The Not-so-Progressive Liberal Party is late on Marijuana issue

  • DNA was first Party to indicate support for Marijuana law reform in 2016

  • FNM has been slow to address changing sentiments

  • PLP is pushing the DNA’s words with none of the commitment behind it

  • Caribbean moving ahead with reforms while Bahamas experiences delays

  • Real change on this issue can only come from the DNA

On June 28th, 2016, I on behalf of the Democratic National Alliance's 'Young Democrats' announced that the Party had accepted the recommendation of its youth branch to add the decriminalization of marijuana to the DNA's 2017 election platform. At the time, I commended the forward-thinking mentality of our country's young people who had rightly identified the   economic potential of marijuana and the positive impact which the move to decriminalize will have on young men in particular. I take this opportunity to reiterate those comments, and to publicly applaud the Bahamian activists who have picked up the mantle of leadership on this issue where our elected leaders continue to drop it.

The 2017 general elections were landmark in our political history for many reasons, including the fact that for the first time a political party in our country had taken a bold and definitive stance on the Marijuana issue, which has come into greater focus over the past several years. Rather than waiting to see if the political climate was 'just right', we in the DNA were proud to trailblaze the campaign for "reduced penalties for the possession of small quantities of Marijuana", the proof of which can still be found online in our Vision 2017 & Beyond, but was also displayed on many Party-sponsored billboards around The Bahamas prior to the 2017 election. We also indicated that the records of those young persons with criminal records because of Marijuana possession should be expunged.

Now, PLP leader Philip Davis has made headlines for indicating his support for the very same policies the DNA had championed 3 years ago. It was only a few days ago on May 2nd where the deputy leader of the PLP, Mr. Chester Cooper, pre-empted Davis' comments. It appears the leaders of the establishment are tripping over themselves to adopt progressive positions on the legal status of Marijuana, but where were they just a few years ago on the campaign trail? More puzzling still, where was the PLP's urgency when they were at the helm of leadership? Time and time again, opposition Parties prove that they will change their tune just enough to get elected, but not enough to follow through on what they promised. We have seen this script before.

Any steps the PLP and FNM have taken to address the regulation of Marijuana in our law books can be summarized by the phrase "too little, too late". Indeed, while we waste precious time and squander potential competitive advantages 'talking' about this issue, our regional neighbours continue to outpace The Bahamas. Take for example Jamaica, where Cannabis for medical, scientific or therapeutic use can legally be prescribed to patients. In Trinidad and Tobago, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has already indicated that the tabling of legislation to decriminalize marijuana is expected in the middle of this year.

Contrast the diligence of these nations with the news coming from our own, where the report from The Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana, which is funded by the Government, has just been announced to be delayed by at least another 3 months. There is an argument to be made that even this commission only exists following the recommendation of the CARICOM Commission on Marijuana’s 2018 report. After all, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands' reluctance to move with purpose is well documented. It was him who had asked "why would two days or three days make a difference?" when pressed about the speed of government policy adjustments on this issue. Two or three days makes a difference when young people are held back from employment opportunities and sick persons are unable to access a natural form of treatment every day.

Unfortunately, leading from behind is to be expected from myopic leadership.

Of the political parties currently active on the landscape, it should be abundantly clear by now that the Democratic National Alliance remains the only entity with any credibility on issues beyond the theatrical. We look forward to the day the Bahamian people confirm our competence by elevating our political status - then, the work of enacting a transformative legislative agenda will finally commence.


Jayson Braynen, Vice Chairman

Democratic National Alliance

The Unfulfilled 100 Days

On May 10, The Free National Movement secured a landslide victory at the polls. Armed with a myriad of pre-election promises on how to improve the lives of Bahamians, the Minnis led opposition rode a wave of anti-PLP sentiment into office and declared that after 5 years of lackluster governance it would finally be The People’s Time. Unfortunately, more than 100 days into this term, it has become painfully clear that the FNM, though clearly capable of winning the election, was not prepared to govern.

On the campaign trail, the party’s leadership unveiled a substantial list of promises which they pledged would be part of an immediate plan of action designed to improve the lives of Bahamians. Since then however, the Minnis administration has offered no detailed plans on the way forward, an admission which came from the party’s own chairman who conceded that there have been no “earth shattering accomplishments” made by the government in its first 100 days. Instead, the Prime Minister and his cabinet continue to speak in the vague generalities usually reserved for the rally stage; but the time for rally talk is OVER!

While the government has been consumed with the arrests of former politicians – a move which in isolation is an important part of efforts to root out corruption – they have ignored the needs of the persons who voted them in. Families being crushed by the weight of the oppressive Value Added Tax and who were promised a repeal of that tax on popular bread basket items, continue to suffer. Business owners and budding entrepreneurs who have, over the years found themselves buried by miles of red tape, and who were promised a greater sense of ease in conducting their affairs, continue to face challenges. Similarly, Bahamians in over the hill communities who bought into the Prime Minister’s promised initiatives for the revitalization of those areas have been left with absolutely NOTHING to show for all the PM’s grandiose promises.

Though on the front line of the issue while in opposition, the government has yet to unveil any plans to address the longstanding issues at the New Providence landfill resorting instead to the exact same rhetoric used by the administration before them. Even with an environmental activist at the helm of the Ministry responsible it appears that the government is equally ill equipped to finally fix the dump.

Equally disappointing to the DNA has been the total lack of movement by this government to fully implement the Freedom of Information Act. Though extremely vocal while in opposition the government has made no effort to fully enact the legislation. In the interim, the country continues to be denied the benefits promised by a government who swore a commitment to true transparency.

Since taking office the FNM has resorted to using much the same tired political rhetoric we have become use to. Like the Christie administration before it, this Minnis led government has spent considerable time lamenting the situation left behind by those before. They have publicly decried the deficiencies in governance but have taken little action to address them. While bemoaning the state of the country’s finances they have taken no definitive steps to address the situation. While the DNA and voting public is not so naïve as to believe that the country’s current economic situation is not a hindrance to the execution of some of the promised initiatives it is equally important to note that many of these necessary changes require no actual funding to execute.

Ahead of the May 10th general elections Bahamians were promised visionary leadership and good governance. Since then however, we’ve gotten much of the same old same. We hope that this administration will finally take the necessary steps to live up to its many promises and work to create A Better Life for ALL BAHAMIANS AND THOSE WHO HAVE A RIGHT TO BE HERE!

Branville McCartney
DNA Leader

DNA comments on Speech from the Throne

May 24, 2017

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) joins all Bahamians today in congratulating the newly elected and appointed Members of Parliament who have been entrusted with the enormous responsibility of overseeing the affairs of our Commonwealth. We wish God’s speed and guidance as they begin to govern in the interest of all Bahamians.

The DNA has conducted a preliminary review of the speech from the throne as delivered by the Governor General - Her Excellency, Dame Marguerite Pindling. While it is our intention to speak in more detail on all aspects of the speech over the coming days and weeks, we offer a few of our observations on the proposed agenda of the new administration as articulated by the Governor General. Additionally, the DNA will further address the aforesaid speech and the budget communication in the days ahead with a view to contributing to the national discourse in the interest of our nation.

Good Governance platform
We commend the new government for adopting certain aspects of our Good Governance Platform as outlined in the Speech. We submit that this is a step in the right direction albeit it does not go far enough. We trust that the current government will also see the wisdom in committing to the enactment of Whistle blower’s legislation in its fight against corruption and institute a fixed date for national and local elections.

The DNA welcomes the government’s pronouncement on its plan to implement campaign finance reforms via the enactment of legislation and supporting framework. We anticipate that the Government will also commit to accompanying automation of the electoral process and voter participation for the Bahamian diaspora.

Judicial Reform
The DNA welcomes the intended reforms to the judicial system which coincides with the plans outlined in our Vision 2017. The independence of the judiciary is an important tenet of our democracy and is vital to the doctrine of separation of powers and the rule of law while instilling faith in the people regarding the administration of justice.

Grand Bahama
The DNA notes the reference to a strategic plan for Grand Bahama to boost the Grand Bahamian economy. We look forward to the Government releasing a copy of the aforementioned strategic plan with a white paper accompanying the same for the purpose of meaningful consultation with the Bahamian people.

Specific details on the anticipated or planned world class tournaments, competitions and relevant sport or industry as referenced in the Speech will be helpful in informing the public discourse on this initiative.

Further, we request that the government provide the rationale behind establishing Grand Bahama as a financial services centre and how this is expected to function alongside the already established New Providence Financial Services Centre. How will this plan fit into the remodelling and reinvention of Grand Bahama as an industrial hub?

Business, Trade & Industry
The DNA notes that the Jump Start and Fresh Start initiative commenced by the Ingraham administration was cancelled by the Christie administration. In this sense, the DNA requests the timeline for the reintroduction of this initiative and what new controls will be implemented to address the challenges experienced with the scheme during its first incarnation. Details on the amount of funds allocated for the scheme by the current Minnis administration and the proposed structure will also help in promoting transparency and accountability.

We also trust that the current Minnis administration will consider the DNA’s proposal in revisiting the policy regarding business license fees to bring relief to small-medium sized entrepreneurs (SMEs) and to aid in reviving the Bahamian economy.

The DNA agrees that the ease of doing business in The Bahamas must improve for both domestic and international participants in the Bahamian economy. Additionally, the DNA welcomes the proposed one-stop shop approach as a major stepping stone toward improving the ease of doing business and we look forward to hearing the Government’s plan inclusive of a timeline and cost of such an exercise in the upcoming budget debate.

State of the Bahamian Economy
The current state of the Bahamian economy remains one of the main topical issues within our country. The Bahamian people have endured years of negative and zero real GDP growth, a double digit unemployment rate, 25-30% youth unemployment, high national debt, high and unsustainable deficits over the last two administrations. It is no wonder that many Bahamians tuned in to the Speech to hear the Government’s plans for turning the economy around, curbing government expenditure, reforming the public service, reforming the national procurement system and diversifying the economy.

Unfortunately, many Bahamians were left disappointed based on the details provided on this important issue. The DNA awaits with great anticipation, the government’s strategic plan to turn the Bahamian economy around and get hard-working Bahamians back to work.

The DNA has proposed an innovative and 21st century plan to address our economic challenges through a combination of fiscal, monetary, economic and public service policy changes and adjustments. In the absence of such innovative and intentional reforms, it is doubtful that the country will be restored to economic growth and prosperity. It is no news that we cannot expect any positive changes within our economy by deploying the same tactics that have placed us in the precarious position that we are in today.

The DNA looks forward to continued partnership with the Government in not only identifying the challenges facing our nation, but providing viable solutions to address the same. We remain hopeful that the Government will accept our offer and proposal to do so because we are all Bahamians working for the advancement of our beloved nation towards a common loftier goal.

Christopher Mortimer
DNA Deputy Leader