EDITOR, The Tribune.
I write in connection with your Editorial of the 12th June in which you question the delay in former minister of health, Dr Duane Sands speaking out about his concerns over the government’s handling of the list of missing persons following Hurricane Dorian.
The editorial writer has a fundamental misunderstanding of the rules of Cabinet government which require that ministers share collective responsibility for decisions taken.
The editorial writer noted that, in the immediate aftermath of the storm, Dr Sands said publicly that he expected that the number of deaths would be staggering. If one understands the mechanics of cabinet government, it is simple to conclude that any walk-back of that position would have been caused by a cabinet level decision.
In his address to the House of Assembly last Thursday, Dr Sands reaffirmed information that has long been in the public domain. Decisions by the cabinet moved responsibility for the list of the individuals missing after the storm from the Department of Social Services to the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
The editorial writer is reminded that responsibility for the remains of unidentified victims of the hurricane, which were kept in a refrigerated container behind the Abaco Hospital until their burial last month, was also moved from the ministry of health to the office of the prime minister.
It is debatable whether Dr Sands should have resigned earlier in protest of the remove of certain responsibilities from his portfolio. A minister’s portfolio is determined by the prime minister. The prime minister is empowered by the constitution to appoint ministers, determine their areas of responsibilities and shift those as he sees fit.
If a minister were to resign each time the content of his portfolio is amended or each time cabinet makes a decision with which he is not completely in agreement, there would be no stability in government. Ministers have a duty to make their views and recommendations known at cabinet meetings, but they also have a duty to accept decisions taken and to accept collective responsibility for their implementation.
The editorial writer is reminded that during his three years in the position of minister of health, Dr Sands has had the responsibility for the Marijuana Commission removed from his portfolio. He also had to accept that he could not have sight of the report of a forensic audit of the Public Hospitals Authority which fell within his portfolio responsibility as minister of health.
Dr Sands accepted all these decisions until he could no longer accept that words would be put in his mouth regarding the offering of his resignation.
Rather than too little too late, his record in cabinet reflects a man who put national interest above self and who continues to put service to his constituents, his patients and his country first.
PROUD ELIZABETH VOTER