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Caribbean Islands

 
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Caribbean Islands

National Security

In the late 1980s, Bahamian security concerns focused on three areas: the use of Bahamian waters and territory as a transit point for the illegal transshipment of drugs; illegal immigration; and the poaching of Bahamian fishing resources. Since 1980 the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) has been the primary force in combating these threats to national security. In 1986 the RBDF was a 531-member force headed by a commander and headquartered at a base at Coral Harbour on New Providence.

Government expenditures for the RBDF were US$9.1 million in 1984, approximately 2.5 percent of total government expenditures; estimates for 1985 and 1986 spending were in the same range. In late 1986, the force commissioned three new thirty-three-meter craft, which greatly increased its effectiveness. The high-speed boats were fitted with modern electronic surveillance and navigational equipment to combat illegal immigration, poaching, and smuggling. The RBDF also was equipped with one thirty-one-meter patrol craft, five eighteen-meter craft, and several high-speed boats for shallow water patrols in the Family Islands. In 1986 a new dry dock was planned at Coral Harbour to allow the RBDF to carry out its own maintenance and repairs. The force also had a small air wing; in late 1986 plans called for a compound to be established at Nassau International Airport. Basic training for marines took place at Coral Harbour, whereas officers were trained at the Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, England. Both marines and officers were sent on special training courses to Canada, Britain, and the United States.

Since 1980 the United States has assisted the Bahamas in combating the transit of illegal drugs. In 1986 a joint interdiction force was established. A joint docking facility was planned, and the United States Congress provided four EC-2 carrierbased radar aircraft to track drug airplanes passing through the Bahamas.

Internal security was provided by the Royal Bahamas Police Force. The Police Force, headed by a commissioner, had a strength of 1,447 in 1983, 75 percent of whom were concentrated in New Providence. At the end of 1981, thirty-one police stations served the Family Islands (excluding Grand Bahama). In the early 1980s, police stations in New Providence, Grand Bahama, Great Abaco Island (Marsh Harbour), Andros Island (Nicolls Town), the Bimini Islands (Alice Town), and Eleuthera (Governor's Harbour and Rock Sound) provided twenty-four-hour service, whereas other Family Islands stations provided service for approximately ten to sixteen hours a day.

Although both the defense and the police forces were generally well regarded by the population, both had been beset by some drugrelated corruption. A Royal Commission of Inquiry in 1984 concluded that corruption existed in the upper and lower levels of the Police Force as well as in the Immigration Department and Customs Department. Another problem in the Police Force in the 1980s was police brutality, especially in the course of arrests or in obtaining confessions. The Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1986 stated that police brutality remained a problem; in 1986 both United States and Bahamian detainees reported abuses.

In 1984 expenditures for the Police Force amounted to US$25.9 million, 7 percent of total government expenditures; estimates for expenditures in 1985 and 1986 were for absolute increases of approximately US$4 million for each year. The Police College provided training for all recruits and refresher courses for officers, police reservists, beach wardens, and local constables. Recruits were given a twenty-week basic course, which included physical training, self-defense, firearms use, and first aid. The Fire Services Division consisted of regular fire brigades in New Providence and Grand Bahama and voluntary fire brigades in the Family Islands. The Criminal Investigation Department was responsible for investigating major crime throughout the Bahamas.

In 1987 a planned reorganization of the Police Force was expected to focus on general administration, the local and overseas training of officers, and criminal investigation procedures. Several additional police stations also were planned, and new recruitment was expected to increase the strength of the force. Improvements in transportation were expected, as concern continued over transportation conditions for police in the Family Islands.

Bahamian prisons were operated by the Prisons Department of the Ministry of National Security. In 1983 the department housed 806 prisoners: 100 female prisoners and 706 male prisoners, including 82 first offenders, 224 regular prisoners, 200 in medium security, and 200 illegal immigrants. In the late 1980s, prisons were reported to be overcrowded and unsanitary. In September 1986, the Supreme Court noted that prison conditions constituted a "highly unpleasant environment" and urged improvement. Much of the overcrowding was caused by the detainment of Haitians for immigration violations; they were routinely denied bail on the basis that they would flee before prosecution. In 1986 Bahamian human rights activists condemned the inhumane and degrading facilities at Fox Hill Prison, the main prison on New Providence; according to reports, 300 Haitians had been crowded in the prison for two and one-half years awaiting deportation. The Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1986 noted that Nassau's downtown jail was crowded and dirty and that food was barely adequate. The report also stated that the central lockup facility at Freeport was unsanitary.

* * *

The best general guide to the Bahamas is the Bahamas Handbook and Businessman's Annual, which provides a comprehensive description of most aspects of Bahamian society, including demographic, economic, and political details. Some of the best studies of Bahamian history include Paul Albury's The Story of the Bahamas (1975), Michael Craton's A History of the Bahamas (1986), and Doris Johnson's The Quiet Revolution in the Bahamas (1972). Craton's work also includes a concise chapter on the Pindling era. The most comprehensive study, however, of con- temporary Bahamian politics is provided by Colin A. Hughes in Race and Politics in the Bahamas (1981). The best study of the nation's economy is provided by the World Bank in The Bahamas: Economic Report, published in 1986. Other current sources of economic data are reports by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the United States Department of Commerce. The best source for demographic data is the government of the Bahamas, which has published several population studies. The Department of Statistics of the Bahamas also publishes accurate, informative statistics in a variety of recurring reports. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of November 1987

Caribbean Islands - TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • THE BAHAMAS


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