The Folly of Fred Mitchell
For what seems like the umpteenth time, Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell has taken the defensive position when responding to views which differ from his own; and like a spoiled child, has chosen to throw a tantrum in the media rather than seriously consider the concerns being expressed by the likes of myself and others. I, like many Bahamians am often taken aback but not surprised by Minister Mitchell’s belligerent stand over issues of national importance. His most recent media comments regarding the handling of the new immigration policies seem to suggest that rather than being open to constructive criticism on the government’s initiative, what he wants is blind allegiance. This is the folly of Fred Mitchell.
Since taking office, Bahamians have been reminded far too often of this administration’s lack of transparency. In fact, the minister himself is guilty of some of the most egregious instances of secrecy, with the voting public still waiting to be given the details of Minister’s many trips and the cost to the public treasury.
In his defense of the government’s initiative Minister Mitchell has adamantly denied any wrong doing on the part of immigration officers and has dismissed the allegations of abuse as having no basis in fact. Earlier this year however, the Minister made similar statements about the allegations of abuse at the Carmichael Road Detention center and the treatment of Cuban detainees. Investigations into the allegations later gave credibility to those reports and spawned widespread protests by activist groups in the United States. Is the good minister prepared to risk yet another such public relations fiasco?
Having served as the minister with responsibility for immigration I am all too aware of the challenges facing immigration officers in the execution of their duties. I am also acutely aware of the level of dedication and sacrifice these officers make to meet the standard set for members of the armed forces. I am not so naïve to believe however, that there are no bad apples within the ranks. It is the responsibility of a good government to ensure that all the persons charged with overseeing the implementation of any government policy acts within the confines of the LAW!
Even as he dismisses the allegations of abuse however, the minister has intimated the government’s intent to install video recording devices inside immigration transport vehicles. This alone is proof that the Minister understands the severity of these allegations and is committed, at least in theory, to the idea of transparency. Clearly, he understands that if allowed to continue in its current form, the policies, no matter how well intentioned, have the ability to cause irreversible damage to the country’s international reputation.
For years, this administration, like others before it have created and advanced an economic model in this country which relies heavily on foreign investment inflows for its survival. Now, however, this administration threatens to jeopardize the very economic model which it has insisted on pushing.
Indeed, for too long however, this PLP administration and its cronies have benefitted from the cloak of secrecy which has covered countless government initiatives and policies. This issue however is far too important. The execution of these policies have too many far reaching international implications to be allowed by the government to bungle it as it has so many other national issues. The time has come for this administration to move away from the opacity of its current style of governance and encourage a more transparent and accountable form of governance.
While the government’s intent behind the execution of these new immigration policies are necessary, I will not blindly support an initiative while taking one step forward takes five more backwards. We must also act responsibly so as to not damage the country’s international reputation.