THE large gatherings being held as political parties hit the streets to campaign ahead of the next election beg an obvious question – if they can do it, why can’t we?
Bahamas Christian Council president Delton Fernander pointed out the limit of 20 people at the graveside for a funeral, in marked contrast to the large groups on the streets seeking people’s votes for an election whose date hasn’t even been chosen yet.
On Saturday, the FNM was campaigning in Centreville – with Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis right there in the crowd.
People were wearing masks, but not always keeping the recommended six feet apart.
Dr Minnis said: “Every individual (is) wearing their masks, they are wearing it properly and when we visit a home they don’t go inside.
“What happens is only two or three would go – myself and the candidate. If it’s a very elderly individual, we speak to them from the outside, we don’t go inside.
“In terms of the numbers, the numbers are large, but in addition to that, the numbers are adhering to the protocols that we put forth in terms of wearing the mask and wearing it properly.”
That’s nice – but why can’t everyone do that?
Why, as Bishop Fernander wants to know, were churches unable to open at all if all they had to do was wear masks? Churches could have held more outdoor services with social distancing if that was the case.
How about funerals? Why couldn’t attendance be higher as long as distancing and mask wearing was enforced?
How about all that time when beaches were closed and you couldn’t even sit in your car with your windows wound up and look at the sea because the entrances to the car parks at beaches were sealed off?
Why couldn’t people go on the beaches themselves as long as they weren’t in close proximity and in large groups, as long as they wore masks?
Bishop Fernander said: “We’re still challenged that we can’t have large crowds at our funerals in the graveyards, but we could see large crowds campaigning on our weekends.
“No, it had to be said, that we must remember that while we’re in this time of sacredness there is still a long-held tradition that there is no campaigning during Lent, that usually we have this period sacred.
“You love me or hate me, this is my job and someone has to say it. Whether you are PLP, FNM or DNA – hold it sacred that this is God’s time.”
One thing is for certain – there will be a keen eye on how political parties abide by protocols we have been told to obey for so long.
It seems a strange world where a boy can be taken to court for breaching regulations by selling coconuts, but politicians get a pass for selling promises for the next government.
It should be the case that they go above and beyond to show the way things should be done. It should be the case that they avoid even the appearance of doing the wrong thing, especially when we’re talking about a message that has been drummed home throughout the pandemic in order to save lives.
If they can have a large gathering on the basis that it is safe and everyone is wearing masks, then everyone else should be able to do the same. Is that safe? If not, then it’s not safe to do on the campaign trail either.
One more thing – when the vaccines start rolling out, do we need to make sure that those campaigning for a particular seat get their vaccines at the same time to stop one gaining an advantage of being able to go out with a reduced risk of catching COVID-19 compared to their rival?
Politics shouldn’t be playing a part in this. There are guidelines and we should abide by them – and that should be the case for everyone.
We call these people our leaders, and they should lead by example – but hopefully not a bad one.