Archive | September, 2013

EARTHCARE and Biminites on Bimini proposed cruise ship terminal

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EARTHCARE is very concerned by the revelations in the press regarding the development plans for Bimini.  Several Environmental Organizations have been trying to find out if there is an Environmental Impact Assessment completed for the proposed development.  The most recent entity to assume control of the former “Bimini Bay Resort”, the Genting Group, a Malaysian conglomerate has renamed the project, Resorts World Bimini.

EARTHCARE is a proponent of Sustainable Development.  The proposed plans for the cruise ship terminal are not sustainable by any stretch of the imagination.  EARTHCARE Founder, Gail Woon said, “Who begins operating a cruise ship without a place to dock it, in place first?  The plans are to build the 1,000 foot long jetty along with a 6 acre island for a cruise ship terminal over a very sensitive ecological oceanic habitat.  The cruise ship is operating and the developer is in a hurry to have the terminal constructed.  In my mind, it is beyond belief to think that the authorities in charge of Bahamian resources would allow for endangered coral reefs to be for all intents and purposes destroyed.  We have seen video footage of the construction of the terminal in progress.  We need to see the Permits if this  construction has been approved.  If it has been approved, was it by Central Government or the Local Government in Bimini?  From our investigations, there have been no Town Meetings in Bimini to let the stakeholders, Biminites, know what the development plans are for their islands.  If there is an Environmental Impact Assessment done, why is it not posted on the BEST (Bahamas Environment Science and Technology) Commission website for all and sundry to peruse?”

“We have seen the better plan for Bimini proposed by the Bimini Blue Coalition involving using smaller vessels that can dock at the existing Government Dock.  This would allow for the cruise ship passengers to experience the culture of Bimini.  This would give ground transportation professionals to be able to share a piece of the prosperity.  This would allow the cruise ship passengers to see the straw market and Museum.”

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“There are also plans to revive the golf course that was taken off the table years ago due to concerns that the golf course would cause further unsustainable damage to valuable marine nursery areas.  This golf course would entail bulldozing even more acres of mangroves than the over 160 acres plus of healthy mangrove wetland nursery habitat that were already wantonly destroyed by the Bimini Bay Resort development.”  One Biminite observed, “Why don’t they play golf on the existing golf course on Cat Cay?  We don’t need a golf course on North Bimini!”

More Biminites speak

“It goes back to the fact that the island is too small to maintain such a big project, personally I’m a diver, so I know what the beauty is of the island and enjoying that aspect of it. I don’t’ see a cruise ship fitting on a port like this.” – Michael Prince

“I think it’s a destruction to the island.  We are a very tiny little island.  And they have made it into three times the size.  Thus we have all the pollution, all the trash, all the garbage which we can’t contend with in our little piece and they are making it even bigger now.” – Matt Weech

“This is the gateway to the Bahamas and we need our fish.  And it might mess up our fish industry.  We don’t really need noone to mess that up not because you bringing a couple dollars into our little island but our main industry is fishing.” – Sherry Pratt

“ Being the fact that my Father is a fisherman and he’s been a fisherman all his life, I think that will affect him and everyone else that goes out fishing.  If it comes in then it will take out all the fish and all the conch so we wouldn’t have nothing to really live off and to make money from.” – Fabrice Stuart

“ Well, as far as my livelihood goes, there is nothing is more important.  I make my living off the reefs and the fact of the matter is the construction of this pier is definitely going to damage it.  No matter how careful, or no matter how much mitigation they claim that they can do, regardless it is going to do a lot of destruction to the reefs out there.” – Neal Watson.

“We need to know what’s going on.  And we are not going to allow them to come and take over our Bimini.  This is our Bimini, OK, this is our Bimini, Bahamian, but Biminites first.  And that’s it. Alright.” – Lorick Roberts

The email contact for EARTHCARE is:  earthcare.bahamas@yahoo.com.

