Archive | December, 2014

Bahamas Dropped from Ethical Traveler List for ‘grim environmental record’

The same day the United States announced it would ease restrictions for Americans traveling to Cuba, the country’s tourism industry was dealt a second blow when The Bahamas was removed from the Ethical Traveller list for what authors described as its “grim environmental record.”

The Bahamas was one of three countries dropped from the list aimed at directing travelers with a social conscience to leverage their economic power by supporting developing destinations deemed ethical.

“Of note,” said the article, “Latvia, Barbados and the Bahamas lost their spots this year. While Latvia was disqualified as it’s now considered a developed nation, Barbados was removed for failing to show progress in areas of human rights, particularly human trafficking, police brutality and discrimination against its LGBT citizens. The Bahamas was also dropped for its grim environmental record, including the ongoing construction of captive dolphin facilities.”

The list marrying largely exotic locations with social responsibility was widely circulated online Wednesday and drew the attention of Save The Bays, the environmental advocacy organization that has been pushing for environmental protection legislation and an end to unregulated development.

“We have been working tirelessly through the courts, the public and with many of our environmental advocacy partners to bring attention to the importance of preserving the environment that makes this beautiful country what it is — the coral reefs, the sparkling turquoise waters, the wetlands, bays, the culture, the people’s way of life,” said Romi Ferreira, a director of the association that has set records in NGO social media following with 17,000 Facebook friends.

“As unfortunate as it is that the continuing disregard for the environment has drawn the attention of a respected publication, we hope that being dropped by Ethical Traveller will serve as a wake-up call for those who continue to allow unregulated development and development that trashes our treasures.”

The magazine, which suggests boycotting destinations it considers unethical, points specifically to penned captive dolphin facilities in The Bahamas. Ironically, a penned dolphin facility at Blackbeard’s Cay off Cable Beach was just ordered closed by the courts following a case brought by reEarth with the Save The Bays’ legal team presenting evidence that the excursion intended for passengers of Carnival Cruise Lines was built without the required permits.

That case was one of several being brought by the organization that is also actively seeking freedom of information legislation, an environmental protection act and accountability for oil spills and pollution. Its online petition at www.savethebays.bs has garnered more than 6,000 signatures and hard copies of the petition hundreds more.

“We have been attempting to alert our government with respect to the significance of maintaining environmental credibility,” said Save The Bays education director Joseph Darville. “Now the lack of appreciation for the conservation of our beautiful environment has come home to haunt us. When Ethical Traveler rules The Bahamas a prime example of ‘a grim environmental record,’ they need look no further than what happened in Bimini with the destruction of world-famous dive sites for a ferry delivering people to a casino owned by a foreign company.”

Ethical Traveler tells readers that its decisions are based on visits and it selects the destinations felt to be doing “the best job of promoting human rights, preserving the environment and supporting social welfare” so travelers are satisfied their dollars are “supporting economies that are on the right track. By visiting these countries, we can use our economic leverage to reward good works and support best practices,” it says. Eight of the 10 countries that made the 2015 list for most ethical travel destinations were islands. The 10 included Cabo Verde, Chile, Dominica, Lithuania, Mauritius, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Uruguay and Vanuatu.

The article can be viewed at www.ethicaltraveller.org.

Enforcement of oil drilling regulations is key

STATEMENT

By Save The Bays

Save The Bays (STB) commends the government for bringing a package of Bills before Parliament to regulate and govern oil exploration in The Bahamas.

 

We also welcome the statement of Minister of the Environment Kenred Dorsett that environmental protections enshrined in the regulations will follow international best practices adopted since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

STB will reserve further comment on the regulations themselves until our directors have had a chance to study the documents tabled today by Minister Dorsett.

 

It is important to note here, however, that regardless of its contents and structure, a regulatory regime can only be as effective as the commitment and integrity of those tasked with enforcing it.

 

In this regard, STB feels compelled to point out the long record of dismal and at times virtually nonexistent enforcement of the environmental protocols already in place under a wide array of laws. Indeed, The Bahamas has suffered and continues to suffer due to the failure of successive governments to uphold their sacred duty to preserve the country’s natural resources for the benefit of future generations.

 

Nowhere has this failure been more pronounced than in the blind eye turned to the egregious culture of unregulated development, which has been allowed to destroy huge swaths of ecologically unique and culturally invaluable marine and terrestrial habitats throughout the country, in the name of a boost in jobs and revenue generation in the short term.

As the advocates of oil exploration project that its economic impact will be comparable or even greater than that of resort development, STB fears a similar culture will ensue, but at the risk of far graver consequences. To be clear, regulation of this sector is not a matter to be taken lightly by any Bahamian: a major oil drilling accident in Bahamian waters could bring this country to its knees overnight.

 

Meanwhile, a lax attitude to environmental protection in general can easily lead to a failure to penalize smaller incidents and accidents, which in turn,  over time, could ruin our domestic fisheries industry and compromise the very assets upon which our tourism industry is based. Anyone doubting this need only look towards Clifton Pier, where leaks and spills of heavy fuels and toxic materials have gone uninvestigated (should that be unpunished?) for years, continuing unabated to this day.

 

There have been a number of reasons for these failures in enforcement, among them the bewildering array of laws that touch on environmental protection. For this reason, STB has been campaigning for over a year for a comprehensive Environmental Protection Act that would harmonize and rationalize these requirements and regulations into one comprehensive conservation and protection regime.

 

The other leading cause is the lack of an enforcement agency with any real power. The existing body, the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology Commission (BEST), has repeatedly been described by STB as “a toothless tiger”, having stood by while large-scale outrages were perpetrated upon areas of rare ecological significance around the country. BEST has had no choice in the matter; it does not possess a legal mandate to prevent or penalize substandard or destructive activities, but acts merely as an advisory board to government.

 

Therefore, STB takes this opportunity to renew its call for the creation of an Environmental Protection Act along with strong relevant regulations and a truly independent, well-funded and effective environmental regulator, before oil exploration is allowed to begin. This body should be created by Act of Parliament, and its independence from political or any other form of interference should be enshrined in law.

 

Otherwise, any and all environmental regulations and protocols run the risk of ending up being worth less in practice, than the paper they were written on.

While we cannot speak for the more than 17,000 friends on Facebook who believe, as we do, that the environment matters, we can say with certainty that those 6,000-plus who have signed the petition at www.savethebays.bs echo the urgent call for an Environmental Protection Act.

The imminent reality of oil exploration makes enacting that legislation more pressing than ever. Thus, Save The Bays commends government on its tabling of regulations and seeks further confirmation of its meaningful goodwill in this regard by announcing it will introduce an Environmental Protection Act in the immediate future prior to the issuance of any exploration permits. In that way and only in that way will the people of The Bahamas know and trust that the Government of The Bahamas has the interest of the future of this country and its most spectacular natural resource – the waters, coral reefs and marine life – at heart.

Save The Bays’ Sponsored Youth Environment Ambassadors Program Kicks Off with Waiting List – Nearly 80 sign up for 40 slots

Rashema Ingraham, a Save The Bays Youth Facilitator, works closely with Jonathan Russell of Bishop Michael Eldon School during his second year as a Youth Environment Ambassador participant.

Rashema Ingraham, a Save The Bays Youth Facilitator, works closely with Jonathan Russell of Bishop Michael Eldon School during his second year as a Youth Environment Ambassador participant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyone who thinks teens are not interested in studying hasn’t met some special students in Grand Bahama. More than 40 of them between the ages of 12 and 14 are trading Saturdays at the mall for Saturdays in the park, literally, preparing to be ambassadors for the environment.

The program called Youth Environment Ambassadors is funded by the fast-growing environmental movement Save The Bays and run in Grand Bahama by Save The Bays Director Joseph Darville with a group of assistants, including Rashema Ingraham, Jensen Farquharson, Javan Hunt, Nikie Severe, Robert Nabb and others. This year’s course includes special leadership training with Sharon Glover, a volunteer from North Carolina with Bahamian roots.

Students from the Youth Environmental Ambassador program, sponsored by Save The Bays, diligently work together to complete their coursework on the ecology of the planet.

