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Human rights activists condemn PM’s Haiti comments

Fred Smith.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ plan to create a special immigration force to deal specifically with illegal immigrants is unnecessary and his comments about Haiti in the aftermath of another earthquake were unfortunate, asserted human rights activist, Fred Smith, QC, yesterday.

When asked on Monday if he intends to give aid to Haiti similar to the help offered to Dominica after Hurricane Maria last year, Minnis told reporters, “At this point in time, I am looking at moving The Bahamas forward; Bahamas first.”

Haiti was hit with a magnitude 5.9 earthquake on Saturday. At least 17 people were killed and several hundreds were injured.

“I am disappointed that the prime minister should have made the comments that he made,” Smith told The Nassau Guardian.

“As a member of [CARICOM], it would have been simply appropriate for the prime minister to convey the deepest sympathy of the people of The Bahamas and express compassion for the suffering that our fellow Christian brothers and sisters have experienced yet again, quite devastatingly, from these earthquakes in Haiti.”

Smith said the prime minister’s comments feed into anti-Haiti rhetoric.  

Minnis said he had heard reports of the earthquake compromising a Haitian prison and is concerned that hardened criminals might be headed toward The Bahamas. 

He said he had already spoken with the commissioner of police, the commodore of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and other immigration officials instructing them to “increase their vigilance and increase their patrol within The Bahamas”.

He also noted that he had spoken to the director of immigration about the need to increase the number of immigration officers. 

Smith said, “Frankly, I don’t know why he had to go on this tangent.

“I don’t know why there’s a necessity to increase the strength of the immigration officers…I urge the prime minister to say less and do more. He should empower his civil servants. He has a director of immigration. Let the immigration department do their job. Their job is already to investigate and if appropriate, to use their discretion to prosecute those who have committed offenses.”

Smith, who congratulated the prime minister on his recent presentation at the United Nations, noted that the prime minister’s comments on Haiti negatively portray the Bahamas on an international scale.  

Heartless

Rights Bahamas President Stephanie St. Fleur also condemned the prime minister’s comments in a statement to the press. 

“How can our prime minister be so heartless in the face of a natural disaster that is affecting our neighbors in Haiti?” asked St. Fleur.

“How can he be so hypocritical? Do we not rely on international aid and charitable donations in our times of need, for example when hurricanes ravage our communities? Are we not called upon as Christians to pay such charity forward?

“When the prime minister speaks publicly about international issues, he is speaking on behalf of the Bahamian people. He is telling the world that our Christian values and our humanitarian standards are very selective, even discriminatory.

“His tearful concern for Dominica following a recent hurricane was the complete opposite of his near total disregard for the suffering of the people of Haiti following last week’s earthquake.

“Why do the people of one Caribbean nation struck by tragedy deserve our concern, but not the people of another? It is, quite clearly, simply because they are Haitians…”

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