IT takes some stretching of credulity to believe that there’s nothing at all going on with regard to the position of Commodore Tellis Bethel.
Commodore Bethel, of course, has been packed off on three months’ vacation – a decision that prompted questions from both members of the public and Opposition leader Philip ‘Brave’ Davis so soon after the natural disaster of Hurricane Dorian.
With members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force providing support on Abaco and Grand Bahama and questions about security, particularly on Abaco, people wanted to know if this was really a wise time to leave the RBDF without its figurehead.
Minister of National Security Marvin Dames hardly offered any ringing endorsements of the commodore’s future when he said “no one knows what’s next” for him after his mandatory leave.
Were this to be a regular vacation, the answer as to what’s next would be simple: he’d be back at work, in the same post, doing the same job. That Mr Dames dances around such a simple answer suggests fairly plainly that there is more at work here.
Among the voices raising concern was that of PLP leader Mr Davis, who said “you would not expect at this time that you would be engaging in the stripping of leadership of persons who may have the competence and capability to bring the kind of assistance you need to bring normalcy back to communities”.
Former commodore Clifford ‘Butch’ Scavella, meanwhile, dismissed the government’s excuse for the mandatory leave – to save money – as nonsense.
“Really and truly they could have come up with a better excuse than that,” he said.
He reiterated the most important point – that the government’s bosses are the Bahamian people, and the people have to be satisfied that the decision is the right one. That’s hard to do when the government is being so coy about the process.
Acting commander Dr Raymond King sought yesterday to soothe concerns about the commodore’s absence, saying storm relief efforts have gone on unaffected – though his comments about the beauty of military being that there is always succession planning doesn’t allay thoughts that this is indeed a succession process we are witnessing, just not one we’re being told about.
“He is still the commodore, right?” said Mr Dames when pressed. Indeed he is. We shall see if that’s still the case when he is due to return on January 15.
But if he isn’t – ask yourself if the government was as forthcoming with you as it could have been.
Why the confusion over Dorian?
Speaking of not being forthcoming, we are still faced with a lack of clear information regarding the casualty total following Hurricane Dorian in Abaco and Grand Bahama.
A press conference from NEMA yesterday – the first in a long while, but we would encourage them to keep these up, just more often – revealed another two bodies had been found. The confirmed death toll is 67 now. It’s nearly two months since Hurricane Dorian and the rate at which bodies have been found has been little more than one a day.
As for the number of missing? Your guess is as good as ours. The Tribune was all set to publish a list of names of the missing on behalf of the government – the pages were ready to go on the press – when the publication was pulled. It was due to run a few days later, but that’s the last we heard of that.
The trouble was there seemed to be considerable confusion as to how many were missing. Social Services Minister Frankie Campbell said 1,208 – that’s how many were on the list due to be published. National Security Minister Marvin Dames said it was just 282. And there has been no report since to make clear who was right, who was wrong, and how many people are really missing.
There have been general ominous warnings about how the nation must prepare itself for a shocking final total. Well, that warning was weeks ago. We did prepare, we’ve been prepared, and we’re not going to be able to get more prepared by waiting any more.
When pressed at yesterday’s press conference for an update on the number, NEMA – just a reminder, that is the National Emergency Management Agency who ought to be front and centre in the aftermath of such a national emergency – said it was up to the police to give out that figure.
That would be another department under Mr Dames’ purview – and another case of national agencies not being forthcoming with the public over very basic information.
Officials could clear up that confusion today. The list of names could be published right away if the government really wanted to. If they don’t try to clear up the confusion, and let people know how many are missing, we shall leave it for you to decide what that means about those who govern our nation.
It only takes one video on social media from someone with a cell phone to show more bodies than anyone has imagined for this whole official death toll to look like a huge deliberate lie.
God forbid it is.