I Ain’t the Daddy Baby

The current election season is characterised, once again, by a kind of rhetoric that has irked me for many years, for it disempowers people, and it glorifies individuals in elected positions. In a democracy, the demos – the body politic, the citizens, the electorate – should be sovereign. The rhetoric that we hear, however, does not subscribe to this ideal; instead, it ignores it, hoping that we will allow it to be forgotten. Both the FNM and the PLP have steered the discourse in a different direction, and made leadership their new ideal.

Prime Minister Ingraham campaigns as “Papa.” The FNM’s campaign posters have, in their first phase, reduced the election issues to a single slogan – “proven leadership.” The planned climax of this attempt to turn the Bahamian electorate into a group of children following this father figure of a leader was a television ad in which Pindling called Ingraham “the most illustrious protégé of mine thus far.” (I think I heard a hint of sarcasm in his voice, but I digress.) We, the Bahamian electorate, are therefore expected to hand the government to Ingraham again, preferably by acclamation, for Ingraham is presented to us as Pindling’s rightful heir, as the anointed leader.

The PLP’s response to this, however, does not seriously make an attempt to broach this issue of Ingraham’s paternalistic and patriarchal abuse of the democratic process. It may try to ridicule the nickname (“Papa Clown,” “Papa Doc,” still waiting for “Papa Smurf”), but in the end, the PLP adopts the same attitude, presenting instead Christie as Pindling’s rightful heir, as the anointed leader.

What both fail to understand is that in a democracy, the sovereign, and that is the people, choose the successor, not the predecessor. Heirs are chosen in dictatorships. Anointed leaders in theocracies. I do not wish to live in either. The two main parties in the country have opted to forgo discussing policies in this campaign, to the point of not just declining but ignoring an invitation they received by the School of Social Sciences at The College of The Bahamas to participate in a pre-election debate. Instead, they are steering us down the path of tribal rivalry. Failing to explain what makes one party “free” and “national” or the other “progressive” and “liberal,” we are presented with the choice between “red” and “gold.” The most benevolent comparison that comes to mind is that of a sporting event.

Personality Cult

Joey Gaskins, part-time lecturer in Sociology at The College of The Bahamas, offers this: “I think the mythology that was constructed around Sir Lynden Pindling post-independence is dangerous. Yes, Pindling was an integral part of the movement toward independence, but it did not start with him, and the project is obviously not completed. The fight for the liberation of black Bahamians started long before the establishment of the PLP … What kind of democracy do we have when we squabble over who is the ‘rightful heir’ to Pindling’s legacy or the ‘anointed leader’ to continue ‘his work’? This is OUR work, and our politicians will do well to remember that THEY work for us. As far as I’m concerned, it is time for Pindlings’s so-called ‘protégés’ to take a seat. The kind of messianic politics they subscribe to may have been useful to lead Bahamians ‘out of colonialism’ but it is ultimately problematic.”

For a long time now, I have been worried by the kind of blind adulation of Pindling in our society. We have lifted him onto a pedestal and we stare in awe. We are sitting on our asses, waiting for the next Moses to come and continue “his work,” when instead we ought to be rolling up our sleeves and work on building our nation together, a nation that to this day remains unfinished.

However, the personality cult in today’s Bahamas obscures this fact. Regardless of the outright biblical reference that equates Pindling to Moses, even his other nickname, “Father of the Nation,” contributes to this. It distorts reality, as the observation by Felix Bethel, Associate Professor of Political Science at The College of The Bahamas, demonstrates, who argues that, when the colonial rulers left in 1973, we had a system of government, but we still do not have a nation to this day. If we have no nation, then this non-existent nation can hardly have a father.

The commonly accepted version of Bahamian historiography credits Pindling and the PLP with ending the “agro-commercial oligarchy” (Michael Craton & Gail Saunders) of the UBP, giving us “majority rule” instead. However, I would argue that, since the 1960s, the oligarchy has merely been modified, not ended. Ever since, our politicians have subscribed to a “kind of messianic politics” (Joey Gaskins) that they learned from one man: Pindling. Whether Ingraham or Christie is irrelevant, as both of them admit, proudly, that they were his protégés. The Bahamas never saw the development of a broad politically participating class. Consequently, the political realm remained under the yoke of a very limited elite clique, which is one reason why we are now confronted with terminology such as “heirs” and “anointed leaders.” The exercise in which candidates for the general elections have to declare their assets speaks to this: on average, candidates of both the FNM and the PLP declared a net worth of $1.9 million; the assumed underdogs of the DNA still declared an average net worth of $1.2 million.

Show Me The Money

The 21st-century Bahamas remains a paternalistic society, because we believed that emancipation was an event rather than an ongoing, never-ending process, and because we have allowed a single generation of Bahamians to monopolise our memory. Our currency is a good example of this. Our banknotes portray almost exclusively male politicians who peaked in the decade that saw us move first towards internal self-government and then to independence. Almost exclusively? Yes, a foreign woman is on three of them: Queen Elizabeth II, whose portrait is on the $100 bill, as well as (I believe, I do not recall the last time I saw them), the $3 and $1/2 bills.

  • $1 – Sir Lynden Pindling
  • $5 – Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield
  • $10 – Sir Stafford Sands
  • $20 – Sir Milo Butler
  • $50 – Sir Roland Symonette

This list represent only men, only politicians, and only representatives from one generation of Bahamians. Where did we get our inspiration from, if we can call it that? Our next door neighbour, the United States of America? Well, they only have male politicians on their money, but at least they have different generations represented; the same is essentially true for Canada. However, many other countries have ended their paying homage to male politicians, and now honour a wider cross-section of citizens.

The current series of the the British pound features Elizabeth Fry (social reformer, 1780-1845), Charles Darwin (naturalist, 1809-1882), Adam Smith (economist, 1723-1790), John Houblon (banker, 1632-1712), and Matthew Boulton (manufacturer, 1728-1809). Australia offers us, besides the Queen, John Macarthur (politician, 1767-1834), Joseph Banks (botanist, 1734-1820), Francis Greenway (architect, 1777-1837), Charles Kingsford Smith (aviator, 1897-1935), Howard Florey (pathologist, 1898-1968), and Douglas Mawson (geologist, 1882-1958). While Australian banknotes are still male dominated, I decided to include them in this list, because incidentally, Charles Kingsford Smith also has the country’s largest airport, Sydney International, named after him. Several years ago, when Bahamian politicians (aka Pindling’s protégés) decided to name Nassau International Airport after Pindling, I had already argued against the perpetuated personality cult, suggesting to name Nassau’s airport after one of our Bahamian aviation pioneers, such as Albert E. Forsythe or Patrice Clarke-Washington, instead.

With precedent duly established, I ask why all my money looks the same? Why do we not celebrate the multitude of Bahamians who have contributed to this country in so many different ways? Why can I not pay with a Joseph Spence, a Keva Bethel, or a Pompey?

This personality cult impairs our judgement and prevents us from making informed decisions. Our parties make no effort to truly empower Bahamians, for their structures are utterly undemocratic, too. Crowds at PLP rallies cheer when they are told that their former “leader” had to “twist a lot of arms at the PLP Convention” to get his chosen one elected. Why should anyone be allowed to twist arms in a democracy? As Ian Strachan, Associate Professor of English at The College of The Bahamas, recently pointed out, it is the leader-centred structures of our parties that perpetuate the undemocratic climate in our society.

In nine days time, we are asked to choose between two protégés and the protégé of a protégé, who has also already demonstrated that his understanding of democracy is similarly limited, when he proudly declared that as party leader it was his, and only his, decision to choose in which constituency he may want to run. We are asked to choose between three men, who call themselves leaders, who deny that the other two are leaders, who expect us to follow. What they forget is the same lesson their teacher apparently forgot, though he used to preach it himself. On Black Tuesday, 27th April, 1965, Pindling said,” Authority in this island belongs to the people… Yes, the people are outside, and the mace belongs outside, too!”

I make for a poor follower, so please do not come knocking on my door campaigning on “leadership.”

Why Marco’s Law Won’t Help Marco

(This article is based on a presentation given at the “National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect” hosted by the Crisis Centre in Nassau, Bahamas, on 24th April, 2012)


Last November, the Crisis Centre hosted a one-day National Summit on Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). Stakeholders from different sectors of our society, such as representatives from the Social Services, Health Professions, Education and Law Enforcement, attended and engaged in lively discussion. This conference now affords us the opportunity to follow up on the discussion. I would like to thank the Crisis Centre for organising this event, which is so important for our society, and I would like to thank Dr. Sandra Dean Patterson for inviting me to share some of my thoughts on the current debate about a National Sex Offenders Register for The Bahamas.

In the current election campaign, at least one political party is proposing the creation of such a register under the slogan “Marco’s Law.” This article will approach the subject from a number of perspectives. First, I will address the possible functions served by such a register, focussing less on the viewpoint of government agencies, but rather taking the public expectations into consideration. This will be followed by highlighting the findings of select international studies and their analyses of commonly discussed reactions and responses to CSA, especially criminal justice approaches.

In a next step, I will share with you some statistical and polling data that I have collected in The Bahamas over the past months. I believe that this will allow us to discuss whether a National Sex Offenders Register can meet the expectations that the public may have. As is often the case, public discussion on serious issues tends to call for quick and simple answers. I will demonstrate this by analysing another recent poll, conducted internationally on a social media network.

In my conclusion, I attempt to tie these various aspects together, and hope to present some strategies for future consideration, as we as a nation try to tackle the problem of Childhood Sexual Abuse.

  1. Purpose of a National Sex Offenders Register

The purpose of a Sex Offenders Register is not defined by what it can actually do, but by what its creators would like it to do. For this purpose, I am showing you two quotes, one by an Australian non-governmental organisation (NGO) and one by the United States Department of Justice.

The Australian NGO in question calls itself MAKO, Movement Against Kindred Offenders. It operates a website listing over 1,500 sex offenders without any legal mandate. The information contained in this database is compiled by volunteer contributors, who require no special training. In fact, you can report people via e-mail. The purpose for doing so is not directly given on their website, rather it is implied in some of pseudo-factual claims it makes. Further, it alludes to a number of other myths surrounding the issue of CSA:

“Many thousands of convicted Paedophiles/Sex Offenders/Child Killers ‘already’ live in ‘unsuspecting’ … communities, including near schools/playgrounds etc… and they are likely to RE-OFFEND… The State/Federal government/s should be providing YOU with access to sex offender registries, letting you know, who and where they are.” (Movement Against Kindred Offenders.)

If one were to follow MAKO’s website, one ought to become very concerned, and would immediately recognise why their listings of sex offenders are helpful to the ordinary citizen: Sex offenders are portrayed as perverts who lurk behind every corner to prey upon random children in the vicinity. These people are apparently frequently caught, but dealt with too leniently by the authorities. Upon returning to civilian life, they are bound to reoffend, because you cannot cure their perversion. However, the Center for Sex Offenders Management (CSOM), an organisation created by the U.S. Department of Justice, sheds a different light on these claims and debunks many of them as myths, as will be demonstrated later.

Yet, while remaining even more vague than the Australian NGO about the purpose of their website, another agency of the U.S. Department of Justice offers its own public sex offenders register:

“The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW) provides an opportunity for … an unprecedented public safety resource by sharing public sex offender data nationwide, working collaboratively for the safety of both adults and children. … Parents, employers, and other concerned residents can utilize the Website’s search tool as a safety resource to identify location information on sex offenders residing, working, and attending school not only in their own neighborhoods but in other nearby states and communities as well.” (U.S. Dept. of Justice.)

To see how the database worked, I entered the address of a friend of mine in the U.S., set the radius to one mile, and found myself looking at a screen listing no less than ten registered sex offenders in their neighbourhood. On this screen, I could now either click on symbols of houses displayed on a map, or scroll down for an alphabetical list of the offenders, and, by clicking on their names, I was given access to their personal information, their photo, vehicle information, court information, etc. They may as well walk around the street with a sign around their necks.

  1. Analysis of Criminal Justice Responses to CSA

In his examination of legislated initiatives aimed at preventing CSA, David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center and Professor of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire, criticises that none of the high profile strategies – that are those most recognised by the public, such as Sex Offenders Registers – have “been built on empirical evaluation, and … have gone to the national scale without research or even much pilot testing. Several have been legislated and implemented over the objections of sex-offender management authorities. … they also appear to be creating many serious fiscal, bureaucratic and legal problems, as well as having other negative consequences.” (Finkelhor, p. 170.)

One major challenge any criminal justice response to CSA cannot overcome is the fact that the criminal justice system cannot respond to what is not reported. Most victims of CSA do not report the crime. The other major challenge the criminal justice system faces when responding to CSA is the political need to satisfy an electorate whose public discussion is largely not based on research findings, but on popular myths and misconceptions, such as the ones pointed out by a publication of the Center for Sex Offender Management.

