NASSAU, BAHAMAS – As hundreds took to the streets yesterday to express their disapproval of the Minnis-led administration in a protest, Rights Bahamas president Stephanie St. Fleur has accused the government of oppression.
St. Fleur said having demonstrated for many years as a labour organizer, she has never seen a permit granted that limited protestors to the sidewalk.
“Apparently, under the Minnis administration, the streets no longer belong to the people,” said St Fleur in an issued statement.
“Thankfully, the police did not enforce this dictatorial stipulation; nevertheless, the public deserves an explanation of how it came to be in the first place, and Rights Bahamas demands an answer.”
St Fleur said while the ‘Enough’ marchers who led a protest before the Free National movement won the government in May 2017, were permitted to walk in the streets, yesterday marked the first time that she had witnessed police squad cars escorting a march so closely, also directing and restricting movement.
“It was also extremely disappointing to witness the authorities’ shameful attempt to barricade Rawson Square in order to keep the marchers out,” St Fleur said.
“What a far cry from the spirit of the ‘We March’ demonstration a few years ago, when Bahamians took over the streets of Downtown, Nassau with senior FNM leaders among them.
“At the time, then Opposition Leader Hubert Minnis told the press in Rawson Square: ‘The people have finally arrived at their square, this is the square of liberty and the people have a right to march in Rawson Square. The people march for freedom, they march for freedom of expression, they march for a future, and they want to be heard. It’s the people’s time.’
“How quickly times have changed,” St Fleur said.
The Rights Bahamas president said authorities would do well to remember that the Bahamas Constitution grants each and every person the right to peaceful assembly.
The police, she said, does not have the authority to curtail or restrict that right and Rights Bahamas will not hesitate to take the matter before the courts if this worrying trend continues.
“Our government is now on the UN Human Rights Council; as such, it should also remember that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights grants all people the right to freedom of assembly, expression, thought and movement.”
St Fleur said the government must learn to respect people’s fundamental rights, or else they will go the way of their predecessors.
“Enough is enough,” she said