Minnis and Davis clash in House of Assembly
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday clashed in the House of Assembly over the government’s decision to place eight senior Royal Bahamas Police Force officers on leave.
While Davis accused the Minnis administration of using its “weapon of victimization” to gut the leadership of the force and “betray” its loyal officers, Minnis told Davis that the force was too top heavy “because of you”.
Davis was contributing to debate on the Royal Bahamas Police Staff Association (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
At times, Minnis and Davis were shouting at each other.
Davis accused the government of picking off senior officers who were supporters of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).
However, Minnis and Minister of State for Legal Affairs Elsworth Johnson dismissed Davis’ claims as baseless.
Rising on a point of order, Minnis referred to a March 26 Nassau Guardian article where Davis charged that Minnis was “purging the police force of PLPs”.
“I didn’t know what their political affiliation is, not until you spoke,” Minnis told Davis.
“We did a manpower audit, the government.
“The government looked at different agencies where individuals had an accumulation of vacation leave.”
Minnis said he’s asked the Ministry of Finance to find out “how much millions of dollars we spend annually” on people who refuse to take their vacation leave.
But Davis retorted, “If that was the criteria, do you want me to give you the list of others you could have let go and sent home too like that, because you were selective in the process.”
The prime minister then responded, “You don’t have to give me a list.”
Minnis told Davis that if he ever sat in his chair, though he “never will sit in this chair… then you can look up the list yourself”.
Davis retorted: “They said that about you too. Even those in your own party said that about you.”
Davis accused the prime minister of making comments without appreciating the issue.
“You don’t even know the history of your own party or what your party did,” Davis shouted at Minnis.
The prime minister once again rose to his feet.
“In 2009, we brought forth a communication to police where we allowed them to take a one-year package in addition to their vacation leave pay and then go in retirement,” Minnis retorted.
“I refuse to pay individuals for vacation, allow them to take their vacation and then go into retirement. I am not spending the government’s money.”
Davis responded, “…You were not satisfied until you all took out your weapon of victimization and gutted the leadership of the Royal Bahamas Police Force without any mercy to loyal, dedicated and qualified officers who gave their entire public life to protecting the people who lived and play in our beloved country.
“What was more heart-wrenching, Mr. Speaker, this uncaring government gave no consideration to the families and friends of these executives as they seek to end their careers in disgrace and shame.
“In fact, Mr. Speaker, the immediate families of these fired officers were left with a bad taste in their mouths and they felt betrayed.”
In March, Deputy Commissioner Emrick Seymour; Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Stephen Dean; ACP Clarence Reckley; ACP Clayton Fernander; ACP Ashton Greenslade; ACP Kendal Strachan; ACP Leamond Deleveaux; and ACP Theophilus Cunningham were asked to take their many weeks of accumulated vacation and are expected to retire at the end of their leave.
At the time, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said the government was bringing the system in line to where it ought to be and insisted that the move was not politically motivated.
“We are at a point now throughout this service, where we have this significant accumulation of leave and it puts the government in a very difficult place, when it comes to retirement, because people are looking to be paid out in large sums,” Dames said.
“When you look collectively across the service, that is a significant amount of monies. And, so, what we are talking about is bringing a service in line with standard and policy and this is something that is new but we have to do it.”
He also noted at the time that there were going to be more officers placed on leave, including officers in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.
It remains unclear how many law enforcement officers have been sent on leave to date.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications