By Jeremy Sweeting
I have said many times, that 70 percent of our country’s problems are due to the lack of enforcement. Over the centuries that our parliament (the third oldest legislature in the Western Hemisphere) have been enacting legislation, lawmakers have had very little help from the various arms of law enforcement to bring their laws to fruition and see its positive effects on society.
Many laws have made its way through our bicameral parliament and had been given Royal Assent by the Royal Governors and now Governors General, but the laws that required strict enforcement have had little to no effect on our land. Without enforcement, various Acts are nothing but a sheet of paper with legal terminology.
In a society where this issue of lawlessness abounds on a national level, to each and every Bahamian, it hits hardest when you witness it in your hometown or in your respective area or community.
So let’s keep them honest. We want sincere answers to questions posed in this article. To the eyes reading this piece, whether you are the local Superintendent of Police, whether you are a Member of Parliament, or if you are the Minister of National Security, it is time for action. It is time for honest answers and not just telling people what they want to hear to get them off of your back.
With regard to the lack of enforcement, we have a serious underlying problem that is facing my district of Hope Town, which is also inclusive of Man-O-War Cay or Great Guana Cay.
Let’s talk about Hope Town. We have in Hope Town right in broad daylight, continual, blatant law breaking. There are several individuals, everyone knows who they are, who ride around in UNLICENSED VEHICLES.
The District Council and others reported this to the Police officer that was stationed in Hope Town and his answer was, “I can’t deal with that because I am not a traffic cop”. Can you believe this? ‘In your face’ lawbreaking and an officer would do whatever necessary to get out of doing his job. The officer should read the Police Force Act section 31 and 32 which gives an officer of the Royal Bahamas Police Force the powers to arrest or book anyone that commits offences against the laws of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. Why didn’t you want to take action, Mr. Officer? Was it because the offenders were your buddies or you just simply did not want to be bothered?
But to a bigger problem, boat thefts and break-ins. This is an issue that, if not dealt with now, will implode to single handedly threaten and wipe out decades of work that built a fine and stable tourism product.
These issues need attention now, and not just talk but serious action.
Hope Town could use a second police officer to stem and annihilate this vexing issue, but it makes no sense for the RBPF to send an officer, when the officer already stationed there has no transportation to get around the island of Elbow Cay. Yep, you got that right, no transportation, and no hope of getting transportation unless Local Government funds the purchase of a new vehicle, and with our struggling budget…..yeah you got it, it is very unlikely…Additionally, if a break in or a boat theft occurs, when the officers in Marsh Harbour are called, they usually tell you that the boat is broken down or they have no funds for fuel.
Keeping the Police Superintendent and the Minister of National Security honest, are these mere excuses or is this really true? If this is really true, then the government has to really take a look at the budget priorities and beef up the funding for the Ministry of National Security because the first priority of any government is to protect its citizens and residents, and this is simply NOT happening!
Another case in point, there is a common belief that some of these incidents could be coming from the illegal immigrants on the island. Hope Town has had an immigration problem that has become almost insurmountable. The former Minister of Immigration, Hon. Fred Mitchell made two visits to Hope Town during his five year tenure as minister. There was much talk, many promises, but no action. A very serious comprehensive strategy must be implemented to combat illegal immigration on the island. It was desperately needed ten years ago, another ten year wait is not in the cards. We are hoping that the new Minister of Immigration will be a man of action; we were sorely disappointed with his predecessor and the many unfulfilled pledges.
I could turn to Fisheries. Bahamians and non-Bahamians alike have been crawfishing long before August 1st. Where are our fisheries patrol officers? Why are they not patrolling, particularly the months of June and July?? Are we going to wait until our marine resources are depleted even further before taking serious measures to protect our fishing grounds?
Our community cannot continue to experience the havoc of lawlessness with little to no assistance from the Royal Bahamas Police Force, Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Immigration or Fisheries. We pour untold tax dollars into the Treasury, we get little to nothing back. The Post Office Department is now asking local government to assist with the travel of the Post Mistress to the cays? Really? Are we really ready to celebrate 45 years of Independence next year? How far have we come in 45 years? Get a grip!
Is it more important to the government to parade former politicians around in handcuffs than to address the issues that are seriously impacting our Bahamas? And don’t misinterpret my comments because if you did the crime, pay the time, I don’t care who you are or what your stature. My point is, we have so much blatant ongoing lawless acts that are going unnoticed right in a small community and we cannot get any assistance, but it seems that the political ‘I got you’ is the order of the day with the Ministry of National Security and the Attorney General’s office. These social ills in the small forgotten towns and settlements of our nation are snowballing into something more severe and catastrophic.
We are living in a lawless society and our law officers have to take their jobs more seriously and be more efficient. I fully appreciate that a geographical archipelagic nation like ours is very difficult to police, particularly when it come to fishery offences, however there are cases where officers could easily apprehend offenders but choose not to.
If we cannot get the necessary services of protection from law enforcement, at some point the citizenry will act. It might not be pretty but we will act to preserve and protect our home and our economy. But this is not required of us; we are paying and writing the paychecks of the police officers and immigration officers every month. We only ask that you do your jobs.
To those in senior positions of law enforcement, can you sincerely and truthfully pledge to work with our community to ensure that we are fully equipped to deal with the issues that confront us and that all lawless acts regardless of whom is the offender, will be dealt with in a swift and professional manner?
In a 21st century Bahamas, we expect no less.