By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis urged the government yesterday to extend its exigency order, which allows Family Island residents hard hit by Hurricane Joaquin to import certain items duty free over a 90-day period.
Speaking with The Tribune, Dr Minnis said the timeframe might not be long enough for persons to rebuild their lives, after losing practically everything during the category four hurricane.
He also said the government must also seriously consider sending therapists to hurricane impacted islands to prevent a “medical meltdown”.
“That is not even close to being enough time,” Dr Minnis said of the exigency order. “Most people do not have the cash ready to make big purchases and would have to seek assistance from their family and that takes a while. It takes a while to get an inventory of all they need and to get their stuff in order in terms of immediate needs. If the government does not extend the order we, as the opposition, will advocate on the people’s behalf until they do. We will do what needs to be done.”
He added: “The government also needs to look very seriously at the psychological impact of the hurricane before there is a medical meltdown. These people are going through a lot of changes and that is a lot of pressure on the family structure and the kids. This would impact the kids in school and how they function. They need to send therapists to these islands to see the effects before they manifest into suicidal attempts, violence, withdrawal and it destroys the family structure. If that doesn’t happen, down the road we will see a medical meltdown and an increase in crime.”
In a press release issued on the weekend, the government said Prime Minister Perry Christie signed an exigency order to respond to the urgent need for specified goods required for recovery and rebuilding.
The order covers relief of residents in the affected islands namely: Acklins, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Exuma, Inagua, Long Cay, Long Island, Mayaguana, Rum Cay, Ragged Island, Samana Cay and San Salvador who suffered hardship or loss as a result of Hurricane Joaquin, and whose claims/applications in respect of such goods are certified by the director of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
The import of goods specified is permitted for a period of 90 days beginning October 3, 2015.
In reference to motor vehicles, exemption will be based on the market value of the vehicle destroyed on the date of the hurricane, the government said. The destroyed vehicle must be turned over to the authority of the Customs Department.
The government has also declared the waiver of landing fees, departure tax for non-commercial flights bringing in relief goods, and Customs processing fees on imports in the above-mentioned islands for a period of one month commencing October 3, 2015.
The islands of Acklins, Crooked Island, and Long Cay have been declared sufferance port areas for a period of three months commencing October 3, 2015.