Minister Dames Visits Grand Bahama Post Dorian

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The Bahamas has signed on to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of 2030 and, like many other countries, safety and security are pivotal for the advancement of the goals. Goal 16 of the same seeks to ‘promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development; provide access to justice for all; and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels’. The statement highlights the need for effective and sustainable institutions of safety and security for the prevention and control of various manifestations of crime as a significant developmental goal.

The Hon. Marvin Dames since being appointed as Minister of National Security in 2017 has sought to meet both the SDG 2030, while fulfilling this administration’s goals, as outlined in the Government’s Manifesto on Crime.

Specifically, he has advocated a three-pronged approach to crime inclusive of legislation, state-of-the art technology, and professional development training. The ultimate goal is the prevention and deterrence of crime; the enforcement of the law when crime is committed; & the rehabilitation and re-integration of offenders of the law. On the 1st September, 2019 Hurricane Dorian made landfall in Elbow Cay as a Category 5 Hurricane and over the next few days both the Abaco’s & Grand Bahama sustained catastrophic devastation.

There is no doubt that Hurricane Dorian was one of the worst hurricanes in the western hemisphere and the worst hurricane to make landfall in The Bahamas. The damages in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian appears to be calamitous.

Despite the loss of life and devastation estimated to be in the billions, law enforcement personnel are to be commended for their efforts as they played and will continue to play a critical role in the aftermath of Dorian. Both the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) played and continue to provide critical services in post-emergency management responses to Dorian.

Minister Dames visited Grand Bahama on Thursday, 26 th through Sunday, 22 nd September, 2019. He began his visit by meeting with members of RBPF who served during the storm and continue to do so. The meeting was held at Freeport Bible Church in Freeport and the Minister was accompanied by Commissioner Ferguson.

The men were joined by Assistant Commissioner of Police, Samuel Butler, with responsibility for the Northern Bahamas District and Chief Superintendent Loretta Mackey. Approximately 180 police personnel inclusive of career, reserve and civilian staff recounted their experiences pre-Dorian, during and after.

Many of the Officers expressed their desire to render more assistance to those persons who called for help during the storm. Meanwhile, other expressed the need for more support and resources so as to provide relief to members of the affected communities. The Minister commended the Officers for their heroic and dedicated service to the people of the northern Bahamas despite sustaining loss and damages during the storm. While national and international aid is being provided post-Dorian, Minister Dames encouraged members of the Police Force to continue to provide on-scene management of shelters and communities, while maintaining continuity of operational services.

The Minister also promised to provide assistance to personnel who are in need of immediate relief assistance in the form of clothing, hygienic
products, food and water in the short-term. Police personnel were also encouraged to provide Divisional Commanders with their request for long-term needs in the form of building supplies and household needs. The Minister reassured the personnel present that as a former Police he full understands the balancing act necessary to fulfill one’s mandate to serve the public, while ensuring self-preservation by tending to the needs of one’s family. With support of the Commissioner, the personnel present were assured that they would be provided with counselling,
if needed, and relief time to care for their personal needs and that of their families.

Thursday afternoon Minister Dames attended the graduation ceremony and passing out parade for ‘D’ Squad, 2019. The ceremony was held at the Police Training College in Freeport. Minister Dames indicated that the date of the ceremony was significant because they were the first class to graduate post-Dorian. Minister Dames noted, “this date and this place are vivid reminders of why we have to continuously recruit the finest men and women from within Bahamian society. Tomorrow, and each day following, you will be called upon to demonstrate the heroism as you not only seek to maintain law and order but render assistance to an island and people devastated by Hurricane Dorian”. The Minister commended the 36 graduates for volunteering in the days
leading up to the storm.

Members of ‘D’ Squad provided assistance in setting up the various shelters thereby lightening the load on emergency personnel and provided a warm welcome to those seeking refuge from the storm. The individual efforts formed an important part of the collective mandate to rendering aid. Minister Dames noted that for more than two years, his agency has been transforming the Police Force into a modern and efficient crime fighting organization that is properly staffed, trained, educated and equipped to prevent crime where possible, detect crime when it occurs, and bring those responsible to justice.

The passing out ceremony, therefore, signifies the Government’s commitment to increasing the manpower of the organization, as indicated in the 2018 Manpower Audit of the Police Force. This administration is committed to improving law enforcement in The Bahamas as it is key to sustainable development. More specifically, new recruitment standards and prerequisites have been implemented in line with international standards and best practices to ensure that only the best, brightest, and most deserving Bahamians are given the opportunity to serve as Police Officers. No longer are recruits being enlisted in the Force simply to, ‘get a job’. Those days are long gone as the Force is seeking and has been attracting some of the most qualified and competent Bahamians who are looking for a rewarding career and who will contribute a wide range of special knowledge, skills and talents. All of the above will assist in the continuous transformation of the Royal Bahamas Police Force into an even more professional organization.

