THERE is a notable contrast to be seen in today’s Tribune.
ON Friday, a ceremony was held to honour those who have served The Bahamas in military uniform – some laying down their lives for their country.
It was a pre-Remembrance ceremony, to honour all of those Bahamians who have stepped forward to put themselves at risk – from the Gallant Thirty who sailed off to fight in the First World War to pilots who flew through the skies of Normandy and beyond.
They are people who deserve to be honoured – not least of all for the fact that when they pulled on their uniforms, they had no idea what fate awaited them, whether they would return, or whether they would not.
In contrast, we have today’s front page story about the treatment afforded to Captain Samuel Evans, the recently retired deputy commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.
“I try to find a decent way of saying how disappointed I am in the way I was handled,” says the 40-year defence force veteran.
Captain Evans’ retirement was announced in a memo last month by the government – but that didn’t tell the tale of how a long-serving officer feels he was pushed out of the force.
He was directed to take leave by National Security Minister Marvin Dames – but it soon became clear to him that only two officers, Evans was one, were sent on leave.
He tried to piece the puzzle together. Was it because of age? Older officers remained on duty. Tenure? He wasn’t the longest serving. Vacation time? Others had more. There seemed no reason why he was singled out.
“I came to the conclusion that this was an act to get rid of me,” he said. His wife went further, saying “boy, they treat you like you tief something”.
At a time when questions remain about the future of Captain Evans’ superior, Commodore Tellis Bethel who was himself sent on leave until next year, it is unsettling to consider this is how long-serving officers are left to feel.
When Hurricane Dorian struck, no one called on Captain Evans to help. Finally, he says he spoke to Attorney General Carl Bethel, but couldn’t get a satisfactory outcome. Instead, he asked that he be paid the balance of his vacation before retiring – as well as being paid out of his deputy commander contract.
Not once, he says, did anyone say to him that he wasn’t wanted – but actions can speak louder than words.
Members of the defence force are not alone in feeling this way – The Tribune reported previously when long-serving police officer Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Stephen Dean spoke of how the government’s handling of pre-retirement leave had “ruined” the departures of several senior police officers. “It hurt,” he said of his own departure, “I wanted it to be done with more respect”.
“We sacrificed a lot for our organisations,” he added – and it’s true. At all hours, members of The Tribune would talk to Senior ACP Dean at crime scenes. We have no reason to believe Captain Evans’ commitment to his uniform was any less.
We are in the month of November now, the month when we honour the fallen or those who have passed before us who served their country. The question is – are we honouring those wearing the uniforms now? Or must we do better?
Are we good neighbours?
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday warned that undocumented migrants will be banned from Abaco’s Family Relief Centre – the domed structures that will form temporary accommodation for those left homeless by Hurricane Dorian.
That prompts a number of questions – such as where will those migrants go – but there were more questions still that Dr Minnis didn’t quite get around to giving a straight answer to in yesterday’s press conference.
There are reports that up to 600 migrants fled shelters to avoid immigration officers, but when asked about that, Dr Minnis said as far as he was aware people who left shelters had gone to stay with their families. Never mind the UN report that suggested otherwise?
When asked about a video circulating showing discontent with mistreatment at those shelters, Dr Minnis suggested he had visited shelters and hadn’t seen anything wrong while he was there. Forgive us, but we think it unlikely people would engage in mistreatment in front of the Prime Minister’s eyes. Whether he likes it or not, a narrative is developing outside our country that details a succession of unsettling ways in which The Bahamas is treating migrant refugees from the storm.
At yesterday’s press conference, he sought to highlight a number of charities that were offering to help The Bahamas, and that is very welcome. If the image grows that The Bahamas is a place that is turning a cold shoulder to migrants in need, however, that charity may become increasingly hard to come by. People will not want to give to a place that offers no charity itself.
As a Christian country, we do not want to be like the priest and the Levite that did not come to the aid of the beaten traveller before the Good Samaritan offered to help. There is still time to live up to our Christian promise to be good neighbours – if only our leaders will go and do likewise.