103 total votes.
By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
HUMAN rights activist Fred Smith, QC, said he sees no problem with Bahamians of Haitian descent organising to form political parties, insisting that the country is on its way to this group of society emerging as parliamentary leaders.
Mr Smith, who is also the president of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA), told The Tribune yesterday that the stigma in the Bahamas that Haitians are of lesser value should be done away with.
He again chastised the Christie administration over its immigration restrictions maintaining that the government has encouraged a culture of hatred toward Haitians.
“Bahamians of Haitian descent are a large part of our society,” Mr Smith said. “So without doubt you will see people of that heritage as members of parliament and at the forefront of the political arena.
“I don’t see what is wrong with it. People have the freedom of association under the Constitution.
“I see nothing wrong with people promoting self interest in political parties for social benefits for different parts of the community.”
Mr Smith said it is time for the conversation in the country to focus on how immigration can create diversification.
He called on the government to follow the example of countries, including Canada and Korea; countries he said encourage different nationalities to contribute to shaping society.
“The Bahamas should have a different conversation. We should be saying yes to a form of immigration that creates diversity and multilingualism in the same way that Canada, Korea and China does.
“I think the Christie administration has done a great disservice. It is awful to be maligned and treated as second-class citizens.
“This kind of mentality that the Cabinet of the Bahamas is promoting is dangerous. We are hating our own people,” Mr Smith said.
He insisted that these latest comments should not be construed as supporting illegal migration.
Mr Smith and the GBHRA have been involved in an ongoing row with the government over its newest immigration restrictions. Mr Smith has likened the Carmichael Road Detention Centre to Auschwitz, a former Nazi concentration camp. He has also suggested that the Bahamas government is carrying out ethnic cleansing with the restrictions.
However, Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell on Monday shot back at those criticisms calling them a “highly personal campaign” against him.
“The question is this, which must be put to them: whose side are you on?” Mr Mitchell asked.
“The side of Bahamians and our national patrimony (or) are you siding with enemies of the country who would undermine the country’s security and well-being?
“These activists like to portray this as some poor migrants who are simply trying to make a better life, but increasingly this is a portrait of a sophisticated smuggling operation which is big business and in the process is threatening to swamp our country.”
With six more months to go in the fiscal year, repatriations conducted as of December 2014 have exhausted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration’s deportation budget.
Mr Mitchell has revealed that the Department of Immigration has spent around $1.7m to repatriate 4,628 foreign nationals in 2014.