As a young journalist working at The Tribune in the early 1960s, I learned a great deal from Nicki Kelly, who was The Tribune’s senior reporter at the time, covering primarily the House of Assembly and matters of a political nature. She is a magnificent writer and I thoroughly enjoy reading her columns in THE PUNCH twice a week. This excerpt from her "BETWEEN THE LINES" column on Monday, February 23, 2015, should be “must reading” for Fred Smith, Jetta Baptiste, Daphne Campbell and other critics of The Bahamas’ very sensible new immigration policy.
EXCERPT FROM THIS WEEK’S "BETWEEN THE LINES"
“FOR someone who says he is committed to defending the rights of Haitians in The Bahamas, human rights activist Fred Smith seems determined to inflame public sentiment against the Haitian community. Mr Smith, president of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, told a radio audience he sees nothing wrong with Bahamians of Haitian descent forming political parties to advance their interests.
“People have the right to freedom of association,” he said. “I see nothing wrong with people promoting self-interest in political parties for social benefits for different parts of the community. “Bahamians of Haitian descent are a large part of our society. So without doubt you will see people of that heritage as members of parliament and at the forefront of the political process,” he declared.
In the democracy that we purport to be, Bahamians of any descent should be free to participate in the political arena, so long as they are citizens of this country. In fact, such a mix should be encouraged, because it broadens the perspective of political parties. But Mr Smith is lighting a powder keg by suggesting Haitians form their own political parties specifically to advance their particular agenda to the exclusion of the national interest.
Such talk, considering the size of the Haitian immigrant population in this country, is bound to incite anti-Haitian sentiment among the rest of the population. With a population of some 370,000, the Bahamian economy cannot sustain the endless flood of immigrants from Haiti and the financial drain they represent on the country’s educational, medical, and social services.
The Immigration Department repatriated 4,628 foreigners last year, 3,814, or 82.4 per cent of whom were Haitians. This figure was 26 per cent higher than the 3.033 deported in 2013. So it is hardly surprising that Bahamians feel overwhelmed by the continuous influx of illegal Haitians into the country. Their frustration has been exacerbated by an unemployment rate hovering at nearly 16 per cent. Mr Smith should be careful, therefore, that in his thirst for publicity and delusional anxiety to martyr himself in pursuit of justice for Haitian-Bahamians, he does not deal their cause irreparable harm.”