Charge D'Affaires of the US Embassy Lisa Johnson on Thursday held a roundtable discussion with members of the media when she discussed matters of importance. Photo: Torrell Glinton
By Travis Cartwright-Carroll
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas -- US chargé d'affaires Lisa Johnson said on Thursday the fact that the man charged last week in The Bahamas with raping an American tourist was not licensed to operate a jet ski – as was stated by minister of transport and aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin – is “irrelevant”.
“In a way it is worse that he’s not licensed because it means that there can be people out there doing bad things,” said Johnson at a meet the press event at the US Embassy in Nassau.
“It means the enforcement and licensing system isn’t working as it should. It wouldn’t have had any impact on the advisory if he had been licensed or not. The goal for us is not protecting the industry; it’s keeping American citizens safe.”
Johnson said, while the government’s efforts to better regulate the water sports industry in The Bahamas are a step in the right direction, it will require more focused attention before the embassy lifts its warning on jet ski operators.
Johnson was referring to the recent warning issued by the embassy advising Americans living in and traveling to the country not to patronize jet ski operators in light of several alleged incidents of rape.
The warning came after the alleged rape of the American tourist.
In her response to the matter, Hanna-Martin said the man charged with the rape does not have a licence to operate a jet ski.
On Tuesday, the minister announced measures intended to demonstrate that serious attention is being directed at the concerns.
But Johnson said on Thursday that more can be done.
“I just don’t think at the moment this industry is being licensed, run and enforced in a way that is putting the best foot forward for The Bahamas, and my job is to keep American citizens safe,” she said.
“I see some of the new steps that have been announced by the minister of transport and aviation on the enforcement side.
“I probably would also like to see, and I will be talking to the commissioner of police next week on this, steps that can be taken on the licensing side.
“I want to be sure that people who have been arrested, for instance, for dealing drugs or in sexual assault cases, are not back on the beach.”
Johnson said she is pleased that members of the jet ski community are taking interest in protecting their livelihood, but she said more can be done.
“We’ve had cruise lines that have come to the US Embassy and said that they are concerned that their citizens, their guests are feeling that they are harassed on the beach, that they are approached very aggressively, that they are offered drugs and that their clients don’t like it,” she said.
According to the US Embassy, five US citizens were allegedly sexually assaulted by jet ski operators in the last year and a half.
The embassy characterized the industry as “loosely regulated”.
The embassy has forbidden its employees from using such services.
Hanna-Martin announced that Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers on jet skis are providing surveillance of beaches during hours of operations.
Signage will also be erected on various New Providence and Paradise Island beaches that will outline clear directives to patrons of jet ski operators.
As for licences, Port Authority chairman Tavares LaRoda said on Tuesday that the number of licensed jet ski operators declined recently from 283 to 168.
He noted that several years ago Cabinet placed a moratorium on new licences.
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian