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Davis: PM’s Haiti comments insensitive

Philip Brave Davis.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ suggestion that the government will not concern itself with giving aid to Haiti following an earthquake which left 15 people dead and more than 300 injured, was insensitive, Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip Brave Davis said yesterday.

Davis said the prime minister should be aware that The Bahamas has an important role to play as a member of CARICOM.

“Well this shows an insensitivity to our role in the region and the question of moving the country forward, and… he should continue to focus on that instead of campaigning,” Davis said.

“But I don’t think giving aid to a fellow CARICOM country in a context of a disaster, to make sure what we are hearing, requires such a puerile response, because the CARICOM community usually comes to the aid of fellow CARICOM nations in their times of need and disaster.”

He added, “… It’s the whole understanding of the role of The Bahamas in the context of the Caribbean region and its understanding of governance and governments and, of course, the relationship that we have with our CARICOM neighbors.”

“In fact, a question you can ask him, you know that our nearest neighbor — I guess a nearer neighbor — the Turks and Caicos Islands were devastated by Matthew. Was it Matthew or Joaquin? One of the hurricanes, and what was our response to them, if any? They responded to us when we were in our challenges.”

Following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, the Bahamian government suspended all repatriations of Haitians.

An action then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham defended as “the sensible and compassionate thing to do in the circumstances”.

Minnis told reporters on Monday that he was focused on putting Bahamians first and “moving The Bahamas forward”.

He said he was concerned about the possibility of criminals from Haiti “floating” to The Bahamas because he had heard reports of damage to a Haitian prison.

“We don’t know whether they are murderers; we don’t know what type of crime they have committed, but it’s a serious matter, and we must assume that they have done the most heinous crime, and we must look out for our borders. And I again ask all Bahamians to be very vigilant, because they could have a devastating effect on our country,” he said.

“There is a possibility that criminals may have been released and are traveling toward our shores.”

Davis said that granting aid to Haiti could deter Haitian migration, especially of criminals, to The Bahamas.

“In fact, I would’ve thought that, out of regard for our own challenges with irregular migration for Haiti, one of the recommended initiatives to curb irregular migration is to ensure that Haiti is productive and to ensure that there is economic activity in that region. And, so, to come to their rescue will assist in closing, I would’ve thought, any thought of irregular migration to The Bahamas,” he said.

“I think giving more aid would give them reason to stay in the country as opposed to leaving the country, because as things get worse in Haiti and as it worsens it will inspire the desire to leave the despair behind.”

Brother’s keeper

Davis said the prime minister had a different tone toward Dominica after Hurricane Maria last year.

Minnis, who was tearful after Hurricane Maria ravaged Dominica last fall, asked his colleagues in the House of Assembly whether Bahamians’ Christian charity ends at the borders.

“We can either respond with humanitarian and Christian values or we can close our hearts to those who are now experiencing tremendous suffering and emergency needs,” he said.

“Charity may begin at home, but Christian charity never stops at the border of a country.”

Minnis announced that Dominican students would be allowed to study in The Bahamas, but it is unclear how many Dominican students came to The Bahamas.

Davis questioned whether Minnis was discriminating toward Haitians.

“Now why he was quick to rush to the aid of Dominica, which is much further away and not only so, but it’s dismissing,” he said.

He added that it was time for the country to act on its Christian principles.

“But, you know, it’s in the hour of need that Christian nations should be standing up,” Davis said.

“If we don’t have our Christian principles, then what are we? Are we our brother’s keeper, or are we not?”

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