  • Myth: “Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers.”
  • Fact: Most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim or the victim’s family, regardless of whether the victim is a child or an adult.
  • “Approximately 60% of boys and 80% of girls who are sexually victimized are abused by someone known to the child or the child’s family (Lieb, Quinsey, and Berliner, 1998). / “Relatives, friends, baby-sitters, persons in positions of authority over the child, or persons who supervise children are more likely than strangers to commit a sexual assault.” (CSOM, p. 1.)
  • Myth: “The majority of sexual offenders are caught, convicted, and in prison.”
  • Fact: Only a fraction of those who commit sexual assault are apprehended and convicted for their crimes.
  • Many victims do not report the crime to the police; many do not even report it to friends or family members. Victims are more likely to report sexual crimes if the perpetrator is a stranger, but – as we have seen – more often than not, the crime is committed by a person known to the victim.
  • Myth: “Most sex offenders reoffend.”
  • Fact: Reconviction data suggest that this is not the case.
  • “It is noteworthy that recidivism rates for sex offenders are lower than for the general criminal population.” (CSOM, p. 3.) / “Child molesters are more likely to be educated and employed than other criminals, which …may help explain their relatively lower recidivism.” (Finkelhor, p. 172.)
  • Myth: “Treatment for sex offenders is ineffective.”
  • Fact: “Treatment programs can contribute to community safety because those who attend … are less likely to re-offend …” (CSOM, p. 5.)
  • Apart from treatment after-the-fact, which is nothing but a response to a crime that has already been committed, there are now, in fact, pilot projects such as the Prevention Project Dunkelfeld, which aims at targetting potential child molesters before they commit an offense. (Beier et al.)
  • Myth: “The cost of treating and managing sex offenders … is too high – they belong behind bars.”
  • Fact: “One year of intensive supervision and treatment … can range in cost between $5,000 and $15,000 … The average cost for incarcerating an offender is … approximately $22,000 per year, excluding treatment costs.” (CSOM, p. 6.)
  • These numbers are from the United States, similar figures for The Bahamas are currently unavailable.

As much of the public discussion is based on the myths I just recounted, one popular demand is for a National Sex Offenders Register, preferably one that is publicly accessible, for instance via the Internet. Finkelhor’s study, however, concludes that such a register may in fact be more likely to cause additional, rather than alleviate existing, problems. It is easy to see why it would be harder for a registered, publicly known sex offender to reintegrate into society after serving their sentence. Just ask yourself, “Would you hire them?”

This could then, create a boomerang effect caused by public stigmatisation. Some studies, for example, measure higher recidivism rates for registered sex offenders than for unregistered sex offenders, suggesting that the additional difficulty in finding housing or employment caused by public labelling may be a factor contributing to this phenomenon.

Registration is only one element of the criminal justice response affecting the time period post conviction. Others include community notification (which often goes hand in hand with registration), mandatory background checks, residency restrictions and the so-called “civil commitment” procedures, a euphemism which allow some persons to be held even after they served their sentence. Finkelhor concludes in his analysis that the “strongest justification [of criminal justice strategies] is that they are widely seen by the public as part of a system that holds people accountable for serious crimes and provides a measure of justice for victims and their families. Such justifications may even trump evidence eventually showing that the strategies fail to reduce risk.” (Finkelhor, p. 178.) Human Rights Watch is characterises these approaches as “punitive,” and suggests that serious efforts to prevent CSA from happening cannot rely on “one-size-fits-all laws.” (Human Rights Watch, p. 12.)

  1. Analysis of Survey Conducted in The Bahamas

This survey, which was conducted online, was designed to allow for a closer examination of certain respondent groups, while at all times guaranteeing the full anonymity of the participants. The objectives for it were as follows:

  • Demonstrate the prevalence of perpetrators known to the victim as opposed to perpetrators who are strangers.
  • Get an impression of the amount of CSA that remains unreported.
  • See if there is an indication on whether CSA has been increasing or decreasing over time.
  • Gauge the support among the Bahamian public for a National Sex Offenders Register.

A full list of the survey questions can be found at the end of this article. Some of the findings were as follows:

  • 28.3% of respondents reported that they were sexually abused as children.

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  • Of those who were abused, 88.9% of respondents knew the perpetrator prior to the abuse. In most cases, these were family members, but also teachers, neighbours, sports coaches or family friends.

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  • In only 12.9% of the cases of CSA, did the victim actually report the crime to family members.

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  • In only 3.2% of the cases of CSA, was the crime reported to the authorities. 96.8% of cases were not reported to the authorities and therefore do not show up in official crime statistics.

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These numbers can be broken down further. If we look at cases, where the perpetrator was know to the victim, we see that they are less likely to be reported. Of these only 6.9% were reported to family members immediately – and none were reported to the authorities. Of the cases were the perpetrator was a stranger, 66.7% were reported to family members immediately, and 33.3% were reported to the authorities. This is most likely the main cause for the common misconception that the perpetrators are usually strangers lurking in dark corners, because only reported cases get media coverage, and “stranger rape” is much more likely to be reported. In the vast majority of CSA cases, however, the perpetrator is known to the victim; these cases are much less likely to be reported. If they are not reported, they do not get media coverage. If they do not get media coverage, they remain hidden from public awareness.

  • 0% of the cases in this study led to the perpetrator being convicted in a court of law.

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The reported rates of CSA remained within the expected margin of error for all respondent age group from eighteen years of age to fifty years of age, indicating that contrary to popular belief there has not been a steady increase of CSA in The Bahamas over the years. However, data from current minors is missing, as this group was excluded from the survey, and there were too few respondents aged fifty or higher to make a statement about this group.

There is, without a doubt, an overwhelming public support for a National Sex Offenders Register. 83.1% of Bahamian respondents want to see this measure implemented (12.4% undecided, 4.5% against); 71.9% want this database to be publicly accessible (14.6% undecided, 13.5% against). Interestingly though, while victims of CSA still favour the creation of such a register, the support is measurably lower: 69.2% in favour, 23.1% undecided, 7.7% against.

  1. Implications for a National Sex Offenders Register
The results of this survey, while limited, show a few things:
  • Because CSA is hardly ever reported, a Sex Offenders Register would exclude most offenders.
  • Most perpetrators are known to the victim, usually in a capacity where they enjoy privileged access to the victim.
  • Both of the above points strongly suggest that a register would potentially create a false sense of security, and may in fact make people less vigilant.
  • Because of the low rate of reporting and prosecuting CSA, any possible deterrent effect remains questionable at best.