Students from the Youth Environmental Ambassador program, sponsored by Save The Bays, diligently work together to complete their coursework on the ecology of the planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“When we arrived for the start of the program this year, we couldn’t believe it,” said Darville. “Nearly 80 students had signed up for the six week course and there were only 40 slots. And the first day, which was December 6, was incredible.” Initial work at a facility provided by the YMCA involved comparing the life of a tree to ecology of the planet. “When we went into the Garden of the Groves and they could see the trees and understand how it all revolves and evolves, how everything from limbs to leaves to the ants on the ground, were intertwined, it was if they had unraveled the secrets of the universe,” Darville said. “You have never seen such excitement and passion among young people eager to learn more. They were touching every part of the tree, asking a million questions. It was incredible.”

After a field trip through the Garden of the Groves, students from the six-week long Youth Environment Ambassador program break from their photo taking to smile for the camera.

After a field trip through the Garden of the Groves, students from the six-week long Youth Environment Ambassador program break from their photo taking to smile for the camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The purpose of the program is twofold – to help prepare young Bahamians for the future with jobs in the expanding blue and green economies that are projected to grow at rates greater than traditional jobs.

“But also we know that the real stewards of our environment are the young people who will be the conscience and caretakers of our precious universe,” Darville explained. And Ms. Ingraham agreed.

“Our young students are being prepared to protect, preserve and lead as stewards of the archipelagic Commonwealth with its abundance of unique and natural resources,” said Ms. Ingraham.

According to Tristan Rampersad, a second-year participant, “Similar to last year, I expected this first session to be fun, educational and to teach me even more about our environment,” he expressed. “I hope this knowledge can help me and others save our environment and to show everyone why it is so important.”

Court Dismisses Appeal, reEarth Scores Major Victory in Blackbeard’s Cay Case

Environmental and animal rights advocates scored what they called “a major victory after a 24-year long battle” this week when the Court of Appeal dismissed Government’s appeal of a Supreme Court’s decision that permits allowing the opening and operation of an island attraction across from the western end of Cable Beach were improperly granted.

The case involved the island re-named Blackbeard’s Cay opposite Sandals Royal Bahamian, a project reportedly costing $8 million, intended as an offshore excursion for Carnival Cruise Line passengers.

Nassau businesspeople, including retailers and operators of numerous other attractions, argued against touristic development of the island so close to Nassau, saying diverting as many as half a million passengers away from known establishments, museums, restaurants, fishing, boating and snorkeling excursions would lead to serious economic repercussions, including job loss. The threat of economic loss did not deter St. Maarten businessman Samir Andrawos and Bahamian partners from continuing.

It wasn’t until late 2013 when Save The Bays’ legal team agreed to take on the case on behalf of reEarth to raise environmental, development processing and animal rights issues that the courts became involved, catapulting the conversation from what’s good for local business, investment and jobs to what’s legal in the development process.

When the case went to court in April, lead attorney Fred Smith, QC, senior partner at Callenders Grand Bahama, told the Supreme Court the evidence pointed to a “tsunami of disregard” for due process and the rule of law as civil servants rubber-stamped approvals for the project at the behest of their superiors.

“The facts of the case evidence what I could term an endemic subservience, an institutional subservience entrenched in the civil service, to cater to ministerial dictate,” he told the Supreme Court. “The Cabinet and the minister are regarded as the extreme authority on what should happen, regardless of what parliament has legislated.”

Attorneys presented evidence showing the Blackbeard’s Cay project moved forward in the absence of necessary site approvals, environmental studies, public hearings and proof of the developer’s compliance with mandated conditions. In allowing this to happen, Smith said, the government contravened the provisions of the Planning and Subdivisions Act (PSA), the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act (CLPA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

In July, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Isaacs quashed the permits, agreeing with the attorneys’ assertion that “the development has been carried out, and continues to be carried out, unlawfully.”

Government officials including the Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government, the Director of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the Town Planning Committee and the Minister Responsible for Crown Lands, appealed the case. When they failed to file the Record of Appeal in the stipulated time, the appeal was dismissed. The dismissal came via an order signed in mid-November but mailed and received by the lawyers on December 4.

The dismissal has left those who have been arguing for an end to unregulated development and the protection of animal rights ecstatic.

Along with matters surrounding the permitting process, at the heart of the issue was the future of penned dolphins at the island. ReEarth presented evidence during the April trial showing that the nine dolphins had no shade, were in shallow waters and a substandard size pen – all in violation of Bahamian law and international standards.

