Social Service workers in Grand Bahama staged a protest at noon on Wednesday, calling for the government to address a myriad of issues they face in the workplace.
In an effort to get the attention of the government, they marched in the parking lot, holding placards and singing, “Solidarity forever.”
Vice President of the Public Service Union Latoya Cartwright said despite its many issues, the government refuses to negotiate with the union
“Industrial agreements remain outstanding. They are lacking assistance. Some of them have been working without water, no hazardous pay, no risk insurance. Matters are outstanding and the government is refusing to come to the table.”
Cartwright added that the president of the union has tried calling and emailing those responsible in government, but to no avail.
When asked if it was a wise move by the union to demand monies during a time when the country is facing economic difficulties and deficits are low, Cartwright asked, “If not now, then when?
“These persons have been working during the pandemic, serving the community. The time is now.
“I want this government to know they are not employed by themselves. The people employed them. We employed them to do a service and we expect them to do it.” she said.
Three workers died in an industrial accident in Grand Bahama today in what appears to be mysterious deaths.
Police said they are still trying to determine how the men died after they were discovered by another worker.
Police were still on the scene trying to retrieve the bodies from a pit-like structure.
What is known
The men are believed to be a Bahamian, Dominican and an American citizen.
They are residents of Grand Bahama.
The industrial park is near the Container Port.
They died in the pit structure. One of the men went in search of another who did not return to the surface. And another worker went in search of the missing two men, and he in turn, did not return to the surface.
They were discovered dead by a worker from a nearby industrial plant.
What is not known
Police do not know the exact cause of death, whether or not a gas leak played a factor in the deaths.
Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine attempted to play a victim after the Free National nominated Welbourne Bootle for Pineridge as it prepares for the next General Election.
After the party finalized its nominations, Bootle emerged as the newly ratified candidate for the Grand Bahama seat, and McAlpine then turned his attention to the media to lament his lost nomination.
“I have been independently representing Pineridge from 2018, after being victimized and ostracized by the government whom I was elected with for standing up for and with the people.
“I have served Pineridge independently all these years…”
The controversial figure and outspoken critic of Prime Minister Hubert Minnis has been a chronic annoyance to the governing party as it sought to implement policies.
McAlpine was perceived to be a disloyal member of the FNM throughout its term, and has found himself shunned by members of his party for not supporting key issues.
His stinging criticisms and rebuff of Minnis and the FNM began in 2017 when he was not given a cabinet post after the General Election. McAlpine said he was “disappointed” in his party and broke rank with the party, much to the delight of the opposition party, the Progressive Liberal Party.
In fact, many of McAlpine’s speeches in the House of Assembly appear to be PLP’s talking points.
In 2018, McAlpine stood side by side with protesters who demonstrated against the Minnis administration, saying the party needs a “come to Jesus moment.”
When Centerville MP Reece Chipman and Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller, resigned from the Free National Movement in 2019, McAlpine said he supported their decision but said he had no plans to follow suit.
He said he was no less disillusioned with the Free National Movement than Chipman and Miller but was more tolerant.
“I’m still with the FNM because I’m trying my best to assist in making changes within,” he claimed. “I’m practicing one of the Bible’s fruits of the spirit which is long-suffering and I may just be more patient trying to steer them in the right direction,” he said.
Pineridge Association Chairperson Vernet Munnings, said in 2019, “He (McAlpine) definitely should resign. That would be in the best interest of the people of the constituency. We don’t think he would be offered the nomination again.
“In the House of Assembly, all you hear from him is bashing of the party. Would you expect for people to want that person to represent them? I don’t think so. I have no idea what he is holding out for now. He needs to decide what he wants because right now we don’t understand it and he doesn’t understand it.”
What people are saying
Dusty Rebal took to social media to express his agreeance with the party’s decision, “He should be happy. He never agreed with anything the FNM did…”
Thompson Bancroft said, “He had a problem with the party. What was he expecting? A hug and a kiss?
Huedley Moss stated, “The FNM rightfully rejected this rebel…now all enlightened electorates will reject him and his spiritually deaf, blind and dead followers.”
Another poster Dwayne Rolle said McAlpine “squandered” his opportunity to serve while “listening to the PLP.”
Minister of State for Finance and for Grand Bahama, Kwasi Thompson announced that Grand Bahama and Abaco residents wishing to replace their motor vehicles that were destroyed during Hurricane Dorian, are still able to do so under the VAT and Duty-free concessions.
However, those vehicles will have to be purchased before January 31, 2021. This is an extension to the concession, which expired on December 31st, 2020.
Why it matters
In the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Dorian in September of 2019, the government designated the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco, as ‘Special Economic Recovery Zones.’
Within those zones, residents were allowed duty-free and VAT-free concessions, as well as business license concessions.
