ON this page today, we publish in full the letter of apology written by lawyer Fred Smith, QC, for remarks he made recently at a meeting of home owners in Freeport. At the two-hour meeting he was addressing a specific subject — racism and xenophobia — which involved a “specific group of black Bahamians intent upon victimising a specific group of foreign residents who are white”.
As Mr Smith says in his letter of apology, he made no comment that would condemn “all black Bahamians”. To do so would have been unfair and untrue. However, apparently his words had special relevance to the group to whom they were addressed.
Mr Smith, who has devoted his life to defending the human rights of anyone being wrongly taken advantage of — regardless of race or religion— was quoted in the House of Assembly last week by Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell as seemingly condemning all Bahamians as being racists and xenophobics. The quote implied that Mr Smith’s words were a condemnation of all Bahamians — not just limited to those who are apparently trying to get Immigration to remove certain foreign owners of a Freeport condominium complex who happen to be white. However, in trying to condemn Mr Smith, Mr Mitchell has exposed his own xenophobia, for which, he and his department are noted.
Immigration, under the PLP has been a government department that has, over the years been used as an instrument to rid this country of persons who have not toed the party line. If anything Mr Smith’s words could have been aptly directed to this department. As Mr Smith has explained in his letter published on this page today, his observations were not intended for all Bahamians as Mr Mitchell’s comments in the House implied. However, they did apply to his specific audience.
Although, Mr Smith did not intend them for a wider audience, in our opinion they do apply to a wider group of Bahamians in these islands — especially when it comes to race.
The degrees of colour complex among many Bahamians has always intrigued us. We recall a young maid telling us years ago how in her own home she was made feel unwanted by her mother because she was “the blackest of the brood.”
However, in the House on September 18, Mr Mitchell displayed his own prejudice by his incorrect statement about Mr Smith.
“Mr Smith,” he told the House, “who is himself a naturalised citizen of The Bahamas, and was given shelter in this country, has indicated …”
Mr Mitchell knows — or should know — that Mr Smith is not a naturalised citizen. If he is, then so is Mr Mitchell and so are all of us.
As Mr Smith explains in his letter, although he was born in Haiti of a Bahamian father and a Jordanian mother, the family were registered as British subjects living in Haiti. At the time Mr Smith – in Haiti— and Bahamians living in the Bahamas, including Mr Mitchell – were all British subjects. On July 10, 1973, under our Constitution all British subjects born in the Bahamas before 1973 – Mr Smith and Mr Mitchell included — became Bahamian citizens. So was Mr Mitchell deliberately telling an untruth in the House about Mr Smith’s nationality?
Nor was Mr Smith “given shelter in this country” as Mr Mitchell claimed. As Mr Smith himself has said when the family were no longer welcome in Haiti they returned “home” to The Bahamas.
Mr Mitchell’s attempt to make Mr Smith out as a foreign refugee in his own country reflects poorly on Mr Mitchell.
In fact, if we research pedigree for pedigree we will discover that Mr Mitchell’s father is from San Salvador, while his grandfather on his mother’s side is Barbadian.
Mr Smith probably has deeper roots buried in these islands than has Mr Mitchell. Mr Smith on his father’s Bahamian side can trace his roots to an original Cherokee Indian who was one of the few to survive the Spanish purge after Columbus discovered these island in 1492. A photograph of his great, great grandmother shows a very beautiful Cherokee woman.
When Mr Mitchell can match this pedigree only then can he get in the same ring with Mr Smith.
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Democracy – PLP style
Last night, we learned of how the PLP practices democracy. Mr Alfred Sears, the only contender for Prime Minister Perry Christie’s seat as leader of the party, is not going to be allowed to speak to present his platform. After about nine years — breaking their own party rules by holding no conventions during that time — it is suddenly announced that at the first convention before a general election, the only person contesting the prime minister’s seat is not going to be allowed to speak to the delegates from the platform. To speak at the party’s convention apparently is against PLP policy. And so Mr Christie, with his blanket of recently appointed stalwarts securely wrapped around him, is to march to victory having silenced all opposition.
We are certainly witnessing democracy at its Bahamian best!
What tragedy for our beloved nation.