HOW secure is Government House?
On Saturday afternoon, as has been well documented in a video circulated on social media, the statue of Christopher Columbus was attacked by a man with a sledgehammer.
He wasn’t quiet about it. It’s hard to be quiet with a sledgehammer – but he was also recorded shouting “I bringing him down” and other things. He wasn’t hard to miss.
So where were the officers on duty at Government House at the time?
Royal Bahamas Defence Force Commodore Raymond King has said that the officers on duty at the time have been relieved of their duties.
This is not the first time there has been a problem with security at Government House – nor is it the most serious.
In 2019, Petty Officer Percival Perpall was shot multiple times in the guard room and killed. There was an attempt to murder two other marines.
Their killer remains free after a trial found a man who had been accused not guilty of the crime.
At the time, Attorney General Carl Bethel said: “We trust that all relevant agencies will in due course take necessary steps to ensure that the law is upheld and that all necessary steps are taken to improve the security of Government House, if it is found that there was in fact any lapses in security.”
In February of last year, then National Security Minister Marvin Dames said that a review had been completed into security issues at government house.
He said at the time: “The report is currently being… We’re working now to get it printed so it should be coming back to the public very shortly.”
How shortly? Well, let’s fast forward to this week. Commodore King said after the attack on the statue: “I’ve only just recently received the report for the death of (Petty Officer) Percival Perpall and the deficiencies that would have been alluded to by the committee with the view of correcting those deficiencies and the overall state of security and safety here at Government House.”
Only just recently received, he says, for a report that Mr Dames said was being printed back in February 2020. Security never looked less urgent.
Bear in mind this was a review after a murder. There could hardly be a greater need for urgency than to prevent the risk of violence, and yet this report seems to have moved with all the pace of a snail.
This isn’t a question of the rights and wrongs of damaging a statue – last year more than 15,000 people signed a petition to get rid of the Columbus monument so feelings on its presence are certainly mixed. This is about the security of the highest office in the land.
Twice now in a few years that security has been breached. Ought we not to be taking it more seriously? Or are we waiting for something even worse to happen?
It should be addressed, and quickly.
In some interesting comments recently, government officials have suggested they haven’t seen information in the public domain.
Last week, Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis said he did not know that Wayne Munroe’s law firm represented two deputy commissioners of the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services in a 2019 lawsuit that sought to quash Charles Murphy’s appointment as Commissioner of Corrections before Mr Murphy was placed on administrative leave by the new Minister of National Security. We should note it was more than his law firm involved, Mr Munroe’s name was directly on a document seeking leave to begin judicial review.
Yesterday, Mr Munroe weighed in on the topic, saying about concerns over a possible conflict: “I haven’t heard the criticism. I was rather busy but what I did hear was an allegation that somehow there was a conflict of interest over the thing with Commissioner Murphy.”
These may have come as a surprise to our leaders, but we doubt they come as a surprise to readers who have been informed on the topic in these very pages. So if you want to be better informed than the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Security, it seems, read The Tribune. We will be delighted to keep you up to date.