No confirmation of Haiti prison break
Despite Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis committing additional resources to protect the borders of The Bahamas in the face of what he claimed was a real threat of escaped Haitian prisoners potentially coming to wreak havoc in the country, no one in The Bahamas government has so far confirmed that information.
When contacted yesterday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield said that he got an unconfirmed report from one of his officers in Haiti that a police station in Port-de-Paix was compromised and prisoners escaped.
He stressed that this was unconfirmed.
The Nassau Guardian spoke to various government officials yesterday in an effort to substantiate the claim by the prime minister, who said the earthquake compromised a Haitian prison and expressed concern that hardened criminals might be headed toward The Bahamas.
The prime minister said he had already contacted senior law enforcement officials, including the commissioner of police and the commodore of the defense force, instructing them to “increase vigilance and increase their patrol within The Bahamas”.
Haiti was impacted by a 5.9 magnitude earthquake, which killed more than a dozen people and injured around 300 on Sunday.
Minnis said on Monday, “We are very concerned, especially knowing that we’ve been informed that a jailhouse was damaged and prisoners were loose.
“That is of great concern to us and the message must be loud and clear to the Bahamian community that we must all be vigilant, even those on the seas, the fishermen, boats, etc. The Family Islands, we must all be vigilant.
“We’re at a point where we’re decreasing crime, and now there’s a possibility that these prisoners that have been released as a result of the earthquake could be flowing towards, floating or coming towards our shores, and that is great concern to us.”
Minnis added, “We don’t know whether they are murderers; we don’t know what type of crime they have committed, but it’s a serious matter, and we must assume that they have done the most heinous crime and we must look out for our borders, and I again ask all Bahamians to be very vigilant because they could have a devastating effect on our country.
A Reuters article published yesterday afternoon indicated, however, that on Sunday prisoners organized a riot to escape and got out of their cells, but guards and riot police foiled the jail break.
The article attributed the information to Jackson Hilaire, police chief for the northwest region.
During his weekly press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, Press Secretary Anthony Newbold was also asked about the prime minister’s claim.
“Is there a way to substantiate it? I am sure,” Newbold told reporters.
“You’re good investigative reporters. I am sure you will find [out].”
Pressed on the matter, Newbold continued, “This is his (the prime minister) information, and I guess if you are not comfortable with that information, I am sure you will find out.”
Asked for the source of the intelligence that the prison in Haiti had been compromised, Newbold said he did not have that discussion with the prime minister, who “may want to keep that to himself”.
He was unable to say whether the government had issued any formal communication to Haitian officials.
In the earlier part of his briefing, Newbold advised the media that the HMBS Bahamas was en route to the country from the Netherlands and was expected to arrive before the end of the month.
He said the 200-foot patrol vessel is expected to “jump in the fight” to protect the borders in light of “criminals being set loose” in Haiti, and “quite possibly trying to make their way here”.
The HMBS Bahamas was in the Netherlands for more than a year and a half being refitted, according to Newbold.
It left last week Thursday.
“Once here and we’re talking about protecting the borders of The Bahamas, which is what the defense force does; and you remember the prime minister speaking yesterday about the concern about what happened in Haiti – not only for the wellbeing of the citizens there, but for what may happen as a result of criminals being set loose, quite possibly trying to make their way here,” Newbold said.
“So, once the HMBS Bahamas is back, they will jump in the fight to continue to protect our borders.”