We have seen that for every case of CSA that is reported to the authorities, there are 30 that are not. Unfortunately, my sample size was too small to even come across a single case that led to a conviction of an offender. If this had been a data collection exercise to build a National Sex Offenders register, the register would now be empty. There would be zero sex offenders registered. If you looked at that kind of register, you would be forced to conclude that “It’s better in The Bahamas.”

  1. Facebook Poll and its Implications for a National Sex Offenders Register

A very simplistic online poll posted on the immensely popular social networking site Facebook, via the Causes application, highlights some clear trends and opinions amongst the general population. The question – that is, the only question – was, “Should sex offenders be allowed to use the Internet?” 90% of respondents said no, and this result is no surprise. As the report by Human Rights Watch remarks, “One of the things sex offenders know is what the world thinks of them.” (Human Rights Watch, p. 130.) And if they did not know before, they would after reading the comments posted underneath that online poll.

The result was predictable, but it may be necessary to point out that the question was about the Internet in general, not about social networking sites in particular. The pros and cons of this are discussed in an article by Tracy Clark-Flory on Salon.com.

What is new about polls in the age of social networking is that participants can not only comment on the subject matter, but most do so with their full name, and usually their profile picture, too. The vast majority of these emphasise the point made by Human Rights Watch, and I invite you to take a closer look at what it is people suggest, but I must warn you that you do so at your own risk.

The implications this seemingly global poll has for the question of a National Sex Offenders Register for The Bahamas are worth discussing, and I might add that there were Bahamian Facebook users commenting on the poll.  Anybody who follows the local news can see that there is a problem with violent crime in The Bahamas. Frequently, police statements about shootings or stabbings suggest that one frequent motive is revenge – revenge, often for other crimes committed that are, in fact, punishable according to the laws of our land.

However, the rule of law is being challenged. Not because Bahamians generally disagree with the laws we have on the books, but because many believe that the law is powerless, either because crimes are not solved, because criminals are not being punished to the fullest extent of the law, or because suspects are acquitted. If the law is being challenged on these grounds, whether this is fact or just the perception of some outspoken persons in the community, and the symptom is revenge crime, then we have, as a country, taken a step towards vigilante justice.

In this context I also find it interesting that many of the people commenting on Facebook explicitly mentioned that sex offenders, in their minds, forfeited any Human Rights. If you deny a person Human Rights, you are essentially delegating them to the level of an outlaw in a medieval legal context, and that means precisely that they would not be entitled to any protection from vigilante justice.

Now reflect on the sentiments expressed about sex offenders earlier, and add that to the mix. If people feel that our laws and the agencies enforcing them are letting people off too easily, I do not find it hard to imagine that publicly known sex offenders would in fact have to fear vigilante justice, be it in the form of lone ambushers or in the form of outright lynch mobs.

Also, as there is considerable doubt amongst the general public in our police and our justice system that criminals will be dealt with according to the law, what is to suggest that there is a different sentiment prevalent amongst potential or actual criminals? However, if criminals believe that the law will not be enforced, or in other words, that they will get away with the crimes they commit, then there really is not much of a deterrent factor measurable, no matter what the theoretical punishment for a crime might be.

  1. Conclusion: Alternative Strategies

As should be quite obvious by now, I do not think that a public National Sex Offenders Register for The Bahamas is a good idea, regardless of whether it is publicly accessible or not. Once an offender has served the sentence provided by the law, they deserve a second chance. If we do not believe this, we do not believe in rehabilitation. If we do not believe in rehabilitation, then we ought to, as a logical consequence, make all sentences for life.

A Sex Offenders Register in The Bahamas would, I believe, have a very negative impact on society, because, more than other, larger countries, we are in many ways still a face-to-face society, and because we currently lack faith in our criminal justice system. These two factors combined seriously increase the risk of vigilante justice as described above.

Even if my fears of vigilante justice were proven wrong, Finkelhor’s study suggests a boomerang effect, which would likely increase in a face-to-face society such as ours. Any measure that may lead to higher rates of reoffending need to be carefully researched before being implemented, and the body of research available for the particular situation in The Bahamas is still negligible.

Furthermore, even if we disregards the question of convicted sex offenders reoffending, the next question that must be asked, is whether such a register might have a deterrent effect on new, would-be offenders. We currently lack international studies that conclusively show Sex Offenders Registers having a measurable deterrent effect. While there are jurisdictions with such registers where sex offenses have decreased, it has also been noted that the decrease is only a continued trend that began before the introduction of said registers. In our situation, where the conviction rate is as low as it is, the deterrent effect has to be seriously questioned.

Finally, I see one more major problem a Sex Offenders Register could create. It would lull us into a false sense of security. As we have seen, most cases of CSA remain unreported. Of those that are reported, few lead to convictions. A National Sex Offenders Register would be no more than the proverbial tip of the iceberg. However, many unsuspecting parents would then falsely believe that, through access to a National Sex Offenders Register, they would know where the dangers lurk. Such a register would run the risk of making us less careful, less vigilant in our behaviour, our upbringing of our children. By the time we find out, if we ever find out, that we were mistaken, it is too late.

For all these reasons, what some politicians currently propose as “Marco’s Law,” won’t help Marco. A National Sex Offenders Register seems a poor tool in preventing abuse as well as a questionable punishment. Most importantly, it cannot undo what happened to Marco Archer.

The strongest case I could make in favour of a National Sex Offenders Register is the wide public support this proposal enjoys. I would not be a good democrat if I opposed it. Or would I? Well, a truly democratic society must always remember that decisions must be made in the best interest of all citizens, and that majority decisions must protect – not violate – the rights of minorities, the legitimate concerns of dissenters. I believe that I have shown that a National Sex Offenders Register would not be beneficial to society as a whole, would potentially violate the right to rehabilitation, and would also potentially create additional problems. With that in mind, maybe a popular majority needs to surrender to reason.

I would like to end on a less pessimistic note, and suggest some alternative strategies. They are not easy fixes, and they are not cheap for they require substantial investment in our human resources in the widest sense. They consist of multiple measures, and none of them can stand alone. Instead, we need a multi-pronged approach:

  1. Education – of Teachers, Children and Parents: Increased awareness may help prevent some occurrences of CSA, and has been linked to increased reporting of CSA. Increased reporting may in fact work as a deterrent. Increased awareness has also been linked in studies to slighly decreased rates of CSA, as children with the right kind of education are more likely to resist the attempts of an offender, who is then more likely to back down. Their biggest advantage is the victim’s fear to speak up; this advantage would be diminished.

