By Fred Smith QC
Reaction to Bannister and his ilk.
“Why The Cherry Switch is a lot scarier than The Tamarind Switch”!
Growing up as a foreigner “Ti Blanc Arabe” in Haiti in the 1950s and early 60’s, and experiencing personally, along with my family, the abuse of Papa Doc’s Ton Ton Macoutes, inculcated in me an appreciation and respect for human rights at a very tender and impressionable young age.
It was scary growing up in Haiti.
It’s scary being an adult in the Bahamas now.
When my Bahamian father was deported from Haiti by Duvalier, and we moved back to Nassau, I was mercilessly teased, beaten and attacked (with rock and bottle), ridiculed and abused for 3 years at school by Bahamian children for being a “Haitian“, even though I was not.
I was Bahamian. But, I didn’t know there was anything wrong with having come from Haiti and speaking Creole!
So I didn’t back down!
It was scary, but it made me stronger!
Anyway that’s why my family eventually shipped me off to boarding school in England, a supposedly civilized country.
But little did my parents know that they were throwing me from the frying pan into the fire.
I was sent in the mid-1960s to an all white, all boys, all English aristocratic boarding school dating from the 12th-century, in the north of England.
A great educational opportunity, but a racist place to the core!
There I was a WOG, a Blackie , a Coon , a Nigger, a Brillo pad head etc!
What I had been subjected to in Nassau, was a joke in comparison. Every verbal and physical abuse under the sun was visited upon me by the English school boys.
It was scary, but it toughened me up and made me stronger.
I joined Amnesty International and Greenpeace at age 13 and have been fighting for human and environmental rights since!
I suppose it was only natural that I gravitated to law, to find some principled and steadfast protection as an adult from abuse.
I studied law in England, a country that, ironically despite its historic racism, has a tradition of respect for The Rule of Law.
I came to understand, appreciate believe deeply in The Rule of Law and in its protection of individual rights from government and social abuse!
So growing up in Haiti and seeing the fascist dictatorship of Papa Doc visited on ordinary people, then being abused as a “Haitian“ in Nassau, then being racially savaged in Jolly Old England, taught me in a very raw way to appreciate human rights and to fight for my own and others.
I have been fighting for human rights in the courts since I became a lawyer 41 years ago and came back to the Bahamas in 1977 from England.
So human rights is not a game for me it’s real.
I am a human, and I fight for human rights!
I am a Bahamian and have nowhere else to go.
I want my Bahamas to be a humane place, where the rule of law and human rights are respected.
I’m going to fight till my dying breath to prevent the Bahamas from continuing to degenerate into a country where human rights are respected more in the breach than in the observance!
And thus my reverence , love and respect for the rule of law is so very real.
It is why I promote and protect the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the effectiveness of the court system in protecting rights.
I do so because society and politicians don’t protect peoples “individual rights”!
They protect the “majority“ not “individual“ rights.
Thankfully we have chapter 3 of the constitution which protects the “fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual“
Eventually, it is only the thin membrane of the rule of law, an independent judiciary and strong and effective civil society that protects individual human rights from political and social abuse by politicians, barbarians and the mob!
Regrettably, Bannister’s comments typify the visceral hatred and discrimination that forms part of the general Bahamian psyche!
And our political leaders, both FNM and PLP, remain either mute or some , like Fred Mitchell, for their own political gain, promote hate, discrimination, victimization and abuse.
It’s amazing how so many people, including our PLP and FNM political leaders have reacted irrationally simply because people are being taught about their rights and some (Haitian, Bahamians of Haitian descent, Jamaicans, Cubans, Canadians and Africans) are being released by the courts because they were illegally imprisoned.
“Talk” about rights is very cheap in the Bahamas.
But when people actually assert their rights, teach them, express them, call upon the government to respect them, and the courts actually effectively uphold them (as in Jean Rony‘s case) venom and hatred spews from peoples minds and mouths.
Mayhem erupts from the xenophobic lynch mob.
Politicians jump on the opportunistic “patriotic” bandwagon.
And tragically, they continue to encourage ethnic cleansing in the Bahamas of persons of Haitain descent!
It is scary for me to be in My Bahamas now; but it simply makes me stronger.
It also emboldens me to continue to fight for my human rights and those of every other “person“.
So, my message to Bannister and those of his ilk is the following.
Haitians Are Human Beings.
Human Beings Have Human Rights.
It Follows, as Day Follows Night, That Haitians Have Rights Too…..Despite Bahamian Bannisters vile vitriol and venom!
It is so sad to see your true Bahamian colors!
So Bannister, I didn’t back down 53 years ago when Bahamians were attacking me with rock and bottle.
So I’m not going to back down now because you threaten me with a Tamarind switch.
My Bahamian daddy used a Cherry switch on me!
Now that’s scary!