Save The Bays: Oil Leaks Need Mapping, Recovery Plan, BEC Underwater Wall to Help Control Oil Leaks A Start

Oil slick in Clifton Bay earlier this year

Oil slick in Clifton Bay earlier this year

A leading environmental attorney has found major cracks in the Bahamas Electricity Corporation’s (BEC) plan to construct a wall and stop the hemorrhaging of oil at Clifton Bay.
Romauld “Romi” Ferreira, a director of Save The Bays, is urging the government-run entity to see the “big picture” by mapping out the total amount of oil lurking in ground water beneath Clifton.

By laying bare the facts, a true portrait of accountability and recovery should emerge, he said.
“This underground plume must be mapped in order to determine the best method of product recovery,” Ferreira said. “The product recovery then ought to be led by a suitable qualified private contractor until the target amount of product is recovered. A Freedom of Information Act would guarantee stakeholder access to this information instead of the public being kept in the dark about issues which dramatically impact them.”

Environmental attorney and consultant, Romauld 'Romi' Ferreira, a director of Save The Bays, speaking before civic groups and making the radio show rounds like this recent interview on Ortland Bodie Live, expresses concern about oil spills and lack of an environmental protection act. Now, BEC has announced it will build an underwater wall in an effort to contain discharge in Clifton Bay. The announcement is considered a small victory for Save The Bays, but Ferreira says it's just a start, that the oil leaks have to be mapped and a recovery plan created.

Environmental attorney and consultant, Romauld ‘Romi’ Ferreira, a director of Save The Bays, speaking before civic groups and making the radio show rounds like this recent interview on Ortland Bodie Live, expresses concern about oil spills and lack of an environmental protection act. Now, BEC has announced it will build an underwater wall in an effort to contain discharge in Clifton Bay. The announcement is considered a small victory for Save The Bays, but Ferreira says it’s just a start, that the oil leaks have to be mapped and a recovery plan created.

The call by Ferreira follows a recent announcement by BEC that it intends to build a wall to contain the rampant contaminants.

Not only did the corporation acknowledge the environmental crisis, but it also admitted that it was unclear which oil companies have most contributed to the plume. Ferreira called the admission “startling”, noting that it “speaks volumes” about the country’s environmental accountability and the lack of regulations and enforcement. A proper investigation into the activities of companies in the area along with mapping the impacted ground water would help determine how much intervention will cost and which players might help foot the bill.

“Given the financial constraints of BEC and the joint culpability, BEC needs to advise of the cost of building the wall and exactly who will pay for it,” he added. Ferreira also highlighted the need for a more long-term and preventive strategy, rather than simply building a wall. Work culture is an essential component to prevent future catastrophes, he said, and BEC’s current track record has set a troubling precedent.

Save the Bays, a non-profit organisation led by leading members of the Bahamian community, has continued to shine a spotlight on decades of damage to The Bahamas’ prized marine environment.  Since its establishment earlier this year with partial funding by the Moore Bahamas Foundation, Save The Bays has partnered with and lent strength and support to long-established environmental organisations, including the Bahamas National Trust, BREEF, The Nature Conservancy and others.

With rampant oil leaks into Clifton Bay and popular dive sites off western New Providence, the movement has highlighted severe environmental and economic consequences from corporate negligence. After launching the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay earlier this year, the organization unveiled a new campaign in May to broaden its focus on national interests.

Fred Smith, a senior attorney and vocal spokesperson for the movement, said Save the Bays has experienced “incredible and unexpected” momentum. Clifton Bay, while of considerable concern, is simply a microcosm of a much broader issue of poor environmental stewardship in The Bahamas, he said.

Ferreira added his voice to a chorus calling for an Environmental Protection Act.
In a country that depends on its environment to support tourism, the absence of legislation has remained a baffling bone of contention for Save The Bays. Thousands have signed a petition calling for environmental protection legislation (www.savethebays.bs)

“Where in the world can companies indiscriminately pollute the ground water and not notify the government not just of the spill but also of the amount spilled and the environmental management plan governing its clean up?” Ferreira asked. “Nowhere, but the Bahamas.”

