PM: ‘Stop mashing our boats’

HMBS Rolly Gray.

Press Secretary Anthony Newbold defended Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ criticism of Royal Bahamas Defense Force (RBDF) marines, after a viral video showed the prime minister addressing the defense force chief in a manner, thought by some, to be condescending.

A twelve-second video of the brief interaction between RBDF Commodore Tellis Bethel and Dr. Minnis went viral, with many on social media expressing the view that the prime minister was “disrespectful.”

In the video Dr. Minnis said, “Commodore, I hear y’all still mashing up our boats aye? Them fellas need to know how to navigate.”

The commodore however, was unresponsive to the prime minister’s remarks and shook his hand as he moved on.

The encounter took place during the opening of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) presentation held at police headquarters on Monday morning, where the nation’s leader was being greeted by heads of the armed forces.

A statement was issued by defense force officials prior to that interaction, detailing how one of its vessels sustained damages.

“The HMBS Rolly Gray damaged a set of propellers after departing Coral Harbour on routine patrol shortly after 7:00 a.m. Sunday,” the statement read.

“The exact cause of the incident is being investigated. Out of the nine Damen-built patrol craft, seven are operational with one being prepared for routine dry docking.”

According to the statement, it was the second incident for the year involving that vessel.

“Rolly Gray had damaged her propellers earlier this year resulting in replacement. This process took approximately one week to complete prior to Rolly Gray resuming patrol.”

Additionally, the hull of a 100-foot RBDF patrol craft that was breached by a captured Dominican poaching vessel, was also recently repaired.

Government supplied the RBDF with nine vessels as part of the Sandy Bottom Project that began in 2014, after the Government made a commitment to invest almost one-quarter of a billion dollars into the modernization of the RBDF.

The aim of the project was to facilitate the decentralization of the force through the development of bases at strategic locations in the northern, central and southern Bahamas, while helping in the war on transnational crimes such as gun, narcotics and human smuggling and poaching.

The Sandy Bottom Project was said to represent the single largest capital investment to the RBDF with a total cost of $232 million.

During his regular press briefing yesterday, Newbold said in his view, the prime Minister was not disrespectful and was simply making an observation.

“The bottom line is our men in uniform, certainly those men patrolling the seas, need to have the wear with all and the capacity to do their jobs, which is to patrol the seas,” Newbold said.

“The only way to do that is to make sure the equipment works … We know Commodore Bethel has been involved in training those ships and they were trained before they got here.”