THE REPORT CARD – PART I
Dr Bernard Nottage
Dr Nottage has failed dismally in his role as Minister of National Security. He has the toughest portfolio and, unfortunately, this crime situation is a social issue (parenting, poverty, etc). No amount of police could fix this; the crime dynamic is bigger than police.
That said, BJ Nottage has been singularly ineffective and his pre-election rhetoric has left many to view his tenure unsympathetically, particularly due to his high-profile criticism of the then minister and because he seemingly refused to acknowledge the complexities of crime in favour of political brownie points.
Despite the fact that he personally totes a gun, his overall impact on violent crime has been negligible. Considering the billboards displayed at the roundabouts, the promises that they had the solution to crime (Project Safe Bahamas) and the impression apparently given that it was an FNM problem, a large swath of Bahamians who may have been open minded enough to grant him more time to do his due diligence to adjust would not do so. He has seemingly hung himself on his own gallows.
Under Nottage, there has been nothing but failure. Noticeably, the embattled minister has also withdrawn from the press, proffering no answers for an anxious, distressed public. Thus far, his tenure has been marred by violent crime; there has been the unceremonious presiding over a jailhouse wedding by police officers; apparent corruption in the hierarchy of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF); insurrection at the prison, highlighted by the recent widespread sickout which amounted to industrial action; and dysfunction within the RBPF.
There appears to be clear cut confusion created by the politicisation of the force, which has purportedly resulted in the resignation of yet another Deputy Commissioner of Police (Quinn McCartney), and allegedly resulted in the underhanded assignment of an acting Commissioner of Police (COP) who acts even whilst a sitting COP is in place. The reports of day-to-day interference in the activities of the police force, so much so that the COP asserts that he is “depressed” and powerless, has left many to wonder at whose hands such meddling has come.
Everything continues to go wrong with the ankle bracelet system. Why has it seemingly not yet dawned on the minister and others to confine the movements of suspected criminals wearing the bracelet to certain districts (it’s done elsewhere and would likely withstand a constitutional challenge); why has no programme been seemingly developed to respond if a guy wearing the bracelet is stationary (perhaps in the bush) and unmoving for, say, ten days? Should that not raise red flags? Considering the blunders with the monitoring system so far, what happens if a guy just jumps on a plane and heads to Canada?
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) has also been unable – despite the capital investment – to alter the public’s perception on the invasion of poachers and illegal immigrants. They too have been ineffective in adequately carrying out its mandate to protect our sovereign borders. As it stands, another $50m is needed to be spent to upgrade the Coral Harbour base and the base that was supposedly being constructed in the southern Bahamas is still not in operation.
There must be greater, effective collaboration between the National Security Ministry and the Attorney General’s office, which constantly complains of ineffectual investigations that cause cases to be thrown out.
The COP persistently notes the Police Force’s efforts in pursuing community policing, but much more can be done to encourage community participation or to foster a partnership between the police and civil society (church, civic groups, social scientists, academics, etc). Today, residents in certain communities are apprehensive about sharing information with the police, as some claim that they have lost faith in the police holding their identities in the strictest confidence.
Furthermore, some police officers should immediately participate in desperately needed seminars in civility in order to heighten their obvious lack of interpersonal skills and decorum.
In fighting crime, why has the Urban Renewal 2.0 Programme not been utilised more effectively? Or, is that merely a PR outfit focused on marching bands and police walkabouts?
The entire prison should be razed. Fox Hill Prison has structural issues that cannot simply be resolved by building on to the present, archaic structure. A new structural design must reflect the latest approach to incarceration, which implores that greater emphasis be placed on reform. A new prison, complete with special courts, should be constructed on Andros or another island with tremendous land resources. Regardless of what the doctor and his Parliamentary caucus called the Fox Hill Prison – prison or correctional facility – the fact is that it is serving as a university of crime, where inmates have limited prospect of rehabilitation and/or integration.
