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January 24, 2007

Comments

EB Christen

It is refreshing to read an editorial/report that lays out a lot of facts about this matter rather than all the hyperbole and invective opining that has dominated the discussion thus far.

We, as Bahamians, have a right to be concerned about sovereignty issues and we have a right to be concerned about the level of influence the US has in the country. We also have a right to demand transparency and accountability from our government and it is healthy to see Bahamians clamouring to know if the administration knew about this sting operation.

Having said that, we must not lose sight of the fact that fighting drug trafficking in this country is an essential componenet of our continued good relations and good standing with the United States - from which we reap immeasurable benefit. It is most alarming to hear the deafening silence on the air waves and in the press coming from Bahamians who are genuinely concerned that the horrid security conditions (horrid conditions period) at the airport could cost us our pre-clearance status and severely affect tourism in this country. Perhaps the renaming ceremony of the airport was most apt, since the airport's problems with drug trafficking, efficiency and corruption are beginning to take on the look and feel of the LOP administration in its most corrupt heyday. Ironic, but fitting. However, the airport still hasn't been properly addressed and it is still nothing short of a Banana Republic experience in there. I again invite someone in the news to compare the progress of NIA to PTY - Panama's national airport - over the past 5 years. With privatisation of the airport that country is now pursuing an aggressive policy to make PTY the hub of Central America. With travel to and from the US being such a hastle, we could do the same for the Caribbean - if we were smart and proactive... alas...

Furthermore, we don't appear to be at all concerned that our justice system's inefficiency allows drug dealers and drug lords to believe that they can act with virtual impunity, because they can 'buy' their way through and out of our judicial system. To hear our top judges complain of political interference is alarming in the extreme, especially when the Bahamas was blessed with a sitting Privy Council here and should be actively pursuing trying to make this a legal hub for British Commonwealth legal appeals. We have to think BIG. We have to decide what kind of country we are going to be.

To see Bahamians defending drug lords on national TV because they gave gifts to people is alarming in the extreme. The prime minister needs to challenge these people openly and take a very firm stand to make clear his administration's position on drugs and drug trafficking. He also needs to come clean and reveal who in the government knew of the action. It is impossible to believe that the police force, assisting with the investigation, would not have let someone in the government know about the possibility of a sting. It is not a leadership quality leader to allow one's 'soldiers' (the police) to take the blame for actions that were authorised and administered by the 'general' (the Prime Minister or a member of the Cabinet). It is a farce and insult to the intelligence of Bahamians and the debate on drugs and drug trafficking must be elevated beyond the quagmire of questions of sovereignty. We have US Cost Guard helicopters patrolling Bahamian waters for us - a great help, and yet we want to be angry with the US for nabbing 5 smugglers at an airport for which the US has awarded pre-clearance. We can take issue with our governments silence - and should, but we need to see the bigger picture here. My question is: to all these people who are angry about the NFS sting, how will they feel if these 5 are proven to be guilty?

Arthur Foulkes

This is the answer to E B Christen's question: Not a bit differently, because the debate is not about the guilt or innocence of these five. The question is whether our government or any of its agencies or agents abdicated their responsibilities and conspired to get around Bahamian law by effecting the rendition of Bahamians to another jurisdiction. It is about the rule of law.

EB Christen

@Sir Arthur
I agreed with that point in my comment. The question of sovereignty is perfectly legitimate. My question was more in relation to the fact that even in the face of known drug lords being apprehended - Bahamaians have rallyed to their defense - people are prepared to voice vocal support on national television and protest in favour of these people. It demonstrates a level of 'tolerance' that is alarming. The Ninety Knowles extradition case highlighted this dramatically.

Again, as a Bahamian, I am serious about defending our sovereignty, but we cannot do so by allowing the Americans to feel that we aren't serious about fighting drug traffickers and thus relying on them to do the job for us - that is not defending our sovereignty at all. The Americans will listen to us, but at the end of the day, if we fail in OUR duty on our turf, then we all know that they will take matters into their own hands - they have demonstrated that in the post 9/11 world the rules have changed. We would be wise to be proactive and not reactive here - which is what has been happening - as always.

EB Christen

To make the point with an analogy.

On drug trafficking and sovereignty issues, Bahamians want our cake (US support, preferred treatment and good relations with US government, US investment and US dollars coming in while also receiving assistance on border issues, human trafficking and drug trafficking issues), but we want to eat it too (not doing our part in fighting drug trafficking, tolerance of the drug culture and drug dollars coming in, lax airport controls and a laissez-faire approach to security concerns raised by the USA). At some point, we are going to have to bite the bullet and realise that we can't have it both ways for free and cry foul to Uncle Sam all the time. Unless we are actively seen to be doing our part, we don't have a strong argument against them and no 'principle' of sovereignty will be respected. A country is sovereign in theory always, but its 'real' sovereignty is always determined by its effectiveness to enforce and control the rule of law within its own territory. To the extent that it isn't able to do that, it can expect that foreign powers whose interests are being threatened will act if they cannot encourage the 'local' sovereign power to act. That might not be 'just' or 'fair' but it is the reality of how the world works. We Bahamians need to take greater responsibility for our own territory and our current government is clearly wanting in that regard.

