By Leandra Rolle
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar yesterday apologised for the inconvenience caused to all couples who were scheduled to get married last weekend, saying the government should have informed people in advance about the option to request for a wedding exemption.
His comments to the press came after it was revealed Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis exempted two couples from the wedding restrictions, despite ordering a weekend lockdown last week and limiting the number of wedding attendees to five.
Acknowledging that he too “was a part of the request”, Mr D’Aguilar admitted the government failed to inform people that requests could be made for an exemption.
Speaking to reporters ahead of a Cabinet meeting yesterday, the tourism minister said: “I can’t deny that I was a part of the request but obviously it was a decision that was considered (by the competent authority). I think there was another wedding that was approved as well.
“So... I guess maybe we failed and I apologize for that. We failed to allow people or to inform people that there is the option to always appeal to the competent authority for an exemption if you feel that the case is compelling and he (the prime minister) can consider it.”
He added: “And I think that in many instances because it was so sudden and such an immediate Friday at 3 (pm) to lockdown at 7 (pm) and you get an event planned at Saturday was very, very troubling.”
“And then you had a lot of foreign visitors and Bahamians trying to move within the islands and then, of course, to get lockdown by that, it caused a lot of consternation.”
Photos and videos of the couple’s wedding at the Coral Sands resort in Harbour Island went viral last weekend, showing more than five attendees at the event. Guests were also seen not adhering to the social distancing protocols.
In a statement released by the Office of the Prime Minister on Sunday, officials said two pre-planned weddings were given permission by the competent authority to be held with more than five people in attendance during the weekend lockdown. However, the statement sparked public criticism, with some observers accusing the government about preferential treatment.
Yesterday, Mr D’Aguilar referenced the ordeal as “a learning experience” and noted that the government will ensure that similar issues do not arise moving forward.
He said: “That was a learning experience for us and we’re trying to prevent that moving forward and on behalf of the government I deeply apologize… I can’t even imagine being a bride and having this thrown on you at the last minute.”