By CELESTE NIXON
Tribune Staff Reporter
CLAIMS the Free National Movement cancelled the Witness Protection Programme are "false and baseless", Former Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest said.
Speaking at FNM headquarters yesterday, Mr Turnquest said the programme was actually enhanced by the former government with the establishment of the Witness Care Programme and Witness Amenity Act.
Responding to comments by new Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell, he said: "It is absolutely false and as a former senior police superintendent, he ought to know better."
Making his contribution in the Senate on Monday, Mr Bell said the FNM was an "uncaring" government that sat around doing nothing while witnesses were being attacked and murdered.
Mr Bell claimed at least 25 witnesses have been killed because the FNM abolished the Witness Protection Programme.
"From my count at least 25 Bahamian witnesses were murdered who could have been assisted and protected under the programme. The FNM showed yet again through their actions that they were uncaring and they did not put Bahamians first.
"Nothing can be found in the entire Ministry of National Security which shows that for the past five years the former administration took an active role and ever required, requested, reviewed or directed that the Witness Protection Programme be maintained or expanded. Nothing for the past five years," he said.
But Mr Turnquest pointed out that under the FNM, for the first time in Bahamian history through the Witness Amenity Act, a witness in a murder trial was able to give their testimony through video conferencing.
"We have actually made it easier during our term in government," he said. "There is no question that crime in the Bahamas is a serious issue - it was under us and it remains the same today, what we don't need is false and baseless accusations."