  2. Detection Training – of Law Enforcement, Medical Professions, Teachers: If other professionals recognise signs of CSA earlier, it would enable them to help victims and prosecute offenders, even if victims do not dare speak up on their own.

  3. Special Units – in Law Enforcement and Social Services: Currently, many victims choose to remain silent for fear of becoming a victim all over again, if they report the crime. Be it while being medically examined, questioned by police, or giving testimony in court. Special units, trained and equipped to deal with CSA can make this long road from reporting crime to convicting the perpetrator less traumatising for the victims and their families than it is at the moment. International pilot projects exist and have yielded promising results.

  4. Partnerships – with Childrens Organisations, Women’s Organisations, Animal Rights Groups: Unlikely allies can, in fact, help pick up on warning signs early on. Animal abuse, for instance, is regularly reported, and has been linked in international as well as Bahamian studies with increased rates of domestic violence. Social services could monitor homes where animal abuse has been reported more closely for signs of other abuse.

  5. Mobilisation – of Bystanders: This has proven helpful elsewhere. Even if perpetrators do not change their behaviour, and victims do not dare to speak up, bystanders, who at the moment too often turn a blind eye, can help. One may also consider threatening such bystanders with harsher punishments, as the threat of punishment has a greater deterrent factor on otherwise law abiding members of society than on would-be offenders.

  6. Treatment – of both Past Offenders, as well as Would-Be Offenders: This too has yielded some promising results elsewhere. It is going to be a very unpopular sell to a public that largely wants a register, rather than investments in offenders, even if, as I believe I have shown, we demand the register for all the wrong reasons.

    Bibliography


Appendix – Survey on Child Sexual Abuse in The Bahamas

1. What is you gender?

  • Female
  • Male

2. What is your age?

  • 18-21 years
  • 22-30 years
  • 31-40 years
  • 41-50 years
  • 51-60 years
  • 60 years or older

 3. Where do you currently reside?

  • The Bahamas
  • Other Caribbean Country
  • North America
  • South America
  • Africa
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Other

4. Were you sexually abused by an adult when you were 15 years of age or younger?

  • No
  • Yes

5. If you were a victim of child sexual abuse, where did this occur?

  • The Bahamas
  • Other Caribbean Country
  • North America
  • South America
  • Africa
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Other

6. How old were you, when this sexual abuse occurred?

  • 8 years or younger
  • 9-10 years
  • 11-12 years
  • 13-15 years
  • I don’t remember.

7. Was the perpetrator who sexually abused you male or female?

  • Female
  • Male
  • Don’t Know / Other

8. Did you know the perpetrator prior to the sexual abuse?

  • No
  • Yes
  • Don’t Know (e.g. “Could not see the perpetrator.”)

9. If you knew the perpetrator prior to the abuse, was it a…

  • Family member living in the same household as you
  • Family member living in a different household
  • Friend
  • Family friend
  • Neighbour
  • Teacher, Tutor, or Sports Coach
  • Other

10. As far as you know, had the perpetrator been convicted, in a court of law, for child sexual abuse prior to abusing you?

  • Yes
  • No

11. Did you report the sexual abuse to a family member or friend?

  • No
  • Yes, immediately.
  • Yes, within a few days.
  • Yes, within a few months.
  • Yes, within a few years.
  • Yes, but only once I was an adult.

12. Did you, or anybody else, report the sexual abuse to the police or any other official authority (e.g. Crisis Centre, hospital)?

  • No
  • Yes
  • Don’t Know

13. Was the perpetrator convicted, in a court of law, for sexually abusing you?

  • No
  • Yes
  • Don’t Know

14. As far as you know, did the perpetrator sexually abuse other children after sexually abusing you?

  • No
  • Yes

15. Was the perpetrator convicted for a case of sexual child abuse committed after they had sexually abused you?

  • No
  • Yes
  • Don’t Know

16. Are you in favour of a National Sex Offenders Register?

  • No
  • Yes
  • Undecided

17. If there was a National Sex Offenders Register, should the information be publicly accessible, e.g. via the Internet?

  • No
  • Yes
  • Undecided

The Founding Mothers’ Legacy

(This article was first published in The Nassau Guardian on 30th March, 2012.)

In her 1959 speech before the Members of the House of Assembly, Dame Dr. Doris Johnson described the women’s suffrage movement as “a revolt in the hearts of Bahamian women.” In recognition of these heroines, who were first allowed to exercise their right to vote 50 years ago, The College of the Bahamas, from March 6th-9th, 2012, hosted a symposium under the theme, “Commemorating the Past, Reflecting on the Present, Envisioning the Future: 1962 and Beyond.”

Connecting past, present and future, afforded the symposium’s panellists and audience the opportunity to analyse the development of gender issues in a broader context, thereby igniting a national discourse on the subject. Arguably, this approach is indeed a most befitting memorial to the suffragettes and their legacy. During the symposium, Dr. Christopher Curry, Assistant Professor of History, argued passionately that the women’s suffrage movement never saw the vote as an end in itself, but only as a tool for transformation. Only if women were given a voice in politics, could women expect their concerns to translate into policies that would recognise them as being of equal value, that would grant them equal opportunities, and that would offer them equal protection under the law.

However, it was also argued that when women finally gained the right to vote in 1961, and when they were finally able to exercise this right in 1962, these objectives had to take the backseat, because other issues were seen as more pressing at the time. It was the decade during which Majority Rule was achieved, it was the decade leading up to independence, and the women’s vote was seen as crucial to achieve the numbers necessary to realise these aims at the polls. The female vote had become instrumentalised in the race and class struggle of the 1960s.

Nonetheless, progress has been made since then. E’Thegra Symonette, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice, pointed out that mechanisms to prevent, or at least prosecute, domestic violence are a direct result of the right of women to vote. Yet only minutes later, the audience was reminded of other realities which paint a grim picture of gender discrimination in the 21st-century Bahamas. Dr. Nicolette Bethel, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, demonstrated how our citizenship laws classify women as second-class Bahamians, a discrimination Bahamians, male and female, chose to reaffirm in the 2002 referendum. Furthermore, Margo Blackwell, Associate Professor in the School of Education, presented data showing that women with bachelor’s degrees get paid as much – or as little – as men with associate degrees, and women with master’s degrees receive about the same as men with bachelor’s degrees. So, while Bahamian women outperform their male counterparts in educational achievement, they do not reap the rewards.

