THE latest report from the US on flaws in a prosecution for corruption in The Bahamas should not be a shock.
First things first, just because flaws are identified in the prosecution of a case does not mean that the person being prosecuted is guilty. Indeed, a flawed process helps no one – it makes it harder to get to the truth in a case, and that helps no one, prosecution or defence.
But should we be shocked? After all, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has said previously that The Bahamas loses $200m a year to corruption. He even suggested that number could be $500m a year. And yet our courts do not see widespread corruption cases taking place – they are instead few and far between.
The report points that out saying “there have been very few convictions for public corruption in The Bahamas despite 80 percent of Bahamians saying they felt corruption in government was a major problem”.
How many times have we heard stories of people in government taking backhanders, from claims about politicians to clerks speeding up paperwork for the right amount?
The report also points out the delays and frustration that beset our court system – particularly with regards to drugs, trafficking and gun offences. Adjournment after adjournment sees cases taking years to drag their way through the system. Files going missing, lawyers not appearing in court, all add up to delaying justice over and over. Again, no surprise to us – just last month we reported the jailing of the killer of Ericka Fowler, a former employee at The Tribune, sentenced to jail 14 years after he stabbed her to death in front of her mother and children.
So the questions we ask should not be about the individual cases – these are flaws that affect case after case, not isolated instances.
What should we do about that? The US report talks of “encouraging signs” of reform, but seldom are such flaws acknowledged locally. Indeed, the Attorney General, Carl Bethel was bullish in his response to the prospect of a lawsuit after one failed case against a former politician – and dismissive of calls for his resignation.
Being defensive doesn’t fix things. We welcome the news that there are encouraging signs of trying to fix the system – but things can only improve if the problems are acknowledged. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but if you can’t tell if it’s broke, you can’t fix it.
Our justice system is broken – do we have the nerve to admit that, and do what must be done to bring it up to standard?
What can you do to help?
When Hurricane Dorian blasted through The Bahamas, it revealed a great deal about our country – but it also showed people at their best.
Across the nation, people stepped up to volunteer – everything from bringing boxes of goods to shelters to going out into the aftermath of the storm to pull survivors from the rubble.
It showed without a doubt how much people care – while we should also recognise that so many different volunteer groups sometimes meant duplicated effort, or perhaps aid not getting to the hands that needed it most at all times.
So the creation of Volunteer Bahamas – an organisation being launched next week – is a welcome one.
With Barry Rassin at the helm as chairman, bringing with him a wealth of experience from his work in Rotary, it seeks to become “the largest movement of volunteerism” in the country.
Hurricane Dorian may have shown the need for volunteers on the biggest scale, but it is on the smallest scale that people can make a big difference too. Those who show up and say how can I help can transform The Bahamas, helping to clear up parks and litter-cluttered alleys. But why stop there? What can volunteers do to help those in poverty? How about those such as Dr David Allen, striving to help those with mental illness or in need of counselling?
Volunteer Bahamas offers the opportunity to give people an answer to the simplest question of all: “What can I do to help?”
We all have talents. We all have skills. We all have something to offer, from the ability to lift boxes or clear litter to the ability to sit and listen to someone who needs to be heard.
And so we welcome Volunteer Bahamas and wish it the greatest success. More than that, we hope readers will play their part. So ask that question, ask what you can do to help. No matter how big, no matter how small, the answers can help us all.