By ADRIAN GIBSON
THE home invasion of Deputy Prime Minister, at the time Acting Prime Minister, Philip Brave Davis, was representative of a new, embarrassing low as our nation becomes engulfed by a bloating culture of violence that, if continued, is sure to set our society down the path of no return and, quite honestly, see our country go to hell in a hand basket.
Just this week it was reported that the Inter-American Development Bank country strategy report for the Bahamas revealed that in 2010, this country had the highest prisoner to population ratio in the region and one of the highest in the world – with nearly 70 per cent of prisoners still awaiting trial. In fact, according to the IDB, the current level of violence afflicting our country now means that the Bahamas is on the cusp of qualifying as an armed conflict zone. The report noted that when measured per 100,000 inhabitants, the Bahamas’ murder rate in recent years amounted to nearly three times the level of what they would deem an epidemic, making such statistics roughly equivalent to that of a conflict zone and one of the highest murder rates in the region.
The damning IDB report states that between 2005 and 2011, crime against persons and property rose 49 per cent in this country. What’s more, the report notes that in 2010 the Bahamas recorded 28 murders per 100,000 inhabitants while according to benchmarks set by the World Health Organisation, anything above 10/100,000 constitutes an epidemic, while rates above 30/100,000 are classed as an armed conflict. This is downright shameful! Shame, shame, shame!
This week’s attack on the head of state, while Prime Minister Perry Christie was travelling to attend the memorial services of former South African president Nelson Mandela, was, frankly, an attack on all of us. Yes, Brave Davis, the man, is no different from you or I, but he was the Acting Prime Minister of the Bahamas at the time, one of just under 200 sovereign nations of the United Nations and there is no way such a blatant breach of his security should have happened. Civil society exists as a result of a legacy of traditions and we as citizens adhere to the rule of law, to traditions and to cultural norms because they define what is right and what is wrong and in this instance, the holder of the Office of Prime Minister, whether substantive or acting, is one of those national figures who should be inviolate from such attacks.
In the wake of the attack, I thought that Mr Davis was presented with a watershed moment, a moment that he could’ve capitalised on and related to thousands of Bahamians while immediately increasing his political capital. While I understand that he probably wanted to exude strength, I think that he perhaps blew it when made the comment that people don’t call him “Brave for nothing.” It was the perfect time for him to show his vulnerabilities, to tell of his ordeal to the masses and to relate. I’ve met Mr Davis on a few occasions and he is an affable chap with a down-to-earth deportment. I think that having survived such an invasion, his commentary thereafter could’ve been representative of a defining moment for him, but the importance of the moment has seemingly been lost.
One doesn’t really know the motive behind the robbery, though I’ve heard enough speculation and conjecture, much of which is perhaps farfetched, to write several books. That said, until the perpetrators are brought to justice, the populace could only draw assumptions as to the incident. Questions abound. The culture of violence in the Bahamas shows that what happened to Mr Davis is unfortunately not atypical from the experience of the average Bahamian whose daily existence is modified by the threat of violent assault. Taken from that perspective, it saddens me to say that it has now become the norm - just another ordinary day in the life of ordinary Bahamians.
If we stop and take stock, we would quickly realise that it is more than that. That the raid on the Acting Prime Minister’s house is truly representative of yet another step, relative to our societal regress, into the abyss!
When a society holds certain targets or objects/persons off limits, one could say that society is still in touch with its moral compass. However, when prominent members of that society, say the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Governor General, Archbishop and so on, are seen by thugs as being no different than John Doe as a target whom they could rough up and hustle for a couple dollars, then we’ve clearly become a broken society.
Noted surgeon Dr Duane Sands was livid when he discussed the robbery of the Acting Prime Minister with me. What’s more, beyond condemning the act, he felt that in the aftermath the DPM “acted as if it was a big game, a big farce.”
Dr Sands said: “It’s a disgrace when an attack on our symbolic head of state could be dismissed by the then Acting Prime Minister so flippantly as if it was no big deal. The solution comes from claiming it, from speaking to what is going on, not dismissing it flippantly. If it had only happened to Brave Davis, the man, we could say that it was an unfortunate circumstance. However, since Brave Davis was Acting PM, we could ask the question where was the police detail?
