WHILE Health Minister Dr Duane Sands has spent countless hours trying to discover how he is going to find the millions needed to bring the Princess Margaret Hospital up to an acceptable standard, we have Senator Fred Mitchell trying to defend the PLP’s legacy. After reading The Tribune’s front page today we are wondering what legacy there is to defend, but we leave that to our readers.
Among Dr Sands’ many problems is the need to provide the required rooms so that patients don’t have to sleep on gurneys in the hospital’s hallways; the need to find a solution to care for the “borders”, both the homeless children and elderly who have been abandoned at the hospital; the need to collect the funds to construct a state of the art unit that will house a new forensic lab, the morgue and a national blood bank. The list of urgent needs goes on. Not only is the Princess Margaret Hospital in Dr Sands’ portfolio, but so is Sandilands Hospital, the Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport and the various clinics throughout the many islands. Money needed to have a first class hospital has been foolishly spent on pipe dreams by the former government, leaving little to repair the inherited damage.
However, recently Mr Mitchell has complained that The Nassau Guardian reported that “the PLP left no plan in place to address natural disasters such as hurricanes. This statement,” declared Mr Mitchell, “is a blatant untruth and these attempts to wilfully mislead the public by rewriting history and telling patent untruths by people who know better cannot and must not stand or left unanswered,” he said.
“It was the PLP,” said Mr Mitchell, “that tabled, passed and brought into force emergency disaster management legislation that led to the establishment of the National Emergency Management Agency commonly known as NEMA, the nucleus of emergency disaster management in The Bahamas.”
However, on examination of this claim, historians will find that the Hurricane Andrew Emergency Response and Recovery Committee was created in the Cabinet Office in August 1992 (the new Ingraham government) to deal with the emergency and recovery efforts following the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew that year. The Committee worked in co-ordination with the appropriate Government Ministries and Departments, including Public Works, Social Services, environmental health and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.
The committee was instrumental in the development of policies that governed the Government’s disaster preparedness and response policies and programmes for the following 20 plus years.
The committee became a permanent “emergency preparedness and response unit” in the Cabinet Office co-chaired by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Social Services and a Lieutenant from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (Stephen Russell). It was later transferred to the Ministry of National Security under the Direction of a Commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. During the first Christie-led Government legislation formally establishing NEMA was adopted by the House of Assembly.
According to Mr Mitchell, it was the “PLP that caused for the installation of the 100 gigabyte national submarine cable designed to enhance national communication and management in the event of a national and natural disaster such as a hurricane”.
However, the improvement of communications technology and the development of redundancies has been a long-term goal of Batelco/BTC since the beginning of the Batelco privatisation initiative in 1998/99.
Also said Mr Mitchell, “emergency airport lighting is a reality because of the foresight of the PLP government to assist in safe evacuations from affected islands in the event of an emergency or natural disaster such as a hurricane”.
However, we find that this was planned by the FNM during its second term in office; the installation of the emergency lights was foreshadowed during the 1997 Campaign and in Manifesto ’97. The PLP coming to office in 2002 implemented plans for the emergency lights which they found in train.”
And, according to Mr Mitchell, “it was the PLP government that established the country’s first National Energy Policy in the era of global warming and climate and negotiated and signed onto the Paris Accord on climate change”.
In fact, international negotiations to improve co-operation on the environmental front to protect the planets biodiversity and to counter dramatic impact of changing weather patterns has been ongoing for several decades. The 1992 Rio Summit is perhaps a convenient starting point for more recent negotiations and discussions.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted that year and the Kyoto Protocol were the two basic documents that shaped international discourse on climate change. Successive Bahamian Governments have participated in regional, hemispheric and international negotiations related to the subject and to credit the Christie-led PLP Government with leadership on this front would be ridiculous. The most recent Paris Agreement is simply the latest in a long line of important international environmental documents. The Bahamas has been an active participant throughout. In fact, The Bahamas hosted the First Meeting of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity in November, 1994.
“It was the PLP government,” according to Mr Mitchell, “that lobbied relentlessly in the international arena for the right of The Bahamas to access international funding at concessionary rates for energy related projects that impact the arrest of global warming.”
Really, Mr Mitchell, and when did this happen? In fact, all Bahamas Governments have pursued this matter at the UN and at all international lending/financial agencies.
“From my observation,” continued Mr Mitchell, “Dr Minnis was merely following the management script left behind by former Prime Minister Christie in addressing Irma. The record on what the PLP government has done to better prepare The Bahamas to address the fallout from natural disasters such as hurricanes is well documented for all to see.”
It really is amazing that Mr Mitchell can recall what his administration was working on but has no recollection of the programmes that they found in place and ongoing in 2002 and 2012.
Mr Mitchell would be better advised to help remedy the chaos that his government has left behind rather than try to twist historical facts.