EDITOR, The Tribune.
AFTER suffering a devastating loss at the polls in the 2007 General Elections, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) remained in election mode throughout the five-year administration of former Prime Minister Hubert A Ingraham.
The two achilles heels of the former Free National Movement (FNM) government were the high jobless rate throughout The Bahamas, which has been pegged at over 15 per cent nationally and at around 22 per cent in Grand Bahama by the Department of Labour and the unacceptably high crime rate in New Providence.
In five years, the country recorded four murder records. There were several initiatives that were put in place by the Ingraham administration to combat crime.
The outgoing FNM government recently signed a $4.6 million contract to install over 200 Close Circuit Television cameras throughout certain areas of the capital in order to detect criminal activity and had introduced the anklet bracelet system to monitor criminals. The FNM government also spent millions in upgrading the police force and the court system.
However, despite its valiant efforts, the government failed to break the back of crime, especially violent crimes such as murder, rape and armed robbery. Just last year, the country recorded 127 murders.
At times, it appeared as if the FNM government was unable to get a handle on the murder crisis. I believe that the FNM could have delivered a serious blow to the violent criminal elements in Nassau by executing convicted murderers. Capital punishment is sanctioned by God.
Instead, the Ingraham administration pandered to the Privy Council of Great Britain.
Had the FNM government carried out the death penalty on these convicted murderers, I believe that our murder rate would have been somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20 or less per year.
Furthermore, the FNM probably would have still been in power.
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), while in opposition, accumulated much political capital because of the Ingraham administration's seeming inability to deal with the high murder rate.
Leading the charge for the then opposition was Keith Bell, former police superintendent.
Bell blasted the FNM for the cancellation of the PLP's Urban Renewal Programme, the Witness Protection Programme, School Policing and the YEAST Programme in North Andros. Bell has been appointed minister of state for national security in the new Christie administration.
The substantive Minister of National Security is Dr Bernard Nottage.
Bell argued while in opposition that the cancellation of urban renewal and the other programmes that were put in place by the first Christie administration was the reason why the murder rate was so high in Nassau.
Several weeks before the general election, he told a radio talk show host in Nassau that Tommy Turnquest is the worst minister of national security in the history of The Bahamas.
By all accounts, Bell appeared to be the most vociferous opponent of the Ingraham administration regarding crime. He had all the answers, apparently. Now, the ball is in his court.
He can no longer blame the Ingraham regime for the crime crisis. He is now the minister of state for national security, so if the murder mayhem continues under his watch, he would be no better than the man he called the worst minister of national security in the history of The Bahamas.
I have pointed out before that the murder crisis in Nassau is directly linked to the illicit drug trade. Dangerous drug barons are embroiled in a bitter turf war in the impoverished inner city communities of Nassau.
Whereas, in times past, the violence of these dangerous persons was confined in the Over-The-Hill areas of Nassau, it has now spilled over into the suburbs.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that these drug dealers and their hit men will stop the bloodlettings now that the PLP and Keith Bell are in high office.
To put it bluntly, they couldn't care less who is the prime minister or national security minister. These people are anarchists. Criminality is their bread and butter.
There's an old adage that says it is easy to criticise but difficult to govern. Bell did a remarkable job at criticising the Ingraham administration on its performance in dealing with crime.
It remains to be seen how he performs. His much touted urban renewal and Project Safe Bahamas will now be put to the test. If these initiatives fail, then Bell should be fired from national security.
He rightly held the former national security minister to very high standards.
Therefore, he should not mind if the Bahamian people hold him to the same standards. I hope he succeeds.
May 16, 2012.