By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
THE "blatant reckless neglect" of Ragged Island residents more than two years after Hurricane Irma devastated the small island has led to mistrust of the Minnis administration, area MP Chester Cooper has said.
This situation, Mr Cooper said yesterday, has left him worried and with a heavy heart over the fate of Abaco and Grand Bahama residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
Irma ravaged Ragged Island in September 2017 and since then the island has struggled to return to normal. Government essential services, a school, clinic or police station among other things remain absent there.
Given the continuous grim outlook on Ragged Island, its MP yesterday urged the government to extend to his constituency the same tax concessions that have been given to both Grand Bahama and Abaco, allowing residents to further rebuild.
At the same time, he urged the government to table a comprehensive report of the donations given for Ragged Island, noting "people are asking where the hurricane money gone."
"My heart is heavy because two years ago, September 2017 - 775 days ago roughly - the island of Ragged Island was devastated by Hurricane Irma," Mr Cooper said during his contribution to debate on the Disaster Preparedness and Response Amendment Bill 2019 at Parliament yesterday.
"I stick a pin here because given the lack of progress in Ragged Island two years later, given the depth of neglect and the disregard shown to the people of Ragged Island, it is fair to say I am deeply concerned deeply concerned for the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
"You see I have lived this movie before. I have watched this episode in dismay and I am concerned that when the cameras leave the scenes I am concerned based on the track record of this government that the people of Grand Bahama and Abaco could also face this blatant reckless neglect as we saw with the people of Ragged Island.
"I can report to you with certainty that the people of Ragged Island have lost faith in this government. They believe nothing that you tell them. They believe nothing that they hear from you and they only believe what they see and they don't see very much."
He continued: "In Ragged Island there is still no nurse, no clinic, no school, no teachers, no policy, no police station, no postal services, no post offices no government services, no administration building, (and) no solarisation.
"Seven hundred seventy-five days later families remain separated. Children miss their fathers. Wives take the slow moving mail boat to periodically visit Ragged Island while husbands go out to fish to continue to make ends meet, but I want to tell this government that unlike the song says it's not too late to apologise and I urge you to do so. It's not too late to apologise to those you abandoned and appeared to have forgotten. But if you do apologise please do us a favour when you do. Don't go swinging your hands.
"We invite you to take a full report and accounting off all of the donations collected on behalf of the people of Ragged Island because they would like to have a full accounting and full report on donations received on their behalf or we invite you to bring that report here so that the country could hear.
"People are asking where the hurricane money gone. So it's important that we get this report and it's good for credibility of our country because people want to know.
"Then I invite this government to extend the concessions to Ragged Island that you've now extended to Freeport. They are Bahamians too."
Mr Cooper said constituents would not absolve the government of its obligation and responsibility to act fairly and compassionately toward all Bahamians across the country.
Following Hurricane Irma's destruction of the small island, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said health and safety conditions there would only continue to to deteriorate.
He then deemed it unlivable as he urged the 18 remaining residents on the island at the time to evacuate in the aftermath.
Months later, the government rolled out a comprehensive plan for Ragged Island.
Dr Minnis said it would be converted into a green city to be a benchmark for other island nations to follow.
However, two years later, little has transpired on Ragged Island and residents have said they are neglected and disappointed with the progress of restoration especially as there is great focus on Abaco and Grand Bahama following Dorian.