26th September 2013
Mr. Bradley Roberts
The Progressive Liberal Party
Dear Mr. Chairman
I am taking this time to write an open letter to all of our National General Council Members at their monthly meeting, given the very kind comments which you made about me and my work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration in a press release issued yesterday. The struggle continues. I am thankful for those public comments. I wish therefore to use that as an opportunity to brief Councilors on the latest developments in my portfolio.
I want to say that the impression that I have is that the impact of the Cuban American protests in Miami is minimal if any at all. The fact is that this is a small group of misdirected, professional protestors whose stock in trade is fighting an ideological war with an enemy that they have been fighting since 1959. The world has moved on since then. They have not. Their actions are not rational and there is no appeal to logic with them. They are best kept at a safe distance and not engaged.
That is my view and that is the advice which I have given the government and executed on its behalf.
In pursuance of that objective, the Ministry has tried at all times during this manufactured crisis to ensure that the counter narrative, the space in opposition to what they have said is always filled. I have not shirked from answering any ill-conceived announcement from them. There is no question now that their aim is to harm the economic interests of The Bahamas.
Our general message is this. The Bahamas government is not engaged in nor does it support the cruel and inhumane punishment. There is no evidence to be found of that. Where individuals are engaged in wrong doing then there are mechanisms to deal with that. You now see that the government has announced a way forward in dealing with allegations of wrong doing and in the general management of the Detention Centre. Let no one put The Bahamas on the defensive on that issue.
There is also a high suspicion that this anti Bahamian campaign is being aided and abetted by sources inside our country. The Free National Movement for example has much on that score for which to answer. How is it for example that the comments of the FNM in Nassau seem broadly similar if not the same as the comments made by the protestors in Miami? The FNM are now quickly seeking to “back back” from that as we say in The Bahamas, but the damage to them is done. How could they have found themselves appearing to side with those who would destroy our country?
I have been on two official stints in the United States since this matter became a public issue. It has been my experience that I have not met one single person who mentioned these protests as a factor in whether or not they will come to The Bahamas. The universal experience has been that of a destination which looms large in the popular imagination as a place for fun and relaxation.
I attended on behalf of the country the reception held by the U S President Barak Obama on Monday evening 23rd September in New York. In the exchanges there, the Miami protests did not feature at all. What did feature was the thanks to our country for the good time that that the American officials at the highest levels and their families had in our country earlier this year. Those officials were very thankful for allowing them a normal vacation with respect for their privacy. They promised to come back again this year. At the same reception, an official from a Middle Eastern country came up to see me once he saw my flag pin to say he and his wife had just come back from Andros at Kamalame Cay and what a great time we had. No word about protestors in Miami either.
The Minister of Tourism announced within the last day that the Miami Heat basketball team will come to The Bahamas for their practice sessions. I say again: the Miami Heat.
My point is that the reputation of our country remains intact. However, we must continue to protect it while at the same time ensuring that we know the facts of what has transpired and what is transpiring. This small group is being fed by the continued fascination of the local press with this issue. It is important to note that this is not an issue with Cuba. This is an issue with the ideological opponents of Cuba who live in the United States. The issue receives no traction in the United States which itself repatriates scores of Cubans back to Cuba every month. The protestors do not protest the United States, however.
The issue continues to dominate our local news, fed by those who oppose us politically. Because the protestors are getting no traction in the United States, they take ever more desperate measures: seeking to arrange boycotts against our economic interests, trying to frighten people who want to invest in our country or who do business here. We should remind the business community in Florida and ourselves that we do one billion dollars’ worth of business with Florida per year, much of that with the merchants in South Florida. That’s no chump change.
We must stand up for the country. This is what our 40th year of independence reminds us; that independence requires eternal vigilance. It is a living breathing thing and we in this generation have just as an important a role as the founders of our country when it comes to protecting and nurturing our independence.
I regret that I am not able to report on this in person but I am on assignment in New York at the United Nations. I would be grateful if this can be read out on my behalf to the Council.
The Prime Minister will deliver our country’s national statement to the United Nations on Saturday 28th September at about 3 p.m. I hope you are able to watch it. He will deliver that statement on behalf of the country, a country that can be justifiably proud of what it has accomplished in forty years. We who are a part of the Progressive Liberal Party played a large part in making sure that he is able to deliver a message of a proud country. No Cuban American protestors can change that fact.
I thank you all once again for your kind support. Continue in the struggle.
Fred Mitchell MP S C