By DANA SMITH
WITH Independence Day only 11 days away, former PLP MP George Smith said the time has come for Bahamians to seriously decide the kind of country they want.
His remarks came after he detailed the harrowing experience of his son, George Smith Jr, who was robbed at gunpoint and briefly held hostage last Saturday.
Rather than expressing anger at the culprits responsible, Mr Smith instead explained they are victims of their own and the entire country needs to come together to create the type of society that is needed.
"My son, George Andrew, a lawyer, was with some chums of his Friday evening watching the ball game at a friend's house, Alexander Christie's, who is also a lawyer, and as Andrew was leaving there to go home, early Saturday morning after the game and after chatting, two men approached him," Mr Smith said.
"They relieved him of his watch, his cellphone, credit cards and business card holders. Then they took him in his vehicle and drove around, went to Carmichael Road, gave him his car back and told him to go where he has to go."
Mr Smith praised his son for "maintaining his composure" despite being the victim of an armed robbery - robberies that police recently revealed are on the rise. He was also relieved that his son escaped unharmed, only losing items that can be replaced.
"He obviously realised that in times like that, no matter what we may think of those who perpetuate these things, a fellow with a gun is the boss and if you don't overly annoy them you could get anyway safe and sound," he said.
"He lost a watch - that's replaceable, he lost a phone - that has been replaced, he lost some cards - which can easily be cancelled, and his business cards - who knows the fellows might decide to send him some legal business.
"I think it's very important that in the face of these unpleasant incidents, it teaches you to try and be as controlled as possible. It teaches you to call on your inner strength, your spirituality, so you can behave as wisely and as calmly as possible because the priority, of course, is safety of life and limb. He did that and made his parents and family proud by the way he maintained his composure."
Noting that the country's rising crime level has affected him so personally, Mr Smith offered his own advice to the country as a whole.
"Next month we will celebrate the 39th anniversary of our country as an independent country. We should start in earnest to decide what kind of country we want to have when we celebrate the 40th anniversary of our country," he said.
"We have to decide if we want a peaceful society. We have to decide if we, as a people, are going to come together and create the type of economy which can result in the kind of social society, civic society that we want - which can eradicate these things."
He continued: "We obviously have to start to see those who perpetuate all these terrible crimes against innocent people - we have to see them too as victims of a society that has permitted the social decline, the educational decline, the decline of our inner city, the decline of so many families... We who are the potential victims of the crime perpetuated by these unfortunate individuals must also look to them and find a way of creating a country where they don't feel so left out that they resort to crime."