Progressive Liberal Party
October 3rd, 2011
Six months after promising a nationwide address on crime, six weeks after Progressive Liberal Party Leader Perry Christie addressed the nation with a comprehensive plan to reduce violence, and two weeks after the murder record was broken yet again, the Prime Minister has finally chosen to speak to Bahamians about crime.
Some of the Prime Minister’s ideas were perfectly reasonable, and will find support from the PLP, but taken as a whole, they are woefully inadequate — far too little, far too late.
Most perplexing was the tone adopted by the Prime Minister – as if he had just taken office, rather than having presided over the dramatic escalation in crime over the last four years. Is he just now discovering that witnesses need protection, that crime prevention programs must be properly funded and that the severity of the crisis demands engaged leadership?
The Progressive Liberal Party believes The Bahamas deserves a government focused on fighting crime all the time, not just at election time.
The Prime Minister was vague when he needed to be specific, weak when he needed to be strong, and offered watered-down proposals when fully-funded efforts are needed.
One example: The Prime Minister suggests an additional $1 million of funding for urban social intervention problems. Let’s put that number in perspective – the FNM government spent $5.8 Million on the Miss Universe pageant — but with an entire generation at risk, he offers $1 million? Almost 6 times more on Miss Universe alone rather than putting young Bahamians first!
The Prime Minister admonished young Bahamians, telling them: “you have more opportunities than any generation in Bahamian history”. Perhaps the Prime Minister has already forgotten the more than nine thousand Bahamians turned away from a job training program by his government.
After raising taxes during tough times, which made the recession worse, after delaying projects for political reasons, resulting in lost jobs, and after failing to put Bahamians first at the bargaining table, the Prime Minister offers Bahamians a lecture! It’s time for a government that believes Bahamians are the answer, not the problem.
The PLP’s Approach: Tougher, and More Holistic
The PLP believes a holistic approach is necessary to fight crime: prevention, prosecution, punishment and rehabilitation.
On the matter of increased sentences for firearm possession, we have proposed that the possession of high-powered weapons should be tried in the Supreme Court – allowing greater sentencing power than the approach suggested by the Prime Minister.
In effect, the reasonable period for a trial has now increased to 3 years. The overall effect of the PLP’s Safe Bahamas plan is that murders will be tried within 12 months. Under the Swift Justice initiative, the PLP was able to conduct a preliminary enquiry and murder trial within 12 months. We did it before and we will do it again: Bahamians can be sure that murders will be tried within 12 months — and juror and witness tampering, attacks on Judges, Policemen and Prosecutors will be tried within 6 months. The FNM cancelled Swift Justice in 2007, for purely political reasons, and despite its track record of success. They continue to offer nothing persuasive in its place.
The PLP believes that we must be able to intervene directly into the cycle of revenge killings, with specially-trained Violence Breakers. Not a word from the Prime Minister on combatting this vicious cycle. The PLP believes in increased defence force patrols, to reduce the amount of illegal weapons coming into The Bahamas. The FNM apparently disagrees. The PLP has proposed increase funding for drug rehabilitation, safe havens created by the police in conjunction with the clergy, saturation patrols in crime hotspots, and increased surveillance of repeat offenders. Nothing from the FNM on these matters – silence.
As for Urban Renewal – the FNM gutted it, and the DNA attacked it – the PLP is the only party with the expertise and the will to see a fully-implemented Urban Renewal programme.
After years of waiting for leadership from the Prime Minister on crime, Bahamians can only be wondering: that’s it?
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