A few quotes to highlight the problem of 'realpolitik':

Samuel P Huntington: "The most important political distinction among countries concerns not their form of government but their degree of government."

Samuel P Huntington: "The primary problem of politics is the lag in the development of political institutions behind social and economic change"

Thucydides: "The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."


larry smith

The purpose of this article was to explore the facts of the controversy as far as possible - going beyond the usual rhetoric.

I did not offer a black and white opinion, because it was impossible to do so from the information I was able to gather.

I hope it is constructive.

Rick

Always constructive Larry.
If they are innocent, they will walk.
Too bad there is such divisiveness where criminality is concerned.
I beleive the solution is to legalise drugs.

Interested Abroad

The article and the comments are instructive for several points. however readers should be aware of one basic fact, sovereignty and its relevance is really more important in the domestic forum and enforcement arena.

In the international arena and forum sovereignty practically plays second fiddle to the relative power and influence of the conflicting States, since each State considers its sovereignty issues as paramount and therefore the more powerful state usually wins despite the merits of their case.

This is and has been borne out time after time. A review of public and private international law cases, opinions and history teaches this lesson and it has tarditionally been a frustrating aspect of the study of International Law by international law scholars.

EB Christen

@Larry
It was a great article.

@Rick
Decriminalising certain drugs locally could be very useful in reducing the number of people that are sent to Fox Hill for minor drug offenses. However, having said that, to legalise drugs in this country would create a massive problem with the US administration and with trafficking concerns. While in theory, I am for the legalisation of drugs, in practise this won't work given the US administration's position on the matter. We would instantly lose pre-clearance status and we would probably lose a great deal of other benefits that we currently enjoy. However, I think we could pull off decriminalising certain drugs and maintaining our preferred nation status with the US. I think this would help alleviate the burden on our police force, our justice system and our prison system substantially. Very strong cases can be made for the decriminalisation of marijuana, for example, given the scientific evidence that is out there. If alcohol is legal, there is little argument against marijuana and the number of people sent to prison here for marijuana possession is alarming. Fox Hill is no place for someone with a minor drug offense.

drew Roberts

"Fox Hill is no place for someone with a minor drug offense."

Fox hill is no place for anyone with a minor offence of any sort.

I read once about a prison that I want to bring up here. I think it was somewhere in north Florida.

If memory serves, this prison had barraks style quarters, a chain link fence and no gate or guards. There was a yellow line at across the road where the gate would be.

Minor low risk offenders went to this prison.

During the days, prisoners were taken out and did public work. At night they were taken back.

If you were found to to have left without permission, you went to the prison with bars.

I think it is long past time for us to consider something like this here.

Set up a completely seperate prison system like this for minor offenders. A completely seperate set of prison officers. No cross duty.

Build something inexpensive. Eliminate the overcrouding at Fox Hill.

This will make things way better for minor offenders. It will also make things better living condition wise for major offenders who do get sent to Fox Hill.

It will probably make the Fox Hill prison officers lives better and safer as well.

I see many other positive aspects to this as well.

Does anyone see any downsides to something along these lines?

all the best,

drew

Ian

Due Process should be considered Innocent until Proven Guilty with "Facts." However "OUR" Laws that protect Bahamaians Rights sould be considered as well after all we are a Nation to be reconed with. And we hold a seat on the U.N. and we as well domanate world affairs we have politcal sway and we're savvy at it!. With respect to the U.S. they are "Very Close Ally" in basicly everything. we've been Friends for "Years without conflict" The americans "LOVE" Bahamians and Bahamas. we will get through this. "Optimistic" that the way to think My fellow bahamians we have the VICTROY!
Hon. Fred Mitcheal will get it sorted out, I have faith in The Christie led Administration.
GOD IS GOOD!
Bahamian 100% "Nassauvian born"

Ian

With all due respect All whom this might "offend" or "Hurt" I'm a BORN PLP to the craddle to the grave.

The PLP Party has done great deeds for the Bahamas and we have to right the right and wrong the wrongs.

Christie has proven to be an Honest, trustworthy and a gentalman with dignity, Bahamians from all walks of life Love him.
And I love him he is My Prime Minister With all respect due and no love lost.

Bahamian 100%

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