By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Minnis administration is not expected to publicly acknowledge those “irresponsible” remarks put forward by Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Carl Culmer on illegal immigrants last week.
Responding to enquiries by The Tribune on how the government would respond, Press Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Anthony Newbold yesterday said the Minnis administration will offer “no comment” on the issue moving forward.
Sources within FNM have suggested issues have arisen among members over how the comments were publicly perceived - mainly in the face of the government’s looming December 31 deadline for illegal immigrants to leave the country.
The government’s stance on immigration has come under fire in recent weeks amid two sloop landings and perceived controversy surrounding Transport Minister Frankie Campbell’s citizenship.
With these factors in play, one source suggested the government thought it a “bad move” to draw more attention to the party’s immigration policies.
Moreover, a second source told The Tribune: “Once it’s out there and the spin gets on it, all of these eyes are on what we do next. And even more eyes are on how we do it.”
Mr Culmer in a statement last week, trying to draw attention to the efforts of his party to improve the Over-the-Hill communities, pinned much of the issues facing those communities on illegal immigrants.
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.”
In the wake of the sentiments, several immigration activists have publicly called on the government to condemn the claims as offensive and misguided.
However, despite the calls, the government has remained silent on the topic.
When approached by reporters last Wednesday 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.
In fact, to date, only former FNM State Environment Minister Phenton Neymour has addressed the remarks.
The day after the release of Mr Culmer’s statement, Mr Neymour contacted The Tribune to emphasise that Mr Culmer referred to “illegal immigrants” in a general sense and didn’t single out one particular group.
Trying to further exonerate Mr Culmer, Mr Neymour added that as a citizen of the Bahamas, he has an issue with illegal immigrants and the way they operate in this country.
“I have a problem with illegal immigration,” Mr Neymour said last week. “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.”