A great debate has been unleashed relative to the ever-spiking levels of crime in The Bahamas generally but New Providence in particular. Daily morbid headlines are announcing yet another alleged homicide or a case of causing serious bodily harm. Routinely alleged perpetrators of murders, sometimes multiple, are admitted to bail by our judiciary. The Police do ‘object’ to bail but that is often a futile exercise. How do we abate and pacify crime?
Our collective approach over the years has been to alternate between macho talk and pontificating and/or the blame game between partisan politicians. In the meantime, the nation continues to reel amidst the perennial havoc. Crime and the criminal elements will, I submit, always be with us. As a people, we do have the ways and means to abate and pacify the same.
The majority of our crimes, inclusive of homicides are committed by gun-toting thugs. They are aided and abetted by family members and criminal associates. Illegal and unlicensed firearms are said to be readily available and all over the place. Let me be clear, however, I do not know and have never known where any such items are. We do not manufacture guns or ammunition, so how do they enter the country? We have to identify and root out the importers, many of whom I suspect might be Bahamians. Law enforcement agencies have all sorts of intelligence-gathering equipment, human resources and informants, so this should not be too difficult.
These agencies and being badly managed and deployed in my view. I had high hopes for Commissioner Fernander and his team. By the way, where is Assistant Commissioner of Police Ken Strachan? He used to be in charge of the Fire Arms Unit and he and his senior officers took countless guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals. The streets were safer when he held sway in this area.
The Police Force is always complaining about the ‘slack’ bail system and that the courts are too quick to grant bail in serious cases. Well, one may blame all and sundry but the blame will not abate or pacify the criminal spike. The hands of the courts are tied by law. Many lawyers who morph into politicians and legislators realize the necessity of drastic legislation but they appear to be weak-kneed. It must also be borne in mind that many of them would have had lucrative practices representing alleged criminals and fighting tooth and nail to get these scumbags admitted to bail.
They should know what to do but the culture of appeasement lives on even after they enter front-line politics. I am prepared to die a death by a thousand cuts in defense of the Hon. Philip ‘Brave’ and his administration. I do not, however, subscribe to a tank-and-file politician being ‘in charge’ of our crime-fighting efforts. We need a Minister of National Security who would have been a former police officer and not a civilian. This was my position when the Hon. Cynthia ‘Mother’ Pratt had been appointed as Minister of National Security. Uttering regular statements about what we are going to do and actually doing it is like East to West.
As soon as brother Fernander becomes eligible for retirementl I strongly advise the Prime Minister to have ACP Ken Strachan appointed as his replacement. We need to shake up systems where and when necessary regardless of perceived friendship and/or nebulous loyalty. Personnel must and should be deployed where relevant.
The Bail Act is too slack and ties the collective hands of the judiciary. Only politicians can amend and beef up the same. There are more lawyers in Parliament than may be in actual practice at The Bar, so we are not short of legal eagles. We should and must also re-establish the once dreaded and feared Gun Court. Possession of an illegal gun and ammunition should attract a minimum of five years for a first conviction. Anything after that should result in life imprisonment. No one charged with such an offense should be granted bail, period. Yes, a speedy trial – but no bail. Persons charged with homicides should also be refused bail, by law, the way it used to be.
I note that the hard-working MP for St. Barnabas, the Hon. Shanendon Cartwright (FNM) has suggested some novel ideas for the abatement and pacification of crime. It is to be noted also that the constituency which he is privileged to represent is a crime-plagued and infested area. That being the case, MP Cartwright has hands-on experience with the tragic consequences of crime and the human toll. It would be refreshing and groundbreaking for the Learned Prime Minister to appoint Cartwright, one of the few bright lights in the shell-shocked FNM, to an inter-party House Crime Consultative Committee. We need all hands on deck as we stare into the ugly face of crime and its consequences.
Last but not least there is an urgent necessity for establishing, once and for all, an embryonic National Youth Service whereby the rescuing and rehabilitation of our younger people are priorities. Almost Forty years ago, our greatest Prime Minister to date suggested such a body, but he was laughed to scorn, mocked and ridiculed from the political rooftops. Now, sadly, the buzzards who are no longer chickens have come home to roost.
Have a great and safe Easter Season while remembering the reason for the same. The Lord came that we might all have life and have it more abundantly.
Ortlant H. Bodie Jr.