Government Takes “Decisive Steps” to Curb Illicit Smuggling and Transnational Crime

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Minister of National Security, the Hon. Tommy Turnquest presents Marine Seaman Dominique Rigby with the Best Marine Recruit Award during the Graduating Ceremony for New Entry 44 at HMBS Coral Harbour. Forty-eight men formed New Entry 44. (Photo/Patrick Hanna)

By: Matt Maura

HMBS, Coral Harbour – The Government of The Bahamas has taken “decisive steps” to strengthen the seagoing and airborne capacity of the RBDF to combat the increasing illegal drug, gun and migrant smuggling and transnational crime, including transnational organized crime, Minister of National Security and Immigration the Hon. Tommy Turnquest said.

Addressing the graduation ceremony for Marine Entry 44, Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Mr. Turnquest said The Bahamas must be seen as credible and decisive in its initiatives to protect the country’s national borders from transnational criminals and criminal activity at a time when transnational crime, including transnational organized crime, is on the increase.

The measures will include the provision of additional seagoing and air assets to the Force in a “phased-in manner” and the expansion of base operations outside of New Providence.

He said the base expansion will allow the national security officials to “meet the challenges and threats to our national security where they exist throughout the archipelago.”

“It is important for us as a country to be credible and decisive in our initiatives to protect our national borders,” Mr. Turnquest told the new Marines. “You share the responsibility to guard our marine resources and to protect them against poachers. You share the responsibility to protect the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of our The Bahamas, including the protection of our territorial water and airspace.

“You also share responsibility for protecting our country from transnational crime, including drug trafficking and other illegal trafficking activities such as arms trafficking and against illegal immigrants and migrant smuggling. This is an awesome task,” Mr. Turnquest added.

Minister Turnquest said the task emphasizes the central role of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force in the national security of The Bahamas. He said the Force is “re-defining” its mission as a seagoing national security agency as it is intended to be and that the Government is backing this approach by introducing “significant assets to the Force in a phased-in manner.”

National Security officials will also decentralize Force operations from New Providence which should further enhance the Force’s capabilities with regards to its border protection initiatives.

“We know that it is virtually impossible to patrol the borders of our vast archipelago from a central hub in the capital,” Mr. Turnquest said. “The Royal Bahamas Defence Force is therefore proceeding with the initiative to decentralize from its Headquarters in New Providence to bases in the southern, central and northern Bahamas. In other words, we will meet challenges and threats to our national security where they exist throughout the archipelago.”

Mr. Turnquest said all members of the Force can “expect to go to sea” and must be prepared to do so. He said they must further expect postings for “specific periods” to bases in the southern, central and northern Bahamas as part of the new strategy.

He said officers and marines must also expect, periodically, that they will be called upon to take part in significant exercises, for operational training, to build expertise and experience within the Force and to prepare the Force to respond in case of a national emergency.

“Members of the Force must also expect to have demanded of them, high standards of physical fitness. We are in accord with the Commander, Defence Force (Commodore Clifford W. Scavella) in stressing that physical fitness goes hand-in-hand with strict discipline, ethics, integrity and efficiency and are all important hallmarks of an efficient Royal Bahamas Defence Force,” Mr. Turnquest said.

Mr. Turnquest challenged the graduating Marines to be an asset to the Force, their families and the country, and to continue to set the “highest standards.”

“In this day and time when so many of our Bahamian young men are turning to a life of violence and crime, be careful of the company you keep, least you find yourselves in adverse situations,” he said.

“When you act, do so with integrity, do not mind the opinions others have of you, or succumb to pressures of any kind. If you fail to act with dignity and integrity, you could well cause serious concerns to be raised about the performance and integrity of the entire Force,” Mr. Turnquest added.