Why “Save our Bahamas” won’t save our Bahamas

It’s been a long time since I posted to this blog. That is not because I haven’t been writing though. In fact, my topic today has kept me busy for pretty much two years now: our Constitution and the need to amend it. It’s kept me so busy that I wrote – and had published – two journal articles on the subject: “Citizenship as a Fundamental Right: How the Bahamian Constitution Mis-imagines the Nation” (IJBS 2015) and “Bahamian-ness as an Exclusive Good: Attempting to Change the Constitution, 2002” (IJBS 2016).

Opponents of the referendum currently scheduled for June 7, 2016, will have us believe that, in principle, they agree that women and men should enjoy the same constitutional rights in the Bahamas. Compared to 2002, that is progress. Yet they attack the proposals, by making emotional appeals to the widespread homophobia in the Bahamas.

Sadly, the media as well as the political leadership engage them in this discussion. However, this only fans the flames further. This discussion is non-sensical, and should not be given room in the current debate.

The current proposals are far from perfect, and while they will remove some constitutional equality, they will retain other elements of inequality – and they will even introduce new elements of discrimination to our Constitution. This is a debate we should be having. This is the debate I had hoped to encourage through my articles above. However, the noise of SOB’s* sobs drowns out any intelligent debate.

The currently proposed amendments do not pose the threat they are made out to be. What it boils down to is that misogynists in 2016 are simply too afraid to openly admit to being misogynists. But if the amendments do not pose the threat they are made out to be, then there is nothing that “Save Our Bahamas” can save the Bahamas from.

Here is my suggestion to Parliament on how to overcome the current dilemma of having a constitutional referendum about equal rights for women and men derailed by a proxy debate about same-sex marriage:

As both the Prime Minister as well as the Constitutional Commission have pointed out, the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1879 defines marriage in the Bahamas as a union between one woman and one man. As they have also pointed out, the Constitution allows marriage laws in the Bahamas to be discriminatory. As they have also pointed out, if furthermore allows laws passed prior to independence to be discriminatory. As they have also pointed out, it does not require a politically cumbersome referendum with an unknown outcome to change the Matrimonial Causes Act. A simple Act of Parliament could bring same-sex marriage to the Bahamas. It could easily do so before June 7, 2016.

Thus, I call upon the Prime Minister, the House of Assembly and the Senate to immediately pass legislation to allow for same-sex marriage in the Bahamas. Not only is it the right thing to do anyway, but this will demonstrate to the Bahamian electorate in general and the SOBs in particular that the upcoming referendum has nothing to do with same-sex marriage. It should then either make equal rights for women and men under our constitution a non-issue – or force the misogynists to admit to their misogyny.

* Their chosen abbreviation, not mine.

Hurricane Joaquin Relief Effort, Part 9

Our team at Odyssey Aviation will keep you updated all day long, on this page, on Twitter at @StormRelief242 and on our various Facebook accounts. If you could, please contribute to our fuel bill via our crowdfunding account on YouCaring.com.

7:00 pm: To date, our team of volunteers at Odyssey has received 500,000 lbs of donations. But on day 10 after the storm, we have to consider winding down our airlift operation. Given the extent of the longterm recovery work needed, our involvement in the recovery effort is the immediate response, getting emergency supplies to the affected islands fast, fully exploition our aircraft’s speed advantage. By the time we hit a quarter of a million pounds of supplies delivered, this will equate to over 50 lbs of supplies per person affected, after which the normal flow of ships should be sufficient to support them. As a charity group, supported by the donations of individuals, corporations and NGOs we are obliged to spend those funds in the most effective and responsible way possible. Therefore, on Wednesday we will fly our last cargo flight for the recovery effort; our flights to support the urgent needs of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and other support personnel will continue. By stopping our cargo flights we are not giving up on the islands hit hard, but switching to the long term recovery where we go from keeping people alive to getting them back on their feet and more importantly back to work.

6:30 pm: Apart from our fleet of TIA planes and other Nassau-based pilots, we did get another DC-3 in the air today. The hangar is emptying, we expect that by Wednesday, mailboats will be able to fully supply the southern Bahamas.

2:45 pm: We’ve almost packed up the warehouse. I mean, hangar. One more big plane to load for the day, plenty boxes ready for tomorrow.

2:15 pm: Two more planes on the way. Sometimes I’m amazed just how many of the “mixed goods” boxes you can load into a small private plane.

1:00 pm: Two planes returned, two medical evacuations.

10:10 am: Golden WIngs Charter has joined the airlift. Their Islander just pulled up to the hanger, and it is now being loaded with orange boxes.

