NASSAU, Bahamas — Prime Minister the Rt Hon Hubert Ingraham addressed climate change, crime, banking and tourism and related issues impacting the country and how his Government intends to deal with them in the ensuing year.
The Prime Minister held a press conference in the VIP Lounge of the Lynden Pindling International Airport prior to his departure for Copenhagen, Denmark, to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference on Monday.
He announced that in 2010, the Government would introduce vehicle emissions standards regulations, and fees requiring consumers to pay for the disposal of refrigerators, stoves and related items.
“Everyone who buys a car, there will be a fee to put into that environment fund because we know that the car will eventually be put down. As it is now, the government has the responsibility of disposing of it,” he said.
There will also be enforcement of the laws for those who go before the Environmental Court for various infractions, Prime Minister Ingraham said.
Tourism and Crime
The Prime Minister said he was not bothered by the flyers handed out by operators of the Oasis when it made its inaugural voyage to The Bahamas warning passengers about the crime situation in the country.
“It was quite appropriate for them to point out the facts to their passengers and it is very important for us to maintain a safe environment for our residents ands our visitors.
“I think you will see an accelerated set of policing prevention taking place very soon and we will seek to make our streets and homes safer,” he said.
”The current crime wave is totally unacceptable and must be brought under control. The Acting Commissioner has very clear instruction in that regard.”
The Prime Minister said he will give a national address at the beginning of the year, and will also speak to the crime situation at the swearing in of the new Commissioner on January 4, 2010.
The Prime Minister noted that while he appoints members of the Judicial Legal Service Commission – three of the five plus the Chief Justice — he does not appoint directors of public prosecutions or directors of legal affairs.
The office of Director of Public Prosecutions is now vacant. Advertisements have been appearing in the newspapers locally and abroad and it is expected that candidates would apply from their respective places.
Prime Minister Ingraham said if Trinidadian Justice Herbert Volney wants to apply for the post, he should.
“He is a judge of long-standing in Trinidad; some 15 years on the criminal bench and may well be somebody we might consider suitable. That application won’t come to me,” the Prime Minister said.
“I will use the best talent available to me, I will not concern myself whether it is a Bahamian or Trinidadian or Jamaican. I will not box myself into that nonsense. I will do the best I can for The Bahamas,” he added.
He noted that Jamaica has eight times the population of The Bahamas and they found it necessary to bring in foreign policemen.
“We have not found it necessary to do that yet,” the Prime Minister said.
He noted that Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Albury is at the mandatory retirement age. The Chief Justice has asked for Justice Albury to be granted an extension of one month, to complete judgements. The request was granted.
Grand Bahama Port Authority
The Prime Minister said the Government has decided that the work permit of Hannes Babak, chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, will not be renewed when it expires on December 31, 2009.
“They are happy that this is not the Government’s decision, they are aware of the Governments decision and have been aware for months now. Mr Babak has been aware, so are the owners of the Port,” the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister spoke about the increase in licence fees for banks operating in The Bahamas.
“The banking sector of The Bahamas is under taxed. We have begun last year in increasing licensing fees for banks in The Bahamas; that is inadequate. The Banking sectors should pay more and in due course they will be required to pay more,” the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister said he met with representatives of the Bahamas Public Service Officers Union, who indicated that there are a few Customs Officers who are to be dismissed from the Public Service, who may wish to resign.
He said the union wanted to know if the Government would consider allowing them to resign before the effective date of their termination.
“I said we would because the dismissal takes effect January 4, 2010,” the Prime Minister said.
“And so far as those being dismissed, the decision to dismiss them will also include a provision for them to get the gratuity they are entitled to under the Public Service rules. It is the four who are being retired in the public service interests, whose pensions and gratuities are being cut in half; no requests have been made of me in respect of those four.
“The nine who are being dismissed they are leaving the service as a result of dismissal. If they chose to resign as oppose to leave, I have no difficulty with that,” the Prime Minister said.
He explained that there are two standards – one to determine whether somebody ought to be fired. The other is to determine whether somebody ought to be criminally prosecuted.
“The Customs Management Act sets out very clearly what you ought not to do with the Government’s money,” the Prime Minister said.