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2006-02-03 17:36:21

The Bahamas: Fair-weather Friend to United States

Not only does the Minister of Foreign Affairs owe the Americans an explanation, he also owes Bahamians an explanation.

In an interview with The Tribune in December American Ambassador John Rood assured Bahamians that this country's relationship with Cuba, Venezuela and China will never hurt the relationship between the Bahamas and the US.

"Since I have been here I have been very clear that the government of the Bahamas has the right to do whatever is in their interest and I have never condemned them for anything they have done that has been in their interest. I do that out of respect and friendship and, like the prime minister (Perry Christie) said, we are closer than friends - we are kin."

But even with kin, it is presumptuous to take too much for granted. And when kin gently asks for an explanation about behaviour that can be interpreted as unfriendly, it is unseemly to get one's dander up and complain that his statements are "offensive." Come now, how can a simple question be "offensive" among friends, especially when those friends are more than "kith", they are "kin"?

Apparently, the Bahamas has taken the position that it will not get involved in the internal affairs of another country, in other words it will abstain from voting at the United Nations and in other international arenas when such subjects arise. However, when, on certain issues - especially human rights issues - one is too often caught sitting on the fence with questionable "friends", then kin has every right to question the activities of his dearly beloved cousin. And "dearly beloved cuz" would do well to take note of the signals, especially when other members of the family back home are not paying enough attention to his activities, but expect him to safeguard their welfare, and keep the family intact.

Speaking at the 2006 Bahamas Business Outlook Conference last month Ambassador Rood talked about his vision for US-Bahamas relations.

He was candid about his disappointment that the Bahamas has not taken a more active position on human rights issues in the United Nations.

"Even as a majority of countries united to spotlight human rights abuses," he said. "The Bahamas and some of our other Caribbean neighbours stood in the shadows. They took the position that it was inappropriate to vote on any country-specific resolution and voted to close off discussion of abuses in Iran and the Sudan.

"In the case of Sudan," Mr Rood pointed out, "a country whose forces are responsible for killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests,tortures, and rapes, five votes were all that were needed to consider their human rights record. Yet among Caribbean countries, only St Vincent and the Grenadines supported this resolution."

This is shocking. Why wasn't the Bahamas supporting the democratic rights of the Sudanese people? We think our man at the UN owes this country an explanation.

And, to take the position that the Bahamas does not want to become embroiled in another nation's affairs is no excuse, especially when it is not consistent in that position.

In the December interview, Mr Rood said he found it interesting that the Bahamas did not support a UN resolution against Iran that was sponsored by Canada, but did support a resolution criticising US policy towards Cuba.

Canada's resolution condemned Iran for human rights abuses after the kidnapping and murder of a Canadian photo journalist in Iran, "The UK supported the resolution, we supported the resolution, the majority of the other countries in the world supported the resolution,." said Mr Rood. "But, as you can imagine, Venezuela did not and Cuba did not.

"Unfortunately, the Bahamas chose not to support that resolution and they chose to stand with Cuba and Venezuela and did not support a resolution that was sponsored by Canada and supported by the US and the United Kingdom.

"I do not fully understand why this decision was made. I was told the Caribbean countries do not have a policy of condemning any one country - but then two weeks later we have a resolution condemning the US."

Not only does the Minister of Foreign Affairs owe the Americans an explanation, he also owes Bahamians an explanation. Especially those who remember Cuba's bombing of the Flamingo with the loss of innocent Bahamian lives.

What Bahamian wants to find himself in the tent of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, rather than with our natural democratic allies?

As we said in this column a few days ago a coin has two sides - on the one side the Bahamas has its rights, on the other are the rights of the Americans. When one side provokes the other, forcing the other to separate and walk away, then the side at fault has no complaint. And so it will be with the Bahamas.

From now on it would be in the best interest of this country to keep a very close eye on how the Bahamas is voting in these international organisations. If this country's position is being jeopardized then it would be best to call these expensive delegations home and save ourselves some money.

Editorial from The Tribune Newspaper

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