Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Friday at the United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said during the United Nations General Assembly meeting that the beauty and existence of the Bahamas is under grave threat from climate change, adding that considerably more than 56 people have died in the country because of Hurricane Dorian.
“It is a threat which we did not cause,” he said. “It is a threat which we cannot survive on our own. While many countries have coastal cities or zones, the entire Bahamas is a coastal zone of many cays and islands in an extensive archipelago. Over the last three decades hurricanes have grown increasingly lethal throughout our region. In the words of the Secretary-General, they have become ‘turbo-charged.’ The Bahamas experienced major hurricanes in 2015, 2016 and 2018. But on the first of this month September, we experienced something way beyond anything we have seen before.”
Dr Minnis said the country’s naturally warm waters have been made warmer by carbon dioxide emissions and were mobilized into instruments of death and destruction.
Although the official death count is 56, Dr Minnis said “we know that there are considerably more lives lost because there are still 600 missing because the rising then receding water swept away young and old with their homes.”
“The picturesque and industrial principal town of Marsh Harbour on Abaco has disappeared,” he said. “There is nothing left of it but heaps of rubble. East End, Grand Bahama, is in ruins. The hurricane was a physical apocalypse for some communities.”
Dr Minnis asked world leaders to treat climate change as the greatest challenge facing humanity.
“When one storm can obliterate an island-state or a number of states in one hurricane season: how will we survive, how can we develop, how will we continue to exist?” he asked. He called for the expansion of the UN Development Programme to include the Bahamas. The programme works to eradicate poverty and reduce inequalities through sustainable development and currently works with three Caribbean countries: St Lucia, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda.
"For many years," Dr Minnis said, "the Bahamas and countries with similar characteristics have urged an alternative to per capita Gross National Income as the sole indicator of a country's level of development and eligibility for concessionary financing. When we call for consideration of a country's unique local circumstances when determining financial worthiness, this is also a condition and requirement for our resilience."
The prime minister made a plea for people to visit the country.
"Amidst the decimation and devastation, there is a symbol of hope and resilience at Abaco from which we may draw inspiration and renewed energy and hope," he said. "The red and white striped iconic lighthouse at Hope Town on Elbow Cay, Abaco, which is featured on the back of the Bahamas $10 bill, survived Hurricane Dorian. The 89-foot lighthouse was built in 1863, helping to warn mariners of dangerous reefs. The lighthouse is a symbol of pride for Abaconians and Bahamians. Soon after Hurricane Dorian, some of the residents of Hope Town placed within the lighthouse a temporary light that shone in the darkness, with few other sources of light on the horizon. The Bahamas will restore the Hope Town Lighthouse as a symbol of resilience, as a source of unity and as a beacon of hope."