Pineridge MP Rev Frederick McAlpine.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
PINERIDGE MP Frederick McAlpine said yesterday it makes no logical sense to legislate mandatory evacuations without first having safe places on every island to send evacuees.
Calling the move “putting the cart before the horse”, the backbench MP said the amendment bill was reactionary and gave the impression that there would be no law change had Hurricane Dorian not devastated Abaco and Grand Bahama.
The proposed bill was not the only point of contention for Mr McAlpine who further criticised the government’s death toll reporting.
For nearly two weeks, this number has stood at 61.
However, the MP said this “miniscule” number has caused the world to view the country as “unintelligent” and “disingenuous” given speculation the figure is much higher.
Mr McAlpine also said some Bahamians were extremely upset that Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis seemed to show more compassion for Dominica than for those storm torn islands of the Bahamas.
“We should have been called back from vacation as an assembly prior to the entrance of Hurricane Dorian and then perhaps presented with this bill,” he told the House yesterday during continued debate on the Disaster Preparedness and Response Amendment Bill. “Pineridge would have considered it even timelier.
“We are reacting to an action, as supposed to systematically and intellectually coming up with something conducive and uncontroversial for generations to come. Pineridge recognises the need for mandatory evacuations, especially after the death of so many individuals. There ought to be legal and ethical foundations for this to be carried out. I presume that’s why we are here.
“Nonetheless, we have to understand the psyche of our people and the circumstances that sometimes lead to our people not wanting to evacuate.”
He continued: “There were hurricane shelters on the island where people had to abandon the shelter in the middle of the storm to run for their lives. If I have to make a choice between dying at home or in a shelter, which one do you think I’ll choose? Many of the places being used as hurricane shelters are not structurally sound nor are they elevated to be free from flooding.
“Pineridge speaks about priority as a government. Whereas it is important to eventually have a mandatory evacuation bill, Pineridge thinks it’s initially far more important for the government to build structurally sound hurricane proof centres throughout the Bahamas. Then we can discuss mandatory evacuation. Mama would say, you are putting the cart before the horse.
“It makes no logical sense to me demanding mandatory evacuation without having a safe place to put the evacuees. Whereas Pineridge comprehends what the government proposes by way of mandatory evacuation, this bill seems a bit vague. It needs more specificity to speak to that of hurricanes, fires, flooding, medical outbreaks or natural climatic disasters.
“When we make bills in here we have to consider future generations. If this bill talks about mandatory evacuation without naming the causes, an incoming prime minister can be a psychopath and may decide to declare a political or economic disaster.
“On that note, let me hasten to say that the bill gives too much power to a prime minister. Such decisions should be made in consultation with the Cabinet of the Bahamas or even voted upon in the House of Assembly.”
Regarding the official Dorian death toll, Mr McAlpine said the government seemed out of its depth.
“This talk about less than 100 deaths by Hurricane Dorian does not sound good in the local and global sphere.
“To give this minuscule number to the world, knowing that we expect it to be far greater, causes the international world to look at us as ignorant, unintelligent, disingenuous, or simply said, a government that is out of its depth.
“The Bahamian Diaspora outside of this country have been embarrassed by this and more as it relates to Hurricane Dorian. Mama said what you give to the world you can’t take back,” he concluded.