By Ricardo Wells
THE Minnis administration is jeopardising the goodwill it has developed with the Haitian community by not condemning the recent statement of Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Carl Culmer about illegal immigrants, contended activist Louby Georges yesterday.
Still seething over what he termed “irresponsible” remarks by Mr Culmer, Mr Georges warned representatives of the FNM and the Cabinet that by default, they were all now “treading down a dangerous path” and should revert “right now”.
“The FNM is trying its best to do the right things,” he told The Tribune. However, he said, “Persons like (Mr Culmer) will only hurt the efforts of the government.”
He added: “I live Over-the-Hill and for him to single out (illegal immigrants) speaks to his heart. There is obviously a dark part somewhere in there. The Over-the-Hill communities are in a bad shape generally speaking and for him to make mention of (immigrants) during this time of high emotions suggest that he may be cut from the same cloth as the old guards.”
“Carl Culmer, while you’re at it, please insist that the Bahamas hold undocumented immigrants responsible for Hurricane Matthew,” he added sarcastically. “Perhaps they should be charged for setting fire to BAMSI and the city dump. Additionally, undocumented immigrants should be quarantined on suspicions of infecting Bahamians with cancer.
“Mr Culmer seems to want to be the new Fred Mitchell with his reckless statements.”
On Tuesday, Mr Culmer released a press statement in which he said the properties of illegal immigrants in Over-the-Hill communities are “dirty” and “shoddy” and their presence in the country has “added to the unsanitary conditions” in those communities.
While he did not specifically reference one group of illegal migrants, many observers took his comments to be geared at the Haitian community, which makes up the largest grouping of illegal migrants coming to Bahamian shores.
Although he sought to draw attention to the efforts of his party to improve the Over-the-Hill communities, Mr Culmer’s comments also seemed to blame illegal migrants living in these communities for many of the ills they faced.
Mr Culmer wrote: “In addition to the massive unemployment, the lack of indoor plumbing, the heavy criminality and less than acceptable housing infrastructure in these areas, one of the major difficulties (Over-the-Hill areas) have had to endure is the infiltration into these communities of a significant number of illegal immigrants. Moreover, the presence of the many illegals have added to the unsanitary conditions in these communities.
“Bain Town has had a history which its residents are extremely proud of, having produced many political, educational, business and religious leaders that have played a vital role in the development of this country. Its residents have always gone to great lengths to keep their properties clean, have looked out for each other, and maintained cohesiveness within their neighbourhoods. These characteristics are practically non-existent today. The properties where the illegals reside are dirty, the houses shoddy and the streets littered.”
When approached by reporters for his view on the controversial comments, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis was rushed away by his security detail moments after starting a response.
Dr Minnis was in his car when he began to respond to The Tribune about Mr Culmer’s comments when one of his security guards shut the door before he could finish.
Meanwhile, Phenton Neymour, former minister of state for the environment, contacted The Tribune to emphasise Mr Culmer referred to “illegal immigrants,” not Haitians.
Further defending Mr Culmer, Mr Neymour added: “Nowhere in his [press release] does he refer to Haitians. Illegal immigrants include Jamaicans, Filipinos, even Americans are here illegally. Nowhere did the chairman mention Haitians.”
However, he contended: “As a citizen of the Bahamas, I have a problem with illegal immigration. Illegal immigrants shouldn’t be here. That’s the law. They are illegal. If I go to America, I walk around with my passport in my pocket. And they don’t comply with the building code.”
When contacted for further clarification Wednesday, Mr Culmer said he had nothing else to add, insisting that he was “finished with that”.