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Prime Minister Admits Mistake - But Is He About To Make Another One?

AT LAST Prime Minister Christie has admitted that it might have been “unwise” of his party to have blamed the Free National Movement for the nation’s crime problem, the seeds of which, if Bahamians are honest with themselves, were sown and flourished during the drug years of the PLP’s first administration.

Of course the blame was unwise, because it was untrue. But, apparently in 2012, it was more important to win an election than to tell the truth. Bahamians, so anxious to have the criminal swept from their streets, were foolish enough to bite the bait. They returned the PLP to power only to find that the party came with a bag filled with useless promises.

The irony of the times was that no sooner had the PLP victory been announced in May, 2012 than The Tribune was recording another murder, followed by yet another murder. The PLP had hardly crossed the threshold to power than crime had picked up its pace behind them. It threatened to create havoc in the nation. Despite the promises the PLP administration could not find their magic wand to eliminate the scourge – in fact they never had a magic wand. After all, it was election time when the political tongue is expected to be fast and loose with the truth. The only problem was that too many of the Bahamian electorate are slow learners and when desperate will grasp at any straw. And in 2012, they indeed grasped for straws. Of course, they now have no reason to complain, because in fact it was straws that they caught.

The crime situation started to become such an embarrassment — having promised Bahamians if given the opportunity to governed, they had the secret formula to sweep crime from our streets — that it was announced that the crime categories issued by the police would be changed. It was claimed that it was to give a more accurate picture of the fluctuation of serious crime, which according to government was “trending down”.

We accused the police of fudging the figures, fully aware that it was the politicians at their backs trying to paint a rosy picture. The police denied that they were doing any such thing. The politicians remained silent. It showed dumbness on the part of the politicians, because no matter what figures they now produced Bahamians heard the guns blasting at night, they read their newspapers the next day, and just by counting the beads on their primitive abacus they knew that serious crime was on the rise.

In his budget address in June last year, National Security Minister Bernard Nottage told the House that “crime is generally trending downward”. He said from January 1 to June 10 that year there was a four per cent decrease in murder in New Providence compared to the same period the previous year. He didn’t bother to say that the newly released crime statistics in fact showed that up to June 10 last year, the murder rate across the Bahamas had risen by nine per cent compared to the same period the previous year.

And now our Prime Minister says that maybe they made a mistake in 2012. We knew – as did many sound thinking Bahamians — that it was a mistake. However, when the governing FNM ordered the crime billboards down — especially those erected in tourist areas — then deputy PLP leader Philip “Brave” Davis strenuously objected. He accused then Prime Minister Ingraham of using strong arm tactics, declaring that “we cannot hide the truth”.

“Are we about hiding the truth?” he asked. “Are we going to be concerned about the impression that the truth gives? The only way we can get rid of these things is to address the issues.”

If this is so, then let’s honestly address the issues. Mr Christie has started by half way admitting that his party was wrong in its assumptions as to where the blame lay for crime. Quite a contrast to the position he had taken earlier when in answer to a question by a reporter about the erection of the pre-election bill boards, he replied:

“No, I don’t regret anything in a political campaign. It’s a question of taste. One can question that, but no. I stand and fall on the campaign that we had. The campaign succeeded, and we have to govern.”

Yes, that was all that mattered. The campaign succeeded. The PLP won. They had to govern. But what of the people? Was the duplicitous manner in which that election was won fair to the Bahamian people? Where were the solutions that they promised to bring to the table?

And now overwhelmed by crime, our leader sees the error of his ways.

However, instead of accepting the mistakes of his party, encouraging Bahamians to rally around the police and assist in breaking the back of crime, we still detect a sinister undertone — an undertone of someone who does not fully accept the truth of the situation and is still trying to pass the buck.

“But, I’ll tell you this,” said Mr Christie in his address this weekend, “I really hope that the Commissioner of Police and his colleagues come to understand that the political directorate has a stake in what is taking place. That, just as I blamed the FNM and maybe unwisely, but as I blamed them, I take it that I have an obligation to the Bahamian people to prove a solution because I advocated it.”

What concern should the Commissioner have in a political directorate and its stakes? The Commissioner’s sole concern should be to protect the Bahamian people from criminals. Political reputations should be no concern of his. This is one Commission who has been seen walking these crime-ridden streets at night, shoulder-to-shoulder with his men - it is no fault of his that he cannot deliver what the politicians have promised. It is for the political directorate to take care of their own reputations, and let the police get on with the job of solving crime.

In January last year, Mr Christie took another swipe at the Commissioner. He said then that he would not have his legacy “tied to a total reliance on the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the leadership of that force.”

About two weeks ago, someone phoned with a “tip.” According to the informant there was a political move afoot to remove the Commissioner and replace him with someone more compliant to the political directorate.

We dismissed the report as “rubbish.” But, after these gratuitous comments in public by no less a person than the Prime Minister himself, should these rumours be taken seriously? We hope that Mr Christie, having already admitted to one mistake, is wise enough not to make another.

Already politics has impeded the growth of too many of our institutions — even the lawyers recently elevated to the rank of Queen Counsel have complained that politics has invaded that sacrosanct body.

Bahamians have had enough. It is time for the politicians to back off and let qualified people do their jobs.

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