CANDIA DAMES NG News Editor email@example.com Published: Jun 10, 2011
A day after urging The Bahamas to take “incredibly strong action” and blow up or sink Dominican fishing boats, Leader of the Opposition Perry Christie said yesterday he was not advocating violence.
Christie made the clarification after Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham expressed shock at the original statement made on the matter.
While contributing to debate in the House of Assembly on the 2011/2012 budget on Wednesday, Christie spoke of the grave concerns Bahamian fishermen have about Dominican poachers.
“They describe a process where the (Dominican) fishermen take everything out that is moving,” Christie said.
“As I listened to them, men whose very profession, whose standard of living, whose life, whose children all emanate from the fishing industry, whose whole career has been on the sea and they spoke about a part of our Bahamas where they say people who are illegally fishing are causing and continuing to cause great damage, I concluded, Mr. Speaker, that at some stage if diplomatic channels do not work to get the Dominicans to assist us in protecting our waters from their nationals, that as a country we’re going to have to agree to take incredibly strong action, even to the point of blowing up or sinking ships.”
Christie said the country has a “compelling obligation to do whatever we can to get the point across to the Dominicans that we will not tolerate their incursions into our waters.”
While wrapping up the debate yesterday, Ingraham said his greatest surprise in listening to Christie was the suggestion regarding the Dominican fishing boats.
“I couldn’t believe it,” the prime minister said. “I’m sure he misspoke.”
At this point, Christie rose to clarify his statement.
“Clearly, what I was saying was predicated on the lawful apprehension of a fishing vessel, where once the people were prosecuted and they were found to be illegally poaching in our waters the courts then would have the option of either confiscating the boats or destroying [them],” he said.
Ingraham shot back: “That happens now.
“A fishing boat is found, (the poachers are) taken to court, convicted, the magistrate orders the destruction of the boat and the boat is destroyed.
“The member for Farm Road said ‘we ought to blow them out the water’ — a startling statement by a former prime minister and a man who continues to harbor the desire to lead again.
“We must presume that those fishing vessels are typically manned by human beings. I am not aware of any Bahamian law which would authorize our defence force to summarily execute fish poachers, which is what the leader of the opposition appears to have been proposing. It is an outrageous statement.”
Christie insisted that he was not advocating any “hostile acts”.
“If in fact, Mr. Speaker, my words were interpreted in that way I would wish to withdraw any possible imputation because that is not what I intended,” he said.
But Ingraham pressed further, saying Christie’s statements were “wholly inappropriate and wrong.”
“They are unhelpful, especially at a time when we seek to promote peaceful settlements of disputes in the country, when we seek to lower the tenor of anger in discourse, when we seek to promote respect for law and order and generally for human rights in The Bahamas,” Ingraham said.
“Once again the leader of the opposition was appealing to emotion. He was appealing to the lowest common denominator.”
He described Christie’s statements as “bombastic, ill-considered remarks made to gain effect regardless of the consequences.”
“This is unacceptable in a leader,” Ingraham said. “To be blunt, a leader he is not.”