Archive | September, 2016

Registration Opens for Popular Youth Environment Training Program

Registration Opens for Grand Bahama’s Popular Youth Environment Training Program, Winter Session to Have Fewer Participants, Offer Broader Experiences

Three years after it was launched as the training ground to help prepare junior high students in Grand Bahama to become ambassadors for the environment, the popular Youth Environment Ambassadors program opened for registration this week but with noticeable differences.

“There will be fewer participants but they will enjoy broader experiences,” explained YEA Administrator Rashema Ingraham. “In the past, we have accommodated 40 deserving students per 12-week series. While that was great, the high number made travel to other islands to experience what is special about their environment unrealistic so this year we aim to limit the number to 20 students but work toward opportunities for those participants to travel to explore and study the land and marine environment in at least two of the Family Islands.”

The program sponsored by Save The Bays has been so popular that more than twice as many students apply as can be accommodated.

Ready, Set, Line Up, Sign-Up, – Change is in store for The Bahamas’ only Youth Environment Ambassadors program when the next 6-month session starts November 5. Like past sessions, it will include class study (photo above) plus hands-on experiences and field trips touring industrial plants, tromping through wetlands and bush and snorkeling coral reefs, but a smaller group of participants this time will allow for more Family Island travel experiences. Eighty applied for past sessions, twice the number of spaces available.

Ready, Set, Line Up, Sign-Up, – Change is in store for The Bahamas’ only Youth Environment Ambassadors program when the next 6-month session starts November 5. Like past sessions, it will include class study (photo above) plus hands-on experiences and field trips touring industrial plants, tromping through wetlands and bush and snorkeling coral reefs, but a smaller group of participants this time will allow for more Family Island travel experiences. Eighty applied for past sessions, twice the number of spaces available.

“It’s been heartbreaking to turn away so many eager faces when they are lined up, wanting to learn, wanting to get hands-on experience with nature,” said Mrs. Ingraham. Under the reorganization of the program, applicants will have the option to apply online. Admission, Mrs. Ingraham said, will be based on responses to questions dealing with commitment to environmental preservation, conservation and stewardship. “In introducing the more intensive, in-depth Youth Environmental Ambassadors program, we are searching for those with a passion for the environment.”

During the upcoming training sessions, students will cover coral reefs, pine forests, shoreline management, mangroves and wetlands, pollution – plastic pollution, air and water pollution. There will also be heightened activities with beach, bay and sea clean-ups efforts.

Graduates of former sessions have told Ingraham and Save The Bays Chairman Joseph Darville that being in the program has taught them not only to treasure and respect the environment, but assisted in their own personal development, including an increased appreciation for the importance of discipline and in preparing for BJCs. The upcoming session begins November 5 and runs every other Saturday for six months with in-class academic work followed by excursions and field trips that could take participants through industrial plants, swimming over coral reefs or tromping through bush.

YEA is one of many initiatives of Save The Bays, an organizations that is calling for a strong Freedom of Information Act, a comprehensive environmental protection act, an end to unregulated development and other stewardship measures. An online petition has drawn nearly 7,000 signatures and Save The Bays Facebook page is one of the most popular in the region with more than 20,000 Friends and Fans.

Smith: Attacks on STB were political

Outspoken QC defends former Chief Justice; calls remarks by Jerome Fitzgerald hypocritical in light of the minister’s ‘shameful’ disclosure of private information

Jerome Fitzgerald should take “a long look in the mirror” before daring to accuse anyone of political bias according to outspoken QC Fred Smith, who took the Education Minister to task for his recent remarks about former Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett.

In a speech to the Eugene Dupuch Law School over the weekend, Sir Michael expressed surprise at Fitzgerald’s claim that he did not regret releasing the private information of environmental group Save The Bays (STB), despite a Supreme Court ruling declaring the disclosure a violation of the constitution. In response, Fitzgerald suggested the comments were politically motivated.

Fred Smith, QC“He really must be joking,” said Smith. “Jerome Fitzgerald accusing someone of acting out of political bias is the very essence of hypocrisy – the textbook definition of the pot calling the kettle black.

“This Cabinet minister committed a brazen violation of our privacy as part of his government’s efforts to protect and defend an admitted major financial backer of the PLP party. If he wants to find a prime example of a cynical, shameful politically-motivated attack, he need only take a long look in the mirror.”

