Fred Mitchell Embarrasses The Bahamas
I promised to investigate this matter which was first brought to the attention of the public on Sunday, June 24, by bahamaspress.com. The report was later picked up by the mainstream press and a question was posed to the minister of national security. The minister of foreign affairs was then asked to comment. As of Sunday, no public official at the highest ranks in either the Ministry of National Security or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were said to be aware of the truth or otherwise of the reports as they were then framed.
Tommy Turnquest, the former minister of national security, spoke that Sunday to the press and his statement confirming knowledge and approval of the surveillance appeared in the newspapers the next day. In response to his comment, I told the press that I could not accept at face value anything the former minister of national security had to say. It was he who accepted responsibility then for the state of affairs. He, of course, has no responsibility today in law and so can be as loose and irresponsible as he wishes.
The public officials are now said to have been briefed and the political directorate has been briefed as well. Discussions have taken place with the American public officials at the highest levels resident in The Bahamas. The Americans released a press report which appears to be consistent with what those officials said in the meetings with Bahamian officials. The security aspects of this matter are for the Ministry of National Security and the specifics as well. It does not now appear that any violations of policy, law, domestic or international, took place by the use of unmanned surveillance aircraft which the press has described as drones.
I am advised that under existing protocols, the Americans take the view that no specific permission is required or requested for a specific act of surveillance; that the use of this equipment is confined to overlooking the movement on the high seas and is restricted to seeking out smuggling and illegal drug activities and does not involve any terrestrial or land-based intrusions.
The governing instrument appears to be the OPBAT agreement and its subsequent understandings and operational modalities. Contrary to Tommy Turnquest’s assertions in the press, this issue is not about friendliness with the United States or gratefulness to the United States. That is typical of Tommy Turnquest and the FNM to advance nonsense and seek to pollute the issue. This is about the simple facts being made available to the Bahamian public in response to a legitimate concern that they (the public) are or may be subject to unlawful spying and intrusion.
It is necessary then to dispel any such fears. The principle then is while we fight crime, it must always be subject to the rule of law. We are certain that the United States supports that position. The two countries work well together and in this matter their cooperation has been complete. When Turnquest confirmed that he and his government authorized these missions of unmanned craft, the natural logic gave rise to the suspicion by some that the FNM government may have been complicit in an unlawful spying mission. The public had to be disabused of that as well. All of this unnecessary speculation could have been avoided had the FNM government given full disclosure before the fact or come clean as soon as this matter became a public issue. As usual Turnquest and the FNM resort to blaming the PLP, then the press; everyone but themselves.
The PLP government has nothing to do with this except the responsibility now to govern in the best interest of the Bahamian people. Bahamians often say: if you don’t know what to say, then keep quiet. That is good advice for Turnquest. The Government of The Bahamas under the Progressive Liberal Party pledges to continue the fight against drug trafficking and smuggling through our waters. Turnquest will not deflect us from that fight. Let there be no doubt about this country’s commitment to work together with the United States and other international partners to defeat crime.
We pledge to continue our excellent work and cooperation with our American partners in this fight and will continue to fight to eliminate the scourge of crime. The U.S. and The Bahamas stand shoulder to shoulder and arm in arm in fighting the evils of drug trafficking and international crime generally. That is our solemn commitment to the Bahamian people. Politicians who have just lost office should not allow defeat to cause them to lose their political right mind, with the use of selective memory, pompous lecturing and sickening obfuscation.
By: Fred Mitchell
• Fred Mitchell is the minister of foreign affairs and member of Parliament for the Fox Hill constituency.corruption, crime, drugs, incompetence, PLP, United States