By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ATTORNEY Fred Smith, QC, apologised on Sunday for saying Bahamians are “hateful” towards foreigners and for describing the country as “very racist” during a private meeting of the Coral Beach Condominium Association in Grand Bahama.
Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell, who has long engaged in a public war-of-words with Mr Smith, revealed Mr Smith’s statements during a House of Assembly session last week, calling them “hateful, deceitful, ungrateful, dishonest and unpatriotic.”
In an audio clip of the meeting which circulated last week, Mr Smith told the crowd of foreign condo owners: “It’s a very difficult environment to live in. You’re all white for the most part and it’s a big problem for a lot of the black Bahamians that you’re down here. Believe it or not, they want your money, they want you to spend it, but they don’t like you.
“The fact is that The Bahamas is a very racist, very xenophobic, nationally insecure and a very hateful place to foreigners.”
In a statement to The Tribune over the weekend, Mr Smith said his comments “sounded horrible towards black Bahamians” when “taken in isolation.”
“However, those who know me know that I do not have a bone of hate or discrimination in my body,” he said. “I do not like my feelings being hurt. Very dear friends have reached out to me and have expressed their hurt. In addition, I do not want to hurt anybody else’s feelings. In addition, for my offence to my fellow human beings I humbly and respectfully apologise. I would not want to hurt a soul.
“I am no stranger to racism and discrimination. My experiences are the genesis of my vocation as a defender of human rights. Growing up in Haiti as a foreigner, in an Arabic environment we were discriminated against.
“When, in my early teens I lived in Nassau and went to Saint Thomas More, Xavier’s College and St Augustine’s College, I was discriminated against by many as being Haitian simply because I spoke fluent Creole.”
He added: “In 1967, I was sent off to an all-white, all English, all boys, all aristocratic boarding school. Discrimination was rampant in England in the 1960s and ‘70s. I was beaten down as a wog, a nr, a Paki, a coon, a blacky, a Brillo pad head and for being Bahamian. Therefore I am deeply sorry that I have caused offence to black Bahamians.”
Nonetheless, Mr Smith accused Mr Mitchell of taking his words out of context.
He said his comments were not relative to “all black Bahamians,” but rather a “specific group of black Bahamians intent upon victimising a specific group of foreign residents who are white.”
The condominium community in Coral Beach, Freeport has long been a source of controversy.
To Mr Smith, the genesis of the controversy lies in the alleged failure of Bahamian condominium owners to pay their maintenance and power bills.
Mr Smith said these Bahamians have tried to “undermine and remove the current board of directors led by (Canadian) Bruno Rufa, who has for many years been successfully cleaning up Coral Beach and put it on a sound financial footing for all of the owners, including the Bahamian ones.
“Regrettably, this group of Bahamians have used their political, immigration and police contacts to cause trouble for the board of directors and have obstructed the proper management of the affairs of the Coral Beach,” Mr Smith said. “Unfortunately, the Freeport Immigration Department and Minister Mitchell have allowed themselves to be used by this group. They have caused great disruption to a peaceful and harmonious community at Coral Beach.”
Mr Smith said he is not “anti-Black” or “anti-Bahamian.”
“I am a proud Bahamian,” he said. “I love my Bahamas. I have never and do not have another passport. I have nowhere else to go. I constantly strive to make our Bahamas better.”
Mr Smith also accused Mr Mitchell of misleading the public when he referred to him in Parliament as a “naturalised Bahamian” who has been “given shelter in this country.”
Mr Smith said his father was born in Andros and his mother in Jordan.
As British subjects, they lived in Haiti.
“So, even though I was born in Haiti, I was born a British subject, like Fred Mitchell,” he said. “Based on our Constitution, like all Bahamian citizens born before 1973, on July 10, 1973, I became a Bahamian citizen, just like Fred Mitchell. No ifs, ands or buts about it.”
Mr Smith represents Canadian citizen Bruno Rufa, a homeowner at the Coral Beach Condominium Association, who has been accused of working in the Bahamas illegally.