By Candia Dames
11th March 2005
There are reportedly concerns among some in government that any decision by police to bring charges in relation to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre uprising in December could spark a serious backlash from the Cuban-American community, The Bahama Journal has learnt.
But Assistant Commission of Police Reginald Ferguson has assured that due process is being followed in the matter.
A source close to the investigation told The Bahama Journal that there are serious diplomatic issues involved that must also be considered.
More than three months after the incident, which made international headlines, no Cuban has been charged in connection with the matter, although police and immigration authorities had indicated that charges were likely.
There are also reports that police may forward the matter to the Office of the Attorney General, but Mr. Ferguson said that determination had not yet been made.
He added, “That is one of the options that is open to us. We may very well do that to get a thorough look at it to assist in the thoroughness of the whole investigative process.”
The failure of police to charge any Cubans in connection with the uprising – which resulted in 11 Defense Force officers and nine detainees being injured – has some people pointing to what they see as differential treatment between Haitian and Cuban immigrants.
Attorney Eliezer Regnier, who represents the Haitian family charged within days of the Nassau Village riot earlier this year, is one of them.
“I think the Cuban situation is such that the Cubans in Miami have put the fear in the government [of The Bahamas],” Mr. Regnier said. “I think they just want to sweep that situation under the carpet. They fear terrorist reprisals because the Miami Cubans are very aggressive whereas in the case of the Haitians, they know once they do something to them, that’s the end of the matter.”
Magistrate Linda Virgill denied the Haitian parents and their son bail and sent them to Her Majesty’s Prison. She also suspended their permanent residence status.
However, Mr. Regnier told The Bahama Journal that he was able to eventually secure bail for Wilson Pierre, Clarisine Pierre and Celession Simeus.
He also noted that it did not take long for the Haitians who attempted to ram a Defence Force boat off New Providence to be charged either.
Magistrate Virgill gave most of those involved maximum sentences and fines after they pleaded guilty. They admitted to trying to smuggle illegal Haitian immigrants into The Bahamas.
Mr. Regnier believes this is a clear case of differential treatment among immigrants.
But Mr. Ferguson cautioned against drawing comparisons, pointing out that each investigation is different.
“Every investigation has its own characteristics and it is determined by the investigation as it progresses,” he noted. “I don’t think it is fair to make a comparison between one incident versus the other because every incident is different.”
Prison Superintendent Dr. Elliston Rahming has confirmed that the 22 Cuban nationals believed to have been involved in the Detention Centre incident back in December are still being held at Her Majesty’s Prison in Fox Hill.
Cuban Consul General to The Bahamas Felix Wilson told The Bahama Journal that he is aware that a group of Cubans may soon be repatriated, but he was not sure whether those at the prison may be a part of that group.
Following the fire at the Detention Centre, some Cuban-Americans demonstrated in Miami, claiming that the Cubans at the facility were being abused.
But that’s a claim government officials have vehemently denied repeatedly.