parliament

Monday, January 18, 2021

parliament

Pintard Defends ‘Bahamians Only’ for Commercial Fishing

Minister of Agriculture Michael Pintard defended the Fisheries Bill that passed in the House of Assembly on Wednesday. Pintard appeared on Beyond the Headlines hosted by Clint Watson the next day, expressing disappointment in parliamentarians who referred to a clause in the bill as “discriminatory.”

But the agriculture and marine resources minister received support from local fishermen and organizations like The Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance who called the new legislature “progressive.”  And The National Fisheries Association added that the bill is “comprehensive” and “put[s] Bahamians first.”

Why it matters

Local fishermen have long complained that foreign fishermen poach in Bahamian waters, depleting their catch while negatively affecting their livelihood. Reports show that many foreign fishermen from the Dominican Republic marry Bahamian women for work permits to be able to fish in Bahamian waters.

What the Fisheries Bill actually says

The Fisheries Bill 2020 regulates the fishing industry and prevents non- Bahamians from commercial fishing in Bahamian waters.

The clause in the bill that was criticized says, “No person shall engage in fishing or be employed on a commercial fishing vessel for fishing other than sport fishing in the fisheries waters; and use or be employed on a commercial fishing vessel licensed under this act for fishing other than charter sport fishing unless that person is a citizen of the Bahamas. 

Former Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest called the clause discriminatory

Peter Turnquest stood to his feet to ask, “Does that mean that spousal permit holders and permanent residents are likewise excluded from being able to fish? And if that is, in fact, the case, how do we square that with the constitution and general human rights? Because I would think that any spouse of a Bahamian should have the right to support their family in whatever their skill is and I think it’s a slippery slope because if you start with fishing, then is the hotel industry next?

“We do not want to continue to perpetuate a discriminatory policy against Bahamian women in particular because let’s face it, that’s what we’re talking about.”

How Michael Pintard responded

  • “I am disappointed in some of the comments I have heard from policymakers who would represent a fishing community that requires assistance. We have one of the lowest subsidy packages for fishers. When I go into the parliament, I am fighting for those communities that I represent to make sure I give them the best possible chance of succeeding,” he said.
  • “While I will highlight like any other socially conscious Bahamian would, any adequacy in the bill, a disproportionate amount of my time will be spent fighting for those men and women who are in a country right now where thirty plus percent of the people are unemployed and need opportunities. I signed up to be a part of exploding opportunities for them as opposed to putting a damper on what we’re seeking to do in abroad way to make sure the Bahamas can take advantage of the resources that we have,” Pintard said.

The Fight for Aragonite. Is it Worth Billions?

A group of Bahamians led by Lincoln Bain, and backed by Centerville MP Reece Chipman assembled in Parliament Square on Wednesday morning, calling for the government to open investigations into the exportation of aragonite out of the country.

The big picture?

It is alleged that governments over the years have permitted only foreign companies to benefit from the sale of aragonite, which some people claim is worth millions of dollars and can add to the country’s economy, creating a new industry.

What they say

  • In its first gathering Down Town, group leader Lincoln Bain said the government should do what is right, saying, “We come in peace. When we come back, it will be a different story.”
  • He held up a black folder, containing what he says is, “evidence of the proposed document.”
  • He continued, “We know the value of our natural resources. You have been exploiting it. You have been mining it. You have been spending millions of dollars behind these same natural resources. And we know the truth.”
  • He said some U.S companies “may have been doing some things they should not have been doing” and the government should release reports on what companies have been mining.
  • Bain said he reported the matter to the Federal Trade Commission of the Federal Bureau of Investigation because he could not get help from the Bahamas government.

What Environment Minister Romould Ferreira has said

  • In 2018, a white paper was to be presented to Cabinet on aragonite. He said a study was to be conducted to determine the economic value and sustainability of the product.
  •  Ferreira said recommendations for the sustainable use of aragonite will be put forth because it is not sustainable over a human life span, saying it takes 100-2000 years for a grain to form.
  • He said the Bahamas can make more royalties from aragonite, but it will not make everyone a billionaire.

Ferreira explains the process of development of aragonite

US Company Dillingham Corporation mined since 1970’s

By-products of aragonite

  • limestone
  • chalk
  • pearl
  • bio-plastic

Sands’ Plan To Beat COVID-19 Include Lockdowns Done Right

Former Minister of Health Duane Sands does not support the continuation of the Emergency Order. He reiterated that the Bahamas is underperforming in the fight against COVID-19 when compared to other countries, so the country should enact a few of his recommendations.

Sands said unlike sports which the Bahamas has championed, the Bahamas is behind and losing to COVID-19, because the strategy implemented by the government is ineffective.

“The process that we have engaged in over the 6 to 8 months have not worked. They have not worked, Mr. Speaker. We are underperforming as a nation. We are underperforming to all of our peers in the region–as it relates to cases, 80 percent of the rest of the world, and as it related to deaths, 89% of the rest of the world.”

Why it matters

Parliamentarians met in the House of Assembly on Monday to debate the extension of the state of emergency to November 30. The Bahamas has been under an emergency order since March 18 because of the rapid spread of the deadly virus.

Sands’ Recommendations

  1. Build a modular COVID-19 facility of approximately 100 beds for the concentration of COVID-19 patients
  2. Conduct 1000 antigen and RTPCR tests per day
  3. Publish a plan quickly and educate the public
  4. Implement effective lockdowns, not on-and-off lockdowns
  5. Bring back participatory government
  6. End the role of the competent authority, which opposes participatory government
  7. Promote exercise among the public as a large percentage of Bahamians has non-communicable diseases
  8. Support access to drugs like Remdesivir and herbal medicine
  9. Improve food security
  10. Lift the ban on masks importation

The Big Picture

Because of the rise in COVID-19 cases, the government extended the emergency order many other times. The country has seen a rise in cases since March. On Monday, officials presented nearly 3,000 active cases. Weekend lockdowns with the implementation of a 7 pm curfew Monday through Friday, with the closure of businesses, has become a public debate.

Travis Robinson Delivers HOA Speech on Facebook. He Feels Slighted. What Happened?

Bain and Grants Town Member of Parliament Travis Robinson said he is disappointed in the House of Assembly after he said he was prevented from contributing to the Bail and Jury Acts, which were passed in the House on Wednesday afternoon.

So, Robinson took to social media to express his disappointment and to read the intended speech.

Robinson said he feels, “stifled” and “hindered,” calling it “an attack on democracy.”

Members of Parliament Elsworth Johnson, Lanisha Rolle, Marvin Dames, Philip Davis, Reece Chipman all contributed to the bill.

What Travis Robinson said happened?

Robinson said he was expected to debate the Bail and Jury Acts on Wednesday afternoon at 3:30, according to an HOA speaking list.

Instead, Robinson said the HOA moved to the third reading and passage of the bill at 2 pm, not giving him notice that he will be unable to speak.

What should have happened?

Robinson said he should have been notified.

Instances like this, Robinson said the parliamentarian is called to indicate that the House will move to the afternoon session and he or she is told that they should make their way to the House in a specified period of time.

What will happen next?

Robinson said he is looking forward to what is to come since airing the issue on social media, adding that he does not know what the end result will be.

But Robinson said he will not allow anyone to disrespect his constituents, whom he represents.

Robinson admonished young people to demand respect and not allow anyone to disrespect them because of age.

“I will not lie down and play dead…If you disrespect Travis Robinson, I don’t care. But you will not disrespect Bain and Grant’s Town,” he said.

Featured Picture: Tribune