NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Opposition leader Michael Pintard has accused the Davis administration of placing a higher value on “loyalty to the PLP brand of politics” than good governance and ethical leadership, asserting that the government was “victimizing” senior Immigration officials who expressed concerns regarding the actions of former Labour and Immigration Minister Keith Bell.
“Prime Minister Davis, Minister Keith Bell and the Cabinet of The Bahamas have placed a higher value on loyalty to the PLP brand of politics than they do on good governance and ethical leadership,” said Pintard in a statement.
While government has not made a formal announcement regarding changes at the highest levels of the Department of Immigration Pintard said, “Nothing makes this more obvious than the replacement of the senior leadership in the Department of Immigration after members of the leadership team acted in defense of the Bahamas constitution, the laws of The Bahamas and the sovereignty of The Bahamas.
“The government is victimizing these veteran public servants because they expressed grave concerns to the permanent secretary about Keith Bell’s continuous violation of the law in the Department of Immigration.
“The Prime Minister admitted he was made aware of the concerns by senior immigration officers on how sensitive immigration matters were being handled by the Minister or those he empowered. The troubling areas included the granting of citizenship, permanent residencies, issuing of work permits and the enforcement of immigration laws.”
Bell was a part of a recent Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Philip Davis. Bell has now been given the Housing and Urban Renewal portfolio, while former Works and Utilities Minister Alfred Sears has assumed responsibility for Immigration and National Insurance.
According to Pintard, the repeated breach of protocols and laws by the Davis administration in the area of immigration has caused citizens, residents and international observers to wonder to what extent these decisions were being made to gain political advantage or personal benefit.
“Given the widespread outrage, you would think this administration would tread carefully in how they deal with whistleblowers,” he wrote.
“These senior public servants acted on their conscience, dutifully making us aware of Minister Bell’s pattern of interference as he bullied veteran public servants who offered seasoned guidance.
“Instead, the Davis-led government was more concerned about how the revelations found themselves in the public domain. Rather than address the revelations of bad behavior, some public servants were placed on administrative leave and others were threatened to be transferred or fired.
“These are not actions by a government committed to accountability and transparency. They are not the actions of an administration that supports the whistleblowing provision already embedded in the Freedom of Information Act,” Pintard asserted.
“The removal of senior leadership in immigration at a time when they sought only to ensure that Bahamian sovereignty and the laws of The Bahamas were being respected, reeks of corruption, stinks of arrogance, and signals a dangerous place to which we have descended in our national governance. The Prime Minister and his team must respect the rule of law and the feedback of stakeholders,” said Pintard.