PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis used a word yesterday that you don’t expect to hear from a government in power.
He said the government was “afraid” to make the decision to prevent Bahamians from travelling.
Afraid? Did they think it was the right thing to do but were afraid to do it? They felt the action – stopping people going out while letting visitors in – was not just unpalatable politically, but unconstitutional.
“What would have happened had we done that?” asked Dr Minnis, “The opposition, the people, the media, etc, would have lambasted us for doing that.”
That might be the case, Dr Minnis, but did you ask? Did you lay out your case and say to the people this is what needs to be done to stop people from dying? Did you call a conference with the press so you could explain and be questioned about what you felt you needed to do?
Having not even gone past the court of public opinion, you also didn’t test it in the court of law – where you might have felt a victory was not certain in the hands of Attorney General Carl Bethel, but would taking it to the courts have given the delay that you needed?
No one pretends these are easy decisions. These are literally matters of life and death. Unprecedented is a word that is used too often, but it absolutely describes the times we are living through.
The FNM has the numbers in Parliament to push through the laws if needed, and we have heard time and again the importance of stopping this virus.
Yesterday’s surge – 55 new cases – shows us exactly why that is so important. Grand Bahama is going on lockdown, and other islands are getting cases for the first time. Flights are being halted, hotels are postponing their reopening again and we have the worst possible combination of a surge in cases and a frozen economy, not one or the other.
Leading the nation is a choice. Each individual in Parliament chose to offer themselves for election. Each party leader has put themselves forward to be the person in charge, the one who makes those hard calls. The decisions that have to be made should be made, even if there are political consequences.
The leader of the PLP can take no credit in this situation either. Asked to attend a Cabinet briefing on COVID-19, Philip ‘Brave’ Davis declined because it was “such short notice that it is not possible for the Leader to attend”.
What happened to pulling together in the face of this disaster? Had he really been concerned for the nation, one would think he would drop everything and show up and ask what he could do to help. Not Mr Davis. Apparently, he had something better to do.
Fear must not be our guide as we fight this pandemic. If there is a right thing to do, we must find a way to do it. That must be guided by what will keep our people healthy and encourage our economy. It must not be guided by worry over what people will say. People will have their say. If they disagree with you, they’ll have their say at the ballot box. They may have their say in the court too. But for all our sakes, don’t let fear lead the way. If our leaders are guided by fear, then they are not leaders at all.
We must expect honesty. We must expect forthrightness. We must expect the ability to question our leaders and get answers. But we must also expect that those who wanted to lead are willing to make the hard decisions. There must be no room for consideration of political legacies or future elections – what matters now is saving the nation.