Thursday, Jul 18, 2019
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Is the governor general safe at Government House?

Dear Editor,

The violence that pervades Nassau seems to have finally made its way to Government House, the official residence of Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling, if reports of the tragic murder of a Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) petty officer on the premises of that compound are accurate. This is perhaps the first time something like this has happened at Government House. Mount Fitzwilliam is a sacred compound that the criminal elements have unwittingly respected for all intents and purposes.

Despite the overall safety concerns about Nassau and its inner-city communities, the address at Mount Fitzwilliam is supposed to be the safest place in The Bahamas due to round-the-clock security provided by government armed forces. With this tragic incident, however, the long-held belief of Government House being immune from violence has been upended, leaving in its wake a grieving family and a bewildered nation that now questions the safety of not only Dame Marguerite, but also Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and all other elected officials.

The Bahamas simply cannot allow itself to follow the destructive path of its Caribbean ally, Jamaica, that recently witnessed the gruesome murder of People’s National Party MP Dr. Lynvale Bloomfield in early February; or like Mexico, where politicians being bumped off by criminal organizations is commonplace.

I am afraid that we as a nation are reaching the point of no return, with respect to violence in New Providence. The onus is now on the top brass of the RBDF, the Royal Bahamas Police Force and National Security Minister Marvin Dames to implement a system, similar to the Secret Service Agency, in which security personnel are thoroughly vetted along with an extensive background check and mental assessment performed on those being assigned to Government House and the prime minister and his family.

Bahamians must not only have the confidence that they are safe, but that their government officials are safe as well. Any breach of security at that level has the potential of destabilizing the country with the perception that the criminal elements are a quasi-government holding our elected officials at bay.

In the United States, prospective Secret Service agents, usually hired at either the GL-09 or GL-07 level, must possess a bachelor’s degree. Consequently, all of the agents are well educated, unlike the average high school Bahamian graduate who is functionally illiterate, some of whom still manage to make it on to the armed forces each year.

In addition to the requirement of passing the SAEE or special agent entrance exam, they must pass the Applicant Physical Abilities Test; undergo a rigorous interview process; pass a polygraph test; take and pass a medical exam; take and pass a psychological exam, and undergo an extensive background investigation.

With the safety of the First Family of the United States at stake, no stone is left unturned in examining every nook and cranny of prospective Secret Service agents. It’s unfortunate that successive governments have fallen into the trap of being reactionary, rather than proactive. What allegedly transpired at Mount Fitzwilliam is a national embarrassment that should’ve never happened.

– Kevin Evans

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