The RBDF was created in 1980 over great objection from those who party now govern, to patrol the marine borders of the country. As its creation was never supported by the FNM it suffered from chronic under-investment and neglect during the period of FNM rule, so much so that in the run up to the 2007 general election, Mr. Hubert Ingraham, the then Leader of the Opposition gave a public apology to men and women of the RBDF for the ill treatment it received under his watch.
However, when he returned to power the dismantling of the RBDF continued. The RBDF severely lacking in equipment, was denied additional resources and essentially cease being a sea going force and as a result human smugglers and poachers ruled our seas.
In 2013, the Christie Administration made the largest single investment in the RBDF history and int he history of The Bahamas through the purchase of 9 vessels and the upgrade of the larger and previously unusable Bahama Class vessels (HMBS Bahamas and the HMBS Nassau) as well as providing funding to enhance or establish bases throughout The Bahamas. The investment resulted in an increase in the morale of the RBDF and finally the men and women of the Force felt that they had a Government which appreciated the importance of their mandate.
Sadly since coming to office in 2017 the FNM administration has showed their complete disdain for the RBDF and as result of their mismanagement the force is in a state of virtual collapse. The signs are everywhere.
There are the visible signs such as the Ministry of Public Service not addressing with speed the years of under payment in salary and allowances to the men and women of the Force and the Minister of National Security feigning ignorance of this important matter during the budget debate. If the Minister cared about the men and women of the RBDF who risk their lives daily for this country he would have by now made a comprehensive statement on this matter.
The Prime Minister has publicly embarrass the Commodore for the lack of seamanship of his officers but he nor the Minister has addressed in any way the cause of this startling lack of seamanship. That is the dysfunctional leadership of the Commodore, where senior experienced officers are side lined and belittled every day. What is so sad is that individual officers in the senior command has personally bought these matters to the Minister’s attention to no avail.
No wonder, highly train deck officers instead of aspiring to command sea going vessels are seeking jobs as paper pushers in agencies such as the Port Department with a view that this would qualify them to be CDF one day. Those officers not politically connected are left to fend for themselves in a highly charged and unprofessional environment, not a very prudent thing in a military, firearms bearing, organization.
The Force also has no resources to operate and protect the taxpayer’s investment. Out of the 9 nine new vessels purchase only 5 are operational. There is only funding in the budget to dry dock 2 of the five operational vessels so without additional resources only 3 vessels would be available for use at the end of this fiscal year.
There has still been no preparation to accept the very sophisticated training equipment which was purchased three years ago to train the officers to use the new vessels.
The container city which Dr. Minnis so proudly sent to Dominica has returned but it is not fully operational with the kitchen and generator not working. No funding has been released to effect these repairs and the HMBS Lawrence Major, the overworked workhorse of the fleet desperately needs to be dry dock to avoid a catastrophic failure.
The HMBS Bahamas, the flagship of the RBDF is stuck in the Netherlands until September because the Ministry of National Security forgot the secure the necessary approvals to release the vessel and for the crew to travel to collect the vessel.
The installation of the coastal radar in Inagua has been put on hold because the building identified to host the installation leaks, there is no air condition and the power supply to the building is unreliable. Also much like the Force’s dormitories in Ingaua this building is infested with cockroaches.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister speaks about having the RBDF on high alert in the southern Bahamas (impossible given the state of the Force) , the Government has purchased over 60 new vehicles including over 30 luxury SUV’s for the RBPF, to transport Ministers and other high officials and the Commodore is campaigning to rename the inland waters of The Bahamas the Lucayan Sea.
No wonder , illegal migrants find it convenient to land in New Providence and the Dominican Republic continue to exploit our sea resources.