Save The Bays Strongly Urges Release of Genting Group’s Environmental Impact Assessment Following Recent Visit to Bimini

PROPOSED CRUISE TERMINAL: The above satellite image shows the over-bearing  presence the proposed cruise terminal will have on the island. Save The Bays is appealing to the government to have a second, third and final look at the proposed development and to place a cease and desist order to prohibit Genting Group from doing damage to Bimini.

PROPOSED CRUISE TERMINAL: The above satellite image shows the over-bearing
presence the proposed cruise terminal will have on the island. Save The Bays is appealing to the government to have a second, third and final look at the proposed development and to place a cease and desist order to prohibit Genting Group from doing damage to Bimini.

After a thorough tour of marine habitats in Bimini to observe the results of ongoing development, rapidly-growing environmental movement Save The Bays is strongly urging the government and Genting Group to make public the findings of the hotel and casino developer’s environmental impact assessment (EIA). The request comes days after executives of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) also toured the island on a fact-finding mission, discovering a mass sense of uncertainty from residents and a withholding of information from those who have the answers.

“Even the BNT has not had the opportunity to view the EIA, so a lack of transparency while having no environmental protection act in place makes this matter worse,” said Save The Bays Director Joe Darville. “The excavation work is being carried out substantially by non-Bahamians, so there is no vested interest in their psyche to have a sense of preservation for our environment. I call upon the government to do so something about this, because it is desecrating our natural heritage in Bimini.”

PROPOSED GOLF COURSE: Save The Bays toured Bimini’s mangroves teeming  with marine life. The spawning sanctuary may possibly be destroyed for the sake  of developing a golf course. Save The Bays is calling for the government and  Genting Group to release the environmental impact assessment.  (photo courtesy of Save The Bays)

PROPOSED GOLF COURSE: Save The Bays toured Bimini’s mangroves teeming
with marine life. The spawning sanctuary may possibly be destroyed for the sake
of developing a golf course. Save The Bays is calling for the government and
Genting Group to release the environmental impact assessment.
(photo courtesy of Save The Bays)

Darville’s outcry comes after he and a group of environmentalists including Save The Bays Director Fred Smith, Earthcare Founder Gail Woon, environmental lawyer Romauld Ferreira and Save The Bays’ education coordinator Nikki Severe visited proposed sites for a 1,000-foot cruise terminal to be placed off the western shore of Bimini and a proposed man-made island further south with a golf course to be developed in the heart of mangroves where hundreds of marine animals such as turtles, grunts and lemon sharks all spawn.

“A Freedom of Information Act will finally put the Bahamian on equal footing with your government,” said Ferreira. “It is the public’s right to access documents, the public’s right to know what decisions are being made or considered, decisions that affect them. A Freedom of Information Act ensures transparency, openness and participation and it is participation in the decision-making process that is the bedrock of democracy.”

A Freedom of Information Act is one of the basic tenets of Save The Bays, the quickly-growing environmental movement that is calling for passage of the long-proposed legislation along with passage of an environmental protection act. The organisation is nearing 5,000 signatures on a petition calling for both pieces of legislation and an end to unregulated development. Video footage of the group’s tour was recorded and will be made public on Save The Bays’ YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/ProtectCliftonBay. Supporters are also asked to sign the petitions for Save The Bays and the Bimini Blue Coalition at www.savethebays.bs and http://www.biminibluecoalition.org/2013/06/petition-to-keep-bimini-blue-we-need.html.

State of Human Rights in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas

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Published in the Freeport News

September 20th, 2013

Joseph Darville, VP Grand Bahama Human Rights Association was the guest speaker at the Rotary Clubs of Freeport and Lucaya meeting on Thursday, September 19, sharing with Rotarians on the state of human rights in the Commonwealth in The Bahamas.