To his credit, Nottage has held town hall meetings and seemingly sought a greater incorporation of civil society in the national security conversation. He has also overseen the arrival of previously ordered RBDF vessels and purchased new vehicles for the police. However, police officers have complained and told me that they must purchase their own bullet proof vests and that vehicle maintenance is a problem.
And, why did the police’s statistical rendering not include assaults? Why does it appear that there are attempts to create a better picture of the state of criminality by conveniently leaving out assaults, which is accounted for by other police departments across the globe?
Referenda falls under his portfolio and, despite all his promises, none has materialized since the disastrous gaming popularity poll in 2013.
ZNS – which also falls within his portfolio – remains a television station to watch or listen to only when one has nothing else to do. Even in HD, ZNS is underwhelming. It is once again being used as a propaganda outlet.
Crime has negatively impacted our national psyche and Bahamians are tired of talked about going back to the drawing board.
My first inclination is to give Dr Nottage a BFF grade and by that I don’t mean best friends forever but rather big, flying fail (or can think of the other F as they wish). However, because crime is a social problem and there is clearly a need for a moral awakening in The Bahamas, I cannot lay it all at the doctor’s feet.
BJ Nottage reminds me of a square peg in a round hole. The extent of his national security experience is as a gynaecologist, who likely had law enforcement officers as patients. It seems that the doctor over promised and under delivered.
He earns a gigantic D grade. I would advise Dr Nottage to stand aside and allow someone else to perhaps more effectively confront the mountainous challenges we face.
Let me declare upfront that Keith Bell, the Minister of State for National Security, is a true and genuine friend to me and my family, so much so that whenever fish or other items are sent from Long Island, his share is sent. He is almost seen as an adopted son of my grandparents and knows my family well; whenever he is called upon he never fails and I have found him over the years to be a decent, sincere person. He is also a former lecturer of mine.
Yes, one has heard the criticisms that he suffers from interminable foot-in-mouth disease; and yes, one has heard some of the other speculative accounts. However, though I may appear biased in saying so, I truly believe that Keith Bell has been stymied by senior politicians in his party due to the fact that he is a senator whose appointment could be revoked and due to the notion that he must toe the line.
He is hamstrung by the fact that he is not an MP but, even more, he is junior minister. I think he has enough institutional knowledge to head the new ministry and do a much better job than his senior. Over the years, I – and others – have heard some of his private views on national security and, frankly, he must be blue in the face in his current stint because, though he could propose a number of new ideas, he cannot overstep and those ideas could be shut down.
Just as one cannot blame the vice-principal for the principal or the assistant registrar for the registrar, one would state that – in this instance – Bell must share the grade of the substantive minister, which is a D.
The Minister of Social Services and Community Development has been engaged and working with what she has.
The current social services system is dehumanising and paper intensive and so I was pleased, that at least in one instance, they moved to modernise the system with the social service assistance debit cards. It is certainly a more dignified way to render help.
She must also be commended for pushing for the enactment of the disability legislation.
However, she can do more in terms of her advocacy for the poor, on women’s issues and for the plight of the disabled, the disenfranchised and the underserved.
Her budget has crazily been cut – prior to VAT – and merely leaves her with staff, though the amount being disbursed to the public has seen a slight increase. I think that a discretionary fund should be created for social services issues as her ministry perhaps exhausts their budget by the midterm.
The success of Mrs Griffin’s ministry can only be determined – in the long run – by the successes it has in getting people off of social service assistance, in launching training programmes that give folks job skills and teaches life skills.
Sadly, there are lots of able-bodied people who are exploiting her ministry, many getting housing, debit cards and other forms of assistance. Moreover, I’m told that social services school food programmes are breeding grounds for corrupt practices.
Considering the potential impact of VAT, she must see to it that there are incremental increases in the social services subsidy to various community organisers, many of whom feed and clothe the poor and act as safety nets for persons being pushed below the poverty line.
Melanie Griffin earns a B-minus.
Dr Perry Gomez
The Minister of Health has had an atrocious term in office. Dr Gomez has overseen one delay after another in the completion of the Critical Care Block, a facility that is still not fully operational.