“You know something, the even greater issue is the seeming paradox that the person who suggested that he had the answers to crime would himself be a victim. Shakespeare could not have written greater irony! I mean, this is more in keeping with Greek tragedy! That the man who planted yellow and aquamarine signs around this island for the entire world to see, claiming that crime was an FNM-created problem that he could solve, would fall prey to the scourge that petrifies every other Bahamian is tragic,” Dr Sands said.
So, in the wake of Mr Davis’s robbery and home invasion, should a visiting dignitary feel that the Commonwealth of the Bahamas cannot afford an effective protection detail and therefore they should bring their own armed, security contingent? What were the instructions given to the police upon the Prime Minister’s departure? Why was the public not informed that the PM was leaving the country and that the DPM was acting for him - well, at least I didn’t know until after the fact?
Was the Speaker of the House correct when he said that the House precincts were not adequately secured? What if a demented fool decides to go to the House with a loaded weapon and crazily proceeds to harm or shoot members of Parliament (including cabinet ministers who are both members of the legislative and executive branches of government)? Trinidad and Tobago could inform the Bahamas of its harrowing experience with violence against the legislature/executive when on July 27, 1990, members of a Muslim sect known as the Jamaat al Muslimeen stormed Parliament and a government radio and television station in an attempted coup d’état. The then Prime Minister and most of his Cabinet were held hostage, with an MP eventually dying from injuries sustained during the attempted coup.
We should all remember the tragic killing of former Cabinet Minister Chuck Virgil. It should never, ever be forgotten.
Indeed, we live in a different age today. This is no longer the idyllic 50s, 60s and 70s. We have created a country where the rules have changed and we must function, at all levels, not as if we’re living in a country as it used to be but rather to manage the issues as they really are.
ON QUALIFIED, LAW ABIDING CITIZENS CARRYING HAND GUNS
I have been informed that a group of Bahamians have banded together to form the Bahamas Firearms Association (BFA), a non-profit organisation specifically aimed at the training and education of gun owners. I totally support their position. Frankly, in these times, I understand their contention that restrictive government policies may be trampling on people’s right to protect themselves. As a licensed shot gun owner myself, it sends shivers down my spine to know that a shot gun has almost become obsolete as a protective measure for businessmen and homeowners, particularly when one considers that the criminal element has handguns capable of firing numerous rounds, AK-47s and other powerful weapons that have no limitations and does not need to be reloaded as a shot gun must be after five to eight shots (demanding on type).
Indeed, responsible citizens could be assessed on a case by case basis and should be equipped to protect themselves as necessary or appropriate. While we pretend that there’s no real threat, the crime statistics clearly show that we’re walking down the same road as has already been travelled by so many of our Caribbean counterparts, where crime is out of control. We should learn from the experiences of our Caribbean sister countries and try to pre-empt highjackings and kidnappings for ransom, which could potentially be the next step for the criminal element.
It is clear that there is a preponderance of high-powered weapons on the streets of our archipelago and these weapons turn lightweight punks into ruthless, callous killers. No barricades, alarms and camera systems can even the score! We need to reconsider the reality of life in the Bahamas. The IDB has patently told us that the world no longer sees us as the peaceful God fearing communities that we pretend to be but as one of the most violent countries in the world. We no longer need to pretend our police officers shouldn’t be adequately armed or that responsible citizens shouldn’t have the option of protecting themselves. Accountable, law abiding community leaders, businessmen and persons of that ilk should, if they apply for them, be allowed to carry a handgun. Heck, if they could have a shot gun or rifle, why not a handgun? The criminals have armed themselves to the teeth and rather than using BB guns and slingshots, they are using military grade, high-powered weapons.
I have been told that but for a competent transportation, triage and treatment system, the murder rate for 2013 would be about 200 people; that the number of murders accounted for this year has been truly modified by the response of the healthcare system and the various definitions of what constitutes a murder.
While I support the rights of law abiding citizens to bear arms, we must acknowledge the real challenges of Bahamian society - for example, a predilection by some to hustle or engage in criminal behaviour; poor parenting, etc - in order to curb this downward spiral of our society. It will take all of us to foster real change.