Leader of the Opposition Screams Cover-up by Foreign Affairs Minister

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Dr. Hubert Minnis - Leader of the Opposition FNM

PRESS RELEASE
August 21, 2013
For Immediate release

From the Office of the FNM Leader,
Hon. Dr. Hubert A. Minnis

We are here today to report to the Bahamian people on a major cover-up that the Free National Movement has uncovered. It is a cover-up of international proportions and one that has the potential to damage for many years our relationship with our long-standing friend and ally, the United States of America.

In recent times the public became aware of a video being circulated purporting to show that a group of Cubans detained at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre had been physically and verbally abused by officers of the Centre. The emergence of the video was a cause of significant concerns both locally and abroad. Alarm bells rang in the South Florida, Cuban-American community and in Washington DC among the legislators who pay close attention to immigration matters.

At the time the video emerged the Free National Movement stood in solidarity with government and emphasized the point that the official policy of The Bahamas Government is that we do not abuse persons in detention. At that time the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fred Mitchell made a public commitment to undertake an investigation into the matter. We supported that approach.

Bahamians will be aware that in the aftermath of the video‘s release, The Bahamas has been the subject of public demonstrations in South Florida. In addition to the demonstrations, senior US congresspersons have made direct pleas to The Bahamas government to undertake an investigation and to give a full report of that investigation.

To date, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has not given a full and honest account of what took place at the Detention Centre on May 20th, 2013. The FNM has examined this issue closely.

I now report on what we found out:

In the early hours of May 20, 2013 there was an attempted escape from the Detention Centre by seven Cuban detainees. This escape attempt was prevented. As punishment for the attempted escape, at least five detainees were physically abused to a severe degree. The abuse was so significant that three of the detainees had to be taken to the PMH for treatment. One person was detained and two others returned to the Detention Centre.

Following the beatings, the remaining detainees performed and videotaped a reenactment of the earlier beatings. Our information is that the reenactment was facilitated with the assistance of one or more defence force officers who provided the fatigues for the actors in the performance.

The FNM has been further advised that several senior government officials and Ministers became aware fairly early that a major instance of abuse had in fact taken place. There was at least one major meeting of senior law enforcement officers and cabinet ministers who were briefed as to what had transpired. As a result of that briefing, a more intensive investigation was ordered.

We are now aware that the report of the government’s preliminary investigation has been completed and is in circulation. This has been completed from as early as late June. It is now late August.

Despite becoming aware that a serious instance of abuse had taken place, the Minister of foreign affairs has continued to use well-chosen language to mislead the public.

Minister Mitchell continued to use strong, combative and undiplomatic language intended to deflect attention from the underlying legitimacy of the issue raised by the demonstrators. He had multiple opportunities to tell the Bahamian people and the international community the full truth of what had transpired. Instead, he has chosen to engage in a full-fledged cover-up.

It has now become clear that minister Mitchell has exhausted every ounce of credibility as Minister of Foreign Affairs. The FNM is appalled at the dismal mismanagement of our country’s foreign interests by Minister Mitchell.

We call on Prime Minister Christie to:
1. Dismiss Fred Mitchell from his cabinet forthwith.
2. Release the full and unedited reports of all investigations that have been conducted to date.