The three American women, who hopped a fence to go to the beach during the Independence Day weekend, should have been “cautioned” instead of arrested, according to St. Anne’s MP Brent Symonette, who added that The Bahamas has done itself “more damage than good” as it tries to attract tourists during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While the law has to apply to everybody, we are on the process of trying to open up our country to international tourists,” Symonette, who served as minister of tourism during the first Ingraham Cabinet, told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.
“So, to make a ruling, probably after these people booked their ticket — I don’t know, I’m just guessing — to come and welcome you to the sunny Bahamas with sand and everything else, it is unfortunate to come and bring them before the courts because the public relations side of it is going to be negative.
“You cannot reclaim that. So, while the authorities have to balance the law with the fact that we are a tourist nation, I think we have done ourselves more damage than good.”
He said it was “unfortunate” that the women decided to “challenge” Bahamian laws during a pandemic.
Symonette said he understands the “difficulty” that officials are now faced with.
“But, in light of the fact, that there are no Bahamians being charged with being on the beach and the only people that we charged are three Americans, is it because it went viral?” he asked.
“It’s a difficult position. They’re going to go back and tell a lot of people, ‘I was handcuffed for going to a beach.’
“And the people that they tell aren’t going to understand or appreciate the nuance of the problem. I’m not in favor of saying that we should break the law, but at some point, maybe the officers should have cautioned them instead of charge them.”
Rana Mohamed Kenawy, 21; Mariam Mohamed, 18; and Ikrame Kanane, 25 — all of Boston, Massachusetts — were arrested on Wednesday after a video went viral showing the women scaling the fence to Cabbage Beach on July 10. The incident caused public outcry as beaches on Grand Bahama, Paradise Island, New Providence and surrounding cays were closed from July 9 through July 13 as a result of the pandemic.
Their charges were ultimately thrown out by Deputy Chief Magistrate Andrew Forbes.