SENATOR THE HONOURABLE JOSEPH R. CURRY
VICE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
4 JUNE 2012
Thank you Madam President. I wish to begin by thanking Almighty God for the opportunity to have been selected to serve in the Upper Chamber at this time in our country’s history. I also wish to thank my wife, Terez and my son and daughter, Reon and Rickell, my mother, Dorothy Curry and other family members for their support and love during the many hours I have been away from them seeking to play my part in moving the country forward and in an effort to return us to some core values as a people.
My thanks also to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Rt. Honorable Perry Gladstone Christie, for the confidence reposed in me to appoint me to this honorable place.
Madam President, as I make my maiden contribution, I wish to congratulate you on your election as President of the Senate and to publicly extend my support to you in the execution of your duties. I am confident that you will bring all of your experience and skills, having served in this office before, to guide our work during these challenging times. Ours, I am sure, will be an excellent working relationship. I wish to also thank the Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Senator The Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson for placing my name in nomination as Vice President of the Senate and to Senator The Hon. Keith Bell for seconding the nomination. Indeed, my thanks to Colleague Senators for unanimously supporting the nomination and election.
Madam President, let me take a moment to assure all Senators of my commitment to fairness in my actions whenever presiding over this Upper Chamber or its Committees. I wish to see decorum and maturity in debate return to this Senate. It should not be a place to pull down others, but to build up. We are held to a higher standard of conduct in here. This is the “Upper Chamber” and we are referred to as “Honorable Senators”. The people expect and demand that we govern ourselves in decency and order. I will do my part in this regard.
Madam President, my road to this place includes a loving and supportive mother raising 6 children in a single parent home. It speaks of my determination, sacrifice, courage and hard work. It speaks of great faith, humility, fear of God and love for humanity. It speaks of Believing in Bahamians and Believing in The Bahamas. A Bahamian story.
Madam President, there is great expectation on the part of many for us to succeed not only as a parliament, but as a country. I am humbled by the many well wishes and congratulations from fellow Bahamians, many of whom have said to me personally via telephone calls, emails, Facebook posts, texts and BBMs, “you are representing us”. I say to them today, by God’s grace, I will endeavor to represent you in the Senate with humility, grace, a sense of resolve and decorum.
Madam President, I join colleagues in supporting this Resolution thanking His Excellency the Governor General for delivering the Speech from the Throne outlining the government’s agenda for the next legislative session. I wish to quote from that Speech, which highlights the twin imperatives which will dominate the agenda for action contained in the Charter for Governance for the new government, being
•The need to reduce violence and crime and to build a safer Bahamas; and
•The need to build a stronger economy that generates jobs; deepens and broadens Bahamian ownership and produces a higher standard of living for all Bahamians.
Madam President, far too many persons today in this country live in fear of crime. We have to take back our streets and make law and order the pattern by which we live our lives. Respect for our laws must be exemplified by all of us and particularly by all persons in positions of high office whether they be political, civic, religious or commerce. I have read with great concern in our local newspapers the over the last week of multiple shootings in a local nightclub; and the events on the weekend where a criminal reportedly overpowered and shot a law enforcement officer. My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in these shootings. My best wishes for a speedy recovery go out to the officer who was injured in the execution of his duties.
Madam President, the immediate reinstatement and expansion of the Urban Renewal Programme to serve as a core instrument to combat the underlying social causes of crime and violence is critical to stabilizing a very difficult and unacceptably high crime situation. I support Urban Renewal 2.0 which today was officially launched for the communities of Centreville, Englerston, Fox Hill, Nassau Village, Kemp Road, Bain and Grants Town, among others. We have to find and allocate the resources and place the emphasis on our youth. We must engage them in wholesome activities and provide mentorship, which are key components of Urban Renewal 2.0.
Madam President, I was so pleased on Friday last, when I joined the workers of this country on the Labour Day parade, to see a young man who was a mere youth of 14 years old when I first met him while serving as the Coordinator for the Yamacraw Community Marching and Concert Band. He came over to me on Friday and extended his hand and said “thank you and congratulations Mr. Curry”. He was fully dressed as a proud member of our Royal Bahamas Police Force and instead of being a part of the problem, was taking his place in upholding the laws of the land and being a part of the solution. He is one of many who have chosen to be on the right side of the law and whom we must herald. We must believe in our youth and engage them in activities which promote self esteem, national pride, respect for their elders and other people’s property and for the law and authority. We must nurture them and find time to steer them in the right direction. We cannot afford to surrender or to lose this war. Our very way of life and existence as a people depend on our collective will and determination to triumph and restore safety and security in our homes, communities, churches and businesses.