Gender inequality is still a problem in the 21st-century Bahamas, and it often goes unnoticed. In his presentation on “Law, Gender and Institutional Structures,” Michael Stevenson, Associate Professor of Law and Criminal Justice, analysed how seemingly gender neutral language in Bahamian law can in fact perpetuate the oppression of women. It was not long ago that we saw a heated, sometimes deceptive, debate about “marital rape,” which I am forced to put in inverted commas, as, legally speaking, it does not exist in this country even though it is a reality.

Marital rape is one of many forms of domestic violence, and the victims of domestic violence are predominantly women. By not recognising marital rape as such, Bahamian law fails to give women the protection that every Bahamian citizen deserves, and by accepting this legal inequality, we accept our society as discriminatory. The tools for transformation may therefore indeed lie in the past. To honour the women’s suffrage movement’s legacy, whose rational political acumen and strategic approach helped shape the nature of the Quiet Revolution and thereby the genesis of our democracy, we ought to make the pursuit of its unfinished agenda our mission.

Marcus Garvey, founder of the pan-Africanist Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” Herein lies the cause of what some describe as the current crisis in Bahamian national identity, because, when the British left The Bahamas in 1973, they left us with a system of government, but we did not have a nation.

Nation building is an ongoing process; thus Bahamian identity should be in fluid motion. One of the most acute commentators on Bahamian social issues today is Joey Gaskins, a doctoral student in Sociology at the London School of Economics, who followed the events online. In his Twitter feed he described “national cultures” and “national identities” to have been “scripted to exclude.” I would like to posit that at the end of our “identity crisis,” we might emerge to define being a “true Bahamian” as something to aim for, a vision for the future if you so will, that requires a conscious effort aimed at inclusion and expanding horizons, as opposed to an existing state of mind satisfied with the status quo. To this end, The College of The Bahamas, as the country’s national tertiary institution, has a role to play.

The College’s mission is “to support and drive national development.” Unfortunately, there exists a disconnect between the academe and the Bahamian public that sometimes looks upon The College as an hermetically sealed ivory tower, when in fact our students and our staff, academic and non-academic, are all woven closely into the Bahamian social fabric. Symposia such as this one, however, can bring us together. They create a space for the exchange of ideas, and they are indeed the motor of a Bahamian discourse on matters relevant to the building of our nation.

Given the interest shown in the symposium’s themes, the event must be considered a success. The last day saw presentations from local and international scholars exploring current issues of gender and identity not only in The Bahamas, but in a wider Caribbean context. The College’s symposium has furthered the national discourse and shown that the right questions are being posed. Now it takes the entire body politic to ponder these questions and explore possible answers. Indeed, this is what universities do.

Readings from my Teapot

No, I am not making a prediction on the outcome of the elections, but I am sharing some observations on the campaigns we are currently exposed to as we manoeuvre our way around New Providence. On my way to work this morning, I was looking at faces and symbols, lots of them. As I left home after the morning rush hour, I was going fast enough to not read the meaningless slogans on these posters, but I got a good feeling for which party dominated the postersphere.

Without actually counting them, my gut feeling says that, on the route I took, the FNM had approximately three posters for every two of the PLP, and the FNM’s posters were also – on average – larger than the PLP’s. However, this only shows that the FNM has, so far at least, spent more money on printing posters, and more energy on putting them up. It says nothing about how effectively these posters carry their message to the electorate.

In this year’s election, we have a third national party fielding a full slate of candidates. However, the DNA was markedly absent from the war of posters. On Shirley Street, I spotted a single DNA poster, and then I saw about two more as I drove past one of their constituency headquarters. Obviously, the DNA does not intend to persuade the voters through the erection of posters.

While overall, the FNM has put up far more posters on my way to work than the PLP, I did notice one difference that may be a strategic one. The FNM’s posters were somewhat evenly distributed along my route, whereas the PLP seems to have focussed their efforts more on some areas and less on others. This may suggest that the PLP believes that some constituencies, e.g. St. Anne’s or Montagu, may be unwinnable for them.

However, as posters are only a sign of parties spending money, I contemplated another very important element of political campaigns in The Bahamas: the public display of party allegiance by ordinary members of the electorate. With this in mind I started counting flags. On cars. While the FNM retains the lead, it is minimal. The PLP is almost as strong, whereas the DNA is a distant third.

This data was collected on a thirty-mile drive through nine constituencies on the island of New Providence: Bain Town & Grants Town, Centreville, Fort Charlotte, Killarney, Marathon, Montagu, Mount Moriah, St. Anne’s, and Tall Pines. This includes some traditional FNM stronghold, some traditional PLP strongholds, and – through Killarney especially – a main thoroughfare frequented by such a large number of drivers from all different backgrounds that it can be assumed that they are a representative sample of the Bahamian electorate.

Distribution of Political Flags on Cars in New Providence

Image

However, this still is not an attempt at predicting the outcome of the elections, as what is true for the posters remains true, to some extent, for people’s displays of party allegiance: you can only display those flags on your cars that the party can afford to have made. Unless the market were saturated with party paraphernalia, we are still left guessing how many more people would choose to display which flags on their cars. During my visits to the headquarters of all three major political parties earlier this week, I saw that the market is not yet saturated. There were no flags to be had at the time.

This chart above cannot be a prediction of the election results for another, more important reason: I did not count the cars that were not displaying any flags. There were too many of them. My parking lot at work, where there were easily forty cars today, only had three cars with flags. In my street, I cannot find a single car with flags.

These cars could be driven by FNM voters, PLP voters, DNA voters, or voters for independent candidates or fringe parties – or undecided voters, or non-voters. The 2010 bye-election in Elizabeth has shown that the number of non-voters can be very high, though I believe the reasons why so many registered voters chose not to exercise their democratic right have not been adequately analysed.

For years, both the FNM and the PLP have operated on the premise that the vast majority of Bahamians are hardcore supporters of one of these two parties, and that the election would be decided by whatever party succeeds in mobilising more of its supporters. The current campaign follows that same pattern, for both the FNM and the PLP largely avoid discussing politics and focus on celebrating rallies at which their base joins them in unpolitical rituals.