9:25 am: The last one of our morning flights just took to the air. We expect them back in about four hours, when they will do another run.

8:50 am: Yes, it’s Sunday, but if anybody can have a truck come by and pick up a load of rubbish, mostly cardboard and other packing materials, you’d be one of today’s heroes.

8:30 am: Five planes loaded, one already taxiing out. Priority needs for the day include mosquito repellent, batteries, tarps, flashlights, soap, and marker pens.

Hurricane Joaquin Relief Effort, Part 8

As before, this page will be updated, as the day develops. At the top, as usual, our plea for donations for aviation fuel via our crowdfunding page at YouCaring.com.

10:05 pm: We’re aiming for 8am departures tomorrow. If you can help us out, this is what we’re looking for, specifically for Crooked Island: water, tarps, flashlights, batteries, soap and bug spray.

9:45 pm: I usually close the day earlier than this, but we *always* wait for our last plane to come back home safely, and tonight, it took longer than usual. That is because our last plane did not come back to Nassau, but landed in Cat Island, and did not get back into the air before sunset. The crew, however, are safe and sound, and found themselves a cozy hotel room. Good night from Odyssey, where we packed and moved thousands of pounds of relief supplies for the southern islands of the Bahamas today. Thank you to all donors and volunteers.

4:30 pm: Thank you to Spectrum Light & Sound for relieving us of a truck load of waste. There will be more tomorrow. Or even later today.

3:30 pm: Is there anyone out there who can arrange a garbage collection at Odyssey today? 124,000 lbs of goods left a lot of waste.

1:30 pm: Thanks to somebody’s homemade chicken souse, George Myers’ KFC and Swiss Pastry’s desserts, our volunteers are well fed for the day. If somebody wants to drop by a case of cold sodas, Gatorade or water, however, they’d receive a hero’s welcome…

12:20 pm: Missionary Flights International out of Fort Pierce, FL, has joined our airlift effort. Their turbine DC-3 is currently at Odyssey, being loaded for its second flight of the day.

11:00 am: Items needed urgently today include: snack foods (think granola bars), sharpie markers, and boxes (think beer case size) – for we received 124,000 lbs of non-perishables last night that have to be packed. To help us achieve this, we are also looking for volunteers out at Odyssey Aviation. (Thank you to Darville Packaging and Burns House for donating more boxes, and to Spectrum Light & Sound for the delivery.)

9:30 am: The morning flights have all departed. One whole plane load of medicine, including insulin headed south, another plane with livestock feed, etc. The Orange Box Brigade is busy packing boxes of mixed goods for when they return.

Hurricane Joaquin Relief Effort, Part 7

NGM MajorImportant Notice:

We have transported RBDF personnel to various southern islands for distribution. We will be setting up distribution centres on other islands tomorrow. Unless you are infirmed, elderly or immobile, persons must make it to one of the distribution centers below. If other organisations are transporting supplies and would like to stage at our distribution centres, please feel free to do so. Distributions centres for Long Island are as follows:

  • St. Theresa’s Church – Gray’s
  • St. Athanasius Church – Lower Deadman’s Cay
  • N. G. M. Major High School – Buckley’s
  • A&M Convenience Store – Mangrove Bush
  • Community Centre – Clarence Town
  • St. Michael’s Church – Roses

Distribution centres are open from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.

We have two DC-3 planes at Odyssey Aviation tomorrow, one going to Long Island and one going to Acklins. This means we can move at least 14,000 lbs. of supplies tomorrow alone. If you could please help us fill them, here’s your shopping list for wholesale packages:

  • Feminine Products
  • Tarps
  • Corned Beef
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Rice – 3lbs
  • Boxed Grits
  • Soup
  • Sugar – 2lbs
  • Mops
  • Brooms
  • Scrub Brushes
  • Buckets
  • Boxed Mac & Cheese
  • Instant Noodles
  • small Tins of Cream
  • Baby Formula
  • Baby Food
  • Baby Wipes
  • Baby Diapers
  • Toilet Paper
  • Hand Towels
  • Mosquito Repellent
  • Mosquito Coils
  • Condoms
  • Vaseline
  • Desitin
  • Dettol
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Hair Brushes
  • Sanitizing Wipes
  • Disinfectant
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Salt
  • Vinegar
  • Plastic Bottles
  • Heavy-Duty Garbage Bags
  • Scrub Boards
  • Flashlights
  • D & C Batteries

Today we moved over 15,000 lbs. of supplies from Nassau, evacuated nine more people from Acklins, delivered RBDF Marines into Long Island and Mayaguana, and delivered communication systems to Marines stationed in Crooked Island, Acklins and Stella Maris. Additionally we delivered a much needed drive shaft to Acklins, allowing the only vehicle capable of reaching a remote settlement to be repaired and enter into service tomorrow. Our volunteer group, made up almost entirely of women, made hundreds of mixed goods, baby and medical care packages to be easily distributed in the islands. Our efforts are now running at a cost of nearly $25,000 every day with a total of over $100,000 in expenses incurred so far.

With more and more ships departing to the islands affected by Hurricane Joaquin (the first ones already returning to Nassau, in fact), the situation of a general scarcity of relief items is beginning to improve considerably. Ships, rather than planes, can carry much more cargo much more economically. We therefore request that heavy and bulky items no longer be dropped off at Odyssey Aviation at the airport.

However, our airlift operations will continue to provide the high priority items of which there are still shortages as well as emergency items that cannot get there fast enough by shipm, such as prescription medicines, as this is the true advantage planes offer over boats.

This also means that we are now better able to carry much needed experts as passengers in our planes, such as the team from Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency we carried yesterday. Tomorrow, we will provide airlift to a team of psychologists trained to assist persons suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders; many of the residents on the southern islands suffer from this condition due to their experiences during Hurricane Joaquin.

This speed advantage comes with a significant cost, so please help us pay for the planes’ fuel via our crowdfunding site at YouCaring.com.

Today’s high priority items needed at Odyssey Aviation include: canned protein (e.g. corned beef, tuna, etc.), water, and packing/duct tape.

Hurricane Joaquin Relief Effort, Part 6


Please contribute to our relief efforts via our crowdfunding page at YouCaring.com.

9:20 pm: An update from TIA President and CEO Paul F. Aranha: “Our efforts to provide airlift and coordination to all agencies and associations and individuals committed to help our Bahamas get back on its feet are paying off. Our cargo delivery has skyrocketed thanks to our partners at Florida Air Cargo and IBC Airways, we have now delivered over 100,000 lbs. of water, food, medical supplies and more. All of our numbers are growing exponentially with over 360 volunteers, 86 people evacuated and 235 hours flown. Today we flew additional RBDF Marines into Long Island along with the first team from CDEMA headed by Ret. Gen. Earl Arthurs from the Belize Army who will establish additional distribution and assist with getting the island on its Feet. We have now assisted in deploying RBDF Marines into Four of the Five Islands impacted by the Storm. We have additional DC-3 Flights lined up throughout the week to deliver another 35,000 lbs. of supplies in the next 48 hours. By Friday our total cargo delivered will surpass 180,000 lbs. nearly 36 lbs. of cargo for every 1 person hit by the storm.”

9:15 pm: Special shoutouts today go to Lowe’s Wholesale Drug Agencies for their donation of medical supplies & cleaning materials, Thompson Trading for their donation of ready-to-go pallets of mixed relief items, and Chef Kevin Culmer, who provided lunch for our volunteers – delicious Tropical Gyros.

5:15 pm: Items needed at Odyssey for tomorrow’s airlift operations: canned protein (think corned beef, tuna, and the like). And water. Always water.

5:10 pm: Last plane for the day just departed. We are getting items ready for early departures tomorrow.

4:00 pm: Just got confirmation that the last airport in the area affected by Hurricane Joaquin, Deadman’s Cay, Long Island, has reopened.

3:30 pm: Northern Long Island (reaching south as far as approximately Whymms) has power restored.

3:25 pm: Northern Long Island and San Salvador have cell phone service restored.

2:05 pm: Water, water, water. We need to get more water to the affected islands, and our supply is running low. Please bring water out to Odyssey Aviation.

2:00 pm: Shout out to Nassau Paper Company for their kind donation of two cases of Ziploc bags.

9:55 am: One plane standing by at PBI Atlantic in West Palm Beach. Loading.

9:50 am: Banyan Air Service is sending a Piper Cheyenne from Fort Lauderdale Executive to the southern Bahamas.

7:00 am: Crews back working at Odyssey, loading planes. Reports from busy activity all over Nassau harbour. Mailboats and private vessels pitching in, carrying goods and bulk and heavier equipment to aid in the relief effort for the southern Bahamas.

Hurricane Joaquin Relief Effort, Part 5

My apologies for arriving late today, my other job placed its demands on me. Let me update you, as our team of volunteers updates me:

As usual at the top: our donation link via YouCaring.com.

10:10 pm: Last plane landed safely. We will now finalise tomorrow’s schedule, and fly more relief items to the southern Bahamas.

9:20 pm: Last flight in to Nassau delayed, because the VIPs who commandeered it are now insisting on having dinner in Exuma first.

8:00 pm: Social Services has picked up the Crooked Island evacuees, and contrary to some posts on social media, the donated clothes have proven very useful. For this group, and others, too.

7:30 pm: Planes with evacuees from Crooked Island are arriving in Nassau. Waiting on Social Services to accommodate them for the night. And beyond. Many show serious symptoms of PTSD.

6:00 pm: As we are waiting for our crews to return we take tally. 20,000 lbs of relief goods left Nassau airport on our planes today, more left from the Exuma hub. In total, we operated thirty flights.

4:20 pm: We need gallon-size Ziploc bags for repackaging some items at Odyssey Aviation to ensure better distribution on the affected islands. Can anyone help, please?

4:00 pm: The last flight from Nassau just departed. Flights from Exuma will continue until shortly before sunset.

Monday Morning: We have scheduled more than 20 flights throughout the day, covering all the affected islands of the Bahamas; inaccessible places are being reached by helicopter or seaplane – completely inaccessible places will see some airdrops during the day. This, however, means that the most pressing items, especially water, cannot be provided, as they would burst upon impact.

Hurricane Joaquin Relief Effort, Part 4


Please contribute to our relief efforts via our crowdfunding page at YouCaring.com.

7:00 pm: Our last plane just safely returned to Nassau. Tired crews will now have a well deserved break, because tomorrow will be another busy day. Good night.

5:30 pm: Our first team, a helicopter that went as far as Buckleys, Long Island, just returned to Nassau. Debriefing now.

3:35 pm: Many of our volunteers have to return to their regular work tomorrow, but we – and the people of the southern Bahamas – still need your help. If you can, we are looking for ten volunteers to help us at Odyssey Aviation starting at 7am tomorrow. Also, Fast Ferries is joining the relief effort tomorrow, too, and we need another ten volunteers out at Potters Cay dock at 7am.

3:30 pm: The DC-3 has returned from the Exuma hub, and Florida Air Cargo has kindly donated another flight to the South. Plane being loaded at this moment, and we hope it’ll be in the air in a few more minutes.

2:20 pm: The first photos are reaching us from Crooked Island, as our team has returned to the hub in Exuma – and thus cell coverage. They were able to land and unload in Pitts Town, after clearing some debris to allow vehicles access to the planes and their cargo.

1:45 pm: Palette shortage overcome, thanks to the donations by Nassau Paper Company, and one other donor whom I unfortunately didn’t catch. Let me know if you see this, because you do deserve a shout out. Thanks!

1:00 pm: A seaplane is enroute to our hub in Exuma to provide the first load of relief items for Clarence Town, Long Island, which still cannot be reached by road. We are feverishly working on scheduling a second flight in the morning, for we have received urgent please for prescription medicines by some of the residents there.

12:00 pm: Does anybody have a ground contact with authorities in Acklins to ensure that relief items can be received and distributed? We have a seaplane ready to go.

10:00 am: Now loading a DC-3, the use of which has been donated by Florida Air Cargo. These planes have been the backbone of air cargo since WW2. It will carry goods to Exuma from where smaller planes and helicopters will distribute it to communities the big planes cannot reach.

9:30 am: We need more palettes at Odyssey Aviation for our airlift. Please contact us if you can assist: 427-2009.

8:55 am: No, we cannot take you to the affected islands to see your loved ones. Every body in an aircraft means extra weight, which in turn means either less fuel (thus limiting our range), or less supplies (thus providing less relief). Additional people in the affected islands also increase the need for supplies. Please understand!

8:35 am: Please continue to donate relief goods, our collection point at Odyssey Aviation on the Coral Harbour Road is operational. In particular, we need more WATER and TARPS, as well as all the other items from previous lists.

8:25 am: Doctors and nurses boarding the next flight to Crooked Island, accompanied by Archdeacon Keith Cartwright.

8:20 am: First plane is in the air, a seaplane headed for southern Long Island. Two more taxiing out now, bound for Rum Cay and Crooked Island.

8:00 am: We are expecting five more pilots and their planes to join us from Florida today. Thank you to our brothers and sisters in the North for their support!

7:00 am: So far, we have 21 flights scheduled for the day, covering Crooked Island, Long Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador. Unfortunately, we are unable to safely fly into Acklins at this point, but we will be carrying several RBDF Marines to Crooked Island, who are expected to assisst with clearing the runway in Spring Point.