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Mitchell dismisses FNM MP’s call for apology

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Oct 17, 2013

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Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell yesterday dismissed a call for him to apologize for accusations he leveled at the Free National Movement (FNM) in relation to Cuban abuse claims.

Mitchell said the opposition would see the “Second Coming” before he apologizes.

At the height of the controversy, Mitchell accused the FNM of “siding with the enemies of The Bahamas” after members of the opposition accused the government of covering up abuse at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.

East Grand Bahama MP Peter Turnquest said he found Mitchell’s statement offensive and called on him to apologize last week.

"When he said the FNM sided with the enemy, he is talking about all of us,” said Turnquest in the House of Assembly yesterday.

“If he wanted to be specific then he should have been specific. But you cannot go out either in this House or in the public and make those kinds of statements."

Mitchell said he never leveled any accusations directly at Turnquest.

"I want to make it clear, no apology will be coming from me," Mitchell said. "You will see the second coming first."

He said, “What I said about being enemies of the state was rather more circumspect or studied than a bald assertion. And the question, Mr. Speaker, is whether or not my response was in scale, or proportionate to the comments directed at me by the side opposite.”

Mitchell acknowledged that he did make wider statements about the FNM, but insisted that he was just adopting public opinion of the FNM.

He made those accusations after FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis claimed in August that at least five Cuban detainees who were held at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre were physically abused.

Minnis said that information was contained in a report into the alleged abuse at the detention center.

On that same day, Mitchell responded in a statement saying: "I have never met a more unpatriotic, un-Bahamian group than the FNM.

"They opposed independence and now they are siding with enemies of The Bahamas against Bahamians.  When will they stand up for The Bahamas?"

On at least two other occasions, Mitchell made similar statements regarding the FNM.

Turnquest tabled those statements yesterday afternoon and again called on Mitchell to apologize.

"I expect him to respect those of us who have a different opinion on matters and those who rise in this place to defend this country, to bring to light issues that we think are important and that should be in the public domain," Turnquest said.

"So if he is offended by that, I apologize to him, but he should be big enough also to say that he apologizes for the inference that he made.

“And that's not being small or admitting to anything. That's just saying that the statements I made may have carried the wrong impression."

Mitchell accepted the apology but did not make one of his own.

Mitchell said the report that the opposition referred to was never verified.

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