Using logic that is difficult to follow, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) is demanding that the Bahamas government meet the bail conditions for the nine vendors who were arrested in New York City.
PLP Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell says that the government facilitated the alleged illegal act by charging customs duty on the “fake goods”.
Mr Mitchell offered no evidence of this. Indeed, many of the straw vendors have friends and “cousins” working in Customs. It is rare that the vendors declare the items they bring in from New York.
“If there has been illegality, then The Bahamas government has profited from that illegality,” said Mitchell during a PLP news conference.
Mitchell along with Alfred Sears, PLP MP for Fort Charlotte, claim they are giving the families of the vendors legal advice.
“The Bahamas government can not be seen to be washing its hands of this matter. Indeed if these vendors are guilty of any offense of selling counterfeit goods, the government itself has to explain its part in the matter. The Bahamas has been a signatory of the Berne Convention since 1973. This treaty on copyright law requires The Bahamas government to give the intellectual property of others the same protection as accorded the nationals of The Bahamas.
“The incontrovertible and easily verifiable facts are that the counterfeit goods are sold in a government-owned and sponsored market. The vendors are issued business licenses by the government, they have licenses to have booths in the market and the vendors, when they bring their goods in, declare their goods and pay custom duty to The Bahamas government.”
Ironically, Mitchell says the straw vendors are, “being held hostage in a government to government issue that must be resolved. We signed the treaty; we have the obligation as a country and it’s only the government that I think can resolve it,” he said.
Mr Mitchell conveniently forgets that the intellectual property rights problem manifested considerably during the PLP administration when disregard for the law was encouraged.
Since the vendors’ arrest on September 18, the PLP has been plying for political brownie points by “playing” to the families of the incarcerated vendors.
Kirk Hanna, who is the husband of Patricia Hanna, said most of the vendors’ families feel as if the government has abandoned their loved ones.
The PLP said it intends to start a defense fund to assist the vendors with their expenses and is inviting the public to contribute once the fund has been established.
But will the money really go to the vendors?
The PLP is broke and has past due debts amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sears said PLP repesentatives also hope to travel to New York to monitor their cases as they unfold, if they can afford the airfare.
“We call upon the government to undertake a vigorous national education campaign to inform Bahamians of our legal obligations under the Berne Convention and other international conventions and domestic law to respect intellectual property rights,” Sears continued.
Mr Sears did not explain why, under the Christie adminsitration that he served in, the PLP did not do more to enforce intellectual property rights.
The FNM government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Sunday that the government has engaged attorney Elliot Sagor of the New York law firm Hogan Love Lovells to assist in matters related to the vendors’ arrest.
Original story from The Nassau Guardian