Following is the entire presentation:

” The Israelites, the Bible states, wondered 40 years in the desert. It’s not that they were physically lost, for they knew where they were headed, and knew how to get there. The stars by night and the sun by day were the only GPS they needed. But woefully, that nation of people was mentally and psychologically lost. Leaving the land of enslavement, after coming to the realization that as a people of God, they no longer cherished the ungodly treatment meted out to them. Yet, having subjected themselves for so long to this bondage, they were infused with the consciousness of enslavement at the very core of minutest parts of their being. And by Divine grace and a genetic transformation, they came to realize that no entry into the promised land was possible until every iota of mental slavery was exorcised from the very foundation of their being. It could have taken them but a mere 60 days by foot to reach their physical goal. But as long as 40 years were necessary to wipe out the vestiges of enslavement.

Four decades, yes, it took them to wipe clean their minds and hearts, that long, indeed before old habits died out. Even the great Moses was never allowed to enter the promised land. He and the other “old”  heads had to die out and take with them the residual of the consciousness of slavery, for indeed, a consciousness of enslavement cannot enter the Promised Land.

For many years too, we were enslaved. Some 175 years ago, the physical shackles tumbled from our ankles and we began our wandering in the desert of human reconstruction, not really knowing who we were or where we wanted to go. But yet, like the Israelites, we knew intuitively, and our souls cried out in desperation for our promised land. But the sounds and sensation of those damn shackles kept us in mental bondage. Even now, and after our 40 years of political independence, the curse of enslavement still hangs around our necks.

For fear of retribution, many, too many of us, cling to the old vestiges of the plantation. Our masters now, only having changed color, and having elevated themselves to the status of demi-gods, have so fine tuned their capricious power and control over us, that mental enslavement has become an art. Thus, our promised land is nowhere even on the horizon. So my cry is that we are more enslaved now under our own native leaders than we were under our white, and sometimes black, slave masters. The, excuse my expression, the black nigga syndrome of slaving on the plantation, without any notion of our singular rights, is very much alive in this nation both for black and white.

In such a state of affairs, one can conclude that the state of human rights in this nation is defunct, not even in IC, but in rigor mortis, having for too long under gone the rites of extreme unction (last rites). In fact, we have yet to see the birth of real freedom in this land. Individually, we are very proud people, and we love our Bahamaland. However, a child given a piece of candy, when she deserves a full meal, is also very happy. Essentially, we have gotten rid of one set of slave masters and embraced another; and that ‘another  is even more pernicious. For when our own, knowledgeable about every iota of our psyche, enslave us, they do so with even more vengeance, for they have fine tuned the technique of psychological enslavement as an art. At the rate we are going, or really not moving, we may achieve true freedom and independence by 2041, when I’m 100 years old. In other words, we will take five times longer than it took the Israelites. I pray I’m still alive to witness that illusive reality.

We are an independent people, and as such should have the freedom, the right and ability, even obligation to structure and build one by one our beautiful communities. We can then become the envy of the islands, the glory of our nation and the focus of the world. Our beauty, of both people, land and sea with their natural and abundant of resources, are all we need to become all that the Good and Great Creator meant us to be. But we will recognize and accept this reality only when we are REALLY independent, really free, relying on those wonderful gifts so bountifully bestowed upon us by our loving Creator.

The Good and Gracious Creator gives to each and every one of us all that is essential, not just for our survival, but enough to prosper and grow together as wonderful reflection of his glory and power.

First we recognized what we have been bountifully given, give thanks for it all, and then work to create a fruitful and enjoyable life for everyone of us. Selfishness, greed and false pride must be removed from our hearts, and replaced with joy, thanksgiving and the ultimate gift of unconditional sharing. If our people do not wake up soon, and very soon, we are all doomed to be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Our voices need to be heard and not simply on talk shows, but in practical, meaningful and dynamic ways. If ever we needed a quiet, peaceful, non-violent revolution, it is NOW! So fear not; speak and exercise your rights; courageous spirits gradually become infectious.

I encourage my people, especially the young to become educated, informed, committed and passionate about leading this Commonwealth for years to come. We are not independent until our spirits are free and all fear is removed from our hearts! Until then, we are nothing but slaves in our mastersâ vineyards, in bondage on the plantation.

When Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment are meted out to our defenseless citizens, with impunity, even when our constitution and the UN Declarations of Human Rights, forbids such, we are again embedded in the plantation syndrome. From the some 30 articles, simple and yet profound, in the UN declarations and to which our nation is a signatory, some 19 of them are contravened and denied on a daily basis in this nation. When our disciplined forces are so uninformed, or simply calloused, in these matters, brutal and dehumanizing treatment of our citizenry, as well as those who enter our shores from other nearby nations, become the norm.

Beating of suspects by the very ones designated to protect our safety, as if they were only useless black niggas is carried out with impunity, no accountability; only when someone actually dies does an individual family member become sufficiently incensed or is courageous enough to report brutal and dehumanizing treatment.

But these reprehensible acts come to light from time to time, as have occurred recently in the case of the despicable treatment of Cuban nationals in the detention centre. Consequently, our national and international image sank deeper and deeper into the abyss and the quagmire of ignominy.

Yet the most sad thing about this matter, in the present STATE OF THE NATION, is that for those who can excuse such behavior, mistakenly on our behalf, view even the expression of â human rights⠝ with anger and vengeance. We are seen as being anti-Bahamas and infidels carrying out treasonous acts against the state. That my sisters and brothers, spells out clearly the state of human rights in our nation. Thus, this legitimate arm of any civilized and democratic society has to be practiced mainly underground for fear of threats, ridicule and retribution.

Without even keeping in mind the serious physical actions brought against individuals in society at the hands of law enforcement personnel, the daily life of citizens of this nation is burdened with a plethora of uncertainties.

One does not share in the daily decisions which fundamentally affect our lives. Our leaders play the secrecy game, making decisions which often create havoc, fear and apprehension in the nation. They take umbrage in the fact that there is no Freedom of Information Act in place. We are thus subjected to the old colonial civil servant secrecy law, and thus in all matters, confidential or not, we only become aware of them and the consequences of these many decisions after the fact, when our lives have been seriously impacted.

This again, is in the order of the old plantation regime, keeping us ignorant, uninformed, and thus our masters can ride higher and higher on their thrones of pontification, in the name of ‘divine right of kings.’  We are under the illusion that we live and operate in a participatory democracy; this is, in fact, a fallacy, and illusion. The system of democracy we exercise in this land remains one of psychological enslavement; we daily obey our maters for fear of retribution.

The Commission on the reform of our Constitution states the following in reference to freedom of information: 15.11 A corollary of the right of free speech is the right to have access to public information. The right of free expression embraces the right to impart and receive information. Thus it is not surprising that some Constitutions link the right of freedom of information to that of free speech. Some provide for extensive rights of freedom of information, such as the South African model, which provides a right of access to information held by the state (art.32). Others do not elevate it to a constitutional right, but have adopted freedom of information laws. It would be difficult in a common law system, where legislation dealing with official secrets, breach of confidence legislation and the regulations governing the public service still pertain, to grant a constitutional right to government- held information. But the Commission is of the view that some form of statutory regime should provide the citizen with the access to information needed for the proper functioning of a democracy. 

One by one, our civic, human and natural rights are denied in so many ways, resulting in many of our brother and sisters suffering relentlessly. And according to my venerable friend, and veteran poetic prophet, Etienne Farquharson: we have been shackled with the 7Dâ s: disregard, disrespect, deceit, dishonesty, denial, disorder, and culminating with the seventh D: DAMNATION. These are the modern day shackles inhibiting our way forward; aware of our fundamental freedom and rights under the constitution and international protocols, the frustration of enslavement becomes even for pernicious.

The contravention of our basic human, civic and social rights are mainly perpetrated by official agencies of the state. As was stated in the human rights report, recently presently to the UN in referencing to cruel and dehumanizing treatment of persons:

” The constitution prohibits such practices, but human rights monitors and members of the public expressed concern over continued instances of police abuse of criminal suspects. Police officials, while denying systematic or chronic abuses, acknowledged that police on occasion abused their authority.

