government's list of state sponsors of terrorism, where it was placed in 1982 and is currently accompanied by Iran, Syria and Sudan. That decision could pave the way for other economic or political sanctions to be lifted.

Despite these 'concessions,' does the agreement amount to a real change in US strategy towards Cuba? Or is it merely an acknowledgement that isolating Havana is not going to bring political change, whereas encouraging economic ties may lead to the communist-ruled country opening up – widespread use of the internet could be key – and eventually regime change? It seems unlikely that Obama has come to accept the existence of the totalitarian regime and, although he may not say it in public, he presumably believes the fresh approach will indeed result in change.

The risk on the part of Obama, therefore, is limited, given the clear failure of past policies and the fact that much now depends on congress, while the risk on the part of Raúl Castro is much greater. The Cuban regime has long used the embargo and the US policy towards Havana as a scapegoat for the country's ills, and an excuse to rule with an iron fist. If that goes, the future of communist rule will be threatened. That is a risk that Raúl Castro (maybe even both Castros) must be well aware of, just as he surely must have expected Washington's predictable response to the Guantanamo demand. So while it's easy to be cynical and cast doubt on his sincerity and willingness to follow through on the agreement, the Cuban leader's courage to enter this period of entente with Washington is something worthy of recognition.

February 10, 2015

BN Americas

Friday, February 6, 2015

African values and male empowerment

Mr. Michael Burke

By Michael Burke:

SO, we are once again in Black History Month. Much discussion has been generated about the marginalised male in the African diaspora, in general, and Jamaica in particular. All sorts of solutions have been bandied about, but I do not often read or hear about solutions that come from Africa. In most African ethnic groups the men are respected as the fathers and the chiefs. In most African ethnic groups the men have their separate meetings where they deliberate as men and they are told and held to account for what is expected of men.

While urbanisation and negative European neo-colonial ideas have permeated much of Africa, many of these traditional values remain. In Black History Month, shouldn't we be looking at such things for solutions to the marginalisation of the men in the African diaspora? After all, black women look to Europe and the United States for solutions to bring about advancement.

Women's rights groups were important 100 years ago, and even 50 years ago, as there were centuries of oppression to women. But much of that has now changed and women are not as oppressed as before, but the liberation groups remain and many of them are both obsolete and repressive to men. Indeed, the so-called women's liberation today seems to be going in the direction of tyranny to men.

Politically, the only way for the US Democrats to win a majority is to create a coalition of minority groups. While that might be excellent politics for the US Democrats, it is not all right for the empowerment of black men, especially when the women's liberation groups are added. Further, these anti-man positions breezed into Jamaica many years ago by the usual channels of media, travel and, perhaps, conditions for loans, grants and charity as well. So we in Jamaica have the dilemma also. And, of course, this marginalises black men even further.

Some of our national heroes placed a great emphasis on education. That said, there were many other people in black history that placed great value on education both here in Jamaica and elsewhere. While education is the starting point to achieve this liberation, it cannot be education by itself, especially if there is no emphasis on values such as family life, for instance.

But even if the education system does emphasise it, what happens if the availability of jobs is better for women than for men? Unfortunately, it is the person with the money who has the power, and if the wife and mother earns more then she has the power. And in such a scenario, the black marginalised male is marginalised even further.

The ideal situation regarding families is one where children are born within their parents' marriage. But if the marriage laws, or at least the dispensation of justice from the family courts, is of such that it gives an unfair advantage to women, then marriage will not be an attractive option to men. If our men feel that they cannot possibly receive any justice in a custody battle, or in a divorce settlement, then marriage will not be considered to be a viable option for the male onlookers.

By way of explanation, the Roman Catholic Church allows marriage annulments in situations where in the view of the church a marriage did not exist in the first place, although the requirements of civil law were met. But even if our church grants annulments, for it to be legally binding it has to go through the civil courts in the country of the dissolution. Many countries classify this as divorce and at that point one has no choice but to work with that. Having explained this, I continue.

When marriage becomes unattractive to men then it is a hard sell for Christians to preach it. The fact that officialdom says one thing but encourages free sexual liaisons makes it even harder to convince men to get married. Most will simply have sex with a consenting partner, and if there is a pregnancy, then so be it. And, of course, this is the entire reason for the problem in the first place, so the first verse becomes the last verse: "There is a hole in the bucket."

So, how do we empower the black man in the African diaspora? In the first place we have to do an overall improvement of his income. This is best done in co-operatives, but first the black man in the diaspora has to learn to co-operate. The best way to do this would be to show them the co-operatives in the motherland Africa. The traditional African way of life in the various ethnic groups was basically co-operative. The late Julius Nyerere made this point when he combined the traditional African way of life into an ideology called Ujaama, a Swahili word for 'familyhood'.

In the second place, we have to make marriage an attractive option for men; in terms of making sure that men are not at a disadvantage in matters of custody, alimony, and the distribution of marriage possessions. But changing laws is a long process, so we can only warn men to be careful when choosing a partner. And once marriage becomes attractive, then we can speak about raising children in a situation where they are taught proper values.

Equally important is the need to teach our black children to love themselves as they are, instead of aping the Europeans. A few weeks ago I wrote that it was sad that the first thing that ever had the 'Made in Jamaica' label on it was so-called haircare products that made black women's hair look European. This was during the war when there was a scarcity of all imported items and Madam Rose Leon made her own beauty products.

Some people believe it is easier for girls when going to school; others say that people of other races alter their ethnic features and so on. But it is still a sad commentary. We are talking about Jamaicans who, from the days of slavery, were told that they were inferior, unlike other races who made that choice from the solid background of knowing exactly who they are. Those who made such comments work at cross purposes with African values.

February 05, 2015

Jamaica Observer