During the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) Annual Church Service, on March 11, 2018, Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin Dames said that when his Government came to Office in the prior May, it pledged to provide the necessary infrastructure and equipment, manpower, and operational assets to enable the RBDF to fulfill its mandate in the protection of our coastal borders, assistance with law enforcement and provision of disaster relief. “Commodore, Officers and Marines, on March 29th, you will celebrate 38 years of contributing to the peace and security of our nation through your traditional roles of anti-smuggling and poaching, search and rescue, disaster relief operations and be providing security assistance to more than 20 government and non-governmental agencies,” Minister Dames said at the Church Service, held at the New Destiny Baptist Church, Jean Street.
Among those present were Governor-General of The Bahamas Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling; Commander Royal Bahamas Defence Force Commodore Tellis Bethel and other Heads of Law Enforcement Agencies; Permanent Secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister Jack Thompson; Acting Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of National Security Mr. Eugene Poitier; Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education Donella Bodie and other Senior Government Officials and Officers; and Senior Pastor of New Destiny Bishop Delton Fernander and a number of members of the clergy. “You continue to give of yourselves unselfishly in protecting our heritage,” Minister Dames added. “Our chain of islands is the largest maritime domain within the English-speaking Caribbean Region, equal in size to the maritime domain of the entire chain of countries and territories in the Eastern Caribbean.”
Minister Dames noted that, in fact, protecting the Bahamian archipelago – stretching some 50 miles from the southeast coast of Florida to within 70 miles of the north coast of Haiti with over 100,000 square miles of water and 2,000 miles of porous coastline from criminal activities – is no easy task. “You have boldly committed to protecting our nation and should be commended,” he said. The security of the southern border of The Bahamas is a top priority for the Government, Minister Dames stated. Most illicit maritime activities that do take place in The Bahamas, he pointed out, originate at The Bahamas’ southern borders. To counter this activity, Minister Dames said, the Government has expressed its commitment to establish on the island of Inagua the HMBS Inagua Strategic Base. “The operational base will be responsible for interdicting much of these illicit activities. It is also the intent of our Government to begin the construction of a new administration building and barracks, as well as, a technical workshop at the Matthew Town Base,” he said. “The purpose of this project is to provide logistical and technical support for long-term deployments of coastal and ocean patrol craft assigned to the southeastern Bahamas corridor. “Additionally, our Government will facilitate the construction of a base at Ragged Island. These bases, at Inagua and Ragged Island, will be located at strategic choke points for anti-poaching, migrant, and drug smuggling operations.”
Minister Dames said that the Bahamas Government will also engage in greater collaboration with the Government of the Republic of Haiti to reduce illicit activities occurring within the maritime domains. “As a result of discussions held between our Prime Minister and the President of Haiti during the recent 29th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the CARICOM heads of government in Haiti last month, our Government has agreed for the Commander of the Defence Force to meet with the head of the Haitian Coast Guard to discuss joint operations between the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Haitian Coast Guard for the purpose of reducing the flow of illegal migration into The Bahamas,” he noted. Minister Dames said that upgrades and expansion would shortly be seen at the Coral Harbour Base, including the construction of a new Engineering Workshop and Supply Warehouse on the north shore of the Coral Harbour Base to serve as the primary location for the “much-needed” storage and maintenance spaces; the construction of a parking lot on the northern side of the Base to accommodate the workforce; and acquiring a 1,000 kilowatt generator to power the northern side of the Base, to allow for continuity of the day-to-day running of operations in the event the primary power source fails. “I am also pleased to publicly announce that in a few short months the Administrative arm of the Defence Force will relocate to the new Ministry of National Security building on John F. Kennedy Drive,” he added.
With regard to equipment to further strengthen its security efforts, Minister Dames said that the enhanced multi-million-dollar communications, detection, tracking, and interdiction program with funding and technical support provided by the US State Department are now being rolled out. “This programme includes a coastal radar system, a motor turbo radio trunking system, an Over the Horizon Tactical Tracking System, and an Automatic Identification System,” Minister Dames noted. Timelines for acquisition and installation of those advanced technologies will vary for each project over the next five years, he stated. “The installation of the coastal radar for Inagua, for example, has already commenced and will be completed during the second quarter of this year,” Minister Dames said. “Additionally, the installation of the Over the Horizon Tactical Tracking System aboard all ships and aircraft is to commence in September of this year.”
Minister Dames noted that the Government had commenced a Manpower Audit of the RBDF to determine as a matter of urgency the requisite number of personnel needed to effectively operate the Force. The Government expects to complete that audit during the first half of the current year (2018). He noted that, to date, 120 recruits were accepted for training at HMBS Coral Harbour in January 2018 and is the single largest intake for the Force. “The Audit will focus on the professional development of its personnel from recruitment to retirement underscoring the technical and professional needs of the Force,” Minister Dames said. “As such, promotions will be guided by availability and consideration be given to those persons who are most qualified by proven leadership, character and professional competence through a process that is based on merit.” “The days of favoritism, sexism, nepotism and political cronyism are in your rear view mirror.,” he added. “This cannot be the norm if we are moving toward a higher level of professionalism.”