“This has been a long, hard 24-year battle,” said Sam Duncombe, a director of Save The Bays and founder of reEarth which has collected 96,000 signatures on a petition calling on the Bahamas government to protect dolphins and other marine mammals from being treated as chattel for entertainment and the tiered transition from confinement for shows to sanctuaries where visitors can view the mammals in their natural state. Duncombe points to falling audience numbers and share value for Sea World, saying that films like Blackfish have opened people’s eyes to what confinement does to these self-aware and highly socialized mammals. “The entire industry rips these mammals’ families apart and just like humans, each dolphin has a ‘place’ in its family structure. The petition calls for an end tomammal facility breeding programs going forward, prohibits future imports or exports of marine mammals to The Bahamas and looks to a tiered closure of all marine mammal facilities in The Bahamas with a plan to house retired dolphins in a sanctuary funded by the very industry that has benefitted from their enslavement for decades.”

While Duncombe is pleased that the victory in the current case is bringing new attention to the plight of animals for entertainment, Smith and other Save The Bays directors say the case shows that governments can be held accountable for obeying their own laws when it comes to development.

The most recent court action brought a smiling, “victory for the rule of law” accolade from Save The Bays director and Bahamas Waterkeeper President Joseph Darville.

“As the president of Waterkeeper Bahamas and the education director of Save The Bays, I would like to state my joy and pleasure about the outcome of this case which has restored my confidence in the independence of the judiciary of The Bahamas,” said Darville. “As a Waterkeeper, I am concerned about every element of water in The Bahamas and about these wonderful animals that have aligned themselves so much with the consciousness of human beings. We have an obligation to treat them in a humane manner. As a director of Save The bays, I salute reEarth and our legal team for their passionate insistence in bringing this debacle with the powers that be to a successful and glorious conclusion.”

Duncombe echoed appreciation for the legal team, adding that the case should make The Bahamas think twice about the face it shows the world in dolphin care.

“ReEarth is very grateful for the support of Save The Bays and of course our awesome legal team,” said Duncombe.

According to the judge’s ruling, the Ministry of Agriculture is required to take responsibility for the fate of the dolphins at Blackbeard’s Cay, placing them in an appropriate location.

“I would be happy to work with the Minister to ensure that when these poor dolphins that have suffered so are moved, they will have a new home where they can lead lives that are as secure and free as possible,” said Duncombe. “Until they are assessed, they cannot be released into the wild because they have become dependent on being fed and would require rehabilitation to make sure they could fend for themselves. In the meantime, we can protect them in a sanctuary and the silver lining in this case may just be that it leads to the first dolphin sanctuary in The Bahamas – something which reEarth is working on and something that would be fantastic for tourism as well as for these amazing mammals we share the planet with who call each other by name, swim 50 miles a day and make choices about their daily lives just as humans do. This would send an enlightened and positive message to the world that The Bahamas cares and is tune with the ever-expanding global awareness about the welfare of marine mammals.”

Downtown comes to life in the name of greater transparency

Charlotte Street North came to life in support of the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act. Organizer Save The Bays said the event showed that Bahamians mean business when it comes to creating a more open and transparent society.

Charlotte Street North came to life in support of the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act. Organizer Save The Bays said the event showed that Bahamians mean business when it comes to creating a more open and transparent society.

A hub of activity during the day, downtown Nassau is usually quiet and unpeopled after the sun goes down.

 

Last Friday though, historic Charlotte Street North burst into life, light and sound as Bahamians once again gathered to call for a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the name of greater transparency and accountability in public life.

 

Bahamian superstar KB whipped the crowd into an FOIA frenzy

Bahamian superstar KB whipped the crowd into an FOIA frenzy

The FOIA Street Party was organized by fast-growing social and environmental advocacy group Save The Bays (STB) in conjunction with a number of its community partners. It was the second successful event of its kind, following a rally in Rawson Square in July in which drew more than 20 groups representing 60,000 members.

 

Bahamian superstar and FOIA warrior Kirkland ‘KB’ Bodie and his Rhythm Band headlined the entertainment, while speakers included newly-elected chairman of the opposition Free National Movement (FNM) Michael Pintard, outspoken activist and church leader Rev. CB Moss and STB education director Joseph Darville.