There were other allegations of police beatings and brutality throughout the year. The government stated that no official complaints were received in reference to many of these allegations. Victims’ families and community activists claimed that many officers had their cases thrown out of court or dropped by the Attorney General’s Office. In addition many officers waited years for their court date, only to return to work without having their names cleared.” 

With the majority of citizens living at the level of subsistence, and many even below that, too few have the means to fight for, defend or legally afford the costs to maintain or regain their fundamental rights as citizens in a democratic society. These abuses will continue unabated until sufficient numbers of our citizens wake up, realize and accept their individual freedom. So until then, expect the carnage to continue, due to ignorance of our national and international rights: acts which result in the maiming our citizens, even to the finality of death; desecration, pillage, raping of our environmental heritage by foreign entities, like what is presently taking place in Bimini; the dispossession of our crown land generally without our knowledge; the fallacy that our leaders have infallible rights to do as they please without consultation of the citizenry. This is the very antithesis of a try and participatory democracy.

Yes, we do elect leaders every five years, but then, we go into a catatonic state, mesmerized, hypnotized, seduced by the trickery, deception of our leaders as we fall prey to their almost despotic rule. Then again, after five long years we awaken from our slumber. With the enticement of plenty liquor, money, adorned T-shirts and an abundance of Bahamian food, we become aggressively passionate again, elect others or the same individuals; then we’re back into our slumbering state, ruled by our masters, having again reaffirmed their continued power base of domination. Oh, how our psyche loves to be ruled; it is indeed so much easier to be ruled, ordered and subjugated to the will of our masters. They are no longer our servants, but our indomitable plantation slave masters. And thus continues the regime of banana republic politics.

My brothers and sisters, all the acts which undermine our fundamental rights are the basis of much of the malaise, crime in our nation. A people who have no sense of ownership, power or participation in the national life are easily led to feed on and destroy the nation. Thus the level of murders, the rape and pillage of our women and children. As has been so truthfully stated, “society prepares the crimes and individuals commit them.” 

Did you know that in 2010, the Bahamas was declared by the United Nation to have the highest per capita in the world for rape, some 133 in 100,000. And those are just he reported cases. The way we treat our women and children marks the manner of our bearing.

Our environmental rights are daily being eroded in the manner our lands and seas are offered to the highest bidder, irrespective of the pillage, rape and devastation which can result. All of this again is carried out in secrecy, and Iâ ve already addressed one of your august bodies about the prime example in the utter and on-going destruction of the beautiful gem in the ocean, Bimini. These are our lands, sea, sea coast and seabed and they should not be sold, given away, or in any way used unless benefitting us, the Bahamian people. By virtue of the stewardship of these islands, we have a serious responsible to safeguard this heritage patrimony for thousands of generations to come; it is our right and privilege; and thus a national and fundamental and individual right.

The Freedom of Information movement is embedded in Universal Declaration of Human Rights developed by the United Nations in 1948. The guiding principle is based upon four freedoms: Freedom of speech; Freedom of religion; Freedom from want; and Freedom from fear.

In further expounding on freedom from fear, it states: ” Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” 

If our people do not wake up soon, and very soon, we will continue to be doomed and sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Our voices need to be heard and not simply on talk shows, but in practical, meaningful and dynamic ways. If ever we needed a quiet, peaceful, non-violent revolution, it is NOW! We labor under the calloused burden of unrighteous taxation with, certainly no representation, but even more so without consultation. Information is power, and we need to know every fundamental right we should enjoy as a human being, citizen of this Commonwealth, and actually citizen of the world.

I encourage more individuals, especially the young, to become educated, informed, committed and passionate about leading this Commonwealth into the promise land, “God’s Kingdom come on Earth,” as promised by Jesus Christ. According to His admonition, we are not independent until our spirits are free and all fear is removed from our hearts! Until then, we are nothing but slaves in our masters’ vineyards. Fear not my sisters and brothers, fear not; do not even fear fear itself, for then that is still fear!

The Good and Gracious Creator gives to each and everyone of us all that is essential, not just for our survival, but enough to prosper and grow together as wonderful reflection of his glory and power.” 

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