BY ROGAN SMITH
We truly are a slack nation. There’s really no other way to put it. Drive around the streets of New Providence on any given day and you are sure to see residents breaking the law with impunity. It seems breaking the law has become the new normal. I often question how we haven’t descended into complete anarchy yet.
On Monday, new traffic laws came into effect, one of which criminalizes the use of cell phones while driving. Naturally, that did very little to stop motorists from texting while driving. I personally spotted many people on their cell phones. Several were swerving in and out of lanes as they attempted to balance the steering wheel while operating their phones. #Priorities
While I didn’t expect people to stop breaking the law overnight, I certainly expected a greater degree of respect for the law. The same respect we show when we travel to the US and get behind a wheel. We don’t follow American laws because we’re such an obedient people. We follow those laws because we know the minute we whip out a cell phone while driving, some stiff uniformed state trooper will speed up behind us, sires blazing ready to hand out a ticket.
The Bahamas has never had a problem passing laws. We can draft legislation like it’s nobody’s business. It’s the enforcement that is lacking.
The only time I see police ticketing people is immediately following the enactment of a law or during a roadblock. By now, New Providence residents already know the drill.
Think about it. When have you ever seen a driver being pulled over for speeding outside of a roadblock or a police chase? When have you ever seen a driver being arrested for drunk driving? The last time I heard about breathalyzers was in 2011 when Tommy Turnquest was the Minister of National Security.
There are even members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force who don’t follow the law. Let’s not forget the two police officers who were demoted in 2017 after being caught on video drinking alcohol and ignoring a call from the Police Control Room.
The officers were riding without seatbelts and said they were “[expletive] getting drunk.” These are the people who are supposed to enforce the law and protect us. Many called for the men to be fired. But, in the end, they were simply demoted.
Another chronic lawbreaker is the roadside vendor. While I support enterprising Bahamians creating jobs for themselves, they must do so in law and order. They cannot and should not be allowed to simply set up shop wherever they want, whenever they want.
Look at the many roadside vendors who operate in New Providence. It always starts with one. Then, once others see no one has moved the original vendor, they, too, set up shop. Very rarely do these individuals have permits to be in operation.
Police officers drive past these vendors every single day without stopping to ask them for their permit or shutting them down. The longer they are allowed to remain in place, the tougher it will be to close their businesses. Sometimes, they even patronize the business.
Every time there is an attempt to enforce the law, the government is accused of trying to “take bread” out of their mouths. The government is doing no such thing.
Every business that services the public should be properly licensed to do so. Think about the many companies that pay for business licenses or pay National Insurance Board contributions and VAT payments to keep their businesses operational. Is that fair to them?
We have transformed Nassau into a dump. This island has gotten by on the beauty of its coastline, but that’s about it. But, once you move away from the coast, you can see for yourself what a garbage can it is.
People take their garbage, old refrigerators and stoves and head out into the night, dumping them into bushes. They’d rather save a few dollars and take a chance rather than taking it to the New Providence Landfill. That’s too much of an inconvenience for them.
They throw garbage outside of their cars every day rather than waiting for a trash can. Speaking of which, there aren’t many garbage bins throughout the island. Many also leave old mattresses and refrigerators outside of their homes for years. Even after the government removes those items, they are replaced with more garbage.
Derelict vehicles are also problematic. In 2017, Environment Minister, Romauld Ferreira noted that 80,000 derelict vehicles are in New Providence, and nearly 10 acres of the New Providence Landfill is filled with such vehicles.
It is unclear whether that number has increased or decreased since then. However, it’s not uncommon to see old, dilapidated vehicles parked in front of homes. It’s not just in the inner cities either. The Cable Beach area also has old cars on bricks parked in front of apartment buildings.
We need to get to the point where we are heavily fining homeowners and landlords who allow these cars to remain parked in front of their buildings.
We have no one to blame but ourselves. When you don’t respect your own environment, no one will either.
We have an environmental court, but it is not operating the way it should. February of this year was the first time that the court sat after a multi-year lull. Why?
Our law enforcement agencies have a tendency to start strong, but then they fall right back into old habits. They start slacking off.
›The government of the day needs to get serious about enforcing the current laws.
This state of lawlessness cannot continue. I often hear people say fines are too high or the punishment is too stiff. My response to them is don’t break the law, then you won’t pay the fine or go to jail. It’s as simple as that.