The Straw Vendors, The Helicopter Ride, The Arawak Home demolition. These are stories that have exploded in the media over the last month.
They have been debated and analyzed on talk shows, news papers, office buildings, street corners and homes around The Bahamas.
Politicians have come out on one side or the other, trying to ensure themselves or their party is seen in the best light possible. Emotions have flared and talk show, excuse me, “Action Show” hosts have been fired.
Pondering these stories Saturday morning it occurred to me that all have right and wrong sides but the public is not entirely convinced and in some cases are totally on the “wrong” side.I think it reveals a lot about us as a people and how we value the rule of law.
One thing these stories all have in common is they show how slackness and corruption permeates our society from top to bottom. So much so that people are arguing that right is wrong and wrong is right!
The story is one of conflict of interest and protocol. The Aga Khan owns an island in The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park that he wants to develop. From my understanding there is no development allowed in the park that would harm the environment, However there is a proposal before the Ministry of the Environment for just that.
This is where the conflict of interest part comes in. The Minister took it upon himself to use the Aga Khan’s helicopter to attend a private function in Abaco, Before flying off with executive members of BNT to do a land assessment of the Aga Khan’s proposal the next day. Seriously!
There was a call for The Minister’s resignation by members of the public and The Opposition Party. Rightly So. There is a clear conflict of interest here. But what became abundantly clear the more this story played out was that this is standard operation procedure. And therein lies the problem!
The Minister indicated that using developer’s transportation to evaluate their properties has been standard on several developments, otherwise the government would not be able to do its job. In any case, he didn’t think a helicopter ride could “buy” him. lol!
That high ranking government officials see nothing wrong with this would be hilarious if it wasn’t so serious. Corruption is pervasive, meaning it spreads or grows. It does not take a bag of money to buy someone.
But accept enough favors or socialize with them enough and soon you start to feel obligated to them. Or you begin to feel a friendship that makes you more inclined to want to help them out. And next thing you find yourself approving the dredging of our 52 year old National Park.
You see Honorable Minister, It doesn’t matter whether you were bought or not, it appears that you were and thats the problem; The appearance of impropriety!
Quote from Types of conflicts of interest page on wikipedia
Gifts from friends who also do business with the person receiving the gifts. (Such gifts may include non-tangible things of value such as transportation and lodging.)
Nine women traveled to New York to purchase goods for their stalls in The Bahamas flea, um i mean straw market. They have made this trip numerous time, successfully purchasing bags that were in high demand in the market.
The problem is that the bags they purchased were knock offs and illegal. So by purchasing them they were committing a crime. This time they were caught.
And a huge debate was started in this country.
Many have suggested that the government should; pay for bail, pay for housing, pay for lawyers, get the charges dropped, move mountains, etc. The only obligation of any Government in this situation is to ensure that their citizen’s rights are not abused and they receive a fair trial. Period!
These women were only trying to make a living to feed their families, but they were engaged in an illegal enterprise and everybody knew it. We are so slack as a nation that we’ve come to feel that its OK to engage in certain acts. Well its not ok, and those 9 women will be spending some time in jail. Its unfortunate, but that is the reality.
What the government should be doing is taking a hard look at our copyright laws and ensuring that people are aware that what they are doing is illegal. It is interesting to note that despite the arrests in NY, the local vendors here are still selling the bags in the market.
The Government has to step up and enforce the laws otherwise the country will perish. But unfortunately they are too busy playing politics. Member of the opposition Fred Mitchell has suggested that the Government bail the vendors out, which is clearly nonsense. Because he either believes Bahamians fool and is trying to score political points or he actually believes the government should, in which case he’s not fit to serve in parliament.
When the government decides to get serious about crime and stop enabling persons in illegal activities then maybe we will see a resolution to the current crime crisis in this country!
Last week i along with thousands of Bahamians listened to the anguish in Maria Wood’s voice as she talked about having her house demolished by Arawak homes on “The Action Show” with now fired host Lincoln Bain.
Listening to the host comments along with Marie’s story it was easy to view Arawak home with disgust because of their greed and mistreatment of a hardworking Bahamian family.
But as more information came out, particularly the Arawak Homes Report, it became obvious that both Arawak Homes Ltd and The Wood Family were victims of blatant fraud, crooked lawyers and unscrupulous land developers.
The report outlines the
- History of ownership of lands in pinewood gardens
- 5 claims to the land that Arawak homes had to fight in court.
- The Nature and extent to which persons went to defraud the system
- Steps taken to ensure the public was aware of Arawak’s Homes Ltd claims to the land at several points during the development process
- The way forward
Whether or not Arawak Homes was right to demolish the home is up for debate and is currently subject of a lawsuit. But i can only imagine that after 12 years of legal wrangling and warnings to the buyers themselves Arawak Homes Ltd. was fed up with waiting. So once they
While most of the country’s anger has been directed at Arawak homes and its owner I believe the true villains are John Sands, Attorney Leon Smith of Smith, Smith & Co, and Horizons Ltd based on what i read in that report. If the report is indeed correct these are the ruthless person’s responsible for this whole controversy.
All these stories seem to indicate that Bahamians have no respect for the rule of law, yes it is sad that the straw vendors were just trying to make a living but it was illegal, Yes it was probably disgraceful that Arawak homes destroyed that home, but that was their right, and yes The Minister was probably influenced by the Agas Khan but we did not protest near as much as for the other incidents.
Until we eliminate all forms of corruption/slackness from our society and come to respect the rule of law we will continue to experience a high crime rate.
— Straight Talk —