IN TODAY’s Tribune, it is reported that the New Year’s Day Parade “could have been a real blast from the past” had its organisers been successful in borrowing the historic military muskets from the Antiquities, Monuments and Museum Corporation (AMMC).
It certainly would have been a blast — a most irresponsible blast, particularly in this atmosphere of violence for anyone to have been brandishing such weaponry in a Junkanoo parade. Suppose something had gone wrong? Suppose someone – as happened in 2012 with the historic governor general’s missing chair — had walked off with the muskets? Suppose they had shown up in one of our many violent robberies? Who would have been held responsible for the decision to release them?
According to today’s report, Mr Courtney Strachan, Jr, chairman of the Antiquities, Monuments and Museum’s Corporation, confirmed that the muskets were not released — not because it would have been inadvisable to do so — but because the Valley Boys “made the request late”.
Mr Strachan told The Tribune reporter that it was a last minute request and “we couldn’t accommodate it. There is a lot more involved before we can just release it, so there just wasn’t enough time for it to be processed.”
There certainly was a lot more involved than what Mr Strachan told our reporter. We understand that Mr Strachan, as chairman, pushed every button to get those muskets released, because, it was claimed that “it was a clear directive of the Honourable Prime Minister (Our Substantive Minister) who stated clearly that he would take complete responsibility for the items after the protocols were explained to him further”.
Although it was indicated that the Prime Minister was prepared to be fully responsible for the weapons’ removal, it appeared that the AMMC would have held Mr Strachan as AMMC chairman responsible. Also anyone using those weapons on the parade would have been required to have been vetted by the police. The weapons would also have had to have been checked by the AMMC’s Security Department and the Royal Bahamas Police Force, and the recipient would have had to have signed for them before release.
One only has to recall what happened in May, 2012, to the historic chair from which the Governor General reads the Speech from the Throne at the opening of each new parliament to understand that the historic items, being held for future generations, cannot be allowed to do casual walk-abouts.
This particular chair was presented to the Bahamas by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh — the duke’s name and presentation date was inscribed on a brass plaque at the back of the chair.
The throne chair was used for the opening of parliament in the public square by Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes in May, 2012. After the ceremony the throne chair, a small table to hold a drinking glass, and the extra chair for the governor’s wife was moved to the House of Assembly for safekeeping.
About 3pm the same day, a van pulled up outside the House. A man got out, presented himself to the assistant clerk of the House, and announced that he had been sent by Government House to collect the historic chair. He was informed that there was a small table, a drinking glass and another chair that also had to be returned to Government House. He collected all items, then disappeared.
“It is a priceless heirloom,” Mr Maurice Tynes, chief clerk of the House, told The Tribune at the time. “It is something that is irreplaceable. We hope it’s still just a mixup in communication and it is legitimately somewhere else where it is not supposed to be. We didn’t know it was missing until the next morning (Thursday) when Government House called asking where the chair was. We said it had already been picked up, and that is when we were first made aware that it was missing.”
The police were called. The CCTV cameras were rolling. The hunt was on for the priceless heirloom.
The CCTV cameras led police to the British Colonial Hilton where the items were found. A man was taken into custody. He told police that he had been given permission to take the throne chair. It was discovered that a local film maker was helping police with their enquiries. As no one was charged and the story fell off the printed page, it was obvious someone had given someone permission to use the chair as a prop in an intended film.
Over the years, many valuable items —among them gifts to the Bahamas — have not been accounted for. There have been whispers, but, unlike the throne, the items have never been returned. Obviously, this is one of the reasons for the founding of the Antiquities, Monuments and Museum Corporation.
Because of our past losses and the country’s near loss of the throne chair, it should be against the law to remove any item from the safekeeping of AMMC.
This was bad enough, but what was further troubling about this request for the muskets, was the attitude of the chairman, who, we understand even suggested a reprimand for a staff member who suggested that their removal could have far-reaching consequences. It is claimed that he considered that to turn down a request from the Prime Minister would not only be disrespectful, but would be an act of insubordination.
What concerns us is the fact that we have a Prime Minister who relies heavily on committees for suggestions and recommendations before making a decision. It is troubling to think that he might be surrounding himself with sycophants who believe that his every wish is their command. Could this possibly be the reason that so much is going wrong in this country?
In the case of the muskets, the best advice on this occasion came from a staff member who expressed extreme concern should anything go wrong. This was the advice that should have been given to the Prime Minister, who, we are certain would have seen the wisdom in the warning. This is the type of person that a prime minister needs on his advisory board.