IT was late at night on April 10, 2013, when a call came into The Tribune newsroom to report not one, but two police officers shot in separate incidents. One was senior officer Clayton Fernander.
Our reporter hurried over to Doctors Hospital where a large number of police officers were gathering – some in shock that then Superintendent Fernander had been a victim of a shooting, some close to tears as they feared for their comrade.
One of his hands was very badly damaged – we would later learn that he had raised it in self-defence when the gunman took aim – and a sombre Commissioner Ellison Greenslade briefed the media, saying “Mr Fernander tried the best he could to survive. Thank God, he did survive.”
It was a long road back for Mr Fernander – including treatment in the United States for his injuries. Upon his return, he spoke to reporters to say that he didn’t think he would survive the attack outside his home with two gunmen firing at him at point blank range.
Survive, he did. Return to the force, he did that too. Gain a promotion to Assistant Commissioner? That too was in the future that Mr Fernander thought he might never have had after that night nearly seven years ago.
What was clear that night from the reactions of his colleagues was the level of respect as a person in which he was held. What became clear afterwards as he was given overall responsibility for dealing with crime is the level of respect for his abilities as an officer.
It is therefore deeply disheartening to hear him speak of the disappointment he feels with the process which saw him and other senior officers sent on forced leave – and for him to return to find his old job taken out of his hands only for him to be despatched to the Ministry of Health on a so-called “special assignment”.
To hear a man who has fought his way back from serious injury to talk of wanting “dignity and respect, that’s all I wanted” is heartbreaking.
Last year, the Minister of National Security, Marvin Dames, talked of handling changes within the police force with “respect and sensitivity”. According to ACP Fernander, he wasn’t even accorded the courtesy of a one-on-one meeting to talk about his future.
He is not the first to be treated this way – we have heard complaints from other officers who have been brushed aside and ACP Kendal Strachan has filed a lawsuit after returning from leave to discover he was being asked to become chief of security at the Willie Mae Pratt and Simpson Penn juvenile detention centres.
We note that ACP Fernander, despite his disappointment, intends to carry out his duty.
“We stick with protocol,” he said, “and we love what we do, we sacrifice for what we do. As far as I’m concerned, we have no place else to go, this is our country, this is our home.”
These are officers who have devoted long hours over many years to try to ensure the safety of the Bahamian people. They deserve better. They deserve respect.
Make the most of our assets
Stop stripping the nation of its assets.
That’s the message to come out of a workshop hosted by the Bahamas Environment Science and Technology commission yesterday.
The commission’s director, Rochelle Newbold, said that since last March, Cabinet agreed to ban all exports of any biological resources from the country. As she said, “If nobody’s eating it, it can’t leave.”
The reason is to clamp down on people profiteering on products from The Bahamas without the country receiving benefit. One example is sea grass from Bimini which had an algae growing on it that has been patented as a drug to fight cancer. What did The Bahamas get out of that? Nothing.
She cites sand from our beaches – and even iguana smuggling as things to be clamped down on.
This is a good thing for the country – and we hope that this is just a first step, and that the next step will be to smooth the process so that the country can benefit. After all, cancer drugs are useful for us all – so let the businesses come to us to agree a deal.
Shutting the door is a good plan – working out how to charge those who want to come through it to make money is a better one.