When Dr Duane Sands rose in the House yesterday, he had strong words to say about the government’s handling of Hurricane Dorian.
Most pointedly, he had criticisms of how the government dealt with the issue of people who went missing in the storm that ravaged Grand Bahama and Abaco last year.
He pointed out how the government had not explained how hundreds of names were removed from lists of missing people. He pointed out the confusion with different agencies handling different parts of the response. He called for inquests to bring closure to families.
“We started with a list of several thousand persons missing. That list was managed by the Ministry of Social Services. We ended with a missing persons list controlled by the RBPF that included less names than the number of unidentified persons buried.”
All well and good – but where was this fire when he was Minister of Health?
There were few people in as strong a position as Dr Sands when it came to telling the Bahamian people directly what the situation was.
Indeed, when this newspaper ran a report that suggested the level of deaths, Dr Sands hurried to request a clarification.
He hinted that the level of deaths could be “staggering”, while former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham went on the record to say that there were hundreds dead, adding “I don’t make uninformed statements”.
The official death toll stands at 74 – but we still don’t know for sure how many remain missing, presumed dead. All these months after the storm, and so many families left with questions.
If the government has failed the Bahamian people in failing to explain themselves, then Dr Sands shareds that failure. What made him hold his tongue when he was a minister?
Instead, he saved his criticism for when he no longer had a ministerial post to lose.
This newfound bravery is too little, too late in the day.
But we will say this – he is not wrong. The treatment of people and the clarity of information about Hurricane Dorian has been woeful.
“To this date, we do not know what happened to thousands or hundreds of names to be excluded from that initial list,” he said, “There may be reasonable, justifiable reasons for pruning the list. But those reasons and processes have not been shared and explained to the public. Because of that process, we have raised many questions and squandered credibility.”
Credibility has indeed been squandered – and continues to be squandered with Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis failing to answer questions about the resignation of his former health minister.
For the nation to still not have answers after all this time is contemptible. Dr Sands had – and failed to take – his chance to speak frankly to the public. How many of his colleagues will take the chance now?
We'll drink to that
Which is your favourite restaurant? We ask because with restrictions lifted again and restaurants able to serve diners outdoors, or with carryout orders, it’s time to return to your favourite haunts.
Many have kept staff on, and are reopening and hoping to make up for lost time – and lost income.
So this weekend, repay the places that have brought you pleasant nights out on so many occasions, and put some money into their cash registers.
It will help their business, help pay their staff’s wages, help the economy – and help our spirits as we start to return to a more normal way of life.
Stay safe. Wear your masks. Keep your distance. Hail the friend at another table with a wave rather than a hug.
And raise a glass to the good things in life. We’ve missed them.