By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE arrest of a Jet Ski operator in connection with an alleged sexual assault of a female visitor has once again placed the country’s crime challenges at the centre of fierce criticisms from the international community.
Cruise Law News, a website started by maritime lawyer Jim Walker, posted an article about the incident on its Facebook page,which attracted dozens of comments and more than 142 shares on the social media site.
In the post, Mr Walker describes New Providence as “simply the most dangerous cruise destination in the world” and further comments that “travel agents and cruise lines should simply tell passengers the truth, that sailing into Nassau is not unlike sailing into East St Louis, Baltimore, Camden, NJ or New Orleans north of Rampart Street (high crime US areas).”
He continued: “The problem is not due to the armed bad guys alone but the tourism officials, politicians and police officers who downplay the problems and cover them up. The cruise executives will continue to send their cruise ships there until someone gets shot and killed.”
This is not the first time that Mr Walker has been critical of this country’s crime woes.
When contacted for comment, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe questioned why Mr Walker continually targets the Bahamas. He further accused the lawyer of “overstating” the crime situation in the country saying that there were millions of tourists who love what the Bahamas has to offer and have no problems with repeatedly visiting.
He agreed that there were issues that needed to be worked on but said the country should not be considered the most dangerous place on earth to vacation.
On Monday, the Royal Bahamas Police Force said a Jet Ski operator was taken into custody over the incident, which happened last Friday at Cabbage Beach, Paradise Island.
Police said the woman reported to officers that around 3pm, she was sexually assaulted by a man on a Jet Ski in waters off the popular beach.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Stephen Dean said this is the second sexual complaint this year involving a Jet Ski operator and a tourist.
Under Mr Walker’s Facebook post, comments poured in, many of them critical of the port of Nassau and the level of safety that exists.
One user said: “Twenty-three sailings and we have stayed on the ship for years now. Never felt safe there and had issues there as well. It’s pretty to look at just fine from the ship!”
“Often the taxi drivers assault the people, especially crew members,” another user commented.
“Why do people even get off the ship there?” another person questioned. “Once Cuba is fully opened up, Nassau can bend over and kiss it goodbye.”
“Cruise lines time to stop going to Nassau. Everytime we were there we stayed on the ship. Maybe Cuba an option,” one user said.
However some users came to the defence of the islands and expressed a love for the Bahamas.
“Never had any problem in Nassau,” one user said. “Bahamian culture is welcoming and kind but cruise ship tourists are often oblivious. The Caribbean as a whole is not as safe as America or many other developed countries. “Discrediting an entire city because of a few residents is ignorant. Be aware and be safe, don’t punish all of the hardworking people of Nassau.”
Another said: “I never felt unsafe in Nassau. I don’t think this is any more dangerous than any city in America. Let’s count how many crimes happen in Nassau, Bahamas and St Louis, MO, the most dangerous city in the US. I bet it’s not even half of it. They only make a big fuss about it cause it’s a tourist.”
Meanwhile, Mr Wilchcombe repeated his call for Bahamians to take to the streets and march as a way of taking the country out of the grip of criminals.
“The Bahamas is equally as safe or better than competing destinations. However, I cannot sit here and say I am not bothered every single time we talk about a visitor being affected by crime,” Mr Wilchcombe said.
“Again when are we as Bahamians going to take to the streets and stand up and reclaim the streets? And when I say march, I don’t mean against the government. I mean as a sign of our moral authority.
“These are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, but I see it as we are not prepared to say when wrong is wrong and right is right. These individuals committing the crimes should not be celebrated but instead condemned,” Mr Wilchcombe said.