Prime Minister

Government must address immigration quandary  

*  DNA empathetic but upholds rule of law

*  PM’s 2017 directive still fresh in Bahamians’ minds

*  Government’s position on immigration woes unclear

*  Mismanagement of relocation worsens dilemma

*  Hurricane Dorian not the same as 2010 Earthquake

 The Prime Minister and the Minister responsible for immigration have made numerous pronouncements on the fate of undocumented immigrants in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Many Bahamians vividly recall the directive issued by the Prime Minister almost two years ago on October 11, 2017 warning all illegal migrants that they have until December 31, 2017 to leave the country after which they will be “aggressively pursued and deported”. That directive proved to be nothing more than grandstanding and posturing as there were no new initiatives, actions or policy aimed at changing the existing protocols.

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is concerned that despite the recent announcements, it remains unclear what the government intends to do to address an illegal migration problem that has festered under successive administrations. The current administration has failed to articulate a coherent and comprehensive immigration policy but has exacerbated an already bad state of affairs.  This Minnis-led administration has shown no true commitment toward addressing this generational issue that has impacted the very landscape of The Bahamas.

The DNA is empathetic to the plight of all those impacted by Hurricane Dorian and we continue to pray for them. While we appreciate that the magnitude of the disaster led the government toward leniency in the enforcement of immigration laws in the immediate aftermath of the storm, we believe that the government’s decision should have been balanced with a structured approach to the identification and recording of all undocumented migrants on Grand Bahama and Abaco.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, we have seen a mass exodus of inhabitants of the Abacos and Grand Bahama to New Providence with a few relocating to other family islands. The documentation process has been deficient, and it is difficult to determine undocumented migrants from the impacted islands from other undocumented migrants. While some are currently being housed in shelters, others have integrated and blended with the general population. In essence, the government has dropped the ball and the illegal migration problem has been compounded by poor management and a failure to plan.

 The government has suspended deportations in the impacted areas providing the Bahamian people with no timeline for a reinstatement of the policy. Some are citing the government’s policy position taken in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. The peculiar case of Hurricane Dorian must be distinguished from that event. Bahamians would recall that the FNM administration at the time made the controversial decision to release those detained at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre and offered temporary legal status to Haitians at the time. The decision in 2010 was unpopular in several quarters and revealed disagreements between the then Prime Minister, the Minister of Immigration and Minister of State for Immigration.  It should be clear that in this case (unlike the 2010 earthquake), islands of The Bahamas were the ones impacted by Hurricane Dorian and not the countries to which undocumented immigrants would have been deported to. To date, we are not aware of the current status of the individuals who benefitted from this amnesty.

We note that the Immigration Minister has indicated that undocumented migrants must apply for legal status to avoid deportation. He further indicated that persons with work permits tied to specific employers may seek employment elsewhere with their existing work permit and could not state when repatriations will commence for undocumented migrants from Grand Bahama and Abaco; many of whom are now in New Providence. 

Can the Minister explain to the Bahamian people how can an undocumented migrant who is in The Bahamas illegally apply for legal status? Will he also articulate how his Ministry intends to differentiate undocumented migrants from Hurricane Dorian impacted islands from other undocumented migrants in The Bahamas? Has the government carefully considered its decision to have unemployed work permit holders from Abaco and Grand Bahama join the unemployed labor force in New Providence and other islands? What impact does the government believe this will have on displacing Bahamians and increasing the unemployment rate? How will various government ministries including education, health, national security and social services adapt to the increase in population on New Providence? Does the government have a plan and timelines for its numerous announcements on immigration? The DNA submits that until the government can answer these questions, they should desist from pontification and uttering headline-seeking political rhetoric.

