Curfew leading to criminalization of society’s most vulnerable

Dear Editor,

I, as many other young Bahamians, read in amazement an article in the Tribune on May 19, 2020, which spoke to an 18-year-old being fined $700 by a magistrate for operating his coconut selling business in violation of the curfew and emergency powers.

We all cringed reading the contents of an article which speaks not only to the structural inequities in our society but also to the policies and systems impacting the most vulnerable among us.

As I have previously said, governments are put in place to protect the vulnerable and advance the cause of our people.

We’ve seen over the last three years, a policy of political exclusivity. There have been laws passed that seemingly help the rich and hurt the poor.

From the passage of the Commercial Enterprise Bill (2017), an erosion of the principles of Bahamianization, to the 60 percent increase in VAT on the backs of ordinary Bahamians while the wealthy and well-connected got tax concessions, and credits and finally and more evidently, we’ve seen it through the public appointments and recently with the policies associated with the COVID-19.

To be frank, people within our communities are hurting.

While we fight COVID-19, so many homes across the capital are fighting poverty, joblessness, lack of provision, mental health issues and a sinking morale each day.

It is important that our policies and proclamations are made in understanding of the great challenges our people face.

Sadly, this decent, industrious, resilient young Bahamian was subject to the failures of a callous government.

Think of it, a young Bahamian now faces criminal conviction for violating an arbitrary curfew in an effort to feed and provide for himself.

This is unconscionable.

Meanwhile, in our society, major supermarkets and big businesses have been allowed to operate without interference.

How, then, can we justify a striving young Bahamian being punished for operating as a coconut salesman?

What danger did he pose to the public health and safety of our citizens?

Was he more of a threat to our national security than the six permanent residents allowed to breach protocols and enter the country without being tested for COVID-19 and sent home to self-isolate?

This is not justice. This is injustice. This is not right. It is wrong.

I will be advocating that when the PLP returns to office, that it wipes away these criminal records in all of these matters and return the monies that were extracted from people in these unfair circumstances.

In addition to that, our party has committed to immediately begin investing $250 million into SMEs, increasing small business financing offered through the Small Business Development Centre and reforming policies to support small businesses.

These are progressive ideals aimed at improving the quality of life for our people and protecting individuals like this one.

Justin Smith, aspirant candidate for public office

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