Why did it take so long to have the commissioning ceremony for the Critical Care Block? What is the real story behind the contract, which was purportedly granted to Bahamas Medical Supplies – General Electric’s distributors for The Bahamas – and why was it not executed right away? Who, if anyone, frustrated the process?
What has become of Dr Gomez’s investigation into the $10m in missing drugs from the Princess Margaret Hospital? Will anyone be charged?
Does Dr Gomez meddle in the operation of the Public Hospitals Authority, which was created to serve as an autonomous body? Does the Ministry of Health – rather than the PHA – control that body’s budget and, if so, how could this be?
Sadly, people continue to receive horrible, nightmarish service at PMH. I’m told that wait times attending the emergency room could be for hours on end or more than a day. That is unacceptable. The overcrowding and delayed services at our two major hospitals – in New Providence and Grand Bahama – is a vexing problem that no one seems to want to solve or know how to solve. Dr Gomez has certainly done nothing in that regard.
Why have the mini hospitals in Abaco and Exuma not been opened as yet?
What about National Health Insurance? We heard that it is set to be implemented next January but one can now see that that will not come to fruition. NHI remains a figment of the government’s imagination.
The minister’s priority for stem cell legislation suggests a misguided focus, especially since his ministry’s preparedness for internationally significant outbreaks are inexcusably listless.
The minister isn’t just out to lunch, but he also came to take a nap. His grade is a resounding F.
Dr Danny Johnson
The Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture should be rushed back to the governing party’s backbench at the speed of light. He is a ministerial stillborn and it appears that he has reached the point of abject incompetence in his ministerial post.
This minister talks and talks and talks and gets nothing done. His one shining moment has been the IAAF World Relays, which some would argue was planned prior to his appointment. Outside the IAAF event – which I hope they are readily preparing to host again in a few months – all of the sports tourism events have been poorly organised and hardly attended. We would like to see the cost of these events. Frankly, I’ve heard more than one minister asserting that the international exposure gained by hosting these events is invaluable. However, where is the cost-benefit analysis to undergird such statements?
Junkanoo parades have been disastrous under Johnson, with last year’s Boxing Day parade being disjointed with lengthy delays between groups and with the New Year’s Day parade featuring a Ku Klux Klan scrap group with people who carried libellous placards and were, no doubt, paid to make fools of themselves.
What’s more, the Prime Minister himself has demonstrated a lack of confidence in Johnson by demoting him to merely a cheerleader for the proposed Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival and placing Obie Wilchcombe at the fore of an undertaking that clearly falls more within the purview of Johnson’s ministry.
The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture remains in an infantilised state. The minister has brought little to the drawing board. Musicians are in dire need of support. Moreover, far more initiatives – outside junkanoo – in areas such as theatre and the support of the local film industry could be undertaken. More focus must be placed upon the various sporting disciplines, such as baseball, cricket, rugby, athletics, etc.
I was reliably informed that Nassau was recently dedicated as a creative city by UNESCO and that Dr Johnson was nowhere to be found. Nothing memorable has been done to foster youth development.
To use the words of New York Times columnist Charles Blow, Johnson – at least on the basis of ministerial performance – appears to be as sharp as a wet balloon.
For Danny Johnson, I’m going to make a special trip to the Greek alphabet. He earns an Omega.
Mr Forbes is clearly liked by the Prime Minister and gets on well with the good ole boys club. He is the only so-called “new generation” male MP appointed to Cabinet, where he now serves as the junior minister in the Ministry of Works and Urban Development. There is not much to look at in his role as minister and I would be unfair to rate him on his performance as BAIC chairman when I’m grading ministers.
So, until next year Mr Forbes you will get a I for incomplete.
Her appointment to Minister for Financial Services was perhaps the most jaw-dropping of all the PM’s ministerial appointments. We still don’t know if Mrs Strachan could run a concession stand.
Thus far, she has been a highly paid cheerleader, whose primary role has been posting on Facebook and maintaining a presence on social media. To date, her contributions are yet to be seen or felt.
This year, she gets an I for incomplete (or invisible – I’ll let you, the reader, determine which is more fitting).