The advent of a third party, however, may yield some interesting results, because while the above may be enough to mobilise your base, it does not necessarily appeal to the swing vote. Furthermore, I am not convinced that either the FNM or the PLP accurately gauge the size of their base, because previous elections were essentially two-way races. In that scenario, both parties could not only count on their bases, but they could also count on the anything-but-the-other-party group.

As the two-party system has been with us for as long as I remember,* I suspect that many strategists in the established parties have become accustomed to counting the anything-but-the-other party group as part of their base, thus misjudging the true size of their base. Therefore, while it appears that the DNA’s base is indeed only a fraction the size of the other parties’ respective bases, a new formula has to be applied to this year’s election.

In a two-way race you needed 50% plus one vote to win in a constituency. The number of votes that most independent or third-party candidates got in the past was so small that it remains of negligible impact for this formula. In 2012, on the other hand, we have genuine three-way races, even if one of the contestants may currently be viewed as a distant third. It is well worth acknowledging that most cars do not fly flags.

In a three-way race, 33.4% of the vote could be sufficient to win in a constituency. In this reality, the question of how much of what has been the genuine base of the FNM or the PLP in the past, and how much has been the anything-but-the-other-party group now becomes tremendously important, because it could determine which party is going to be hurt more by the DNA, and it could make previously “safe” seats very interesting.

Nicolette Bethel offers this perspective: “I would argue that the real ‘base’ of both the FNM and the PLP has been shrinking over the past ten years as those people who were in on the original fight age and pass on. I would suggest that the number of people who have voted only for one party in their lifetime has also shrunk considerably, and that this may diminish what the two major parties can consider their ‘base’ even more.”

Finally, my teapot tells me that the established parties also misjudge the way young voters decide. Inherited party allegiance is also, thankfully, becoming a thing of the past, and young adults do not necessarily make their “x” on the ballot in the same place as their parents. Young Bahamians want answers and vision. Thousands of students at The College of The Bahamas do not want hotel or construction jobs.

My teapot tells me that this is going to be an interesting election.


* I was alive, but not politically conscious for the 1977 elections, in which the Bahamian Democratic Party became the official opposition and decimated the FNM to little more than a fringe party. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahamian_general_election,_1977

High Time for Electoral Reform

During the current election season, I have heard different voices saying different things about different aspects of our current election process. I started off by writing about the question of fixed election dates, but this soon got out of control. In this essay, I ended up thinking about election dates, questions of suffrage, constituencies and representation. In no way do I pretend that this short piece can adequately address such a complex mix, but I do hope that I can provide a few ideas as to where we may begin to discuss the future of our democracy.

At a recent panel discussion on the subject, “Parliament: Transforming The Bahamas – Lawmakers for the Peace, Order and Good Governance of the Society”  sponsored by the Eugene Dupuch Law School, representatives from the three major political parties in The Bahamas spent a good amount of time discussing issues related to elections and the constitution. However, it was my distinct impression that all the representatives, legal minds no doubt but not visionaries, discussed the matter within the existing legal framework, which restricts suffrage, rather than envision how the essentially colonial framework might be adapted to meet the needs of a 21st-century Bahamas.

The Parliamentary Elections Act states that “a person shall be entitled to be registered as a voter” if “he is a citizen of The Bahamas of full age” and “is, and has been during the whole of the period of three months immediately preceding that day, ordinarily resident in premises in” the constituency he is registering for.

The discussion focussed mainly on the three-month rule, with some participants seemingly suggesting that this time period not only applies to the question of residency, but also to the matter of citizenship or age, i.e. suggesting that an applicant for registration would have to have been a citizen for at least three months prior to registration, and would have to have been an adult for at least three months. Interestingly, not a single participant of the discussion focussed on the gendered language of the act.

I am fully aware of the fact that immigration is a hot issue in our country, and the persons who raised the question whether newly naturalised citizens should be eligible to register immediately – or whether they should have to wait three months – are clearly accusing the current government of naturalising scores of immigrants who would vote for them out of gratitude. It is campaign season after all, and most politicians’ campaigns right now seem to focus solely on criticising the opponent’s past actions. However, I wish to contend that while we may discuss naturalisation practice at another time, we should stay away from discussing further limitations on suffrage. We have enough second and third class Bahamian citizens, enough levels of discrimination in this country as it is – some of which we chose to reaffirm in the 2002 referendum.

Once a person is naturalised, they are a Bahamian. Period. In my mind, they should then be allowed to vote, provided they are “of age” and “not subject to any legal incapacity” (Parliamentary Elections Act). In fact, I would like to discuss ways to extend the suffrage, rather than limit it.

Election Dates

One way to extend the suffrage would be by fixing election dates, rather than announcing them arbitrarily at a holiday weekend beach party as happened this time around. The current system of registration requires persons to be at least eighteen years of age on the day of registration, not on the day of the election. This means, come election day on 7th May, there will be scores of young adult Bahamian citizens who have effectively been disenfranchised, because they turned eighteen on or after 6th April but before or on 7th May.

The Prime Minister announced that he would announce the election on 9th April, he finally announced it on 10th April. However, that was after a long holiday weekend, during which registration was already impossible. So young adults, whose eighteenth birthdays happened to be between 6th April (Good Friday) and Bell-Ringing Day could not register, but were then scolded for being “last minute.”

A fixed election date would remove that obstacle. As Erin Ferguson, host of “Citizen’s Review” on JCN14, pointed out so eloquently that even the alumni of the University of Wulff Road sitting in our House of Assembly could understand it (http://vimeo.com/40250745), you cannot be accused of being last minute, if you have no way of predicting when that last minute may be.

A fixed election date could also make it possible for everyone to vote who is at least eighteen years of age on election day, rather than on the unknown last day of registration. This would extend the suffrage in a very reasonable and modest manner.

Overseas and Early Voting

Overseas and early voting are other ways in which to extend the suffrage, and I am happy to see that, for the first time in our history, we have implemented them, albeit in a very limited manner. Previously, if you were travelling on election day, you were robbed of your vote, and if you were studying abroad, you had to fly home to cast your vote. The political parties spent large sums of money on paying for (what they thought were) their voters to fly in from abroad, or to fly from one island to another. The more expensive the airline ticket, the more closely would these voters be scrutinised by the party paying for the ticket, to determine whether they were seen as reliably enough PLP or FNM, and the more expensive the ticket became, the more important the question of your constituency. If it was a considered a contested seat, a close race, they would buy you the ticket. If it was seen as a safe seat – or a lost cause – you did not get a free trip back home.

