Former PM says ex-Cabinet ministers Turnquest and Sands represent FNM core values
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has come out against the government’s decision to limit commercial fishing to only Bahamians — a move that would discriminate against Bahamian women and their spouses.
In a letter to the editor, Ingraham said he was moved to publicly support the position of former Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest, who raised the issue during debate in Parliament last week.
The bill would repeal the current Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Act, 1977, and seeks to prevent individuals who are not citizens of The Bahamas from engaging in commercial fishing.
An amendment to the Immigration Act would ensure that work permits are not granted for commercial fishing.
Ingraham said the provision that would exclude spouses of Bahamian women “tarnishes the codification of the fisheries law”.
“This offending provision with an obscenely outrageous penalty will overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, have a negative impact upon Bahamian women married to foreign nationals who are engaged in the fishing sector,” he said.
“It will have widespread ripple effects on human rights of persons legally present in our country with an unrestricted right to work.”
The former prime minister noted that the Free National Movement (FNM) had heard the cries of Bahamian women for equity for their foreign-born spouses and children and had moved to right-size the issue through spousal permits.
“I am therefore especially disappointed and distressed to learn that the party, likely caving to popular sentiment, stands ready to tarnish the party’s distinguished record in support of equality before the law for all our citizens with the introduction of a pointedly discriminatory provision affecting the foreign-born spouses of Bahamian women,” Ingraham continued.
He said he is aware of “legitimate concerns” of Bahamian fishermen about non-sustainable fishing practices by some non-Bahamians, as well as allegations that foreign fishermen contract marriages with Bahamian women to facilitate employment.
“I am, however, not as aware of individuals charged before our courts for either of these infractions,” Ingraham continued.
“Surely, there must be a better and more effective way for the government to monitor and enforce fisheries practices and to monitor marriages of convenience rather than indiscriminately excluding all non-Bahamian spouses of Bahamian citizens from being employed in an entire sector of the economy.”
He noted that the law already requires all fishing boats must be owned by Bahamian citizens and requires the vessels’ owners to be responsible for dictating fishing practices by their employees.
“The observance and policing of our fisheries laws and regulations should not be limited to excluding a single category of individual from being gainfully employed in a sector of the economy, particularly when such individuals hold an immigration status permitting their engagement in the economy without restriction,” Ingraham added.
“Removing and restricting rights of one particular class of person, to prevent possible infraction by some in that class, is never acceptable.
“That is why governments are required and expected to police laws and policies to ensure their enforcement.
“And, it should not be lost on us that the potential harm to members of our society by the introduction of the proposed discriminatory provision in the Fisheries Act will not relieve the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force or our immigration authorities of their duty and responsibilities to enforce the laws of our country.”
The former prime minister said Turnquest, along with others who are or were in the Minnis administration Cabinet, “entered front line politics as captain’s picks”.
“I am satisfied that Peter Turnquest, who like Duane Sands and others whose names I choose not to record, represent our core values, and while no longer around the table, will continue to have their voices heard.”