(For The Punch – Issue 3 January 2012)
“Days and moments quickly flying
blend the living with the dead;
Soon will you and I be lying
each within our narrow bed.”
The year 2011 was without doubt the most challenging for The Bahamas in modern times.
The global economic downturn has reverberated locally without mercy, with thousands of Bahamians finding themselves unemployed. The latest chapter pm that score came last week when 71 persons were terminated from their jobs at the various port operations of Hutchinson-Whampoa in Grand Bahama.
SMALL BUSINESS AND THE ROADWORKS
Others Bahamians in business were fighting an uphill battle to survive in a severely depressed market in which patrons were simply not in a position to patronise in their usual manner..
On that score, business persons operating along Blue Hill Road, Market Street, Robinson Road, Wulff Road and elsewhere complained bitterly that the government’s massive roadworks had severe negative effects on their income, as customers found it difficult to get to them.
That was probably true to a very small extent. The truth was that there was simply not that much money in circulation, and no matter how much politicians and others attempted to stir up trouble in that connection, the truth was the truth.
Ironically, a number of those complaining about the roadworks and the negative effects were the same persons who were long complaining about the poor condition of the roads. When the work began on the roads, they began complaining out of the other side of their mouths, wanting, as the old folks used to say, to eat their cake and have it too.
Anyway, all New Providence roads were made usable for the Christmas and New Year holidays, even though, as the government announced in December, the total work on the roads will not be completed until July of this year.
THE AGENDA OF THE UNIONS
It was a year in which trade unions appeared to conspire against national progress on a number of important national fronts, practically tempting the government to take extreme action which could have rendered the present administration as being anti-labour.
There was the contentious matter of the sale of 51 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company to Cable and Wireless. The disposal of part of the corporation had for a long time been on the agenda of governments of both the Free National Movement and the Progressive Liberal Party.
The Bahamas Telecommunications and Public Officers Union and the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union ganged up on the government, organising protests, rallies, walk-outs, and demonstrations, one of which brought on an ugly clash with police.
Nevertheless the government concluded the deal, which was later ratified by the House of Assembly.
Later in the year – on the breast of Christmas, in fact – customs and immigration offices threatened industrial action which would have slowed down operations at ports all over the country. Compounding that situation was a threatened work-to-rule by the Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers Union.
On the political scene it was a year of much change and rearrangement, perhaps the most dramatic being the establishment of the Democratic National Alliance by independent Bamboo Town Member of Parliament Branville McCartney, who had once served as a junior cabinet minister in the FNM government.
In mid December in the governing Free National Movement, the minister of Housing, Kenneth Russell, who serves as the MP for High Rock in Grand Bahama, was advised not only that he was being relieved if his cabinet post, but that in the new constituency configuration, he would not be nominated for re-election
Last year the Progressive Liberal Party had its full to bursting share of political incidents and intrigues which must certainly have thrust the organisation’s leadership into drafts of new strategies.
Among other issues, in December came the news that the PLP’s MP for North Andros and the Berry Islands, Vincent Peet, would not be offering for e-nomination because of some personal issues. Subsequent reports were that the PLP will nominate Dr. Perry Gomez to replace Mr. Peet.
Today all three political organisations are in the process of completing slates of candidates for the next general elections, which are scheduled to take place within months, well before the May deadline.
THE CURSE OF CRIME
Yet what dominated the headlines for the entire year was the extent of crime and criminality in The Bahamas – particularly murder – which had the Royal Bahamas Police Force pretty much on continuous red alert, and grieving families making endless treks to cemeteries.
By year’s end there had been a total number of 127 murders, the last having been committed last Friday, with barely 35 hours left in the old year. In 2010 the total murder count was 94.
The police said that a majority of the murders were committed by prolific offenders, and instituted a “Rapid Strike” force which has nevertheless gone a long way in detection and apprehension of criminals.
The minister of National Security, Tommy Turnquest, on the other hand, publicly criticised the judiciary for being too lax in the granting of bail to known repeat offenders.
In the third quarter of the year Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham addressed the nation, when he announced a package of legislation which included the restriction of the granting of bail under a number of circumstances.
Throughout the year the tremendous crimes against the persons have included murder, attempted murder, rape, attempted rape, armed robbery, robbery, and attempted armed robbery. All that is not to mention of minimise the many cases of sexual and other assaults against children.
In the words of Prime Minister Ingraham, “for some life is cheap; our common welfare is is of no value . . . this vicious assault of crime affects all of us, it destroys lives and damages livelihoods.”
Yet all that pertains to what the government is doing, to the effectiveness of new legislation, to the work and the successes of members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force. Nothing can have real effect without the will of the people.
DAYS AND MOMENTS QUICKLY FLYING
In far too many instances of serious crimes in The Bahamas last year, there could have been prevention by family and friends, who looked the other way and chose not to cooperate with police, reporting suspicions or even pointing the finger directly at persons they knew was committing crimes.
The point is, will that attitude continue into this new year? Will the citizenry continue to look the other way when young boys and girls are viciously assaulted by sexual beasts roaming the neighbourhoods? Will there continue to be this obscene silence as the murdered bodies pile up around the communities?
It is all a matter of choice when people consider that one day in this new year it could be possible that theirs would be one of the bodies piled up, ready to lie in long, narriw graves.
Some years ago a German pastor, Martin Niermoller, commenting on the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power, purging their hosen targets, group by group, wrote the following: