One Lone Election Observer

Tomorrow, Silly Season 2017 will be over. What will follow Silly Season though? In an ideal world, we would have elected a government which, with a fresh democratic mandate, will get to work to implement its plans for a better future for our Bahamaland. And an opposition that will constructively criticise the government and ensure that their policies truly benefit all Bahamians, and not just members of one political tribe.

However, there have been signs that Silly Season 2017 may just be the prelude for Election Court Season 2017, and that we run the risk of deadlock administered by a government of questionable democratic legitimacy. Unfortunately, our opposition parties have been suspiciously quiet on the issue so far, perpetuating a pattern that we have observed across the political landscape over the past five years. Instead of playing their part in the responsible governance of our country, opposition parties have sat back and enjoyed watching a train wreck from front row seats – only speaking out when they considered it politically expedient.

This is a list of some occurrences around the 2017 general election that raise doubts about the integrity of the exercise:

  1. Non-Registration of citizens whose outfits the employees of the Parliamentary Registration Department found objectionable. While BJ Nottage, as Minister with responsibility for elections, spoke out relatively quickly on the issue and reminded the PRD of their duty to register all eligible voters, the response from the Parliamentary Registration Department and its then-Commissioner Sherlyn Hall lacked sincerity. More importantly, though, it may have already deterred persons from trying to register again, and thus de facto suppressed their votes.
  2. The Report of the Constituencies Commission was not prepared and submitted to the Governor-General within the timeframe mandated by the Constitution. Article 70 states that this must be done “at intervals of not more than five years.” Being late is not being slack. It’s being in violation of the country’s fundamental law.
  3. The Order by the Governor-General laid before the House of Assembly as a result of the Constituency Commission’s Report contained changes. These changes were made by the Prime Minister after the opposition representative had signed the Report. This is very poor style in a democracy, but, according to the letter of the law, within the realm of what is constitutional in the Bahamas. However, in such cases, the Constitution demands that the PM “lay before the House of Assembly together with the draft a statement of the reasons for the modifications.” Whether the reasons for the change were satisfactorily stated is a matter for debate.
  4. The Voters Register contained glaring errors. Weeks before the election, it became apparent that the information contained was in many cases erroneous, with some voters’ birth dates as far back as the 18th century or as recent as this year. It also became apparent that some voters were registered more than once. Given the level of disorganisation that the Parliamentary Registration Department and its Commissioner Sherlyn Hall have displayed over the past couple of years, especially during the Constitutional Referendum where some results were reported that were not only obviously wrong but plain impossible, the public’s confidence in the Parliamentary Registration Department having discovered and rectified the errors in the short time since is minimal at best.
  5. The majority of candidates filled in their nomination papers incorrectly, and the Parliamentary Registration Department did not check. We all know that the veracity of the information contained in these documents is not checked, but one would expect that the Parliamentary Registration Department would not accept nomination papers that did not even meet the formal requirements. The most common error made, incidentally, was that most candidates forgot to put their names on Form E – the Declaration of Assets, Income and Liabilities. Unfortunately, there were further mistakes made by the Parliamentary Registration Department in the transmission of the candidates’ nomination papers to the newspaper, and by the newspaper in the layout stages, so that for some candidates some or even all of the information has not been published, meaning the electorate is prevented from scrutinising the information.
  6. By the previous Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall’s admission, the voter register was certified late. Given the errors mentioned above, it is remarkable that Hall was confident enough to certify it at all.
  7. The certified register must be made available to all candidates upon request but apparently, some candidates are more equal than others. One candidate proudly declared on social media that this was done in the time stipulated by law, however, other candidates not affiliated with the same party suggest that this was not done in all cases in the timeframe stipulated by law, that it was still not done by the end of the advance poll.
  8. The advance poll was a disaster. The lines were so long that this led, in some cases, to de facto voter suppression. In many cases, participants in the advance poll found that their names were not on the lists and were prevented from casting a regular ballot; they were not given the opportunity to cast a protest vote either and thus stripped of their right to vote. Furthermore, many overseas polling stations ran out of ballots; this, too, de facto disenfranchised a number of voters.
  9. The replacement of Sherlyn Hall must raise eyebrows. To replace a Parliamentary Commissioner in the seven days between the advance poll and the general election is unfortunate, though given the level of incompetence displayed by Sherlyn Hall, keeping him on may have been even more unfortunate. However, questions remain. Officially, to save face, Sherly Hall left because his contract happened to expire between the advance poll and the general election, that he did not seek a renewal, that he was going to retire. If you organise an election and overlook the date on the contract of the person in charge of that entire exercise, then you are either incompetent or deliberately want to create chaos. However, a few days later, the Acting Parliamentary Commissioner Charles Albury declares that the previous Parliamentary Commissioner and now retiree Sherly Hall has in fact been retained as a consultant. This makes no sense. What makes the least sense though is who orchestrated the replacement. Newspaper reported that in the aftermath of the advance poll, high-ranking representatives of the governing party have been seen going in and out of the Parliamentary Registration Department, and the announcement that an Acting Parliamentary Commissioner had been appointed came from the Cabinet Office. However, according to law, it is the Governor-General, which at least in theory is a non-partisan position, who appoints the Commissioner, and not the politicians running for (re)election.
  10. By the Acting Parliamentary Commissioner Charles Albury’s admission, the register, despite certification, contains “clerical errors.” Albury’s choice of words – “think” and “would” – does not instill confidence: “I think to that extent in terms of the multiple names or rather the double registering, I think that would have been cleaned up.”
  11. The political parties’ campaigns seem to be fuelled by potentially illegally obtained information about the competition. The political opponents are frequently accused of illegal doings. However, this is only ever done on the campaign trail, demonstrating that our politicians do not care about enforcing the law and making offenders face legal consequences for wrongdoings, but rather use such information for blackmail and politricking. One thing that has been lacking from the campaign is visions and policy proposals and discussions of the same.

If you can think of any more irregularities surrounding the 2017 Bahamian election, please share them with me, and I will see if I can update this list. In an anxious, nervous way, I am looking forward to reading the reports of the four international organisations observing our elections this year.



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

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

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

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

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

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.