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Editorial: Why The Laws On Disclosures Matter To Bahamians

IT’S that time of year again – when the asset disclosures of parliamentarians comes into the public eye.

The Tribune has long held MPs’ feet to the fire to meet their legal obligations, whether they are FNM, PLP or independent.

The deadline for this year has come and gone, and it turns out we have a whodunnit to solve. Or rather, a who didn’t do it.

One person has not met the legal deadline. Some were granted extensions, but this one did not meet the March 1 deadline and didn’t have an extension.

So who is it? Well, PLP leader Philip ‘Brave’ Davis says it isn’t any of his officials.

Let’s look across at the FNM benches then where there has been a regular cry of “The law is the law.”

Of course, they have been saying that in regard to marijuana and immigration, but we assume they will be stringently applying the law to hold the person who missed the deadline to account? After all, we surely cannot have the law applied differently depending on who you are, yes?

Both party leaders have had letters sent to them detailing who disclosed, and who did not do as they were required, but we hope neither needs to name and shame – rather, we hope the person who failed to meet the deadline has the honour to come forward themselves.

This is, of course, only part of the disclosures system. We are, it must be said, in a much better position than in previous years when it might be said lip service was given to the whole procedure. That we are down to only one missing the deadline is progress – but of course it should be none.

The other part of the equation is what is done with that information once it is filed. The Public Disclosures Commission is woefully slow in its handling of the declarations – chairman Myles Laroda noted he had only signed off on the 2018 disclosures last month, and it seems only at election time we get to see such declarations.

These are an important part of keeping government in check. Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has spoken internationally about the cost of corruption in The Bahamas – well, if we can’t get a clear view of what our MPs and senators are disclosing, how are we to know they are keeping their noses clean?

The process needs more teeth and, crucially, a willingness to use them. The law is the law. The same for one side as the other. The same for prime minister as it is for citizen.

Let’s stop treating this process so lightly, and take it seriously. If we want to tackle the issue of corruption, this is where to start.

A necessary move

The expansion of travel restrictions to visitors from three more countries – Italy, South Korea and Iran – could not ever be welcomed, but we must acknowledge it is a necessity.

With more than 6,000 cases in South Korea, and more than 3,000 in each of Italy and Iran, it is a precaution that seems wise if we are to limit the chances of the coronavirus arriving on our shores.

Thankfully, we do not have a high number of visitors from those countries – Italy being the highest total, with 13,611 last year.

The elephant in the room, of course, is that the next country in the list behind them with regard to number of deaths is our near neighbour, the US. Though there have been more diagnosed cases in Germany, France, Japan and Spain, the US has had more deaths than each of those countries, 12 in all. Its 226 cases are some way behind the 3,513 of Iran, but of course the proportion of visitors who come here from the US is much higher.

What happens, then, if a cruise ship has a passenger diagnosed with the virus, or has a passenger who has come from one of the banned countries?

Keeping one passenger on board ship isn’t just the answer – as they will have been in close proximity to many of the other passengers and crew as well.

Already, the US has ordered a ship to hold off shore, with the Grand Princess cruise ship waiting off the California coast for an all-clear. Do we turn ships away if necessary? Or do they stay in port?

These are the questions we must ponder as we negotiate the hurdles this virus has put upon us – just as it has put a strain on the rest of the world in dealing with it.

There is a long way to go in dealing with this bug – we are going to need patience and level-headedness as we try to do so.

Comments

truetruebahamian 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Tell H.J. and other higher ups to disclose what the Disney bribe has enhanced their personal pockets = offshore accounts and buddy buddy handshakes.

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