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Bell’s web shop statement seen as wrong signal to police

  • Rev. Dr. Ranford Patterson.

Guardian Senior Reporter

Published: Oct 29, 2013

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A declaration by Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell that authorities cannot shut down the web shop industry sent the wrong signal to law enforcement agencies, according to Bahamas Christian Council President Rev. Dr. Ranford Patterson and Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Darron Cash.

Both men, who were contacted by The Nassau Guardian for comment, said Bell’s statement suggested that law enforcement agencies should disregard the law.

On Friday, Bell said the web shop industry “is here to stay”.

He suggested that despite the police force’s efforts, it cannot shut down the industry.

Patterson said he was “disappointed” in the minister’s statements.

“We might as well say that we have no laws against anything,” Patterson said. “If we believe that a group of persons can break the law and that it’s going to flourish as a law that’s being broken, then our country is in trouble.

“We are in serious trouble if the [junior] law enforcement minister is saying that there is no hope for enforcing the laws that are on the books.

“I’m very disappointed that he would make a statement like that.  Even if he believed it, he shouldn’t say it.”

Bell was a guest on the radio talk show "Real Talk Live" hosted by Ortland Bodie on More 94.9 FM when he made the comments.

“The case is before the court,” Bell said. “And we are stopped from speaking too much about it, but I do agree with you, Mr. Bodie, that it is here to stay.

“We could seek to enforce. We could seek to do as much as we possibly want, but we will continue to have that challenge.”

Cash said Bell’s comments “shocked” him and he called on Prime Minister Perry Christie to reprimand him.

“If minister Bell is speaking for the government, then [Christie] must say so. If he is not, then Mr. Bell must resign or be terminated,” Cash said.

“If he is speaking for himself, then with these latest utterances it is now entirely inappropriate for [Christie] to retain minister Bell in office.

“With no urging from anyone, Mr. Bell has already signaled to the Bahamian people that he will not relentlessly enforce the laws of The Bahamas. He has already given up and thrown in the towel.

“The law enforcement agencies will take their cues from the minister, and his example is a bad example.”

However, while Cash was critical in his response, the web shop industry was also allowed to flourish under the FNM administration with no serious attempt to shut it down.

Both the FNM and Progressive Liberal Party had promised a referendum on gambling.

The government held a referendum on January 28 and asked voters if they supported the taxation and regulation of web shops and the creation of a national lottery.

The majority of people who voted in the referendum said no to both questions.

More than nine months after the January referendum, the status quo remains as a legal challenge brought by web shop owners is tied up in the Supreme Court.

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