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 Bahamas Commentary

2006-02-09 15:12:16

A Brute In Uniform

Truth is that in a world where appearances do matter, The Bahamas is today looking bad.

Today we are obliged to proceed on our way by first referencing what seems to be a long-standing game in The Bahamas. The game goes some thing like this: At the opening of the calendar year, police, defense, prison and customs officers would assemble in one church or the other.

Thereupon some one will deliver a message about challenges ahead; some one else will reference 'bad apples in the ranks and the need to 'weed them out'. Thereafter there will be prayers for the well being of the nation's leaders and for the solicitous attention and guidance of the Almighty.

In the real world where real deeds matter most, the scene quickly returns to business as usual, thus some of what is currently coming to the attention of the public. There are bad apples everywhere.

Today's commentary concerns some of these 'bad apples' working in the Royal Bahamas Defense Force. In this regard, the message in the screaming headline is so very clear that the late Alphonso 'Blind Blake' Higgs might have been able to read it had he been alive to take note of a truly disgusting story about a Royal Bahamas Defense Force Officer who allegedly brutalized a Florida reporter.

That the story has gone world wide only goes to show the kind of damage that can be done to a place like The Bahamas. Truth is that in a world where appearances do matter, The Bahamas is today looking bad. Making matters worse is this society's collective penchant for sweet talk, self-serving deceptions, and any number of other artful lies.

Our view is that cover-up is some times worse than the offences that are being covered up. This truism is analogous to that situation where the receiver is sometimes more morally contemptible than the avowed thief.

Such is the sorry state of this nation's moral conscience that there are Bahamians who take it for granted that the police and others in the uniformed branches should be given carte blanche and that brutality and impunity should be allowed to run rampant.

Nothing could be further from the truth concerning how these people should conduct themselves, which is that they are called upon to obey the laws they purportedly enforce.

In this context we most readily place most of those immediate official responses that talk so blithely about 'full inquiries and getting to the bottom of this or that scandal'. The unadulterated fact of the matter in today's Bahamas is that mountain of evidence that says that there are officers in the uniformed branches of government who are -quite literally speaking- emperors of crime in The Bahamas.

The whispered word on the street has it that some of these men and women are Customs Officers who have perfected the arts of pulling deals and otherwise diverting to their own use money that should have gone into the coffers of the public treasury.

While we are not in a position to point the blaming finger at any specific individual or gang of individuals, truth is that we do most surely believe in the credibility of that average honest Customs Officer who says that he knows the names of some of those men and women who 'pull deals'.

Similar tales are being told about Immigration and Police Officers.

We are also quite clear in our own mind that some thing is dreadfully wrong when in case after case, information surfaces concerning this officer or the other who has clearly exceeded their authority.

Whenever this information surfaces, it is a total embarrassment to all who would wish that it was not so. We might say that this kind of information reveals what the 'soft underbelly of corruption and impunity' is surely in today's Bahamas. To all who would see, this so-called paradise is clearly a place where ordinary citizens can be assaulted and where journalists doing their work can have their faces bashed by a self-appointed judge, jury and chief executioner.

There is no justification for any of this. As such, some must pay.

In this regard, we sincerely ask, can anyone tell us or anyone else for that matter what it would mean for this country if and when the day comes that a foreign journalist is killed by a brute in uniform?

The answer is not a pretty one.

As members of the fraternity of Journalists, we demand that the Commander of The Royal Bahamas Defence Force answer questions on this unfortunate incident. We are watching to see just how accountable he is.

Editor, The Bahama Journal

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