Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday that the government will defend the country against challenges to its sovereignty and charged that The Bahamas will not be “ordered about or cajoled” with regards to its constitution.
“I want to assure the Bahamian people that on this issue, The Bahamas will not be ordered about, will not be cajoled, will not have its constitution denigrated by anybody,” Bethel said in the Senate.
“We are in international organizations such as the [Organization of American States] OAS and its various agencies by our sovereign consent.
“Participation in the deliberations of the commission on human rights and all these are by a special
agreement within that agreement.
“We didn’t have to sign on.
“We signed on because we are responsible and if people make responsible suggestions to us, in a responsible and respectful way, we’re prepared to listen and look at them, but we will not be dictated to on matters that are fundamental to this country.
“There is not a country on earth that will mortgage off its right to control its own borders. You may as well sign up to be a client state.”
Bethel was referring to comments made during a hearing on the treatment of migrants in The Bahamas, which took place on Friday at the 172nd session of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
Rapporteur on the Rights of Women and Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination Margarette Macaulay said that if a case were presented to the IACHR in relation to the gender inequality in the constitution, the commission could tell The Bahamas to amend its laws.
“There is a matter of the referendums in relation to the citizenship which I couldn’t understand, but I understand it is within your law that you must have that referendum,” Macaulay said.
“But you know that within our mandate, we can, in fact, if we do have a case presented in relation to that issue, that ultimately we could say, fine, that The Bahamas has to amend its law.
“You know that, we could. But we haven’t got to that stage yet.
“I am dropping a hint for civil society. But we don’t really wish for things to get to that stage. That’s why we like to work in partnership with the state in resolving these things.”
But Bethel said, “The Bahamian people can rest assured that this government will fully, thoroughly, completely and comprehensively defend the sovereignty of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas against all who would challenge it.”
He added, “We will defend the sovereignty of The Bahamas and the right of the Bahamian people to chart their own destiny in matters that are fundamental to their constitution, and to their constitutional expectations and their constitutional rights and protections.”
Bethel said the government plans to formally respond the IACHR.
“We will in due course put out a properly diplomatically worded statement, something to send to them to indicate that we feel that they may have gone a little too far in some of the rhetoric that was exchanged across the table,” he said.
“I’m not sure if it’s the appropriate actions of the commission to invite people to sue their own government.”
He added, “I just want to assure the Bahamian people they need not fear that this government, or in fact any other government of The Bahamas, is ever going to give grounds on something as fundamental as the right to Bahamian citizenship under our constitution.”
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish