#TurksandCaicos, February 25, 2021 – If we have learned anything from the recent election in TCI, it’s that our democracy is still intact and stronger than ever. Now that we have a new government in office, some may say we can breathe a sigh of relief. I beg to differ and caution you, not so quick.. we still have some difficult roads ahead.
We can all agree, these past four years was quite a challenging time for our country. Let’s spell it out, a relatively small country that depends solely on the tourism industry, stuck with a once-in-a-century pandemic and back-back devastating hurricanes; this is the epitome of any government being tested and tried. Nevertheless, in an age of increasing demands, entitlement and little room for excuses, it’s no surprise this past election was a landslide for the opposition.
Despite the unforeseen events, there is an expectation from the general public, no matter what, you still have to deliver on your promises with noticeable changes and reforms. Most importantly, knowing in what order of priority the challenges set before you should be pursued for the benefit of the people.
Prior to the pandemic, we had a seemingly robust and durable economy. However, in recent months, we quickly realized how delicate it is, and how swiftly it can be undermined if it lacks diversification of resources for long-term economic growth. I believe it is with well intentions for most political leaders to do good for their country. Be reminded, when the new PDM party got elected to office in 2016, they gave off the appearance of great strength, at least on the surface. But as we know for any leader to be effective, having the right team behind you is critical for success.
This brings me to my main points; at this juncture in our quest to move the country forward, lets focus on the opportunities that lies ahead rather them critiquing the past.
Let’s start with finding creative ways to stabilize the job market, conducting a deep dive into cost of living in these islands, expanding on agricultural opportunities and taking on other calculated risk. It is of paramount importance for the new administration to seriously consider strengthening of our fragile infrastructure or eventually the cookie will crumble. It is the framework for any reasonable successful and durable society.
Secondly, we cannot and should not base progress on maintaining the status quo, especially when it comes to critical infrastructure issues like our public sanitation services across these developing islands. Also, we must to be able to put aside political differences if only to protect our core institutions and values. And at some point, the politicians on both sides needs to see their interest as aligned as opposed to always in a conflict. The only way to bring about real change is through continued accountability of our political leaders and having a unified voice. Therefore, don’t stop blowing the “conch shell horns” just yet, the real test is about to come.
The newspapers along with the various social media platforms, also have a vital role to play, as the public relies heavily on the facts rather than hearsay or opinions. Also, the overarching negative comments of publicly attacking each other’s character has to stop. Being critical of his or her performance or lack thereof is more prudent.
Thirdly, given the rising voice and voting power of our youth in this country, they can no longer be ignored. Our youth are the most important segment of society in terms of the future of our country, which was manifested significantly in their eligibility to turn out and vote in this past election cycle. During the past several weeks, it has been fascinating to see how the political parties ramped up efforts to get their message out. And Kudos to the various talk show hosts for educating the masses and challenging the politicians on issues that mattered the most. This needs to become the norm.
We know the real success is when voters can cast ballots in significant numbers, which we saw in this election cycle despite the fears and exposure of this ongoing covid-19 pandemic. As a people, we must also be brave enough to speak up when we see corruption or things that undermines the basic principles of our core values. Leaders who fail to listen to the voice of the people has no place in the free world, because it weakens the core of democracy.
In my opinion, if the solidity of our institutions in these islands remains strong, and we can capitalize on missed opportunities, we will be in a much better position to weather the storms. Certainly, this new government is facing an uphill battle with returning the country to some kind of normalcy, but it’s time to heal the wounds and move forward.
If they make it a central focus of their administration to put the power back in the hands of the people, by restoring the rights of land to it’s citizens, in addition to restoring the original constitution as it once was or beyond, they will have accomplished much.
Concerned citizen of Grand Turk
Hurricane Nicole – A symbol of climate injustice
By Deandre Williamson
Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellow
#TheBahamas, November 29, 2022 – With the trauma of Hurricane Dorian still lingering, Abaco and Grand Bahama residents braced for Hurricane Nicole as they experienced another unfair blow of climate injustice.
As sea levels rose, triggering storm surges and flooding, the northwestern islands of The Bahamas were placed under hurricane watch. For many, this signaled that the fight for climate justice must continue.
Some residents on those islands evacuated their homes and fled to shelters hours before Nicole made landfall in The Bahamas on Nov. 9 as a tropical storm and strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane with winds up to 75 miles per hour.
“The wind was manageable. It wasn’t as bad as we thought. In our area we got maybe a limb or so that blew down. The power was out for a while, but thank God, we made it through it,” Abaco resident Mark Anthony Swain said.
Although the impact of Hurricane Nicole was minimal when compared to Hurricane Dorian in 2019, climate change is the underlying cause of the intensity and frequency of hurricanes in recent years.
When Nicole exited The Bahamas, the “all clear” was given, but the country isn’t clear from future hurricanes and the devastating effects of climate change.
However, it’s clear that The Bahamas and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) need climate justice because they are hit hardest by the impact of climate change, are the least responsible and together bear next to no responsibility for the climate crisis.
While the Government of The Bahamas is fighting for climate justice, residents of Abaco and Grand Bahama are calling for more to be done to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Swain, who also experienced Hurricane Dorian, said the countries that are major contributors of carbon emissions in the atmosphere should do more to assist smaller countries in fighting climate change, so when hurricanes and other natural disasters occur, the smaller countries will be able to maintain themselves.
“I think these other countries that are contributing to the climate challenge that we are facing should be held responsible and accountable in that regard,” Swain added.
