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 Bahamas Commentary

2003-06-16 16:07:35

A Search For Truth

Commission of inquiry into the 'Inagua Incident'

The calling of a Commission of Inquiry is a serious matter. When one is called, the public knows that there is a need for the full airing of an issue. The ones that have been called in The Bahamas have all come about after episodes which threaten to undermine state authority or civil order.

For example, when The Bahamas was convulsed by labour rebellion and riots in the 1940's, two inquiries were established. Or for that matter, when a General Strike was called in 1958, an Inquiry was called to find out why it took place and to recommend what was to be done to ameliorate certain dire social concerns.

In more recent times, in the 1980's, when there was a perception that The Bahamas had been overrun by drug dealers and other criminals, Commissions of Inquiry were called.

Riding on the tail of these inquiries were major political changes, inclusive of the FNM's breakthrough victory on August 19th, 1992.

These are recounted to underscore the high seriousness of the new information that another Commission of Inquiry has been called, this time to lay to rest lingering suspicions concerning a drug bust which took place ten years ago.

Those who might have hoped against hope that the matter concerning the so-called "Inagua Incident" would go away, now know better. With this past Friday's announcement that a Commission of Inquiry has been established to examine the Defense Force arrest of the vessel Lorequin, from which some of its cargo of confiscated drugs disappeared, and the subsequent investigation into the matter. Retired Supreme Court Judge Stanley Moore is the sole commissioner to investigate these matters.

While we have no interest at this stage in recounting all of the facts involved in this matter, we do believe it appropriate to express the view that this matter was, from the get go, inappropriately handled by the former government. Had the Ingraham regime been more diligent, the matter involving the Lorequin and its contraband cargo would have been handled quite differently. Had it not been for the harsh criticisms levelled at the Royal Bahamas Defense Force by the United Ambassador to The Bahamas, the public would have been none the wiser about the issue.

At a level which is extremely disturbing are suggestions that the subsequent investigation "was inadequate or deliberately mishandled due to institutional or political motives." This characterisation puts the Ingraham administration in the direct line of fire. Having boasted about how different it was from that of its predecessor, it is today being put on notice that its past conduct is being officially scrutinized. In this regard, it is interesting to note former Attorney General Tennyson R.G. Wells' information to the effect that the Inagua incident took place in June 1992, during the last 60 days of the previous PLP government's administration, and that the investigation was completed in June 1993, 10 months into the tenure of the Free National Movement's administration led by Hubert A. Ingraham.

Current Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Hon. Alfred T. Sears is of the view that the allegations about the conduct of the investigation by the Defence Force and the Police constitute a serious indictment on the security and law enforcement agencies of The Bahamas. While the Attorney General is absolutely correct in his assessment of the lingering effects of this matter on morale in the Defence Force, he should also be aware that his party is also directly implicated in how this matter was subsequently handled.

While in opposition, the PLP would have any number of occasions to put forward its views on this matter and how it was subsequently. Obviously, the Free National Movement must answer whatever charges come their way concerning manner in which they handled the issue. Now, since it may emerge that all parties did the best they could in the circumstances, and that the matter was indeed handled correctly, we reserve ultimate judgement about guilt, innocence mal- or misfeasance by anyone.

However, we would be grossly delinquent in our work were we not to express our chagrin and dismay as to how things have turned out in the matters concerning the so-called Inagua Incident. In the first instance, it is now transparently and abundantly clear that this Inquiry might have never been called had it not been for the prodding of the United States of America. Second, our dismay is for a Free National Movement which prided itself so much on its reputation for being open, fair, decent and transparent.

We hasten to add, however, that like other Bahamians who believe in the majesty of law, we shall not rush to judgement on this matter.

A Commission of Inquiry is - after all - only a means towards establishing the truth, as best human beings can. We have the utmost confidence in the system and in justice Stanley Moore.

Editorial, The Bahama Journal

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