Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper said yesterday that he was not impressed with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ announcement that the government will invest $8 million to restore public infrastructure to Ragged Island.
Cooper said after nearly two years of neglect by the government, he will “believe it when I see the shovels in the ground”.
“And only then will I, and the people of Ragged Island, thank this government for doing its job and providing the most basic amenities of life that other islands enjoy,” he said in a statement.
“Until then, Ragged Island residents and [their] descendants will be waiting for that apology.”
During his third national address for 2019, Minnis said the government will invest money to rebuild the public school, clinic, administrator’s complex, police station and post office on Ragged Island. The prime minister also said the government is engaged in a request for proposal (RFP) process for a solar generation facility for the island.
But Cooper, who has lamented the lack of movement on the restoration of Ragged Island for 20 months, said Minnis owes the people of Ragged Island an apology.
“To be extremely clear, my experience with this administration has led me to the place that I believe nothing that is said about Ragged Island,” he said.
“I will believe what they do.
“This government has abandoned the people of Ragged Island in their hour of greatest need for nearly two years.
“That the prime minister seeks to use a televised national address to score points on Ragged Island’s name is regretful.
“He owes Ragged Island an apology. He should have gone to the people of Ragged Island and explained why he neglected them after the fanciful talk of rebuilding a green city.
“He should have had the courage to look them in the eyes, before the minister of works said they simply have no money for Ragged Island.
“Parents have had to send their children away from them for schooling, something no family should have to endure.”
In September 2017, Hurricane Irma, which packed winds up to 185 miles per hour, devastated the tiny island, destroying homes, the public school, clinic, administrator’s office and police station.
The island was deemed “uninhabitable” but Minnis vowed that it would be turned into a “green city”.
However, Cooper noted yesterday that the island has only recently received running water again and there is still no basic medical care on the island or postal service.
He said there was a mass exodus because of the lack of proper facilities, leaving roughly 50 residents on the island.
This number includes some elderly people, fisherman and salt workers.
During his address, Minnis said the government will construct a school and teacher’s duplex at a cost of $2 million; a new clinic for $2.5 million; an administrator’s office, post office and court room for $2.5 million; and a police station and accommodations for officers at a cost of $1 million.
But he did not provide a timeline on when construction of the facilities would begin.
Cooper asked, “Will this money be in the next budget? Perhaps the year after?
“Why must we wait for the completion of these buildings to restore school and nursing services when there are temporary facilities that can cover it?”
Cooper also questioned the RFP process for a solar facility.
“What is to be the size of this facility?” he asked.
“How much electricity will it generate? What is it expected to power?”