The Bahamas has always been empathetic toward the plight of economic migrants; however, the DNA is adamant that the rule of law must be upheld. Our government must govern in the best interest of the Bahamian people and not be complicit in compounding an issue that has served as a generational challenge. We call for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform which secures our borders, addresses loopholes in our laws and enforce stiff penalties for those who break our laws. The time for playing political football with this matter is over. This generation of Bahamians will not allow any administration governing today to continue the perpetuation of a cycle which continues to undermine the rule of law and present socio-economic challenges to the detriment and disadvantage of Bahamians.

Arinthia S. Komolafe

Leader

Democratic National Alliance

 

DNA Responds to Speaker’s Comments on China and Southeast Bahamas

DNA Responds to Speaker’s Comments on China and Southeast Bahamas

In Westminster protocol, an appointed Speaker should ordinarily resign from the Party for which he/she is affiliated with and should refrain from speaking on political matters inclusive of foreign policy matters, personally or otherwise. The only business Mr. Halson Moultrie should be concerned about is presiding over the business of the House of Assembly and of his constituency - Nassau Village, for which we hear very little if anything from him.

Government Must Now Answer on Corruption

*  Court of Appeal verdict shifts focus back to government

*  Judicially condemned Cabinet Ministers must resign or be terminated

*  FNM found wanting on transparency and anti-corruption pledge

*  Government must account to taxpayers on legal and forensic costs

*  Scandal cannot be swept under the proverbial rug

*  DNA stands by call for Vote of No Confidence in Prime Minister

 

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has reviewed the recent ruling by the Court of Appeal in the Frank Smith matter. According to court documents, the appellate court dismissed the argument made by the prosecution that Chief Magistrate Joyanne Ferguson-Pratt erred in her ruling that Ms. Barbara Hanna was not a reliable witness and therefore, there was no case to answer. While the Court of Appeal acknowledged that the Chief Magistrate made some procedural missteps, they concluded that there was an 'abundance of examples of doubtful testimony' from Ms. Hanna.

It is the DNA's position that we will not speak to the truth or falsity of the allegations made by Ms. Hanna against the former Public Health Authority (PHA) Chairman, Mr. Frank Smith, considering that based on her testimony during cross-examination she was considered by the Chief Magistrate to be an unreliable witness. This is also against the backdrop that the prosecution provided no further substantial evidence to make a determination for a case to answer.

In a previous release issued by our Spokesperson for Good Governance – Mr. Geoffrey Deleveaux on 3 February 2019, we highlighted the 'gross incompetence and clumsiness displayed by the entities involved in making and arguing the case on behalf of the Crown'. The unethical conduct and political interference of the executive arm of government has cost taxpayers thousands of dollars in this case and other cases before the courts. While we in the DNA support the prosecution of public officials who appear to have abused their authority or broken the law, we do not support phishing expeditions and the wastage of taxpayers’ funds. The government must now fully disclose how much this exercise, other legal matters involving external counsel and all forensic audits have cost taxpayers to date.

It was abundantly clear throughout the trial and recorded in transcripts that Ms. Hanna was an unwilling witness who did not initiate these proceedings of her own will and was coerced to testify in this case. In her words, she was ‘being used’. Furthermore, the subsequent granting of a contract to Ms. Hanna without Board and Cabinet approval as well as inconsistencies in phone records used, demand that answers be provided by the government.

Now that the Court of Appeal has ruled on this matter, we renew our demand for Prime Minister Minnis to have his Ministers, Marvin Dames and Dr. Duane Sands do the honorable thing and resign or be terminated for their participation and behavior in this matter. It is disheartening that an administration that postulates commitment to transparency and accountability with a promise to 'weed out corruption' has been found wanting in an embarrassing predicament. This scandal must not be swept under the proverbial rug.

The DNA stands by its demand during our call for action and 10 days of activism that a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister should be moved in the Parliament.  We note that after much persuasion, the Leader of the Official Opposition has followed our lead and has finally committed to move this motion at the next sitting of Parliament.  The Bahamian people deserve better governance.

Arinthia S. Komolafe

Leader
Democratic National Alliance