ABOUT 30 years ago a confused young man asked to see us.
“Why,” he asked, “do I have to go to prison, and he doesn’t?”
What can one answer when Lady Justice is supposed to be blind and each person brought before her is meant to be judged equally by the same law?
At that time, this young man was a petty drug pusher. In those days, he was pushing for someone in government. He had had several brushes with the law. On one occasion, we had to bail him out. But his handler continued in his protective cocoon immune from the law because of his position. In the meantime this confused little man shuffled back and forth from the jail cell to the court, hands safely cuffed behind his back – all the while wondering why he alone had to answer for a crime that two were committing.
How does one answer such a question? There was no answer, except that in the Bahamas Justice was unjust. It all depended upon who you were.
Over the years, this question was never answered. But in the hearts of long suffering Bahamians the anger at the unfairness grew, until on May 10 they quietly went to the polls and marked their ballots. They had had enough. The large and small deals reportedly going on behind closed doors were, in the end, being openly talked on the streets. And these were the deals that put an extra burden on the backs of the people. This was the PLP’s undoing.
Former deputy prime minister “Brave” Davis – one of four PLP MPs to save their House seats when the people pronounced their verdict – has apologised, but has not really apologised in the eyes of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, whose government has put the blindfold back on the eyes of Justice and vowed that illegality will not be tolerated at any level — it will no longer be a matter of who you are or who you might think you are. Investigating lawlessness has been left in the hands of the police and the court. No longer will any intervention by a “friend” in government be tolerated.
Prime Minister Minnis has said that while he appreciates Mr Davis admitting the PLP made mistakes while in government, he is still waiting to hear a “real apology”. Unfortunately, Mr Davis seems unable to give the apology that is due, because, neither he nor persons like Senator Fred Mitchell seem to understand the underlying cause of the people’s anger. Over the years, Bahamians rubbed against two levels of justice and they resented it. They made it clear after the May 10 election that they were not going to let the new government forget their promise that the blindfold is now to return to the eyes of Justice and every person entering a court room in The Bahamas is to have equal treatment before the law. Also that no matter who they are or what elevated position they once held, break the law, and they too will do the Bank Lane shuffle.
If the position now is that former government ministers should not be handcuffed on their way to court out of respect for their former position, then a decision has to be made. If this is so, then the common labourer, who has no criminal record, nor is a flight risk, would also have to be shown the same respect. To do otherwise would suggest that Justice is already peeping from behind her blindfold. And the idea of entitlement — because, of course, as you know, God gave this country to the PLP – is still well entrenched.
Today there are many accused in cuffs and ankle chains who make the Bank Lane shuffle to court, but who pose no risk to anyone. If this is so let the police decide who can be escorted to court uncuffed and those who have violent records and could be dangerous would not only have to be cuffed, but also chained. But don’t let that decision be made on who they are, but rather on what public danger they pose in the short shuffle to court.,
Whether cuffed or not — every person being escorted to that court room is presumed to be innocent until the court makes the final decision. And until that moment they are entitled to the benefit of the doubt.
“What is this issue about being sorry and what is the sorry about?” Mr Davis asked of the Prime Minister. “We are all human and we are subject to errors and mistakes. So why do I have to say sorry? Because we did nothing deliberate to harm anyone, we did not do anything that we thought was not in the best interest of the Bahamian people.”
However, many Bahamians believed otherwise. The results at the polls showed that they believed too many decisions were being made in the interest of the PLP government and its friends, and that the people and the country were not even being left the crumbs.
If Mr Davis cannot understand the irreparable damage that his government has done to this country, we would suggest that he and his colleagues go into retreat to examine their consciences and try to understand why they lost touch with the people, rather than planning to destroy the country even further by urging a demonstration.
They should heed the wise decision of the late Sir Kendal Isaacs who vowed that he would never lead a demonstration because he would not want to be held responsible for the consequences should it get out of control.