Protect our Constitutional Rights

Thursday 22nd, March 2012 / 01:28 Published by

Our Constitution guarantees every resident of this country the right of free speech, conscience and assembly.  No one – election or no election – has the right to interfere with these basic freedoms. Those who do should be severely punished.

Freedom of conscience assures each and everyone of us the right to our beliefs, regardless of how others might disagree. Freedom of expression gives us the right to express those beliefs as we see fit, as long as we respect the rights of others to do the same. In other words we all agree to disagree, but in a friendly manner, one respecting the right of the other to have his turn on the floor. We also have the right to free association with persons of like mind, including political parties. Under our Constitution, no one has the right to interfere.

These inalienable rights should be ingrained in each of us from childhood. To be devoid of them on reaching adulthood means that such persons have been lost on the fringes of civilisation. They live in a democracy, but they neither belong nor appreciate that democracy. The only time that there is a squeak out of them is if someone retaliates by stepping on their toes — it is only then that they become aware and quickly demand their constitutional protection.

In a letter to The Tribune today, Dennis Dames commends Killarney MP Dr Hubert Minnis (FNM) for calling for “calm heads to prevail” during this election season.

“We must remember,” said Dr Minnis, “that we are all Bahamians and when the election is over, we must all still live together in this Bahamaland. It is not unusual for one home to have individuals who support different political parties but what is unusual for us, is for family members not to support each other, instead allowing political persuasions to affect our family bond.

“We must continue to respect an individual’s right to speak, support and vote for the party of their choice, as this is the fundamentals of the democratic process at its best. We must bring out the best in each other; we should practice patience, hospitality and love. We should abstain from mud-slinging and personal attacks on each other because at the end of the day, we all want one thing, a better Bahamas. No one wants to live in a violent, unfriendly environment.”

Dr Minnis called for peace and respect one for the other on learning that the daughter of one of Grand Bahamas’ FNM candidates, and three other supporters were sprayed in their faces with a fire extinguisher by a PLP supporter.

Why would anyone carry a fire extinguisher to a political rally? This case should be thoroughly investigated and, if found to be true, the culprit or culprits should be severely punished.
In commenting on Dr Minnis’ call for calm, Mr Dames wrote that he had “never experienced such touchiness, itchiness, and angriness among Bahamians of different political perspectives in the Bahamas until now”.

He said that if things continue on this course, “we could be in for something violently new in our electoral process and it will be a direct reflection of our 21st century political leadership in the Bahamas”.

We remember when Mr Dames first started writing letters for publication in The Tribune, and so we guess that he is too young to remember the elections of the sixties and the PLP “goon squads” where election violence all started.

Today we are only reaping the seeds that were sown then — violence, disrespect for law and order, disrespect for our elders and ourselves, satanic worship at the altar of materialism – on and on into today’s pit of degradation. Today in almost every aspect of our decadent social behaviour we are reaping the evil seeds that were sown then.

In those days, the PLP’s goon squads, with their loud clackers, were so violent that public rallies could not be held. We recall one night covering a political meeting in Fox Hill’s school house when the building was stoned. The foreign journalist with us, sent to cover the election, was so frightened that he crawled under one of the classroom benches for protection. People were injured, people were sent to hospital. Their pictures made the front page of The Tribune.

Bahamians were frightened to write letters to The Tribune, and those who did never attached their names. One night a woman’s home was stoned because it was believed that she had written a letter critical of the PLP to The Tribune. Properties were burned, a policeman was sent to The Tribune to try to force us to reveal the identity of a Freeport letter writer. The police officer disliked his assignment as much as we did, and so we had a friendly chat, wished him well and sent a stinging message back to the PLP Cabinet minister who had sent him. By the seventies, we were into the drug years –fast boats, retaliatory killings, and a general breakdown of all the rules that had held a Christian society together. Fast money was a badge of success.

And so do not “send to know for whom the bell tolls,” it tolls for each and every one of us. Now is the time for zero tolerance — either that or surrender our society to the refuse born and bred in the sixties.

Tribune Editorial
March 21, 2012

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