National Security Minister commends Bahamians for showing restraint

Minister of National Security, Bernard Nottage, during a press conference, September 24, Churchill Building. Also pictured at left, Carl Smith, Permanent secretary and at right, Sen. Keith Bell, Minister of State for National Security. (BIS Photo /Patrick Hanna)

Nassau, The Bahamas — Minister of National Security, Dr. Bernard Nottage, praised the restraint of the Bahamian people in the face of antagonism by Cubans in Miami, Fla.

“I commend the  Bahamian community for the restraint they have exercised, particularly in the accusations which have been levelled on us by the Cuban exile community in Miami,” said Minister of National Security, Dr. Bernard Nottage.

He said The Bahamas considers itself a friend of the United States and the merchants in the United States, many of whom are Cuban Americans, “should be thankful for the resources we provide them through our expenditure with them in Miami,”  Minister Nottage said at a press conference, September 24.

“It would behoove them to be more considerate, to be more understanding of the plight, with which we are confronted on a regular basis, having to spend funds either housing them, or feeding them, etc.  That doesn’t give us any excuse to do anything that is illegal or harmful to the detainees because we understand their issues, too. But it’s time to be fair and I don’t feel they are being fair.”

The illegal immigrants are accusing the Royal Bahamas Defence Force of abusing their human rights while in custody, however, the officers maintain they were following the legal policies of the Defence Act.

“That’s the way it is when we are situated the way we are.  God placed us here.  We are subject to all sorts of disadvantages because of the drug trade, gun trade and illegal trafficking of persons, all of which have happened in our waters,” said Minister Nottage.

“We find these people on cays and in cay sounds and all over the place and we spend a lot of our money on an annual basis repatriating people from Africa, from parts of Europe, plus the ones of which we are familiar.  This is a constant challenge.  We send our boats out; we send our planes out; we rescue them; we house them;  I think it time for both sides of the story to be told.”

Minister Nottage explained that for the past few months, the Cuban exile community of South Florida has advanced a biased public opposition to the Bahamian Government’s position without considering that the detainees are in fact in a legal breach of Cuban law, Bahamian law, and US law.  He further explained that as a result, it is difficult for the Bahamas to find a third party country to take on the expense of housing and feeding these inmates.

Minister Nottage also advised the public that a local investigation will be exercised and which affords the officers legal protection against the accusations.

“The Ministry of National Security has been advised by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force that investigations into the alleged assault of Cuban detainees at the Detention Centre have been completed, and that proceedings under the Defence Force Act against the persons implicated in the incident will commence imminently,” said Minister Nottage.

“These proceedings are being conducted in accordance with the legal rules prescribed under the Defence Act and Regulations, which approximate a trial before a Magistrate’s Court.  As such, we will refrain from making any comments concerning the proceedings while they are under consideration.”

Dr. Nottage said the hearings will be held in camera and a full report of the proceedings will be issued at the conclusion.  He said three independent observers will be permitted to attend the hearings in order to assure the public that the proceedings are transparent and just.

Mr. Nottage said Justice Emmanuel Osadebay (Ret’d), the Rev. William Higgs and former Superintendent of Police, Douglas Hanna have agreed to serve on a committee to inquire into the administration of the Detention Centre and to make recommendations for its efficient administration and management.