By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
STATE National Security Minister Keith Bell yesterday criticised the Police Staff Association alleging that the organisation is a “political tool” as he questioned how its chairman Dwight Smith could remain at the helm of the PSA amid an ongoing indecent assault case.
Senator Bell went on to accuse the PSA of continuously disrespecting National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage and Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade.
This sparked a face-off in the Senate between Mr Bell and FNM Senator Carl Bethel who were repeatedly told to take their seats as they both stood arguing.
“Another issue that the Royal Bahamas Police Force is faced with,” Mr Bell said, “is this Royal Bahamas Police Force Staff Association which has long been a political tool.
“Mr Chair, over the years I have never seen such disrespect whatsoever for the office of commissioner (or) for the office of minister of national security.”
Mr Bethel interjected, lashing out at the state national security minister, claiming he was using the Senate to “make slanderous and untrue aspersions” against the PSA.
Mr Bell assured senators that he would provide conclusive evidence that the PSA was not only a political tool, but collaborated with political parties.
However Mr Bethel said: “There has never been an instance where the Police Staff Association as an organisation has marched with any political party to my knowledge.
“They have not marched with the FNM because we were in government most of the time and we had no reason to march except on Labour Day.
“Now individuals in the association have a constitutional and fundamental right to associate with whomever they want. When y’all go and move all the hierarchy of the police (force) that you met in there and put in a bunch of retirees or people that we could say some things about we don’t say it.”
Despite being cautioned over his comments, Mr Bell went on to refer to Mr Smith’s ongoing court battle.
Mr Smith was charged with indecent assault on January 21, 2014. He pleaded not guilty to assaulting a woman. The assault is alleged to have occurred on December 27, 2013. The trial has yet to begin.
“I will only point out, (that) the chairman of the Police Staff Association could be charged criminally with a sexual assault and be allowed to continue to operate. He is interdicted. I don’t know on what planet on God’s Earth that we could allow that to happen,” Mr Bell said.
However, Senator Bethel insisted that in Mr Smith’s case he was only interdicted and has not been convicted of an offence. He said it was not appropriate for Mr Bell to cast aspersions in relation to this matter.
Last week, Mr Smith told the media that the RBPF had launched an investigation into whether the PSA had associated with a political group when it marched downtown a week earlier.
The PSA was joined by members of the civic group the Bahamas National Citizens Coalition and the third party, the Democratic National Alliance.
The event was staged to highlight the issues of the country’s armed forces.
Mr Smith has said the march was not political.