 

Save The Bays education director Joseph Darville said FOI is about passing on a better Bahamas to future generations.

Save The Bays education director Joseph Darville said FOI is about passing on a better Bahamas to future generations.

“We would like to thank our sponsors and partners for their generous help and support,” said Save The Bays CEO Lindsey McCoy. “Van Breugel’s Restaurant & Bistro did a wonderful job in hosting the event. Sands, Bristol Wines and Spirits and John Watling’s Distillery donated their products for sale to raise money for the FOIA effort, while the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce, the Employers’ Confederation and Citizens for a Better Bahamas were indispensable partners when it came to organizing the event.

 

“We would also like thank all those who came out to help us show, once again, that we mean business when it comes to getting a FOIA for The Bahamas.”

 

McCoy said STB and its ever-expanding coalition of partners are already planning the next event, to be held in the early next year.

 

Signing up in support of greater transparency and accountability in government.

Signing up in support of greater transparency and accountability in government.

Founded just over a year ago, Save The Bays has taken The Bahamas by storm. What began as a grassroots environmental awareness campaign quickly mushroomed to cover a variety of civic and social justice concerns and grievances as other advocacy groups flocked to STB’s banner.

 

The movement now has more than 500 registered members, the largest Facebook audience of any Bahamian NGO with 17,000 followers and more than 6,000 signatures on its petition calling for an FOIA, an Environmental Protection Act and an end to unregulated development in The Bahamas.

 

If you’d like to see an Freedom of Information act passed in The Bahamas, please sign the petition at http://www.chn.ge/15O68LY

Canvasses with a Cause – Cerulean Art Show at Melia Raises Funds for Environmental Protection

Artist to Artist – Grand Bahama artist Melanie Darville, left, chats with Andros-based artist Judith Papillon at Cerulean, an art show benefitting Save The Bays.

Artist to Artist – Grand Bahama artist Melanie Darville, left, chats with Andros-based artist Judith Papillon at Cerulean, an art show benefitting Save The Bays.

When Andros-based artist Judith Papillon faces a blank canvas, she merely looks beyond it to see the cerulean sea that is her back yard. As she works re-creating the swirling blues and greens of the water, the powder-soft sand, the brilliant sky above, her brush flows as smoothly, as gently, as the waves flow to the lee shore. The result – breathtaking visuals that make you want to sink your feet into the sand, dip your toes in the water and close your eyes to make time stand still.

Papillon’s vivid sea and beach scenes were so sought after at a recent art show that three buyers wanted one of her acrylics, ironically titled Cerulean long before she knew that was the name of the art show it would be in.

Mother & Son – Mom and son enjoy art depicting the sea during the Cerulean art show at Melia Nassau Beach Resort.

Mother & Son – Mom and son enjoy art depicting the sea during the Cerulean art show at Melia Nassau Beach Resort.

The show, held at Melia Nassau Beach Resort, which co-sponsored the event, was the first art event organized to raise funds for Save The Bays, the popular non-government organization dedicated to protection of the marine environment and its resources. In the 18 months since Save The Bays burst on the scene, it has broken all records for NGO interest, filing lawsuits to hold violators accountable, gaining more than 17,000 Facebook friends and getting nearly 7,000 signatures on a petition to government seeking a Freedom of Information Act, an Environmental Protection Act and more.

Lawyers and Friends -- Lawyer Jayson Romer of Halsbury Chambers, 2nd from left, and Romi Ferreira, respected environmental attorney and consultant, are flanked by Kendra Romer and Joseph Darville, right at an art show to benefit Save The Bays.

Lawyers and Friends — Lawyer Jayson Romer of Halsbury Chambers, 2nd from left, and Romi Ferreira, respected environmental attorney and consultant, are flanked by Kendra Romer and Joseph Darville, right at an art show to benefit Save The Bays.

“We chose the theme of portraying the majesty of the Bahamian waters and were very pleased with the quality of the work submitted,” said Diane Phillips, a Save The Bays director who helped organize the event.

