Nassau, Bahamas — Perry Christie delivered a national address across the nation tonight outlining his party’s plans to combat crime. Christie noted a renewed plan to expand urban renewal; promote a programme to work with businesses and a plan to expand education across the country.
Christie announced a plan to launch a national initiative called 50 Bahamians, which will involve a mentoring programme to empower young Bahamians.
Bahamas Press publishes the Leader of the Opposition’s national address in its entirety.
ADDRESS TO THE NATION
PAID POLITICAL BROADCAST
RT. HON. PERRY G. CHRISTIE
HER MAJESTY’S LOYAL OPPOSITION
NASSAU, THE BAHAMAS
15TH AUGUST, 2011
It is an honour to address the nation I love so dearly.
Tonight, I’m going to talk about a major crisis facing The Bahamas – I’m speaking, of course, about crime.
As I travel throughout our nation, everyone I meet wants to share a story about a neighbor, a friend, a family member who has suffered.
In the last few years alone, our communities have seen hundreds of murders and rapes, thousands of armed robberies, more than eleven thousand homes broken into.
More murders took place last month than in any other month in our recorded history.
People are afraid, and they are angry: They are afraid that the violence is going to continue to escalate, and they are angry that the government has offered no meaningful response.
We know, every one of us, that we cannot accomplish great things in The Bahamas until we get this most basic thing right: we must provide safety and security for every single Bahamian family.
Yet here we are, in August, and already ninety Bahamians have lost their lives to violence this year. Ninety– an extraordinary number, a record-breaking number.
The Minister for National Security, Mr. Turnquest, recently stated that he wasn’t concerned about crime records being broken. I couldn’t disagree more. Because this isn’t just about numbers – it’s about the people behind those numbers: A young woman, seven months pregnant. A respected charity worker; A troubled teen-ager with no family support. An airline pilot engaged to be married. A mother of two young children. A witness executed for the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Every shooting leaves behind a devastating legacy. Every murder leaves behind a shattered family, and a heartsick community, terrified they will never escape the cycle of violence.
Let’s take a moment to consider how we got here today.
There is no doubt that many negative trends have converged: we are suffering from the deterioration of families, from too many children growing up without their fathers, and from a move away from core Bahamian values. The time when neighbours looked out for each other’s children seems ever more distant. And now we are seeing what happens when you remove love and support, but you add in drugs and guns, cheap and easy to find. And then top it off with a poor economy, with too few opportunities.
But yet we know that other communities and other nations are facing these same challenges – and are thriving, are improving, are in fact winning their war on crime.
Did you know that in Jamaica murders are down 40% — ours are up 58% nationwide and 69% for New Providence.
What does that tell you?
It tells you that the tsunami of violence sweeping our nation was never inevitable.
It tells you an important reason for the escalation of crime in The Bahamas is poor governance.
This government has been paralyzed, unable to lead on this crucial issue.
And their determination to put politics first, not Bahamians, has made a terrible problem much worse.
The FNM decided to end pioneering, award-winning anti-crime programs put in place by my government — programs like Urban Renewal, Swift Justice, Witness Protection, and School Policing,– all have either been inadequately funded or destroyed outright because they were PLP programs.
These political decisions have real-life consequences: Did you know that a young man was shot in front of an Urban Renewal office shut down by this FNM government? Did you know that since the Swift Justice programme was cancelled, hundreds of murder cases have not been brought to trial? Did you know that since the FNM ended the PLP Witness
Protection Initiative, more than nineteen witnesses have been executed?
I think we can agree — it’s time for a government that will make reducing violence the number one priority.
It’s time to put Bahamians first.
I have recruited an extraordinary new generation of PLP candidates, and together, in consultation with experts, with clergy, and with community activists, we have put together a powerful set of ideas and solutions, drawing on the collective wisdom of Bahamians, combined with tough measures that have a proven track record of success.
Tonight, I announce the Progressive Liberal Party’s tough, innovative plan to stop the violence.
Our plan envisions an immediate and powerful law enforcement response to any violence in our communities.
With the concurrence of the Commissioner of Police, new Strike Force teams will be deployed rapidly – all violence must be answered with the full force of the law. We must send the clearest possible message that using violence will land you in real trouble right away, not sometime in a distant future, but in the moments after the violence has been committed.
And because a small group of serious, chronic, and violent young offenders tend to commit the most and the worst crimes, and because we know where most of these crimes are committed, we propose an intense law enforcement focus on repeat offenders and the most violent criminals, and saturation patrols in crime hotspots.
No one should have to live in a neighbourhood where fear and menace rule the streets – we are going to flood these areas with police, with resources and support.
How can it be that people accused of one horrific crime are freed to commit more crime? This violates common sense and it violates common decency. We must move heaven and earth to get persons accused of murder tried within 12 months, preventing their release on bail.
And since more than three-quarters of murders in The Bahamas are committed with a firearm; we will increase Defence Force patrols to reduce illegal guns coming across our borders, and we will increase gun interdiction in our ports, and we will pass legislation so that possession of high powered weapons will be tried in the Supreme Court, making tougher sentences possible.
We will bring back the Swift Justice programme, stronger than ever, to coordinate police, prosecutors, prison administration and social services, to ensure that criminals are “swiftly caught, swiftly tried, and swiftly punished.”
Too many criminals have no respect for our justice system — we need to remove their sense of impunity, increase the likelihood they will not just be arrested, but prosecuted, not just prosecuted but sentenced, not just sentenced but sentenced harshly. We must be clear: violence will be punished, and justice will be swift.