So now, for the first time ever, scores of Bahamian students overseas will be able to cast their votes in Bahamian diplomatic missions. This is good, because it extends the suffrage to allow all those to cast a vote who would previously have been seen as too independent, or who were registered in constituencies where the party generals did not believe that every vote mattered. This is also good because it saves a lot of flying, thus greenhouse gas emissions. This is also good because it saves a lot of money; it would be even better if this money were then spent sensibly instead of on more t-shirts or posters.

However, this can only be a first step in the right direction, as the newly established process proves impractical for students who are too far away from the nearest Bahamian diplomatic mission, and those are few and far between. For some Bahamian students this would still mean a 5,000 mile or more flight to cast a vote.

Early voting can help those of us, who like me tend to plan their travels longer ahead than Hubert Ingraham announces elections. So if I were travelling on election day, I could now vote early – on 2nd May. However, what does that mean for those of us who have made travel plans from 1st May to 8th May? Are they still being disenfranchised? Genuine absentee voting would allow as many eligible Bahamians to participate in the democratic process as possible. Unfortunately, it is surprisingly difficult, I dare say impossible, to find details about the process on the government’s website, http://www.bahamas.gov.bs/.

Similarly, I would like us to think about extending the suffrage to Bahamians, other than just students, abroad. Those who work abroad for a while but may wish to return home eventually, would certainly be very interested in having a say and shaping the future of the land they plan to come back to. In today’s Internet age, one cannot even argue that Bahamians abroad do not know about the issues at home.

The Right to Vote

On that note, it is interesting to point out that voting is not an explicit right in our constitution. There is some talk about the composition of the House of Assembly, and other references to an election process. One could argue that the right to vote is implied, but it is not explicitly stated. The one-adult-Bahamian-citizen-(not-in-conflict-with-the-law)-one-vote principle is not protected by the constitution.

The constitution says that Members of the House of Assembly are “elected in the manner provided by any law in force in The Bahamas.” It also refers to “voters entitled to vote for the purposes of electing every member of the House of Assembly.” However, that “any law” phrase allows Parliament to define what a voter is – and isn’t. This debate was played out when representatives of our political parties at the above mentioned panel discussion hinted at denying newly naturalised citizens the right to vote for to-be-defined periods of time. All this, of course, only in the name of discouraging sitting governments from naturalising applicants on a party-preference basis.

Independent Boundaries Commission

Given our electoral system and the small size of our constituencies, it is understandable that the boundaries of constituencies have to be regularly monitored, because even small population shifts can skew the intention of having similarly sized constituencies. However, past governments – FNM, PLP and UBP – have all abused this system for gerrymandering boundaries to ensure election outcomes favourable to the governing party. In 2012, the redrawn constituency of Elizabeth Estates is unrecognisable compared to the 2010 bye-election as more than half of it is made up of new polling divisions, and the New Providence constituency of Southern Shores looks like a barbell.

Making the commission independent of the political parties’ – both governing and opposition – influence should be a no-brainer. However, I doubt that it will ever be seen as genuinely independent, and the accusations of gerrymandering will continue, for in most cases there will always be one party that feels disadvantaged by redrawn borders.

Proportional Representation

However, a more radical change and shift away from the Westminster system towards proportional representation could render the discussion about boundaries commissions moot. Our current first-past-the-post system of voting pretends to uphold a political ideal that simply is not reflected in Bahamian reality. In our current model, I am asked to vote for a candidate, and I am asked to look at that individual candidate’s unique credentials.

Registered in St. Anne’s, my candidates are Greg Burrows (PLP), Hubert Chipman (FNM) and Prince Smith (DNA). I have met one of these three men, I do not know either. On their respective parties’ websites I find short bios for these three men, not extending beyond banal personal chatter. None of these three have shared their political philosophy, agenda and vision with me. And you know what? I don’t really care. I don’t really care, because I know that, if elected, they will sit in the House of Assembly and tow party line. We are not asked to vote for a candidate, we are asked to vote for – at best – a party, maybe only its leader.

By adopting the principle of proportional representation, we would not only admit to this reality, but we would furthermore avoid parties winning government despite losing the popular vote (as happened in 1962), and we would avoid the opposition being crippled because a close election can still result in a landslide of seats (as happened in 1997). Finally, proportional representation would allow smaller parties to represented in the political process, would allow more voices to be heard.

To avoid total fragmentation, some countries have implemented a minimum percentage requirement – for instance, 3% or 5% of the popular vote – before a party gets to send representatives to parliament. Still, it allows multi-party systems to thrive. One such example is Germany, where – between the federal parliament and the sixteen state parliaments – there are currently nine different parties represented.

Proportional representation will make the politicians’ life harder though, because a House where no one party controls the majority of seats would then be a much more likely outcome of elections. This in turn forces politicians to work across party lines, seeking compromise and forming coalitions. It deepens democracy and no longer confuses it simply with majority rule, which too many of us believe entitles the winners of an election to force their policies upon the country without genuine consultation of, and regard for, the dissenters.

One serious consideration, however, regarding proportional representation that weighs particularly heavy in the Bahamian context is the imbalance between New Providence and the other islands. Currently, while representatives from New Providence’s constituencies already occupy a majority of seats in the House of Assembly, most Family Island constituencies have considerably fewer registered voters than those in New Providence, slightly balancing the unbalanceable. This is the result of the constitutional mandate that the Constituencies Commission take into account “special considerations such as the needs of sparsely populated areas.” However, I feel that these special considerations may have been taken into account, but no satisfactory solution was found.

Senate Reform

The most peculiar manifestation of our late colonial attempts to mimic the Westminster system, is the second chamber of Parliament, the Senate. It is not a House of Lords; it is not elected; it is not a check; it is not a balance. It is little more than a rubber-stamping body for whatever party controls the House of Assembly, because the Governor-General appoints nine Senators, that is the majority of its sixteen members, “in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister,” and an additional three “in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.”

Maybe a revised system that adopts proportional representation in the House of Assembly could be paired with a system that adopts a popularly elected Senate, too. This Senate could, for instance, retain the first-past-the-post principle and be elected by constituencies. It could be elected at a different time, for instance half-way between general elections, to capture the political mood of the electorate at a different time. It could, depending on who defines constituencies how, provide for more influence of Family Island voters. An example for this could be the United States Senate, where a Senator from California, the most populous state, represents 66 times as many people as a Senator from Wyoming, the least populous state. Such a Senate could be a genuinely independent chamber of Parliament.