“We are extremely appreciative to Melia for its support, to John Cox and his team for their assistance and especially to the artists who participated. There is so much untapped talent or underappreciated talent in the Bahamian arts community – visual and performing – and when you can marry an event that brings public attention to an important cause with those who deserve greater recognition, it’s the best of all worlds.”

The one-night exhibition included work by Dion Lewis, Grand Bahama’s Melanie Darville, tile mosaics by Sam Duncombe, and photography by several contributors.

Noted QC: ‘We should have the right to vote for our Prime Minister’

Fred Smith, QC, Chairman, Save The Bays and Callenders Grand Bahama Managing Partner, calls for the public’s right to vote for prime minister.

Fred Smith, QC, Chairman, Save The Bays and Callenders Grand Bahama Managing Partner, calls for the public’s right to vote for prime minister.

A noted Queen’s Counsel attorney is calling for an overhaul of the political process, saying the time has come for Bahamians to choose their prime minister.

“Under the present system, we have the right to cast one vote, that of our Member of Parliament,” said Fred Smith, QC. “We have absolutely no say in who is prime minister. The party has already chosen its leader through an arcane and archaic process of convention, which is really a big political party with negotiations, and rewarding generals and backbenchers who show allegiance. That’s not reflective of what the public wants or who the public would choose.

“With the leader being chosen by party faithfuls, but not by the public except insofar as electing the most MPs and without checks and balances, that distance between the electorate and the elected leads to unbridled power in the hands of the prime minister who does not have to answer to the people because they never voted for him – or possibly for her – in the first place.”

And that ‘unbridled power,’ he said, leads to even graver consequences.

“You end up with a dictatorship,” said Smith, who introduced the idea of a change in the political process during a near standing room only meeting of the Rotary Club of East Nassau recently and expanded on the subject during a subsequent interview this week.

The concentration of power in the office of a leader who is not directly elected by the people is especially abhorrent, he said, when dealing with business matters “that should be left to business people who know the rules and regulations, the policy and practices and know what to expect instead of having to deal behind closed doors where policy is decided by a Cabinet minister.”

Deals made in secret put the country and the investor at risk – and create an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. Unchecked power, said Smith who is among the thousands calling for broader access to information, results in decision-making that bars the public from participating in decisions involving their interests, circumventing or blocking their ability to contribute to discussions about developments that may be in their own back yard.

“The Office of the Prime Minister assumes unto itself unlawful powers to be involved in the business dealings of businessmen,” said Smith, chairman of Save The Bays. “It is not how a democracy and capitalism and a free market economy work…Politicians are not elected based upon their expertise as businessmen. They should not be involved in the negotiation of business deals between private enterprises.”  The government, he believes, should continue to monitor through regulatory agencies like the Securities Commission and URCA.

“It should also expand its regulatory role with greater protection for the environment with an environmental protection act and should ensure that the Health Safety at Work Act is respected or that the Department of Environmental Health Services is properly staffed and funded to be effective in preventing pollution such as what is happening at Clifton Pier,” he said. “But leave the business of business to businesspeople and let the people decide who should be prime minister.”

How business is conducted and oil pollution at Clifton are subjects of two legal actions filed by Save The Bays. the fast-growing environmental advocacy group that has set records in social media with more than 17,100 Facebook friends and over 6,000 signatures on a petition onwww.savethebays.bs supporting its principles. Among those principles: an environmental protection act, freedom of information legislation and an end to unregulated development.

Freedom of Information Block Party Promises Cause for Celebration

Freedom Call – FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis supporting Freedom of Information legislation at a rally in Rawson Square that drew representatives from some 20 organizations representing more than 60,000 members. A block party reinforcing the need for transparency in government is set for Charlotte Street South this Friday, December 5 starting at 5 pm. The event featuring live entertainment is free and open to the public. The Bahamas remains one of a very few countries whose citizens have no rights to information about the government’s business and the call for legislation guaranteeing the public’s right to know is gaining voices from all quarters.

Freedom Call – FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis supporting Freedom of Information legislation at a rally in Rawson Square that drew representatives from some 20 organizations representing more than 60,000 members. A block party reinforcing the need for transparency in government is set for Charlotte Street South this Friday, December 5 starting at 5 pm. The event featuring live entertainment is free and open to the public. The Bahamas remains one of a very few countries whose citizens have no rights to information about the government’s business and the call for legislation guaranteeing the public’s right to know is gaining voices from all quarters.

