By Nina Laing, FN Reporter
Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis' recent claim that Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell is covering up the " serious" abuse
of Cuban detainees has been met with strong criticism from the Bahamian population at large.
Minnis made the claim in a press statement released on Wednesday, August 21.
Since then, Minnis' accusations have not only been opposed by Mitchell, but by many local Bahamians who believe the Killarney
MP made a poor judgment that could potentially have harmful repercussions for Bahamians abroad.
"I think he jumped the gun. He should not have," Vonnel Gibson said.
Gibson added that since the start of the ordeal, The Bahamas has received negative attention and she believes Minnis' remarks
could prove to be more harmful than helpful.
"If Bahamians are going to be visiting these places we need to know what Cuba' s view is, and how they're feeling. Are they
interested in retaliating? I think it's something that the government needs to look into."
One local businesswoman, who wished to remain anonymous said, Minnis' comments were reckless.
She added, he failed to consider how his statements might affect Bahamians in Cuba or the United Sates.
" The Bahamians abroad (are) already talking about, being mistreated, but I guess, being treated differently than they were
prior to that (Cuban detainee) incident and I donâ t think his comments helped at all. To me, it's always Bahamians first,"
As for whether or not Minnis' findings are truthful or not, she said, she would have to see the evidence herself.
Still, the storeowner said, the opposition leader handled the situation poorly.
Similarly, lead pastor of Kingdom Worship Center International Kermit Saunders is interested in the legitimacy of Minnisâ
" I don' t know to what extent he has done the kind of investigation individually that would give him the kind of information
that would say that (Cuban detainees) were (abused). However, if he has discovered that this is the case, I think that he
needs to allow the government to do their investigation," Saunders said.
He also questioned Minnis' motives, suggesting that political "brownie points" may have factored into the Killarney MP' s decision
to make the claims against Mitchell.
Ultimately, Saunders said, his concern is for the safety of Bahamians.
" We don't want the Bahamians to be targets as the result of some poor judgment on part of a politician," he said.
" Someone of his caliber, someone of his stature, who is very involved in the political fray can say something that will cause
unrest globally or in the United States and Cuba, because words have a way of travelling."
Pastor Ozzie Rolle expressed disappointment in both Minnis' and Mitchell's behavior during the Cuban detainee conflict.
He maintains the pair are too focused on their political agenda and are, consequently, causing a divide in the nation.
" I think (Mitchell) needs to stop talking so much. He's doing too much talking because I believe that he has future aspirations
and so he wants to seem as though he is tough on certain issues," Rolle said.
Referring to Minnis' statements, he said, "I think that his comments are really irresponsible because I feel as though you
have to stop trying to create this divide among the people ... not because you're the opposition it gives you the right to be
reckless or to even oppose. Some things you have to be in agreement for the betterment of the country."
Rolle urged the politicians to choose to be wise over being 'opportunists.'
However, another local resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, believes that opportunism is policy as far as politics
in The Bahamas is concerned.
" That is something that has been going on for a long time. They been doing it like that so (Minnis) didn't do anything new.
It never made the country look good and it still doesnâ t, but thatâ s just how politics is in The Bahamas."
She said, she agrees with Minnis that Mitchell (allegedly) is covering up the treatment of detainees.
She alleged, " It's public knowledge for the detainees to be abused. That ainâ t just start. That been going on long time. That's been covered up."
In his statement, Minnis alleges that after a failed escape from the Carmichael Road Detention Center, "at least five" Cuban
detainees were " severely" abused and three of them were subsequently taken to the Princess Margaret Hospital for treatment.
He added that a controversial video purportedly depicting the ill treatment of Cuban detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention
Center was a reenactment created at the detention center in Nassau following the alleged beating of detainees.
Minnis also reports that the government's investigation of the matter has been completed, but suggests the " unedited" report
is being withheld from the public and Mitchell is engaging in a " full-fledged cover-up."
As a result, Minnis called for the release of the full and unedited investigation findings as well as the removal of the Foreign
Affairs and Immigration minister.
Mitchell, in a statement, said that Minnis' claims are an attempt to 'sully' his character.
He added that the FNM is "talking a jumble of foolishness' as far as their understanding of the Cuban detainee matter is concerned.
Mitchell maintained that investigation into the videotape and allegations made at the detention center is ongoing and upon
its completion, the government will act as it sees fit.
About a week ago, 24 undocumented Cuban detainees, including the group who accused Bahamian guards of beating them, were repatriated
to Havana, Cuba.