By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
AN outspoken former pastor is calling a decision to have him and members of his prayer group removed from downtown Nassau “a political act directed from the very top,” insinuating that his anti-government stance has landed him in “hot water”.
Jeremiah Duncombe, president of the Bahamas Global Impact Prayer and Fasting Network (BGI-PAFN), told The Tribune he believes that he has become a political target since calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Perry Christie in the wake of the failed gender equality referendum.
According to the retired pastor, actions displayed by police while removing him and his roughly 30 “prayer partners” gave the impression that their removal was “personal and based in bias”.
Mr Duncombe claimed he had written permission to hold a prayer exercise in Rawson Square on Wednesday.
He said the permit granted to him by police and signed off by the Cabinet of the Bahamas gave him permission to operate in the square at any point between 10am to 3pm.
According to the former pastor, the group opted for a 12 noon start, however, a downpour of rain forced the group to seek shelter near the Churchill Building.
Shortly after noon, the group commenced their prayer service toward the northwestern side of the Churchill Building.
A short time later, the group was approached by police who told them that they had to vacate the area immediately, he said.
Mr Duncombe said he and other members of his prayer network presented officers near the building with a signed permit, which gave them permission to assemble in Rawson Square.
The group was informed that they didn’t have the right to operate that close to the Churchill Building and was again asked to leave immediately.
“We understood that aspect,” Mr Duncombe told this newspaper. “Their actions, their intensity and nature; they pulled out our (microphone) plugs and grabbed at us. You would have thought we were certified criminals.”
“We attempted to speak with the officers. We indicated to them that we were wrapping up and moved to do so. In the middle of the intercession, the member that was leading the prayer at the time was grabbed and forcefully asked to leave the spot.
“Everyone, not just our participants; everyone in and around Rawson Square were shocked over what was happening. The police started to scream at us. His point was that Parliament was concluding and we couldn’t be there because some members didn’t want us there,” he added.
Mr Duncombe told The Tribune he views this move as the government’s way to silence him and those that prescribe to his line of thinking.
“This what they think is best,” he stated.
On Thursday, the Citizens For Justice (CFJ) organisation released a statement in support of Mr Duncombe and fellow Pastor Oral Ellis.
The statement read: “Members of Citizens For Justice are shocked at this most despicable and shameful act against these men of God and call for an investigation into this disgraceful behaviour by whoever it was that gave the command to remove the men who were peacefully praying without causing any disturbance and with written approval from the proper authorities.”
The statement continued: “Whenever something like this happens, democracy is threatened and the ugly head of injustice is raised up. It is wrong to shut down a prayer meeting and somebody is opening themselves up to the judgment of God. We are reminded of the words of the late Martin Luther Jr that ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ We must never allow anything like this to happen again in the Bahamas.”
Recently, Mr Duncombe formed the GateKeepers initiative, a group established on the premise of forcing Prime Minister Perry Christie to vacate office ahead of the 2017 general election.
The group drafted a three-phase plan of action last month, with phase one calling for the defeat of the referendum.
Phase two, according to Mr Duncombe, established a “pressure group” mandated to apply political pressure to Mr Christie by advocating for boycott of all national events until he vacates office.
“I am excited because when I see them acting like this I know that they are desperate to stop what we are trying to achieve,” Mr Duncombe said. “I would have rejoiced if I was arrested because it would have opened the eyes of even more Bahamians as to the devastation this administration is unleashing on this country.
“We have to stand up and we have to stand now, if we don’t things will get consistently worse between now and the next general election. Bahamians have to unite and work together to save our country from this government.”