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2003-03-07 16:43:38

MPs Slam Blankenship

"Sometimes I wonder whether war hasn't been declared on the Commonwealth of the Bahamas," said Adderley

The controversy surrounding Ambassador J. Richard Blankenship again reached the halls of parliament yesterday with two PLP MP's suggesting that the U.S. envoy may have committed a number of diplomatic blunders in recent weeks.

The Member of Parliament for Elizabeth Malcolm Adderley and the representative for Mount Moriah Keod Smith both raised the issue with Mr. Adderley going a step further intimating that the United States may have already declared war on the Bahamas.

In recent months, Mr. Blankenship has blasted the country's handling of drug trafficking matters, warned that the U.S. would remember if the Bahamas does not side with the American government in a war effort and clashed with members of the media over censorship questions.

Concerns regarding his comments boiled over yesterday with Mr. Adderley saying that the sovereignty of the Bahamas has been threatened.

"Sometimes I wonder whether war hasn't been declared on the Commonwealth of the Bahamas," he said. "It frightens me when we are told 'you must do this or else my Christmas list won't have you on it.' My God, look who it's coming from...[This person] represents the most powerful nation in the world.

"We can't laugh at these things. We can't take these things for granted...You can't drink and have cocktails and pretend to be friendly and then hold a stick over my head."

Mr. Adderley also slammed the Opposition Free National Movement for issuing a statement this week announcing that it supported the United States in a possible military strike against Iraq.

That statement contradicted much of what Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell has been saying all along, that the Bahamas supports the United Nations conflict resolution mechanisms.

Mr. Adderley said what the FNM said seems "to be a contradiction between what the United Nations...of which we are a member [seems to be saying].

He added, "It gives me as a Bahamian great reservations because if the opposition is saying it supports the United States, it's a question of sovereignty. What sort of signals are we sending out to people in the world...and that bothers me and I would ask the leader of the Opposition now to please clarify the position as to whether that position is the position of the party, because, really, people are talking about it."

Mr. Adderley said he believes Mr. Blankenship may have assurances that the Bahamas could one day become the 51st state of the United States.

Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell pointed out that the Bahamas continues to subscribe to the United Nations Charter.

"There are no plans for the Bahamas to withdraw from the United Nations," Minister Mitchell said.

Mount Moriah MP Keod Smith, meanwhile, questioned whether Mr. Blankenship may have been making a number of diplomatic blunders recently.

"The last time I checked, Mr. Speaker, the Bahamas was declared by the Constitution to be a sovereign and democratic state," he said. "Over the past few weeks and months, I listened with much anxiety and tremendous and great trepidation that there was or appears to be an infringement on that declaration."

Mr. Smith said some remarks from Mr. Blankenship could even be confused to be insults.

He then posed several questions to Minister Mitchell.

"Is it not that the U.S. Ambassador as would be any other ambassadors out of order based on what is considered to be diplomatic protocol in his behaviour in and around the Bahama islands and if it is that he is in fact out of order what exactly is it that is to be be sure that we don't have the kind of public play out of diplomacy that we see engaging a representative of another state in the kind of things which happen on the ground in this country?" he asked.

Minister Mitchell responded saying that, "I understand the concern and anxiety of some Members of the House and citizens of the Bahamas about many of the public comments that have been made [by Mr. Blankenship] over the past few weeks. I just want to, however, be very careful."

He said it is important to exercise caution when addressing diplomatic relations in parliament.

Minister Mitchell assured that Bahamian-U.S. relations remain cordial.

"The relationship between the United States and the Bahamas is a secure one, is a safe one," he said. "Relations are good...I would simply say that we both agree and characterise the relations as such.

Any differences that appear, he said, are not significant and can be worked out.

By Candia Dames, The Bahama Journal

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