Other concessions were extended due to COVID-19 pandemic for those individuals who were unable to take advantage of the concessions previously. The extension was set to expire on December 31, 2020. However, certain aspects of the concessions were extended beyond December 31, 2020 for building materials, equipment and furniture.
What he says
“We have listened to the public and we’ve taken the further decision that if you purchase your vehicles on or before January 31st, 2021 and that vehicle arrives in the Bahamas by April 2021, you will be able to take advantage of the duty-free concession,” said Thompson.
“We’ve also made the decision that we would continue to put in place a zero-rated VAT concession for construction services,” added Thompson. “This is important, because not only will you be able to get customs duty-free building materials, but also for the contractor’s service, you will be able to take advantage of the zero-rated VAT concession. We want to do what we can to keep the cost of construction as low as possible and that is the reason why we have extended that concession. It has been extended to June of 2021. So, we want to tell residents in Grand Bahama and Abaco that they can take advantage of these concessions.”
“This is important because construction continues to be an important part of our rebuilding efforts in Grand Bahama and Abaco,” added Thompson.
The government will extend the tax concessions under the Disaster Reconstruction Authority (Special Economic Recovery Zone) for Abaco and Grand Bahama to June 2021.
Why it matters
Many of the provisions were set to expire on December 31, 2020.
The local sale and importation of household furniture, furnishings, and appliances will continue to be tax-free.
The tax relief measures were designated for Grand Bahama and the Abacos following the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Dorian.
What Minister of State for Finance says
Senator Kwasi Thompson said, “To further assist persons and businesses who are still recovering, and are now grappling further with COVID-19, the government has agreed to extend a number of tax relief measures to June 2021.”
He noted that the government also recognizes that rebuilding takes time, and the reconstruction of damaged homes continues.
Furthermore, the government is extending the opportunity to receive a discount on the VAT payable on the sale of real property for transactions valued up to $500,000.
He said the government recognizes as well that vehicles that have been ordered may not arrive in the country by the end of December. The government will honour the current tax concession on replacement vehicles, provided that there is documentary evidence that it has been shipped by December 31, 2020, and provided that it arrives by April 30, 2021.
State of play
Government revenues are down by as much as 50 percent, but the government says it is ensuring that it still does as much as possible to cushion the economic blow for islands experiencing hardship.
A young man believed to be a Grand Bahamian native living in Houston, Texas was shot and killed on Friday night after investigating why an object was thrown through his apartment window.
Police said it was after 10 pm when the man believed to be Kani Rahming was in the apartment complex with his girlfriend and a rock was thrown through the window of their second-floor apartment on 2600 Lazy Hollow Drive.
He ventured outside to assess the situation and was shot in the chest five minutes later.
The woman still inside, heard the shots. An ambulance was called to the scene but Rahming died at the Ben Taub Hospital.
Houston police said they have no suspect in the matter and are still investigating.
Hear the Houston Police report the matter to the press:
Grand Bahama’s lockdown was extended to 5am Wednesday, August 19th, announced Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson.
Thompson said during a press conference on Thursday, “An extension of the lockdown is not something that would have been preferred, but it is absolutely necessary. We must work together to stop the spread of the virus on Grand Bahama.”
The island’s current two-week lockdown, July 23 to August 7, ends tomorrow morning at 5am.
But Thompson said the extension is an effort to slow and control community spread of the COVID-19 pandemic on Grand Bahama, as 336 confirmed cases were recorded for the island as of Wednesday.
This means that Grand Bahama now falls under the same lockdown order as the rest of the country, which went into effect on Tuesday evening.
Coordinator of Grand Bahama Health Services COVID-19 Task Force Dr. Frank Bartlett said five positive Covid-19 cases are hospitalized, approximately 900 people in quarantine and 310 people in isolation. To date, 1,038 swabs have been done.
Bartlett said public health measures and social distancing measures along with lockdowns have proven effective
Outlining the current assessment, he noted that a downward trend has not yet been established.
He said, “There is still no strict compliance with the public health and social distancing measures in place; daily, patients are accessing the healthcare system complaining of symptoms compatible with Covid; challenges with response to increased hospitalizations impacted by hospitalizations for Covid suspects are surpassing non-Covid patients; ICU bed capacity has been at 100% for the past month with non-Covid patients, and if we were to see an increase in sicker or critical patients the healthcare system will be overwhelmed,” Dr. Bartlett said.
Dr. Bartlett added that challenges are also present with the manning of multiple sites, and patients in the second wave are being hospitalized for longer periods when compared to the first wave.
It is because of these factors, he said, it has been recommended that the lockdown period be extended.
People should not be leaving their homes unless they must, and even with the lockdown there are still too many cars on the streets.
An evaluation of the impact of the restrictions is made after the completion of one incubation period of 14 days. Based on the changes in clinical indicators (hospitalization rate, ICU admissions, numbers of positive cases), a determination is made as to whether other measures are required to curtail the increase in positive COVID-19 cases.