By Taneka Thompson
Nassau Guardian Senior Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe said on Sunday he is concerned that current crime trends may derail the government’s efforts to rejuvenate tourism and the economy in The Bahamas.
Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe
Wilchcombe spoke to The Nassau Guardian after the United States Embassy in Nassau warned Americans living and traveling to The Bahamas to be alert because of armed robberies.
The warning came four days after three gunmen robbed Acting Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis inside his home. Davis did not have police guards at his home at the time.
Wilchcombe said current crime trends must reverse before The Bahamas’ reputation sustains long-term damage.
“The Americans will give warnings, notwithstanding what’s happening in their country, about our destination and at the end of the day we will be doing more damage control which is not good because some nations lost their tourism industry because of what happened [to them].
“We have to fix the problems at home. The truth is we have to get control of the situation and we have to get Bahamians to understand that we are destroying all that we sought to build. We have gone through a very difficult time as far as tourism is concerned.
“We’re now finding a way out of it. We see new opportunities begin to open up and we believe that we are headed towards one of the best seasons we’ve ever had.
“If we want to hurt that then all we need to do is continue this effort being made by those who seem not to love their country. They seem to hate their country because they are doing more things against the nation.”
Wilchcombe said the country must have “an all out war” on crime and suggested the government launch a “love” campaign to combat the negativity that leads to criminal activity.
Last week, Minister of Agriculture Alfred Gray and Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller called for the government to abandon the Privy Council as the final court of appeal and resume hangings.
However, Wilchcombe said this is a “reactionary” stance to crime.
He argued that the country must work on breaking the criminal mindset early on instead of focusing on punitive solutions.
“We can talk about arresting the criminal but that’s after the fact,” Wilchcombe said. “What we want to do is arrest the mind before he thinks about engaging in criminal activity.”
Among other incidents, the US Embassy referred to the invasion of Davis’ house a week ago.
In the House of Assembly last Wednesday, Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage said The Bahamas must defend itself against crime warnings, although he did not refer specifically to the embassy.
Nottage’s declaration was made before the latest warning, which was issued on Friday.
The minister pointed to a conversation he had with an FBI agent about crime, and the decision by Carnival cruise line to issue letters to its passengers warning them about crime in The Bahamas.
“He said that (crime) happens everywhere,” said Nottage, referring to the agent.
Nottage said, “All these people in Chicago and Detroit and these places, why are they telling people don’t come here and they are coming from places that are suffering much worse than we are here?”
He added, “We run in a little hole and hide ourselves instead of defending our country. They (the opposition) say they want to work with us, they’re always saying that, but every chance they get to work with us on this matter [they do not].
“I’m talking about crime now. This is an ideal thing for us to have a single voice, protecting our country on. So why are we carrying on like this?”
He was referring to opposition criticisms on crime.
The invasion of Davis’ home has underscored ongoing worries about the menace.
Davis vowed in the House of Assembly two days after the incident that the government “will break the back of crime”.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian