The decision to send Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Commodore Tellis Bethel on a three-month vacation was made to save taxpayers’ money, according to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis.
“I think the government has a policy that individuals who have long, extended vacation – from we came in, we’ve enacted such a policy where we place individuals on leave,” said Minnis at the Office of the Prime Minister.
“We’re not in the business of paying individuals for three and four-year vacation leave that they’ve accumulated. We put you on leave so as to save the Bahamian taxpayers’ money.”
The Nassau Guardian understands that Bethel has accumulated vacation of just under a year.
The decision to remove Bethel at this time has raised eyebrows among some observers given that the RBDF is instrumental in Hurricane Dorian relief efforts on Grand Bahama and Abaco, where security concerns on the ground have persisted.
Yesterday, Minnis sought to dispel doubts that Bethel’s leave would create disruption and compromise relief efforts.
“I don’t think that would compromise anything,” he said.
“We have been very, very focused on security. We’ve been very focused on the rebuilding efforts of Abaco, the Abaco cays and Grand Bahama; and we will remain focused on the rebuilding efforts.
“Like I said, it won’t happen overnight and the public and Bahamians at large must understand that, but we will continue to move with our reconstruction efforts. All throttles have been pushed ahead moving forward.”
An internal memorandum – dated October 15, 2019 and signed by Captain Adrian B. Chriswell – revealed that Captain Raymond King will serve as acting commander of the RBDF until January 2020.
“Be advised that commander defense force, Commodore Tellis Bethel, will be on leave from 15 October, 2019 to 15 January, 2020,” the memo noted.
“Further, in his absence, deputy commander defense force, Captain Raymond King, will act as commander defense force.”
On October 6, the Cabinet Office announced King’s appointment as deputy commander.
“As deputy commander, Dr. King will assist Commander Tellis Bethel in the discharge of his duties,” the Cabinet Office stated.
“The deputy commander will be responsible for the oversight of RBDF operations on Abaco and Grand Bahama following the passage of Hurricane Dorian.”
In 2018, King was seconded to the Port Department as port controller, where he served up to his appointment as deputy commander. Lieutenant Commander Berne Wright is the new port controller.
Bethel’s future with the RBDF is unclear as the government has not indicated any plans for him after his three-month vacation ends.
Earlier this year, eight senior officers in the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) were sent on pre-retirement leave.
In March, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said more law enforcement officers would be sent on leave.
“The commissioner obviously will decide, but there will be more and this is not only the police force; this is also the defense force,” he said.
“Those agencies that fall under my remit.”