Deputy leader of the opposition Chester Cooper.
By Ava Turnquest
Tribune Chief Reporter
RAGGED Island MP Chester Cooper yesterday accused Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis of pandering to his constituents in a bid to score political points, and called for an apology over longstanding neglect.
In response to renewed promises of a rebuild of Ragged Island, Mr Cooper said people from the small community will not thank the government for providing basic amenities until promised facilities are complete and operational.
Dr Minnis outlined plans for an $8 million investment to rebuild key public infrastructure on the island during a televised national address Monday night. It came nearly two years after his initial promise to rebuild the hurricane-ravaged island which was devastated by Hurricane Irma.
Mr Cooper, who also represents Exuma, questioned whether the money for Ragged Island will be included in the upcoming 2019/2020 budget, and further probed why residents had to wait for new infrastructure to restore school and nursing services.
Mr Cooper estimated there were 50 people living on the island now. In March, a Bahamas Information Services report put the figure at 32.
“To be extremely clear,” Mr Cooper’s statement read, “my experience with this administration has led me to the place where I believe nothing that is said about Ragged Island. I will believe what they do.
“This government has abandoned the people of Ragged Island in their hour of greatest need for nearly two years. That the prime minister seeks to use a televised national address to score political points on Ragged Island’s name is regrettable.
“He owes Ragged Island an apology. He should have gone to the people of Ragged Island and explained why he neglected them after the fanciful talk of rebuilding a ‘green city,’” Mr Cooper’s statement continued.
“He should have had the courage to look them in the eyes, before the minister of works said they simply have no money for Ragged Island. Parents have had to send their children away from them for schooling, something no family should have to endure. There is no basic medical care on the island. There is no postal service. Water has only recently become a reality for them.”
In September 2017, Dr Minnis promised to transform Ragged Island into the first “fully green” island in the region.
Two months later, Works Minister Desmond Bannister told reporters the FNM-administration’s plan would cost tens of millions of dollars, and included private sector and international partners.
On Monday, Dr Minnis announced plans for a school and teacher’s duplex at a cost of $2 million, a new clinic at $2.5 million, an administrator’s office, post office and court room at $2.5 million, and a police station and accommodations for officers for $1 million.
In his statement yesterday, Mr Cooper questioned why there was no timeline provided by Dr Minnis.
“Why must we wait for the completion of these buildings to restore school and nursing services when there are temporary facilities that can cover these? He talked about a solar generation facility by the end of the year. It will be interesting to see who is awarded the contract to build it after the so-called RFP process,” Mr Cooper’s statement read.
“What is to be the size of this facility? How much electricity will it generate? What is it expected to power? What is the status of the school that is yet to be built? I will start to believe it when I see shovels in the ground.
“Until then,” Mr Cooper added, “Ragged Island residents and descendants will be waiting for that apology.”