Hundreds are expected to fill Charlotte Street South Friday evening for a block party with stage, live entertainment, food, beverage, and roving microphone all aimed at building a growing groundswell of momentum demanding Freedom of Information.

“You always hear about a cause for celebration, this is a celebration for a cause,” said Lindsey McCoy, CEO of Save The Bays, which is organizing the Freedom of Information street party set for 5-8 pm.

Numerous organizations are joining the march toward what has been called the basic tenet of any democracy – the public’s right to information, also known as transparency in government.

“We had a hugely successful turnout in March with union leaders, civic groups, clergy, celebrities and politicians who joined the growing cry for something that is a basic tenet of any democracy, a Freedom of Information Act, (FOIA)” said McCoy. “We expect an even larger crowd Friday night when we send a loud and clear message – it’s time to end secret deals and create legislation that guarantees citizens’ rights to information, including planned developments, that impact their lives.”

Headlining the December 5 block party will be KB and the Rhythm Band featuring The Bahamas’ top-selling musical artist Kirkland ‘KB’ Bodie. Other entertainers are expected to take the stage at the event hosted by Van Breugel’s Restaurant & Bistro and co sponsored by Sands, Bristol Wines and Spirits and John Watling’s Distillery. The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation has also been a strong supporter of the FOIA legislation that recommended as a part of a successful implementation of VAT.

“The momentum demanding passage of a Freedom of Information Act is gaining strength every week with more individuals and groups signing petitions, talking about transparency and urging legislation that will prevent all governments – not just this government, but all governments — from engaging in secret deals in which the very public being affected do not even have the right to participate in decision-making that will impact their lives,” said Joseph Darville, who normally wears two environmental hats  — Education Director for Save The Bays and Bahamas Waterkeeper – and will add a third on Friday as emcee of the block party. “The public has a right to know and to participate in the public’s business.”

On This We Agree – DNA Leader Bran McCartney calls for Freedom of Information legislation during a rally in Rawson Square in March, the kick-off to a campaign that has steadily gained momentum urging The Bahamas to join the vast majority of the world’s nations that ensure the public possesses the right to know the public’s business. The DNA and FNM both called for transparency during the rally. A Freedom of Information block party with Kirkland ‘KB’ Bodie and the Rhythm Band headlining the entertainment is set for Friday on Charlotte Street South. The event, organized by Save The Bays, is free and open to the public. Co-sponsors include Van Breugel’s, Bristol Wines & Spirits, John Watling’s Distillery and Sands.

On This We Agree – DNA Leader Bran McCartney calls for Freedom of Information legislation during a rally in Rawson Square in March, the kick-off to a campaign that has steadily gained momentum urging The Bahamas to join the vast majority of the world’s nations that ensure the public possesses the right to know the public’s business. The DNA and FNM both called for transparency during the rally. A Freedom of Information block party with Kirkland ‘KB’ Bodie and the Rhythm Band headlining the entertainment is set for Friday on Charlotte Street South. The event, organized by Save The Bays, is free and open to the public. Co-sponsors include Van Breugel’s, Bristol Wines & Spirits, John Watling’s Distillery and Sands.

The urgency by more than a dozen diverse groups calling for enactment of Freedom of Information was fed by a number of recent factors. Shortly before it left office in 2012, the former governing party tabled a Freedom of Information bill. That was killed by the current government which promised to fix what it called a weak piece of legislation with flawed provisions and lacking in regulations, but no bill has yet been substituted. In the meantime, numerous developments were approved, including a massive cruise ship dock and hotel plan that would deliver up to half a million people to Bimini, an island that now entertains about 50,000 visitors a year, potentially doing extensive damage to its world-famous reefs, with residents reeling from what they said was lack of consultation, and no response to letters they wrote seeking information.

In the 18 months since its founding, Save The Bays has become the outspoken voice calling for environmental protection, citizens’ right to know and an end to oil pollution and unregulated development. Still in its infancy, its following has set records for a non-governmental organization with more than 17,000 Facebook Likes and nearly 7,000 signatures on a petition to the government.

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