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 Bahamas Commentary

2004-04-29 16:26:42

Zero Tolerance On Wrong-Doing Needed

Many persons were upset at the two recent demonstrations in Rawson Square to protest the extradition of a convicted drug dealer to the US.

Why, they ask, would anyone go to bat for a drug dealer? Do they consider him a role model and, if so, where are this country's morals? Where are its principles?

Unfortunately, for many generations, principles and morality have not been fashionable in this country. There is no strong peer pressure to reinforce principles, or even to uphold law and order. Some consider it clever to cock a snook at the law. Of course, whoever can cross the law and get away with it is an even greater hero.

When the law started its relentless crack down on piracy in the Bahamas in the eighteenth century, all sorts of inducements were held out to entice unscrupulous buccaneers from the high seas. Those who could not be persuaded were soon swinging from the end of a noose on the orders of the Bahamas' first royal governor, Woodes Rogers. Soon piracy was no longer fashionable.

The Bahamas then went through an era of wrecking and later rum-running. Few seemed to raise their eyebrows as long as the booty kept flowing. Society appeared not to question the morality of the deeds, but they could certainly recount hilarious stories of some pretty tight skirmishes of many of the daredevils who challenged the law to catch them.

Election bribery is still with us. Today larger sums exchange hands, but not so openly as in years past. In those days a man had no conscience about selling his vote for a four-shilling note or a bottle of rum. On election day the compromised voter carried in his pocket only half of the 4/- note. When the polls closed, if his man won, he went to a pre-determined meeting place to collect the other half of the note. He then taped the two halves of the note together and produced a piece of negotiable currency.

The man who sold and the man who bought never gave principles a second thought. This was what elections were all about. Every man had his price only the naive thought otherwise.

And then there were the eighties the drug era, which took a heavy toll on this society. Today as the public saw for itself in Rawson Square we are still paying the price.

In those days few questioned where the money came from that fueled lifestyles that were beyond a person's earning capacity.

Many were benefiting in one way or another. Bankers winked their eyes when a client walked in, suitcase stuffed with $100 notes in US currency. Hundreds of thousands were deposited, no questions asked.

Parents were not curious when teenage sons, and sometimes even daughters, came home with money that was obviously illegal. Again no questions asked. Don't we all want to improve our station in life, they would shrug their shoulders and ask. Such logic would pacify whatever small conscience they might have left. And so they improved their material well-being while their principles were being shredded.

No one questioned where the money was coming from until little Johnny was caught by the law.

Then the lamentations that went up from the hard-done-by mother, and her little boy would probably convince most that he was the only little saint that ever walked Nassau's streets.

And then there was the drug lord himself no visible means of legal support, little education, but weighed down with gold chains, rings, earrings. He had several homes, drove fast cars, wore the best clothes and, believe it or not, was accepted by society. Why not, he had the money, why should anyone question its legality?

Principles were a humbug one was old fashioned to even make them an issue.

Drug lords bought their protection and sealed their neigbours' lips with generosity. What neighbour is going to turn in a friend who pays for his child's education, underwrites the medical bills and is Santa Claus year-round? If the police expect a whistle blower from this quarter, they can forget it. Everyone's morality has been compromised, and the drug lord is surrounded by his private army of protection.

Little Johnny saw the success of brothers and cousins, sometimes even fathers, who lived the magic lifestyle with no 9 to 5 job to weigh them down. He longed for the day when he too could enter the peddling business.

No wonder they stoned the police in Bimini when they dared attempt to stamp out their drug trade.

A 1984 Commission of Inquiry told of how the taint of corruption reached even to cabinet level.
A minister of the gospel let it be known that principles didn't put bread on the table.
Principles were out, corruption was the fashion of the day.

This was the era that bred some of the youth recently seen in Rawson Square. The spectacle, although worrying, was not surprising.

Unless, and until, there is zero tolerance for wrongdoing. Until there is enough peer pressure to bring principles, and respect for law and order back into vogue, this country will continue to pay for the ills tolerated and even encouraged by an earlier generation.

Editorial, The Tribune
April 27th, 2004 

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