Minnis wants emergency committee on crime
ROYSTON JONES JR.
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: May 22, 2013
A national emergency plan that is non-partisan is needed to address the high crime rate in The Bahamas, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday.
Minnis said he will request an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Perry Christie to discuss the establishment of a crime committee made up of political leaders, members of civil society, the business community and the church.
“There have been crime commissions in the past, but we are now at a point of emergency,” he said.
“[National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage] has said we are at war. When a country is at war all political parties get together to resolve the problem. It should become totally non-partisan.
“In light of what has been happening over the last couple of months this is the time when all Bahamians must come together, including all political leaders.”
Minnis reminded of the billboards erected by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) ahead of the 2012 general election that highlighted the murder count during the FNM’s term in office.
He said while it was not the proper way to go about an election campaign, cruise ships operators and the United States government have issued warnings to travelers about crime in the country, and in the national interest the issue needs urgent attention.
In opposition, Nottage headed a Parliamentary Select Committee on Crime.
While the committee had numerous meetings it never reported.
Under the Ingraham administration, the government-appointed crime commission, headed by Bishop Simeon Hall, made multiple recommendations, some of which were carried out.
Hall, who was contacted by The Nassau Guardian, said yesterday both the PLP and FNM have politicized crime while in opposition.
“Both parties should admit that they have exploited crime as an issue and have done less in terms of fixing the issue,” Hall said.
“The PLP had signs all over the place berating the crime problem. Well crime is still a reality. We need PLPs, FNMs and DNAs (Democratic National Alliance), whoever it is, to come and talk.”
Hall said a group of pastors has recommended to the government a three-strike system.
Anyone convicted of three serious crimes would be sentenced to life imprisonment.
“The criminals are not afraid of going to jail, the police or Dr. Nottage,” said Hall, retired pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church.
“Since we are not hanging anyone, we need another message to reach the criminals.”
Hall said while he supports any effort that promotes more action and less talk, most Bahamians are too polarized.
“It is one thing to speak about crime statistics being down, but another thing to visit a family where someone has been murdered,” he said.
“When someone has a murder in his or her family they do not care about statistics.”
Despite the murders that took place in recent days the 2013 murder count is still lower than the count this same time last year, Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell said yesterday.
The murder count for 2013 is 44. This compares to 57 at this same time last year.
Four murders took place over the holiday weekend.