We must have additional criminal trial courts – for too many victims and their families, justice delayed is justice denied. We will establish a Special Unit for Death Penalty cases, fast-tracking these appeals.
And we will bring back and strengthen Witness Protection, recognizing that our criminal justice system will never function properly if witnesses feel their testimony will imperil them or their families.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham promised to amend the law relating to capital punishment in The Bahamas as a result of the recent Privy Council Ruling. I have said that while honest and reasonable men and women may differ on the death penalty, it is on our books and the PLP is pledged to carry out the law.
I have been advised that the law must be amended to say definitively the category of cases which will attract the death penalty. I propose that immediately upon coming to office the PLP will do what the FNM has failed to do and pass such a law. And, so that heinous crimes can receive just punishment, I propose to set sentencing guidelines for the Court in cases where the death penalty is not appropriate.
Many of the initiatives I’ve just proposed address what happens after violence has taken place.
But if there is one big thing we need to do better in The Bahamas, it’s stop the violence from happening in the first place.
We must intervene directly in the cycle of revenge and vigilante killings.
Our proposal is this: a new team of highly specialized outreach workers: Violence Breakers. These outreach workers will be recruited for their street smarts, their deep roots in tough neighbourhoods, and for their ability to build relationships with those at the highest risk of shooting or being shot.
Working with partners in US law enforcement, where a similar program has been effective and championed by the US Department of Justice, we will give these Violence Breakers intensive training in conflict mediation and violence interruption. Then, we are going to empower them to break the cycles of violence in their neighbourhoods and communities.
Violence Breakers will have the street credibility to defuse violence, to stop disputes from turning deadly.
And we propose that a partnership be forged between the clergy and the police to create more Safe Havens – people must be able to escape violence when it is kicking down their door.
The battle for the soul of this generation at risk is going to take place house by house, block by block, street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.
And if we’re going to win it, we’re going to have to work hard on many other fronts, too.
Because let’s say one of our Violence Breakers persuades a young man to resist the lure of drugs, or of violence. It will be a great victory…but it won’t be worth much for long if that young man returns to a run-down home, a school that isn’t teaching him what he needs to get a job, an economy that doesn’t provide any opportunities.
The government recently offered a job training program – they received more than12,000 applications for 3,000 spots – I can’t think of clearer evidence that this government’s efforts are too little and too late. Have they bothered to wonder — what happens to the more than 9,000 who they turned away?
Under my government, 22,000 jobs were created in just five years. We must get back in the business of encouraging business, of bringing in new investment, of creating secure, long-term jobs, and supporting small, home-grown Bahamian businesses and entrepreneurs. Bahamians from even the most impoverished backgrounds can be owners and innovators, if they have the education, if they are linked to mentors, if they have someone who believes in them.
We intend to double our investment in education over the next five years. We need better quality education for all our children, starting at the very beginning. Did you know that research has shown that at-risk children who don’t participate in quality preschool programs are five times more likely to be criminals at age 27 than children who did have a good quality program early in their lives? Early education works – and it deserves our funding and our support.
It was with a heavy heart that I read recently about poor test results – when our children are getting failing grades, it is we who are failing. We have to do better, and we can.
And in all our high schools, we must offer vocational and technical training.
The College of The Bahamas must become The University of The Bahamas, with an increased research capacity to investigate and propose solutions to our social, economic and cultural challenges. The world is changing quickly, and skills and knowledge must constantly keep pace.
My fellow Bahamians, I have said this before, and I will continue to say it: I believe in you. Where others see only problems, I see so much promise. I believe with all my heart we will successfully meet our challenges, even our most difficult ones.
This is only the beginning of the discussion. We have so much more to share: more resources for hard-working police, who deserve not just our recognition but real support; new technology, an expanded police Intelligence Unit, a robust police presence in our schools, more resources for substance abuse rehabilitation, a new focus on helping ex-prisoners re-enter society, an amnesty period for turning in guns.
Children having children, becoming parents when they’re not ready for the responsibility – this is not just a moral issue, it is a national issue that must be addressed.
And we are proposing a new mentorship program, called FIFTY BAHAMIANS – fifty of the most successful Bahamians from the toughest neighbourhoods will be paired with at-risk youth.
Of course, I’m also looking forward to sharing with you the details of Urban Renewal 2.0 – an updated and strengthened Urban Renewal program to build stronger communities and stronger ties within communities, through interagency cooperation, through public-private partnerships, and through support for faith-based initiatives.
The PLP has big ideas about what can be accomplished in The Bahamas, about what kind of nation we can be in the 21st century, in this new millennium. But first we have to get this right. Nothing matters more.
We cannot aspire to great things as a nation if we lose a generation to violence.
Together, as one nation, we must decide that this level of violence is unacceptable; we need to change a culture in which using deadly force has somehow become routine.
We view tonight as the beginning of a new chapter for The Bahamas, and we hope you will, too. PLP candidates will be sharing copies of our plan in your communities, and of course, you can find the details on myplp.org.
We are all God’s children. We don’t have lives to throw away in our country.
So let us mark today as the day that as a nation, we say: Enough is enough.
Let us decide that we believe in The Bahamas, believe in our ability to do great things, once we are safe and secure.
Let us agree that failure is not an option, that this is not someone else’s problem, that this is our problem, and that we have the will, the innovative ideas, the burning desire, and the determination to see it solved.
The cause of justice is everlasting – let us make it our cause.
Thank you, and good night.
God Bless The Bahamas.