Smith called it astonishing that Fitzgerald would “double down on his audacity” by questioning the integrity of the former Chief Justice of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

“I would like to remind Fitzgerald and all politicians who are also attorneys that they are first and foremost officers of the court and must refrain from scandalizing the judiciary,” he said.

Smith also warned that the Privileges Committee could do serious damage to the administration of justice and the rule of law in The Bahamas if it uses hearings scheduled for later this month to air matters currently under consideration by the courts.

STB, for which Smith serves as legal director, has launched several court cases which are to be the focus of the hearings, and he thanked other eminent legal minds who have come out in defense of the ‘sub judice’ rule, which says that matters under judicial consideration cannot be discussed publicly.

“Every officer of the court should be grateful for Sir Michael, Bar Association President Elsworth Johnson and the unnamed fellow QC quoted in the press for defending time-honored legal traditions that are designed to guarantee all individuals a fair trial and, crucially, the appearance of a fair trial,” he said. “These include the sub judice rule and the separation of powers.

“The members of this committee must keep firmly in mind that an awesome responsibility has been placed on their shoulders – for the sake of our national reputation, they must defend the principles of good governance, fair administration of justice and the rule of law.  If they seek to use these hearings to trample over the territory of the courts, The Bahamas will be branded a lawless society where laws mean nothing, where political power and brute force win the day.

“The international community is watching carefully. We simply must affirm that The Bahamas is not some repressive dictatorship or failed state where the jurisdiction of the courts is casually disregarded, the rule of law tossed aside on a whim; it is a liberal democracy whose good governance is underpinned by a constitution, the guardians of which are the courts. They must be allowed to do their work unfettered by politically motivate intrusions.”

Smith said he cannot understand why the hearings are moving forward at this time, as the murder-for-hire plot and harassment case against Peter Nygard and Keod Smith, which led to the violation of STB’s constitutional rights and “rape” of their privacy in the first place, and the group’s subsequent successful constitutional motion, are still before the courts.

 

“Both matters are still live. The harassment case has been adjourned until February 2017 by Justice Charles, whereas the government has only just appealed her decision on the constitutional motion. Not only is the second matter sub judice, it is also subject to an injunction against further disclosure of our private correspondence and financial information, which the judge has affirmed is still in place. She ruled that until the conclusion of the appeal, the status quo must remain.”

In addition, he said, the backdrop to the murder-for-hire case, and the constitutional motion, is intertwined with the four judicial reviews launched against the government and Peter Nygard and Keod Smith before Justice Rhonda Bain, and also the judicial review launch by 103 Lyford Cay neighbors of Peter Nygard against the government on the alleged faulty consultation process for works at Nygard Cay.

Smith said: “It is constitutionally axiomatic that the judiciary of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas – the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the Privy Council – resolve civil and criminal matters; not, as Fred Mitchel alleges, the “High Court of Parliament” which harkens back to a medieval era of monarchical absolutism”

He called for calmer heads to prevail and for all parties to await the conclusion of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and Privy Council processes before airing sensitive court matters in the public domain, as this would run the serious risk of “short-circuiting” justice and set a very dangerous precedent for the future.

“Otherwise, The Bahamas will be branded as a banana republic where no one feels safe either personally or in their investments. The country, having recently been downgraded by Moody’s, can ill afford such negative international stigma,” he added.

Parliament must not trample over territory of the courts

QC calls for calm heads to prevail; warns of grave consequences for justice and the rule of law if Privileges Committee violates the sub judice rule in upcoming hearings

Outspoken Queen’s Counsel Fred Smith is warning that the Privileges Committee will do serious damage to the administration of justice and the rule of law in The Bahamas is it uses hearings scheduled for later this month to air matters currently under consideration by the courts.

Environmental group Save The Bays (STB), for which Smith serves as legal director, has launched several court cases which are to be the focus of the hearings, and he thanked other eminent legal minds who have come out in defense of the ‘sub judice’ rule, which says that matters under judicial consideration cannot be discussed publicly.

hoa242“Every officer of the court should be grateful for Bar Association President Elsworth Johnson and the unnamed fellow QC quoted in the press for defending time-honored legal traditions that are designed to guarantee all individuals a fair trial and, crucially, the appearance of a fair trial,” he said. “These include the sub judice rule and the separation of powers.

