By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Minnis administration is again facing criticism from environmental groups angered by it's "disgraceful" response to the grounding and partial submersion of a supplies barge transporting, among other things, a large quantity of diesel fuel in Long Island.
"We are days in, and we have yet to hear a clear voice from the government say, 'this is my ministry's responsibility and this is how we are taking care of this," Sam Duncombe, founder of reEarth, told the Tribune during an interview Friday.
The environmental activist said her organisation, like others in the country, has been rendered "confused bystanders" by yet another environmental disaster.
Referring to accounts her organisation received about the Long Island crisis, Mrs Duncombe claimed maritime salvage companies were "there, in place and ready to go," but were turned away by officials.
She added: "This has been nothing short of a national disgrace if it is later proven to be true that they were sent away."
Long Island MP Adrian Gibson, in a series of updates on his official Facebook page last weekend, said the barge was discovered on Saturday after running aground along the coastline of Grays, Long Island.
He said the barge was en route to Anguilla from Trinidad when it broke away from the tug transporting it.
In the days that followed, according to claims by residents and environmental agents on the ground in Long Island, poor communication and government directives sidelined salvage teams and local resources attempting to secure, analyse and remediate any long-term issues stemming from the incident.
On Wednesday, residents interviewed by The Tribune insisted intervention was prohibited for more than 72-hours. A move many said "made bad situation worse.”
Those claims came moments after Transport and Aviation Minister Frankie Campbell told his Parliamentary colleagues he was “satisfied” that the matter was being adequately addressed.
Up to press time Friday, the government had yet to give a clear indication of how much fuel was lost or what efforts were being undertaken to remediate.
For her part Friday, Mrs Duncombe said: "It is disgraceful because this is not how these sorts of things should be handled. No one is coming forward from the government to give any clear directives and everyone is left to sit down and worry."
"I have messaged the Minister of Environment and I have not received a response from him," she continued. "How is this allowed to happen? A large quantity of fuel has been lost in our waters and we are still waiting for one clear voice to say, 'ok, this is what happened and here is how we are addressing it.'"
Prior to the 2017 general election, Environmental and Housing Minister Romauld Ferreira served as the lead attorney for one of the country's foremost environmental groups, Save the Bays.
His actions at that time propelled him into the national spotlight where he played an integral role in protest action related to the 2014 Marathon Rubis fuel leak - the constituency he now represents in Parliament.
Additionally, the Free National Movement as a party in the lead up to the 2017 general election participated in several environmental protest.
Asked if these actions gave the perception that if elected, the party would give serious focus to environmental matters, Mrs Duncombe on Friday said: "From an environmental point of view, I am somewhat disappointed."
She added: "Don't get me wrong, in my 26-years of doing this, each time you change governments you know you are going to have an up-hill battle. But I didn't expect it to be like this with this group."
"The environment is why people come here. Why are we continuing to abuse our bread and butter?"
"This is a simple matter. What ministry is responsible here and why are they taking so long to respond. It isn't rocket science. Just communicate on the matter and be seen doing something."
Earlier in the week, Mr Ferreira and the Minnis administration came under fire from Bimini residents irate with severe beach erosion.
Mr Ferreira could not be reached for comment.