Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Hubert Chipman said yesterday that Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell never told him that two Cubans incarcerated at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services were a risk to national security.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Isaacs last week ordered that the men, Carlos Pupo and Lazaro Seara Marin, be freed from prison after being incarcerated for nearly three years.
Mitchell said on Friday he ordered an investigation into how a court was convinced to free the men.
The minister also called them “a national security risk” and said he has alerted border control officials.
He said on Sunday he advised Chipman of this matter, as he is the shadow minister.
Speaking at Free National Movement headquarters yesterday, Chipman said, “I want the record to reflect that we did not have a conversation about a national security risk and those type of things.
“What we did talk about was that he was searching for a third country for these individuals.
“I intend to speak with Mr. Mitchell because we did not have that conversation. I can’t really figure out what conversation he was referring to.
“I think the relationship between myself and Minister Mitchell is cordial.
“I think there is due respect on both sides, but at the end of the day I’m not going to sit back and entertain that I said this or I said that. I did not say that.”
Mitchell’s statement on Sunday was a direct response to Free National Movement Chairman Michael Pintard, who accused Mitchell of seeking to bully the courts in ordering an investigation into how the ruling came about.
But Mitchell advised Pintard to “butt out” of the matter.
“I would therefore thank Mr. Pintard to stay out of big matters which he does not understand,” the minister said.
Pintard said on Sunday the party is concerned and alarmed about Mitchell’s “ongoing assault of the judicial system” and the impact it could have on the public’s confidence in the judiciary.
“In a tremendous display of arrogance, Mitchell publicly declared his disregard for a series of recent rulings, going so far in one instance as to suggest that he would rather have the judiciary itself investigated than accept the decision of a senior justice,” Pintard said.
But Mitchell said, to the “best of my recollection… the matters touched on and concerned in the press statement of Mr. Pintard were discussed with Mr. Chipman before I left Nassau”.
“If Mr. Pintard was confused, he need only have spoken to his colleague before opening his big mouth,” Mitchell said. “I spoke with Mr. Chipman in the House of Assembly.”
Chipman said Mitchell told him that he still had to deal with the matter of the Cuban men.
“I said yes, they have been up there for quite some time,” Chipman said.
“He said to me that he was looking for a third country.
“The United States would not take them, and they cannot go back to Cuba.
“He did not explain to me why the U.S. would not take them. I read in the papers this morning that these guys had a criminal background (in the United States).
“That’s the first time I’m hearing that.”
The men were suspected of involvement in an uprising at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.
They were relocated to the prison as a result of security concerns.
Yesterday, National Review revealed that while Mitchell now calls the two Cubans “a national security risk”, just three months ago he asked Cabinet to grant the men asylum and release them into the general population.
Mitchell reported to his colleagues that the men had satisfied all security requirements to be released into the population.
Yesterday, the minister indicated in a response to National Review that the position as expressed in his statement on Friday is the Cabinet’s position.
“The instructions of the Cabinet to the immigration department and thereon to the lawyers of the government were to maintain that the individual Cubans recently released were a national security risk,” Mitchell said.
“That remains the position today and has not been countermanded. No minister in this matter therefore has a personal opinion.”