Madam President, I continue to hear the cries of Bahamians, particularly our men, for an opportunity to take care of their families and their commitments with dignity. Bahamians are a proud people. Many of us do not want a hand out, we want a hand up. Bahamians want to be pulled out of their sense of hopelessness and to be gainfully employed in sustainable jobs; they want to learn and be trained in new 21st Century skills; they want to be empowered and be entrepreneurs and small business owners; they want to pay their mortgages and not default on them; they want to be able to put food on the table and look their sons and daughters in the eye with love and know that they have earned their way honestly and through hard work.
Madam President, we have never been a welfare state and I am convinced that Bahamians do not wish for us to continue along the path of dependence on social services; food stamps; and temporary jobs. They want long term solutions to difficult challenges and a government willing to be bold; innovative; inclusive and which will put them first. I applaud the foreshadowed initiatives as outlined in the Speech from the Throne for small and medium-sized enterprises as the job creating engines and the new focus on BAIC and the Bahamas Development Bank. I commend the steps toward creating opportunities for Bahamians to own hotels through a National Resort Development Initiative. The potential in agriculture in North Andros, in particular, is immeasurable and therefore the Bahamian Food Sciences Institute proposed for North Andros, I believe is a step in the right direction.
Madam President, I support the efforts to stimulate the real estate market and the lowering of the maximum rate of stamp duty on land sales from 12% to 10%. As a Realtor and as a member of the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA), I am confident that when I speak, to say that we welcome this commitment by the government and look forward to its full implementation in the revitalization of the real estate market.
Madam President, there was a lot of criticism during the recent election campaign on a pledge to “double the investment in Education and training”. Some said that the country could not afford it. Some said it was political posturing and could not be achieved with the budgetary/fiscal formula that we employ in The Bahamas. I beg leave to differ.
The liberation and empowerment of a people is through education. The Bahamas can ill afford not to put in place the necessary resources to prepare our students and workers to compete in the 21st Century. Our education system is in great need of reform. Technology, science and math must receive greater priority in education with technical and vocational studies. Greater resources will have to also be placed on Pre-School and Early Childhood Education. Special education must also be given a higher priority as every child counts.
Madam President, on another note, we have been talking about the University of The Bahamas for many years. I am a product of the College of The Bahamas having graduated from that institution of higher learning in 1981 with an Associate of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communications. Back then we were talking about university status – 31 years ago. I am pleased that during this session, legislation will be placed before us to establish the University of The Bahamas. That is the right thing to do and I look forward to the legislation coming to this place.
Madam President, some Bahamians are dying because they cannot afford health care or health insurance. I was pleased to hear in the Speech from the Throne the firm commitment to the principle of universal access to health care; decentralization of health-care delivery and a re-engineering of systems for financing the delivery of health care so that it could be more affordable. We cannot afford to play politics with the lives of our people. I have a very good friend who has been diagnosed with an aggressive strain of cancer and who requires surgery, but cannot afford it. Chances are if he is unable to receive surgery, based on the rate of growth of the cancer, he will not be with us much longer. National Health Insurance is a must.
Madam President, after having served my country in Washington, D.C. in the Embassy of The Bahamas and serving as a career foreign service officer and diplomat for 18 years, I was happy to see that the longstanding Foreign Service Orders, which are intended to enhance and strengthen a professional Foreign Service, will be finalized during this session. I recall working as a part of team on these Orders in 1987 as a young officer. The finalization of these Orders mean that Foreign Service Officers will no longer be classified and be under the direction of the Public Service Orders, but can pursue career paths equal to their counterparts around the world. The effects of transfers, postings, benefits and conditions, promotions, training and emoluments are all a part of these Orders. This will also avert attrition in the Foreign Service and allow officers to pursue their careers uninterrupted and build capacity and professionalism, while enhancing the country’s international image by having its best and brightest available to pursue our national interests abroad.
Madam President, as I conclude my contribution, I again state my support for this Resolution and thank the Governor General for the Speech from the Throne. I also wish to go on record that we need to invest in a skilled, well educated, trained, highly motivated and healthy workforce to return our country to its place of prominence and competitiveness in tourism, financial services, ship registration; investment flows and investor confidence. As before, we must again become the leaders and not be satisfied in being a distant follower. We have to Invest in Bahamians and find the resources to do so. We have to Believe in Bahamians and rekindle the Bahamian spirit of excellence. We must Put Bahamians First and give them the same opportunities as we afford to foreigners.
Madam President, in so doing, in the motto of our country’s Coat of Arms, we can THEN move FORWARD, UPWARD, ONWARD, TOGETHER… ONE PEOPLE. I thank you Madam President and colleagues.