Tourism ministry issues apology to gay tourists
By KRYSTEL ROLLE, Guardian Staff Reporter
The Ministry of Tourism and Aviation has assured Ebony Pyramid Entertainment, the group whose annual party was "raided" by police two weeks ago, that it does not condone discrimination of any form, following claims that the homosexual community was being targeted.
In a letter addressed to the executive director of Ebony Pyramid Entertainment DaJuan Xavier, the ministry expressed regret that the group's visit to the Bahamas "included an incident which involved the Royal Bahamas Police Force."
"Certainly you know from your previous visits that we are happy to welcome the millions of guests who visit each year and we are especially delighted when persons, as you and your clients do, return year after year," said the letter, signed by Tourism Director General Vernice Walkine.
The written communication came after Ebony Pyramid Entertainment demanded a public, published apology from the Royal Bahamas Police Force and assurances from the Ministry of Tourism that their annual event will not be targeted again to "intimidate" homosexuals. The group received one of their two demands. The Executive Director said he is still awaiting an apology from the RBPF.
The police "raid" on their October 6 party which was attended by over 200 lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) tourists was nothing more than a poorly disguised attempt to harass, intimidate, and frighten the homosexual community, Xavier said in a release addressed to the MOT.
Meanwhile the letter explained that the Ministry did not have all of the specifics of what transpired at the party.
"At this time, our understanding is that the police were responding to a request from the venue. Our police are obligated to investigate such calls to ensure that public gathering places remain safe and orderly for citizens and visitors. We are awaiting the police force's official statement on the matter, but do however, wish to assure you that the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation does not condone discrimination in any form. We can say that our goal, for every one of the five million people who visit The Bahamas each year is that their visit with us comfortable enjoyable and safe. Please accept our regrets," the letter stated.
In the meantime, Xavier said he will not allow this isolated incident to affect his relationship with The Bahamas, which he described as a fruitful one.
"This was our eighth year in The Bahamas and we continue to return because we like the people and the culture. This incident is not a representation of The Bahamas we had previously experienced. Instead, it is the representation of those with some misguided authority, reflecting poorly on an otherwise great place. In my years of visits to The Bahamas, cruising, resorting and relaxing with friends, I have come to know nothing but pride and love in The Bahamian people, not the hate displayed by this group of misguided policemen," Xavier said.
He added that in the past, police have been very accommodating and because of that he did not want it to go on record condemning the entire force, just the "militant assembly that gathered at our event," he stated.
Despite discouragement from associates, Xavier said he does plan to return to The Bahamas for his group's ninth annual Caribbean cruise in 2008. But before he does, he wants some official answers to his questions.
"I think an apology from the Commissioner of Police is also in due order. Additionally, I would also like to work with and seek assurances from the Ministry of Tourism that an incident like this will not occur again, as long as we meet all the requirements asked of us," he said.
According to the Executive Director these requests were made in an effort to put new and returning guests of Ebony Pyramid Entertainment at ease.
"It is imperative for any guest in a foreign country to feel welcome and appreciated and this was clearly not our experience that fateful evening," he added.
"Continued discussions about this incident will help these officers realize that LGBT people are just like other tourists, law-abiding and just looking to relax and enjoy the beauty of The Bahamas