By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
ONE of five Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) marines previously accused of allegedly abusing a group of Cuban migrants at the Detention Centre in 2013 has claimed they have been “victimised” as a result of the allegations, charging that they have been overlooked for promotions and isolated to various “outposts” despite being cleared of all charges.
The RBDF marine, who spoke on condition of anonymity in an exclusive interview with The Tribune, said the five marines have all been removed from the Carmichael Road Detention Centre as a result of the scandal, adding that he has been stationed to “work at these outposts where no one sees me, I don’t see anybody,” despite being cleared of the charges in August 2016.
The marine also claimed that while the trial was going on, the five marines were eligible for promotions, but had to watch in dismay as “junior persons skipped us, and senior persons told us we can’t get promoted because of that Cuban thing.”
As a result, the marine claimed that the five “aren’t awarded the same opportunities as everybody else.”
The marine said he and his embattled colleagues “still love the job,” mainly because despite the missed promotion opportunities, they are still focused on being able to “move on, move forward and get what we deserve to get.”
In May 2013, five Cuban detainees were allegedly physically abused to a severe degree, following an attempted escape by seven Cuban detainees from the Carmichael Road facility.
The government subsequently ordered an investigation into the alleged abuse of the detainees, which took the form of closed disciplinary hearings at the RBDF base at Coral Harbour. Three independent observers – retired Justice Cheryl Albury, former RBDF Commander Leon Smith and Bahamas Christian Council President Rev Dr Ranford Patterson were subsequently appointed by the government to sit in on the hearings.
Then, after more than three years after the disciplinary hearings were launched, attorney for the five marines Wayne Munroe revealed earlier this month that the marines had been cleared of the charges, and that the marines were found to have used force not outside of what was appropriate under the circumstances.
“During all that none of us got promoted,” the marine told The Tribune. “We were all eligible for promotion. We didn’t get promoted at all. We watched junior persons skip us, and senior persons told us we can’t get promoted because of that Cuban thing. We all got removed from the detention centre, we can no longer work there. What else can I say?
“I honestly couldn’t care less about how people treat me, but when you see you’re being victimised for something you didn’t do, you kind of wonder where is the innocent until proven guilty thing. Even though we won the case, but when you’re still being treated by the (RBDF) command as if you’re guilty anyway…
“…. One of the senior guys who is up for promotion, he is the most skilled person on paper in the defence force right now. The only person who had more training than him retired. A second senior person in this situation, he is the most skilled person the defence force has. When I say skill I’m talking about military tactics, weapon skills, he’s a military guy.
“He’s very skilled and well trained, trained by the US, multiple courses in the United States, military, navy, he has all his documents, all his papers. I think he’s a commando also. He now works on a boat. He can’t work anywhere now that deals with weapons. They have persons who replaced him can’t even hold his shoes, so judge wearing them.”
The marine also claimed that after being removed from the Detention Centre, he was almost made by senior RBDF officials to “clean the yard” of an unspecified outpost, an attempt he claimed was thwarted by him “complaining to senior persons.”
“…I was going to leave the job if I had to do that, because I am well trained also,” he added.
“But that’s the kind of treatment we saw, because they literally left me alone where I work at these outposts where no one sees me, I don’t see anybody. No one talks to you, when I say no one I’m talking about senior command – no senior command talks to you, you can’t look forward to promotion. Nothing like that.
“So my thing is we might have won the case, but all we have right now is a job. We aren’t awarded the same opportunities as everybody has, even after being cleared of this stuff, and we’re getting treated dead bad right now because of what’s going on.”
He added: “I’m fit. I watched fellas three and four hundred pounds, junior to me - they’re now senior to me. They can’t carry weapons because they don’t know how to use one, but this is the person who’s senior to me.
“Yeah, they got promoted because they wasn’t in a scandal. I’ve never been in no scandal and I’ve been on my job for 13 years. Now all of a sudden I’m in a scandal. And these things follow you, man.”
Despite missing out on the promotions and being relocated, the marine said he and his colleagues still have “high morale” and are still “devoted and motivated” to work for the RBDF.
He also said he personally did not have a major issue with being removed from the detention centre, as he said contrary to what some may believe, being stationed at the Detention Centre isn’t exactly for “lazy” people.
“I don’t mind if I don’t go back down there, I couldn’t care less if I go back there because like I say you’re going to work hard if you go back down there,” he said. “Down there ain’t no picnic. In the night time, the posts where we work now, ain’t nothing happening down at these posts, but at the Detention Centre you can’t go down there sleepy. Your eyes have to be wide open or you’ll have another incident where someone try to (escape) again.
“You could imagine you working there in the night time, and you watching these fellas watching you? It’s 10 of them, they have nine sleeping and one out standing up by the fence watching you waiting for you to close your eye. Disciplined. And when that one get tired he go and tap the next one. They watching you all night. You’re watching them but they’re watching you. They’re letting you know the minute, the second you dip your eye, they’re out of there. Trust me, them fellas don’t play.
“But our morale on the job, we love our job, other than not being promoted. That was the only thing that happened to us. Nobody scorned and picked at us. Only at first we had a little bit of backlash from other people in the defence force. But other than that, only the promotion we missed.
The marine also said he neither he nor his colleagues had an issue with the proceedings into the matter.
“We were all satisfied with the outcome, we were all satisfied with the case, we were all satisfied with the decision, we all think we got fairness, and we’re all of the opinion that the defence force – say what you want to say about them – but they were very fair, the person who heard the case, our captain who heard the case, he was very fair.
“The prosecutor, he was stern but he was also fair. We all sat with each other and we all agreed on that.”