PLP deputy leader Chester Cooper. Photo: Terrel W Carey Sr/Tribune Staff
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE hours leading up to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ U-turn on New Providence’s seven-day lockdown caused unnecessary chaos, Progressive Liberal Party Deputy Leader Chester Cooper said yesterday as he criticised government’s “zigging and zagging” all over the place.
The Exuma and Ragged Island MP echoed calls for an expansion of the competent authority to allow for broader consultation before decisions related to the nation’s COVID-19 pandemic response are made.
Hours before Dr Minnis announced adjustments to the restrictions he unveiled Monday night, criticism poured in from almost every direction that people had not been given sufficient time to prepare.
The decision sparked a small protest that was ultimately shut down with about 30 to 50 protestors reportedly arrested. Some residents also bemoaned empty cupboards and said they did not have enough food and water for seven days.
With no food stores, private pharmacies or water depots open, many sought assistance from the National Food Distribution Task Force.
The body had seen 2,642 households sign up in a day for help. Having been inundated with new registrants, task force chairman Susan Larson told The Tribune the body had hoped the abrupt decision to close food stores would be reconsidered.
She said the task force was never designed to provide assistance on demand.
Several hours later, Dr Minnis said in a statement that the reversal came after Cabinet was briefed by weather officials on an approaching storm and after residents raised concerns with him. Dr Minnis conceded residents and businesses need more time to prepare for such a lockdown.
Responding, Mr Cooper said the PLP was pleased that the prime minister changed course and followed the party’s recommendation to open food stores, pharmacies, and water depots.
He said: “I want to thank Bahamians who raised their voices against the sudden imposition of a lockdown that had already started to cause great distress. We urge everyone to make their preparations as best they’re able, look out for those who might require assistance, and continue to follow the advice of public health officials.
“We extend our thanks to Wayne Munroe, QC, Robyn Lynes and the other attorneys who are working to protect the rights of those who protest policies that hurt Bahamian families.
“It has been an unnecessarily chaotic time. I echo our leader, (Philip) Brave Davis, in his ongoing calls to expand the competent authority so that broader consultation takes place before important decisions are made.
“The Prime Minister has been zigging and zagging all over the place and it’s no way to run a country,” Mr Cooper said.