Friday, May 19, 2017
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
INTERIM Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip Davis yesterday warned the new government not to succumb to widespread expectations of “witch hunts” pledged on the campaign trail as he raised concerns over an excessive display of force by police at the Bahamas Agricultural Industrial Corporation.
Mr Davis also cautioned the Royal Bahamas Police Force on its mandate to maintain its political neutrality following the arrest of seven BAIC workers on Tuesday, part of a probe into “theft by reason of employment” at the corporation. Police said an additional worker was also questioned by police earlier this week.
Those workers were later released without charge and investigations continued yesterday.
In a statement, Mr Davis took issue with the treatment of nine employees, all of whom were said to have worked with former BAIC Executive Chairman Dion Smith, and suggested that both the government and law enforcement owed the country a full explanation.
He questioned why police officers visited the government agency with guns drawn to investigate allegations made against workers, characterising the “Gestapo style” approach as “over kill”.
His statement was released hours before police arrested Mr Smith, the PLP’s former Nassau Village representative, as the probe into BAIC continued.
Police said Mr Smith, who is also Deputy Speaker of the House, and his lawyer went to the Central Detective Unit on Thursday afternoon where the former turned himself in for questioning. Police also said it was likely Mr Smith would remain in custody overnight.
“Descending on a corporation during working hours Gestapo-style with guns drawn in the circumstances of the allegations made against the employees seems like overkill,” Mr Davis’ statement read.
“None of these people would have been armed and no arms were involved in any of the allegations. The new government has to be careful that it does not live up to the widespread expectation of witch hunts by them following a campaign.”
Before the general election, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis labelled former Prime Minister Perry Christie and his administration the “most corrupt, the most incompetent and the most victimising government since independence.”
Capitalising on national concerns about corruption was a major plank in the FNM’s campaign strategy, according to party Chairman Sidney Collie, who unpacked the party’s data-driven campaign strategy in an interview with The Tribune.
“That is the way the recent action comes off,” Mr Davis’ statement continued.
“If that is not the intention then both the police and the government owe the country a full and frank explanation. The police must be careful to maintain its reputation of strict adherence to a neutral political position,” it added.