Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis assured today recovery efforts on Hurricane Dorian ravaged islands will not be compromised by the recent change in leadership at the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.
Last week, Eyewitness News Online reported Captain Dr Raymond King will now serve as acting commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.
Commodore Tellis Bethel has taken a three-month leave of absence.
Minnis was asked whether he thought this was the right time to replace Bethel during a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister to provide an update on recovery and reconstruction efforts in Abaco.
The prime minister revealed the RBDF has established its container city, which is serving as its operations base, and command center to ensure law and order.
“The government has a policy that individuals who have long extended vacation, from we came in, we’ve enacted such a policy where we’ve placed individuals on leave,” Minnis said.
“We are not in the business of paying people for three- and four-year vacation leave that they’ve accumulated.
“We put you on leave, so as to save the Bahamian taxpayers money.”
Bethel’s leave began on October 15, and will extend until January 15, 2020.
Days prior to the 2017 General Election, Bethel was promoted to commodore in a massive promotion exercise with 427 other RBDF officers.
He had been serving as the acting commodore for two years, since the retirement of former RBDF Commodore Roderick Bowe.
His appointment was retroactive to May 1, 2015.
At the beginning of the year, the government sent eight senior officers in the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) on leave – all of whom are expected to retire at the end of that leave.
At the time, National Security Minister Marvin Dames warned that more law enforcement officers in agencies that fall under his remit will be placed on leave.
Yesterday, Minnis also hit back at comments from Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Davis, who told The Tribune that the shift in RBDF leadership added a layer of uncertainty to the situation and questioned whether it will impact ongoing recovery efforts on storm-ravaged islands.
“I don’t think that would compromise anything,” Minnis said, when asked about the comments.
“We have been very very focused on security.
“We’ve been very focused of the rebuilding efforts of Abaco; the Abaco Cays and Grand Bahama and we will remain focused on the rebuilding efforts.
“And like I said, it won’t happen overnight, and the public and Bahamians at large must understand that. But we will continue to move with our reconstruction efforts. All throttles have been pushed ahead moving forward.”
The RBDF’s base of operations is located in Dundas Town and prepares 700 meals per day for Defence and Police Force Officers, and other government workers, Minnis said.
The base has an RO plant capable of producing 1,000 gallons of water per day, and there is also a clinic and living quarters for officers, he said.