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Threats to democracy?

Published: Aug 26, 2013

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Dear Editor,

At the outset, allow me to state categorically that I am a long time supporter of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and that I make absolutely no apologies for the same. I came up through the proverbial ranks under the leadership of the late and greatly lamented Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling.

Having said that, however, I call a spade a spade and philosophically the chips may fall where they might. I hold no brief for foolishness and any apparent attempts to stifle the democratic process. Last week Thursday (August 22), I took time out to attend a so-called public forum on crime hosted by the Ministry of National Security.

The meeting was well attended. Several high ranking law enforcement officers were present as well as the minister and state minister for national security. The event was hosted by Julian Reid of the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas and covered live by ZNS and Cable 12.

Days before the scheduled event, I had e-mailed Elcott Coleby of Bahamas Information Services, a known PLP communications functionary, inviting him to have someone from the Ministry of National Security to appear on “Real Talk Live” to flesh out the objectives of the forum.

Of course, he paid me no mind and did not even respond. This is the same character who recently penned a letter to the press and referred to the Honorable Loretta Butler-Turner (FNM-Long Island) in disparaging terms.

When the opportunity presented itself, I went up to a microphone apparatus in a center aisle. At that time, there was actually no mike, but eventually Carlos Reid, a former client, placed one in the appropriate place. I introduced myself and was complimenting the minister, et al, for convening the forum.

Lo and behold, before I could get much further, Julian Reid very rudely and bluntly told me to “get to the point”. As I commenced to do so, he apparently ordered that the mic be turned off and remarked, audibly, that the forum was not “Real Talk Live”! The overt biasness was palatable, at least to me.

I demanded, very loudly, to be allowed to make my contribution and called for the mic to be turned back on. Within seconds, Stephen Seymour, a formerly retired senior police officer, who had received a generous severance package and had gone to work as manager of security services for the now defunct City Meat Market, approached me and ordered me to take my seat or to get out of the hall.

He gave me no explanation, and I told him that unless he did so, he had absolutely no right to make such demands in a publicly-funded forum. Of course, he paid me no mind and proceeded to escort me, forcibly and with the assistance of an Inspector Sands, out of the hall.

After a few minutes of being interviewed by the media in the foyer, I returned on my own accord, back into the hall. Despite what was alleged to have been reported in the media, I was not allowed back into the same by anyone as no one could have legitimately denied me re-entry.

Others were allowed to run on, ad nauseum, with their contributions, such as they were and to talk about matters which had absolutely nothing to do with the objectives of the forum. Not a single FNM member of Parliament or party officials was present and, I am certain, that none of them would have been invited. The DNA, et al, was not even a blip on the radar.

Our erstwhile politicians, especially those within the Gold Rush are posturing and seeking political cover. There is no transparency and not a single one of them have a clue as to how to reduce crime and the fear of crime to the irreducible minimum.

Minister Nottage himself once headed a select committee on crime that supposedly held extensive discussions, at taxpayers’ expense. If that committee did report that nebulous report was never followed up on much less adopted as a part of national policy initiatives.

Decades ago, another committee headed by Bishop Drexel Gomez also investigated the causes of crime and suggested solutions in a well-prepared and written document. That document, like all of the countless others, has been apparently relegated to the dust bin of history.

The minister of state for national security is a “friend”, and I have high hopes for him politically. As a former senior police officer and a lawyer, Senator Bell singlehandedly could put in place an effective crime fighting strategy. His political handlers and puppet masters, however, will never allow him to outshine the substantive minister much less his hapless and clueless colleagues in the Gold Rush administration.

The PLP ran a large public relations campaign based on good sounding pie in the sky promises during the 2012 general election. The FNM and its then maximum leader clearly saw the handwriting on the wall and may have thrown in the political towel even before the dissolution of Parliament.

They ran a juvenile-based campaign, and they never really displayed the required energy or deployed the material resources that they knew had to be put into play. Indeed, they were outmaneuvered and literally rolled over by the Philip Brave Davis and Bradley Roberts-ran PLP propaganda machinery.

Our democratic process is under assault, I submit, here in our beloved nation. Public critique of our politicians, especially those who might be a member of the governing party at any given time, is not taken too lightly and there are repercussions. Personally, however, I fear none of them and they all “know” this so they are “reluctant” to be interviewed by me.

Some of them say that I am “too disrespectful” towards them. Others say that they are “coming” when their schedules would permit. The rest are, simply put, too afraid to account to the public and wear their disdain on their shoulders.

What transpired within the forum as it relates to me was a deliberate ploy to deny me the right to put salient questions to the grandees who were on the “panel”. The commodore of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, who holds equal rank with the erstwhile commissioner of police, never, not even once, opened his mouth. This is the man who leads a force that is seemingly incapable of interdicting Haitian sloops or manning the now infamous detention center.

The director of immigration never once spoke about the illegal shantytowns and the massive numbers of undocumented aliens within our midst. He never opined as to what appears to be a very slack and grossly non-transparent management of the Immigration Department. The minister himself was nowhere in sight.

The PLP assured the people of this wonderful country during the months leading up to the campaign that it had the solutions to crime and that it would hit the ground running once given an electoral mandate.

Lo and behold, crime is just as bad as it ever was despite the slick public relations spittle of the Gold Rush and the now apparently heavily slanted hierarchy of the law enforcement agencies, especially the Royal Bahamas Police Force.

With the thousands of rank-and-file serving police officers, assistant commissioners are now being deployed, very visibly, to eject opposing members of Parliament from the House and to throw out an individual like me, a law-abiding citizen, from a public taxpayers’ event? I am reminded, daily, of the saga of “Animal Farm”, which was written by George Orwell years ago.

Boxer and the boys are back, and they are back with a vengeance. Political power is now the order of the day with a strong dose of entitlement and arrogance. I will continue to support the PLP because it is the right party for the nation. I will continue to agitate, however, for the eventual retirement of those individuals who are clearly ineffective, clueless and whose shelf life has expired.

Unless and until we see the elevation of the Dauphin Prince and his court, the PLP under the benign leadership of a challenged emperor and his deluded courtiers will continue to flounder with crime, the economy and sustained development across the board.

Yes, there are some successes and more, I am sure, are on the way. The forceful silencing of unpalatable views, however, is not the way to go. State agencies and functionaries, no matter how close they are perceived or known to be to the PLP, must not appear to be used to enforce its version of political correctness. Democracy, I submit, is under assault. To God then, in all things, be the glory.

– Ortland H. Bodie Jr.

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