Pubdate: Fri, 18 Jul 2003
Source: Nassau Guardian, The (Bahamas)
Copyright: 2003 The Nassau Guardian.
Author: Vanessa C. Rolle


United States Ambassador J. Richard Blankenship praised the Bahamas
Government for taking the stand to hold a Commission of Inquiry regarding a
1992 drug bust by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.

During his farewell comments at the American Embassy on Thursday, the
ambassador, who leaves the country today, said that the United States was
prepared to leave the incident behind, but it speaks very highly of the
Progressive Liberal Party administration to follow through with the inquiry
and clear officers names.

"I think it will be a blessing to those families that have suffered. It will
also be a blessing to the Defence Force because hopefully, once and for all,
they'll be able to remove the cloud that hangs over their head. They are
essential and play a vital role in not only the war on drugs, but the
immigration issues that we all face," said Ambassador Blankenship.

In June, during the Budget Debate, Attorney General Alfred Sears announced
the Government's plan to hold special hearings into the 1992 drug arrest.

It was noted that some public remarks implied that the subsequent
investigation of the alleged incident by the Defence Force and Royal Bahamas
Police Force was inadequate, or deliberately mishandled due to institutional
or political motives.

These allegations, said Mr. Sears, constituted a serious indictment on the
principle law enforcement agencies on The Bahamas.

The hearings will be presided by a sole commissioner, the retired Justice
Stanley Moore.

Mr. Sears told the House that the country cannot allow our principle
security institutions to exist with this cloud and young Bahamians to have
their careers and their future tarnished by these allegations.

Ambassador Blankenship commended Mr. Sears and the Christie administration
for going this route, as he too stands in agreement with their reasoning and
their pursuit of justice.

He further noted that in discussions with Minister of National Security
Cynthia Pratt, it was suggested the responsibilities of Defence Force
Officers should not include monitoring fishing laws and instead give those
portfolios to fishing officers. Defence Force officers he said, should then
be able to concentrate on protecting the country's borders.

"Co-operation with the Drug Enforcement Unit is as good as it's ever been.
We appreciate their efforts and we look forward to the Defence Force joining
our efforts and I look forward just to seeing the results of the Commission
of Inquiry that the Prime Minister has set out," he said.

"I think that there is no greater harm to any person than to be innocent and
yet suffer the consequences of those who have performed an illegal act. And
there have to be some innocent people associated with that incident," said
Mr. Blankenship.

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