EDITOR, The Tribune.
It is my opinion, with all due respect, that President Michel Martelly is insincere about his concerns over his nationals taking the dangerous journeys on the boats to come to The Bahamas. My opinion is based on the following facts:
a) I have lived in The Bahamas since 1951 and there have been numerous such meetings between our governments and Haitian governments on the subject. Over the decades between President “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his successors many promises were made, but never kept. There was a plan to recruit Haitian labour in Haiti, which never materialised. No assistance has been forthcoming from Haitian governments to deal with illegal immigration and the invasion of the “boat people”.
b) On two occasions during my service in the Police Force, I was sent to Haiti in search of bank robbers, who had escaped to Haiti. One was a Bahamian, Victor Storr, and the other a Haitian, Paul Joseph. I had the opportunity to work with the Haitian Police Criminal Investigation Unit, under Col Maxime Antoine. They are an efficient and effective unit. I was impressed by their Intelligence Unit and how effective they were at disseminating and gathering information around the entire country. I am convinced, that if the governments of Haiti were interested in eradicating human trafficking and the dangers to which their nationals are exposed the Haitian Police and Army could do so promptly and expose the traffickers in The Bahamas and Haiti.
I had the opportunity to speak at Interpol meetings in Bermuda, Jamaica and the USA on the subject of illegal immigration from Haiti to The Bahamas. Haitian representatives never responded. I had private discussions with two of them (Police and Army) and am convinced that they are not involved and had no instructions to do anything about the illegal human trafficking.
c) Over the years, there have been many boating accidents, that resulted in many deaths of Haitian nationals. The most recent was the death of 31 persons on an overloaded boat from Haiti, that capsized at sea. Reports in an Associated Press release indicated that the boat left Haiti overloaded with about 250 passengers and crew. Our law enforcement agencies were engaged in the arrests of some migrants as well as the recovery of bodies. I have not seen or heard of any action being taken by the government of Haiti to conduct investigations, identify the Captain and Crew, who could be prosecuted for manslaughter by negligence. At the press conference held by the President here, he should have been asked about the incident.
d) Many years ago during the regime of the senior Duvalier we conducted an investigation into the death of two Haitians, who were thrown overboard by the crew of a Haitian boat on the way to The Bahamas with illegal immigrants. Statements were taken from witnesses and the captain and crew were identified. There was overwhelming evidence and we charged them with the murders. The Office of the Attorney General in reviewing the file pointed out that we could not proceed as it was unclear if the incident occurred in Bahamian or in international waters. He advised that, since the boat was registered in Haiti, the matter be dealt with by the government of Haiti. We had the entire file translated to French and Mr Stanley Moir discussed the matter with the Haitian Police. I know that the men involved and the file were sent to Haiti. We heard no more about the matter. We were not called to testify at any trial.
e) Finally, if the President is aware, that the boats are leaving from northern Haiti for the dangerous voyages to The Bahamas why is no effort being made in Haiti to stop and apprehend the traffickers? As stated earlier I am convinced that the Police and the Haitian, if instructed, could stop the traffick immediately.
In 2008, I wrote a memorandum on illegal immigration and terrorism. Copies were sent to all members of Parliament and senior government officials. There were suggestions on how to deal with the Shanty Towns, Illegal Immigrants, the Haitians, who are born here and the crime of human trafficking. The Attorney General Sir Michael Barnett and Mr Branville McCartney were the only persons who responded. I had the entire memorandum published as an advertisement in The Tribune earlier this year.
PAUL THOMPSON, Sr
July 31, 2014.