Perhaps the most shocking thing in the latest report on human rights in The Bahamas by the US State Department is that so many of the problems are already known.
Are we surprised that Fox Hill Prison is overcrowded, with poor sanitation, poor ventilation, poor medical care and poor nutrition? Not at all.
Are we surprised at reports of mistreatment of migrants at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre or that a man said he bribed several officials to be released from there? No.
Is it news that people continue to face problems in receiving their Bahamian citizenship with little progress made in legislation to tackle statelessness? Again, no.
How about efforts to tackle corruption? The US criticises the political campaign finance system and the lack of safeguards. They say it creates “a vulnerability to corruption and foreign influence”. Indeed, what’s to stop the next Peter Nygard from wielding influence as allegations of bad behaviour build up and go unheeded?
You don’t need to be told that the Freedom of Information Act continues to twist in the wind without being fully implemented – despite promises, promises, promises.
The Public Disclosure Act is something The Tribune has repeatedly taken officials to task over – and yet as this report shows, individual declarations have not been published, and there is no independent verification – while everyone who filed late got an extension. These are rules with no bite, regulations with no punishment.
So while some may bristle at our failings being called out by another nation, what we should be asking is what we are going to do about it.
There has been some progress, it seems, with improvements to prison conditions to some extent. But too many of these problems have existed for years and, it would seem, are likely to exist for a long time yet.
Some of these items require long-term solutions – such as whatever remedial work is needed to fix the structural problems at the prison. Others can be carried out as soon as the government is ready to show willingness – such as campaign finance or freedom of information.
Corruption remains a shadow – and it remains disturbing that we see allegations of corruption without seeing a crackdown on suspects in these cases through the court system.
The US report at least shines a spotlight on our failings. The question is, will we do anything about that – or will we let these problems fester for another year, and another, and another?
The story of Louis Edward Rolle is a tragic one.
The 74-year-old died on Tuesday in Bimini after being diagnosed with a rapid test with COVID-19. He was unable to be airlifted for treatment because he weighed too much. We simply don’t have an air ambulance that can evacuate people who weigh as much as 400lb. There was no ventilator machine to help him on Bimini, it seems, and no way off for him.
We have spoken often in this column of the need to tackle health problems that affect Bahamians – one of which, sadly, is obesity. Former health minister Dr Duane Sands has spoken out on the issue too. As he pointed out with regard to the airlift in this case, there’s always a limit to what you can do. If you have a 300lb limit, what do you do for those who are 400lbs? If you have a 400lb limit, what about those who are larger than that? It’s difficult – and expensive – to prepare for everything.
Mr Rolle’s death raises questions about whether there could have been other ways to treat him or to transport him – but we must also be aware of the questions this situation raises for us all as a society. As we look to see if there was a better way, we must not neglect the greater problem that affects so many – and consider what we can do to tackle that too.