China, the United States, Russia, India and Japan are the top five countries with the highest carbon emissions in the world.
Grand Bahama resident Randy Deleveaux, who was on the island during Hurricane Nicole, agrees that more should be done concerning the climate crisis because The Bahamas is in a hurricane zone based on its geographical location.
“We know that every year rain, sun or shine, it appears as if we are going to have a hurricane, whether it’s a major one or not a major one,” Deleveaux said. “As a matter of fact, even though the ones we consider not major, we still have to take more necessary precautions because Dorian taught us we can’t take nothing for granted.”
Deleveaux suggested that the government should ensure that every household is equipped with storm shutters, floatation devices and life jackets.
“There are so many things that the government can do and persons can do in relation to hurricanes because we always have to prepare,” he added.
“Every time we have a hurricane coming, persons have to run and scrap for plywood to put on their windows. We need to move from that and be able to properly prepare.
“Look at our coastal erosion and stuff like that because of the hurricanes. I remember one time you could go on the beaches and see sand, now some of these beaches don’t have no sand like that because of hurricanes and we’re not even looking at the impact that is having on our coastal and marine life. We don’t replace the sand. There is so much things we can do.”
Loss and Damage
But no matter how large or small a hurricane measures on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, there is always loss and damage associated with a storm.
According to Prime Minister of The Bahamas Philip Davis, during the Caribbean Regional Heads of Government Meeting in Preparation for COP27, more than 50 percent of The Bahamas’ outstanding debt can be linked to the impacts of the hurricanes between 2015 and 2019.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in its damage and loss assessments (DaLA) synthesis, noted that The Bahamas has lost more than $4.2 billion over the past seven years as a result of Hurricanes Joaquin, Matthew, Irma and Dorian.
Abaco and Grand Bahama are still rebuilding from Hurricane Dorian and, although minimal, the damages from Hurricane Nicole are being assessed.
Prime Minister Davis was in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt attending COP27 when Hurricane Nicole passed through the northwestern Bahamas. At COP27, he called on world leaders to get real about ensuring that loss and damage are compensated for.
“We do not have a significant carbon footprint in the world. Yes, we do have a significant carbon sink in the world. But yet still, after this hurricane has passed, who’s going to have to pay for the recovery, reconstruction and for normalizing the lives of my people?” Davis said in a video interview.
Climate justice fights for solutions to the climate crisis that would result in reduced emissions and industrialized rich nations sharing the burden of the crisis by helping SIDS handle the severe effects of climate change.
Swain lost his home during Hurricane Dorian and there are others who also lost their homes and some are still living in trailers in Abaco.
Without insurance, Swain is rebuilding his home, but the progress is slow.
He explained that the Disaster Reconstruction Authority and other NGOs promised to help him, but they haven’t delivered on their promises as yet.
“We will, out of pocket, try to do some things to get us along,” Swain said.
Hurricane Dorian caused a housing shortage in Abaco and the demand for a home is great.
According to Swain, because of the demand and desperation to find a home, the rent in Abaco is skyrocketing.
“You can find the average apartment, two bedroom, going for no less than $1,500. In some instances it’s over $2,000,” he said.
After negotiations and hearing the pleas of Small Island Developing States, COP27 closed with the announcement of a loss and damage fund to compensate countries impacted by climate change. This is a huge step in the fight for climate justice.
This story was published with the support of Climate Tracker’s Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship.
Member, The Bahamas Press Club 2014
Caption: Flooding in Abaco caused by Hurricane Nicole. (Photo/Abaco resident)
Police Academy Commissioner Shot Dead in Haiti
By Sherrica Thompson
Reports from the police are that Harington was shot dead on the grounds of the police training facility in a gang-controlled neighbourhood in the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince on Friday, November 25.
The spokesperson for the National Police of Haiti (PNH), Inspector Garry Desrosiers, in confirming Friday’s killing, said the commissioner was “shot in the head not far from the Academy” and the attackers “stole his [Harington’s] vehicle and kidnapped his driver.”
Harington’s killing is the latest in several attacks against law enforcement in Haiti. The killing also happened at a time when international leaders are trying to help Haiti’s political leaders control the surge in gang violence in the country.
The police have not released any information on who might be responsible for the commissioner’s death.
St Kitts and Nevis Welcomed the World’s Largest Cruise Ship
By Sherrica Thompson
#StKittsandNevis, November 29, 2022 – The twin island of St Kitts and Nevis is about to chart its busiest cruise seasons yet as the world’s largest cruise ship, the Wonder of the Seas, made its inaugural call to Port Zante in the country on Thursday, November 24.
About 6,495 guests arrived on the ship, with 2,259 crew members on board.
The oasis class ship was welcomed by Prime Minister Dr. Terrance Drew, who led a delegation on board last Thursday to host a brief plaque exchange ceremony.
“You have confidence in the destination by adding St Kitts and Nevis to your now largest vessel, the Wonder of the Seas, with a passenger capacity of 6,988,” the Prime Minister said.
The Chief Executive Officer at the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, Mr. Ellison Thompson, said the ship’s visit was a result of the country’s comprehensive negotiations with stakeholders.
“The destination’s ability to secure a vessel with a 6,495-passenger capacity today, November 24, is the result of comprehensive negotiations between the Ministry, the Authority, and cruise lines. As a result, we are gradually seeing the fruits of our marketing and strategic efforts, and we take pride in celebrating such a momentous occasion,” Thompson said.
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