WE agree with Cynthia “Mother” Pratt’s recent statement that crime should not be politicised because it “knows no agenda; it doesn’t care about being bipartisan; it has no respect for no one party”.
What a pity she didn’t make this statement in 2012 when it was her party that put up large billboards stating: “Under the FNM government 490 plus murders.”
Winning an election seemed more important to the Opposition PLP at that time than the consequences that such scare tactics could have on the nation’s number one industry — tourism.
The putting up of the placards in April 2012 — one month before a general election— seemed to be under the direction of Philip “Brave” Davis, our present deputy prime minister, who was then in opposition. When the Ministry of Environment under the Ingraham government ordered them down, it was Mr Davis who condemned their removal, calling it “strong arm tactics” and declaring that “we cannot hide the truth”.
FNM supporters who started to tear the billboards down were referred to by Mr Davis as “FNM goon squads”. Mr Davis accused then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham of being a dictator, desperate for power and intent on concealing the truth.
“I do not know why they would take down the signs with the murder count on them. That’s a fact,” declared Mr Davis.
At this point, it was “Mother” Pratt’s voice that should have been heard, calling for the country to come together because crime was no respecter of persons.
“The fact,” said Mr Davis at that time, “is that there were more than 400 murders in the country. We cannot run away from that and it’s not just that poster, they also took down posters with the unemployment statistics and others, it was not just the murders.”
When asked if he thought the posters would scare potential tourists from visiting the country, Mr Davis replied: “We cannot hide the truth and we cannot suppress the facts. We have to address the issues of crime.”
In a letter to the press at the end of 2011, Mr Davis, whose party wanted Mr Tommy Turnquest removed as Minister of National Security, wrote: “That’s why it is imperative in the upcoming general election that the Bahamian people replace the failed
FNM government with a Progressive Liberal Party government that will have the know-how, the commitment, the political will and determination to restore respect for law and order in this country.”
However, in June of this year when one of Mr Davis’ aides was shot, he admitted that crime — for which his party said it had an antidote if elected – was “unacceptably high”.
“It tells us,” he said, “that none of us are safe from what is going on in our country today and it means that all of us must come together again to make a concerted effort to stop this scourge of crime.”
Isn’t it a pity that he didn’t have such a brilliant thought when he was in opposition. If we had pulled together then, we might not be in the frightening mess that we are in today. But it was the PLP that made crime an election issue.
Prime Minister Perry Christie – so concerned about his legacy, which was obviously hinged on getting crime under control – has made a rather rash promise. “If I have to put a policeman and a police car on every corner as they do in some countries, we are going to communicate to the criminal in this country that we are going to root them out wherever they are, whatever it takes.”
Where is Mr Christie going to get a policeman and a car for every corner of this country? Having already missed one recruitment, the Christie government will have to play catch-up to add more officers to the force. We hope that no short-cuts will be taken in their training, because this country can ill-afford to have a lot of rookies in uniform on the streets to add to the confusion.
Mr Christie then made a curious statement: “I said to the Minister of National Security, I’m not prepared to have my own legacy, my own reputation, be tied to a total reliance on the Royal Bahamas Police Force and to the leadership of that force.”
We know nothing about the leadership of that force. However, from our observation from afar, it appears that the problem with the force is too much political interference — particularly in hirings and promotions. How many times did we hear in the first Christie administration about giving prospective recruits to the force a “second chance”.
As for the present Commissioner, every chance he could snatch, he complained about the courts, some of the lawyers, and the revolving door used by the judges to return the most hardened criminals to the streets on bail. Many years ago, no one could get bail on a murder charge. When the Ingraham government removed a judge’s discretion in giving bail for murder and other crimes of violence, there were those in the PLP government who bitterly protested. Today, Mr Christie plans to make the Ingraham laws even tighter. All we have to say on the matter is that it is about time that someone woke up and faced reality.
But don’t blame the Commissioner of Police. His men are tired of chasing the same crooks around night after night. No sooner do the police bring them before the Bar than they are out on bail. The police are tired of chasing them, and rightly so.
But, we do think that there is something unusually wrong at the present time. The criminals have a plan — whether they are hitting out at government for some unknown reason, or whether they are generally angry with society — we think that the situation is now urgent and serious enough to seek help from the outside.
Jamaica called in the UK for its problems. We can do the same. We can also ask the Americans for help — certainly they should be able to find out how their liberal gun laws are permitting Bahamians to smuggle guns — especially guns used in warfare – into our country to hold our people hostage.
This is not to undercut our present force. They are doing the best that they can, but they do need help. We must also face the fact that we are a small country, there are family relationships and friendships, which might tempt some to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing. It isn’t every day that a “Gussy” Roberts joins the force. Mr Roberts was a model police officer. It was said of him that when he wore the uniform, if his mother had broken the law, he would have arrested her. A foreign force coming in to work side by side with our local force would have no such local associations to handicap them in their mission.
We think that the time has now come to give this suggestion serious consideration.