Minister Dames concluded by reminding the graduates that their parents and loved ones have made great sacrifices that enabled them to complete the rigorous training programme. He stated, ‘what you have chosen to do is a mission…, a calling, no less, as guardians of the public safety. Do not take the tasks inherent in this noble and distinguished undertaking lightly.

Remember that the Bahamian people are counting on you to do your jobs effectively and professionally at all times’. On Friday morning Minister Dames met with members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) at the C.A. Smith Government Complex in Freeport. Senior members of the Defence inclusive of Commander Daxon, Lt. Commander Johnson and Lt. Fitz were all present along with 48 Marines either temporarily or permanently deployed to the northern Bahamas. The Defence Force personnel were able to provide the Minister with an update on the pre and post Hurricane Dorian efforts.

The Defence Force were also able to provide an update on the assistance being rendered by both regional and international security forces who have been in The Bahamas since the storm. The Minister during the visit thanked all personnel for the service they have and continue to provide. He also noted that his Ministry is aware that members of the RBDF whom reside permanently in Grand Bahama were also affected by the storm. As such, his Ministry will provide support in the short-term inclusive of clothing and other needs. Once the recovery efforts move into the second phase of rebuilding, the Minister assured the attendees that their needs will be considered because the services they provide are critical to the overall safety and security of the country.

Minister Dames along with Lt. Fitz and of NEMA discuss relief efforts at Independence Park.

The meeting also served as an opportunity for members of National Security to garner recommendations to assist the agency in rendering aid to both residents and members of the respective law enforcement during this time. On Friday afternoon Minister Dames visited the staff of the Parliamentary Registration in the National Insurance Complex in Freeport. The safety and national security of The Bahamas is much more than political power, diplomacy and military precision, but a variety of components which are non-militia or involve economic power. As such, the Ministry also has under its purview the Parliamentary Registration Department which is responsible for parliamentary registration and elections.

The Bahamas, being a democratic state, has always believed and fostered equal and equitable electoral processes. Inclusive of elections administered by the department are the general, school board and local government elections. The Parliamentary Registration Department Sub-office is located in Freeport and it too was impacted during Hurricane Dorian. Minister Dames during his inspection noted that the office space received minimal damages compared to other structures on Grand Bahama. He commended the staff on their efforts, thus far, and vowed to provide the necessary support to aid in restorative efforts. The Sub-office in Freeport is expecting that after the initial relief efforts phase members of the public will begin visiting the office to request replacement voters’ card. The Minister also took the time to inquire about the well-being of the staff on a personal level.

Most of the staff considered themselves lucky as they didn’t sustain major damages or losses with the exception of one member. The Minister offered his regards and stated that his agency will provide the necessary assistance to ensure that all staff members have their basic needs met during the recovery phase of post-Dorian. On Friday afternoon Minister Dames took the opportunity to tour the affected areas and meet with residents of the respective communities in East Grand Bahama. While touring the impacted areas the Minister heard some of the frightening stories, as told by survivors, of the worst natural disaster to impact The Bahamas. In some of the affected areas of Grand Bahama, the hurricane brought up to 23 feet of storm surge. Many of the residents are still understandably stunned and saddened by the devastation left to their homes, while mourning the loss of loved ones.

Minister Dames assist in providing water to the residents of Grand Bahama at Independence Park.

Minister Dames did, however, note the resilience of the human spirit in East Grand Bahama and, despite the tragic loss, many of the residents vowed to remain in their homes and rebuild. Minister Dames visited Independence Park on Saturday to provide support during NEMA’s relief assistance. At the park, affected members of the public were able to receive supplies inclusive of food, water, clothing, hygienic items, pet food and other assorted assistance. Minister Dames took the opportunity to assess the relief efforts and speak with members of the public regarding their concerns post-Dorian.

The Minister assured members of the public that the Government is committed to rebuilding Grand Bahama. However, his immediate concerns were to ensure that all persons were being provided with basic human needs such as food, water, adequate shelter and protective services. Both the Police and Defence Forces are working around-the-clock to ensure that all persons remaining on the island of Grand Bahama are safe and secure. Safety and security are necessities for human existence and comfort in knowing that one is protected allows humans to focus on higher level needs.

While present, the Minister also took the opportunity to meet with both local and international security forces who ensured that the distribution was conducted in a fair and efficient manner. The Minister also took time to lend a helping hand by assisting several senior members of the
community who were seeking assistance during the event on the park. The goal was to ensure that all persons, particularly the elderly, pregnant women and children had every opportunity to garner assistance. The Minister concluded the evening by reiterating this administration’s commitment to rebuilding the northern Bahamas because the country still remains strong and steadfast. The unity and strength of all survivors, first-responders, community activists, general members of the public and the Government will ensure that both the Abacos and Grand Bahama rebuild stronger.

Minister Dames awarding Recruit Constable 4249 Castromer Griffin Jr. with the Baton of Honour.

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