Media Center



June 6, 2005 - Fort Lauderdale, Florida

I am honoured to be here today both as the representative of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and as the newly elected chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations of the Caribbean Community.

Let me congratulate Dr. Condoleesa Rice upon her election to the Chair of this General Assembly, as well as for elevation to the office of Secretary of State of the U.S.A. The Bahamas and CARICOM look forward to working with you in the months and years to come.

I wish to congratulate the new Secretary General, Jose Miguel Insulza, upon his election to office. The Bahamas and CARICOM pledge to work with the Secretary General on issues of common concern.

Best wishes to Lluigi Einaudi. I shall remember the days in Haiti with great fondness.

This day, we are all called upon to speak to the issue of delivering the benefits of democracy. It is a serious issue and one that is central to the civilization which we share in the hemisphere.

We are called to review this issue front and centre in the context of a meeting where it is argued that for our personal safety and security, the leaders of the hemisphere are fenced away from the people they govern. We must constantly examine this issue, lest we allow the other side to win by changing our way of life in ways that may not be necessary and are the unintended consequences of wanting to be safe and secure.

The extraordinary measures to ensure this event is carried out safely are to be applauded, but as we all know, it is important to always review what we do so that we do not end up inhibiting our own freedom.

The CARICOM region has a long history of representative or parliamentary democracy. Within the hemisphere, Barbados as an OAS member has the oldest parliament, and the second oldest if you include the non-member Bermuda.

The Bahamas ranks after Barbados, having a continuous parliament since 1729. The franchise was first for white men of property, then all men of property, then all persons, men and women, and finally in 1969, all adults over the age of 18.

This is a right, a freedom which we hold dear. We believe that democracy has delivered political change, equity for our people, and economic progress. It is the model by which more will be delivered to our people.

This is the experience throughout the region, and you will know and be assured that all of the parliamentary political parties in the region support and are committed to the principles of democracy. But beyond that, civil society, as a whole, shares this commitment as the means of further transforming our societies.

As you know, The Bahamas and CARICOM participate actively in the Organization of American States (OAS). This is also a sign of the commitment to the principles of democracy. We think that it is also evident that The Bahamas and CARICOM have a commitment to the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The question is how do the principles of the charter find ready expression where there is a crisis of confidence in various member countries in the institutions of the state that regulate the democracies which we all cherish.

Haiti is one obvious example of how the OAS works and works well. There are those who would say nay, arguing that the continuing crisis in that country demonstrates the failure of OAS mechanisms. We do not think so. Democracy requires continued superintendence. The OAS is within the Haitian polity as a means of fostering dialogue, and beyond that, to foster the development of a political community, and Shepherd Nascent Political Institutions. We think the ad hoc mechanisms have worked, and it is obvious that this is the most flexible way by which to approach issues.

One must therefore be wary of any effort, a structure which would straight-jacket, or make inflexible the ability of this body to respond to a crisis.

We have had the advantage as a caribbean community and as a member state to review in advance the draft text under the rubric “The Declaration of Florida”. We have approached the draft with seriousness and some caution. We have some suggestions of our own. Principally, there is the concern that we are not inventing a pretext for countries to believe that they are a target for the undermining of their institutions. Democracy is clear when we see it. However, as Sam Huntington’s work at Harvard would show in the balance between development and freedoms, there are various trade offs. The regulating mechanism for this is an abiding belief in the consent of the governed, the right to self determination and that 20th century concept, the right to territorial integrity, safe behind defined borders. Nevertheless, the text is being diligently examined. The community will make concrete proposals within the working group for amplifications to the draft. It is a useful beginning of examining how the concrete mechanism for trouble spotting can work. We look forward to the adoption of a declaration which has the full support of the entire membership of the OAS so that we can proceed with its implementation without equivocation or exception.

This delegation urges member states to review the matter with similar seriousness and assiduous attention to detail.

the people of The Bahamas, Prime Minister Perry Christie, our government look to this organization as a bulwark of the principles of democracy, the protection of the sovereignty of the member states, including The Bahamas and CARICOM countries. We pledge to continue our work. We are deeply appreciative of all the work that has been done to assist our member state Haiti. The OAS must remain engaged. Free and fair elections are absolutely essential for good governance in that country. Those elections will hopefully herald a new beginning for that member state, truly delivering to it the benefits of democracy. The Bahamas and CARICOM stand ready to assist, as we have already been doing to help bring these elections to a successful conclusion.