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Editorial: Who Is Talking To Us Officials?

THE new travel alert from the US Department of State for The Bahamas prompts a question or two.

They say that tourists face an “increased risk” of becoming a victim of crime – but reading the whole advisory makes us raise an eyebrow at some of the warnings.

How serious are some of the threats in the alert? Well, let’s take a look at one warning – “US government personnel are not permitted to visit the area known by many visitors as the Sand Trap area in Nassau due to crime”. Sound familiar? It should, we wrote about it in March when a previous advisory gave the same warning. It was outdated then, it’s even more outdated now.

The source of that warning seems to date back to a shooting at a bar there in 2016. The bar is gone now – and this part of the alert looks remarkably like it’s just being copied and pasted over from the previous alert.

Which begs the question – is the government talking to the US about this? Surely, a dialogue should be had after each warning so that both sides can better understand one another – the Bahamian side to understand what areas of concern need to be improved, and the US side to make sure that their information is up to date.

But is that really happening?

Again, in March, we reported that Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar had “cautiously” asked Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis to raise concerns over US travel advisories when he met US President Donald Trump.

Did that happen? We don’t know – but we can judge by the evidence of the Sand Trap warning still being there that nothing was achieved.

Surely though, the matter of a crime warning is a matter many levels below the nation’s leaders – can’t Mr D’Aguilar himself raise it with the US Embassy? After all, this isn’t asking the US to conceal the level of crime – just make sure that it is accurate.

US visitors were also warned over jet ski operators who “have been known to commit sexual assaults against tourists”. The last case before the courts that led to a conviction was in 2017, when a Canadian woman was sexually assaulted by a jet ski operator on Cabbage Beach. That’s two years without anyone else being found guilty before the courts, as opposed to the 35 claims of sexual assault reported on cruise ships between July and September, as we reported last week.

Crimes against tourists remain – thankfully – low in number in comparison to other crime figures. When the advisory cites incidents that seem out of date, we wonder if the advisory itself is operating on the latest information – or is perhaps just partly recycling an old document.

So pick up that phone, Mr D’Aguilar, and have your security minister colleague Marvin Dames do the same. Find out from the US Embassy how we can make sure they are working with the latest information. Be fully transparent with them in order to ensure accuracy and clarity.

Oh, and that transparency? The Bahamian people would of course welcome the same.

Nothing to see here? We hope not, Mr Johnson

Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson is insistent that the government has done nothing wrong with regard to its handling of illegal migrants.

We hope that is true.

He also insists that the standard that is being held is the rule of law. Again, we hope that is true.

For if proof were to emerge that the government’s handling of migrants was falling short, he might find his words come back to haunt him.

And if the treatment by officers was to breach that rule of law, then we would equally hope the rule of law would apply to those officers who broke it.

If there is one rule, after all, then it needs to be for all people.

When Mr Johnson says nothing has been done wrong, does he also include the allegations of mistreatment that only last week National Security Minister Marvin Dames said would not be brushed aside? Mr Johnson himself said such allegations would be investigated – has he arrived at conclusions already if he can say that nothing has been done wrong?

Does Mr Johnson include the allegations raised by the International Organisation for Migration, which said that of 150 deportees who were interviewed, some complained of being abused, with the organisation’s Giuseppe Loprete telling of allegations of sexual assault reported to Haitian authorities and officials in The Bahamas. Some of those deported also told the IOM they were evacuees from Abaco following Hurricane Dorian – does that count as something wrong in Mr Johnson’s book?

Last month, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights insisted there had been no individual assessments and due process guarantees for deported undocumented migrants – entitlements under international law. Does that also count as nothing wrong?

We also hope that, in the process of preventing people from rebuilding shanty towns, none of those powers are being exceeded and people are not being stopped from accessing their land and property if they are not part of shanty towns.

Because here’s the rub – what will Mr Johnson’s insistence be worth if it turns out that things are being done that are wrong?

If evidence emerges of mistreatment, of officials overstepping the law, of inhumane treatment or cruelty, what then, Mr Johnson?

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