“The members of this committee must keep firmly in mind that an awesome responsibility has been placed on their shoulders – for the sake of our national reputation, they must defend the principles of good governance, fair administration of justice and the rule of law.  If they seek to use these hearings to trample over the territory of the courts, The Bahamas will be branded a lawless society where laws mean nothing, where political power and brute force win the day.

“The international community is watching carefully. We simply must affirm that The Bahamas is not some repressive dictatorship or failed state where the jurisdiction of the courts is casually disregarded, the rule of law tossed aside on a whim; it is a liberal democracy whose good governance is underpinned by a constitution, the guardians of which are the courts. They must be allowed to do their work unfettered by politically motivate intrusions.”

Smith said he cannot understand why the hearings are moving forward at this time, as the murder-for-hire plot and harassment case against Peter Nygard and Keod Smith, which led to the violation of STB’s constitutional rights “rape” of their privacy in the first place, and the group’s subsequent successful constitutional motion, are still before the courts.

“Both matters are still live. The harassment case has been adjourned until February 2017 by Justice Charles, whereas the government has only just appealed her decision on the constitutional motion. Not only is the second matter sub judice, it is also subject to an injunction against further disclosure of our private correspondence and financial information, which the judge has affirmed is still in place. She ruled that until the conclusion of the appeal, the status quo must remain.”

In addition, he said, the backdrop to the murder-for-hire case, and the constitutional motion, is intertwined with the four judicial reviews launched against the government and Peter Nygard and Keod Smith before Justice Rhonda Bain, and also the judicial review launch by 103 Lyford Cay neighbors of Peter Nygard against the government on the alleged faulty consultation process for works at Nygard Cay.

Smith said: “It is constitutionally axiomatic that the judiciary of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas – the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the Privy Council, resolve civil and criminal matters; not, as Fred Mitchel alleges, the “High Court of Parliament” which harkens back to a medieval era of monarchical absolutism”

He called for calmer heads to prevail and for all parties to await the conclusion of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and Privy Council processes before airing sensitive court matters in the public domain, as this would run the serious risk of “short-circuiting” justice and set a very dangerous precedent for the future.

“Otherwise, The Bahamas will be branded as a banana republic where no one feels safe either personally or in their investments. The country, having recently been downgraded by Moody’s, can ill afford such negative international stigma,” he added.

Fears that Parliamentary Committee will defy Court Order

Save The Bays invites International Observers to upcoming hearings amid concerns over fairness and impartiality; threat of further release of private information despite landmark Supreme Court ruling.

 

Environmental group Save The Bays (STB) is expressing grave concern over the decision to move forward with hearings before the Parliamentary Privileges Committee following the landmark Supreme Court decision vindicating their right to privacy.

STB chairman Joseph Darville said the group fears the hearings will be used to broadcast further private information belonging to its members, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled such disclosures unconstitutional and fined Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald $150,000 for an earlier breach.

“Save The Bays feels totally vindicated by the wise and proper actions of the Supreme Court and surprised that these hearings are proceeding at all considering the judge’s ruling and the fact that the matter is now before the Court of Appeal. We can only imagine that they intend to use this venue to try and justify the further release of our private information in violation of the Constitution of The Bahamas and in the face of the House Speaker’s own admission that the disclosures should not happen again,” Darville said.

“We are also gravely concerned about the nature of these proceedings as a whole. Senior members of the government have openly expressed an interest in holding us in ‘contempt of parliament’ and imprisoning us. With a committee chaired and dominated by members of the very same government we are somehow supposedly trying to destabilize, our accusers are effectively also our judges, jury and executioners. This is a clear violation of our constitutional right to due process and flies in the face of every international norm when it comes to impartiality and the fair administration of justice.”

Darville pointed out that the matters to be considered by the committee arose from an action brought by STB against an admitted major financial contributor to the governing party. He questioned how a neutral observer could avoid the impression that the hearings and threat of imprisonment is anything other than a case of politically motivated “revenge”.

I am in no way questioning the integrity of any member of the committee,” he said. “But as we know, justice must not only be done, but also be seen to be done. This is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy.”

In order to protect their rights and ensure that the rule of law prevails, STB has formally invited several human rights groups and international oversight bodies to send observers to the hearings and briefed them on the context, including the ruling by Justice Indra Charles and the campaign of violence, threats, intimidation and harassment against STB members which sparked the controversy in the first place.

The groups invited include: the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR); the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL); and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

We remain in active communication with these groups, forwarding them any and relevant information on this matter on a daily basis. It is a shame that the opinion of the Supreme Court is no longer good enough in The Bahamas, but if we have to appeal to the international community to protect ourselves from totally unfounded allegations and persistent attempts to paint us and our organization in a false light, we will not hesitate to do so.

Waterkeepers Bahamas, Save The Bays Applaud Quick Official Action Saving 100-lb Loggerhead Turtle

Waterkeepers Bahamas and Save The Bays today joined forces to praise officers and officials in Grand Bahama for quick thinking and action, arresting and charging a man with illegal possession of a protected loggerhead turtle and releasing the turtle back into the ocean. It was the first arrest for a marine animal violation in Grand Bahama in 12 years and the first in the nation since The Bahamas passed legislation banning the capture or sale of sea turtles in 2009.

Loggerhead turtle“This was an example of the system working exactly as it should,” said Save The Bays Chairman Joseph Darville. “According to published reports that we followed with great appreciation, a police officer on routine patrol saw the truck a quarter of a mile from the beach and spotted the huge turtle in the back. Knowing that turtles were protected under the law that bans capture, sale and slaughter, the officer contacted the Assistant Superintendent of Fisheries with the Ministry of Marine Resources in Grand Bahama, Clement Campbell. Mr. Campbell immediately responded and questioned the young man who reportedly told him he found the turtle by the side of the road, an explanation which Mr. Campbell found questionable. Even if it were true, it would still be a violation of the law which is very clear about possession or sale of turtles or any part of a turtle, including eggs. If the gentleman found the turtle by the side of the road, the honourable thing to do would have been to report it, document it with his phone as he got help to lift it and get it back to the sea as quickly and safely as he could.”

“That gentleman could have been a hero instead of facing charges and another court appearance.”

The Freeport News broke the story about the incident which occurred around 5:30 pm Saturday, August 20 near Bahama Beach, West End, an area favoured for its rich fishing grounds. Fishermen in Grand Bahama have complained that turtles are eating crawfish and juvenile conch, but says Darville, who heads the popular environmental group and is a monitor for Waterkeepers Bahamas, those fishermen who complain are not crediting turtles for the critical role they play in nurturing conch, crawfish and fish populations.

“Nearly every part of the turtle contributes to the health of the sea,” said Darville. “The shell has been referred to as the garden of the sea. Up to 100 species of animal and plant life have been found on a turtle’s back. And because turtles are bottom feeders, they stir up and aerate the sand providing nutritional benefits. Perhaps most importantly, a turtle is not just garden, but gardener, eating sea grass and keeping it trimmed, creating a nursery for conch, fish and crawfish.”

Darville and Grand Bahama Waterkeeper Executive Director Rashema Ingraham lauded the Bahamas National Trust’s approval of the official action, Ingraham saying it represented a rallying point for partner organisations dedicated to preserving the environment.

“If we gave out awards, my vote would be for Clement Campbell and those on his team who rushed to the scene, carried out their responsibilities with conviction, and performed the rescue, upholding Regulation 29 (a) of Chapter 244, dealing with the possession of a marine mammal without proper permission,” said Ingraham. “Thanks to them, today there is a 100-lb loggerhead turtle swimming freely, doing its part in the marine eco-chain and it never endured the pain of having its head chopped off and its life coming to a cruel and heinous end.”

Save The Bays, with more than 20,000 Facebook friends and nearly 7,000 signatures on its petition, is advocating for freedom of information, an end to unregulated development, a comprehensive environmental protection act and more. Its work includes supporting youth environmental summer camps, environmental training and hands-on experiences.

Its chairman, Darville, a retired educator and counselor who holds a certification in climate change training, is not immune to the calls of the fishermen who want the turtle ban reviewed, but urges that the law be retained as is.

“I remember eating turtle as a child and how sweet that meat was,” he said. “But that was before…There was a lot of stuff we did back then because we didn’t know any better. Now with all the threats facing the turtle population – illegal fishing, habitat loss, climate change, marine pollution – and with our better understanding of their importance to the ecological chain, we must show this remarkable species the respect and protection it so richly deserves. The Bahamas received worldwide attention and applause for protecting sea turtles and there is no way we should consider moving backward now.”