Marvin Dames: No compromise over Abaco safety needs

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

AS looting and theft concerns persist in Abaco, National Security Minister Marvin Dames was adamant the government is very serious about security on the island, adding there had been no compromise over safety needs.

"There are no games," the minister said yesterday, as he faces criticism and calls to resign over a "weak" effort to ensure there is a proper plan to thwart crime in Abaco in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.

On Monday, Victor Patterson, chairman of the Free National Movement's Central and South Abaco constituency branch, called for Mr Dames to step down insisting he needed to answer for what he described as a "failure".

Yesterday, Mr Dames said everyone is entitled to an opinion while at the same time downplaying Mr Patterson's concerns. He said people in Abaco and its cays had commended the government for its crime plan there.

However, for those who are victims of crime, Mr Dames said there were sufficient mechanisms in Abaco for crime concerns to be expressed and addressed.

Asked whether there was a decision on implementing a curfew in Abaco, the minister said assessments were ongoing, but nothing was off the table.

Last week residents on the island said the situation was quite worrisome because it seemed there was no law.

One woman who did not want to be named said she and other residents were prepared to use their firearms to defend property and belongings.

In one part of the island a makeshift sign was erected with words spray painted: "Turn around, you loot we shoot."

"We have a team down there. We have a police station. We have an active team," the Mt Moriah MP told told The Tribune yesterday outside of a Cabinet meeting .

"We continue to move officers in to bring in fresh officers and we continue to say to persons if you have a concern, your concern is legitimate, if you were a victim then the station is there its open 24/7 and its being operated by both police and Defence Force officers.

"And so like anywhere else if you have a complaint you go and register that complaint and that is what we continue to say. Last Monday I had a community meeting with residents of Abaco at Bishop Silbert Mills' church and it was all over social media.

"Many of the residents there were pleased with the level of progress and security that is on the ground. Over the weekend I was there throughout the island of Abaco and all of the cays and every time I stepped foot on a cay I was greeted by police and Defence Force officers and residents who spoke very highly of those officers.

"The last cay was Hope Town and I have that too on video on social media and it's not coming from me but from the residents who were very commendable of the efforts of officers."

He continued: "Listen these are very sensitive times, but one thing is for certain we take security very seriously. There's no compromise. There is no games here.

"That is what we do and hence the reason why this is my second trip within a week. I even over-nighted and spent two days touring with the officers going over what the officers are doing and meeting on a regular basis with the commissioner of police and commodore and their teams going over their strategies so we take this very seriously."

Given the magnitude of Dorian's damage, Mr Dames said looting was not out of the ordinary, pointing to the crime that took place in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"Have some people been victimised, yeah. I mean we've just gone through something that we would have never experienced before and if you look at any devastation of this magnitude you always have a problem with looting. If you look at Katrina same thing, you look at any devastation that's what you're going to have. It's not going to be devoid or absent of these things.

"People look for opportunities to take advantage. That's the reality that we're living," he said.

Mr Dames said it was unfair for people to blame police for crimes in Abaco, but not report matters when they occur.