In search of leadership
We have called on the government to provide leadership in the trying times following Hurricane Dorian.
We encouraged the government to bring thoughtful consideration to public pronouncements because callous, thoughtless declarations are being made in the name of the government.
These calls apply especially to the treatment being meted out to undocumented persons who are also victims and refugees of Hurricane Dorian.
No one is suggesting that The Bahamas must take in or keep an unlimited number of undocumented nationals, but surely a humane government would provide for any human being, documented or otherwise, to be treated humanely in the aftermath of the destruction of the most powerful hurricane to impact the country in its recorded history.
If anyone in the government was listening, they opted to play deaf.
In place of humanity we have reports of the prime minister kicking in the door of the safe place of traumatized hurricane victims.
Was he hunting undocumented Haitians?
We do not know whether the home belonged to a Haitian immigrant, with or without immigration status, or whether it belonged to a Bahamian national – many of whom resided in shantytowns on Abaco before Hurricane Dorian. The home’s ownership matters not.
Such uncouth behavior by our leader should not be the face of The Bahamas to the world especially at a time when the world has responded to our tragedy with warmth and kindness and generosity without bounds.
The prime minister’s action showed no respect for law and order, a position which thankfully the police and defense force officers accompanying him did not share. These officers, at least, demonstrated that they understood that in a country of laws, as the prime minister described The Bahamas to the international community, the demolition of structures must follow a legal process.
The prime minister’s action did not convey the strength and confidence of a leader in control during a crisis. Rather it conveyed a sense of panic as an ineffective government gives in to facile responses to serious problems, flailing about in hopes of finding something that works.
The result has been a flurry of incoherent orders reflecting policies made on the fly.
First there was a “no build” declaration for certain areas of Abaco.
This was followed by an order to demolish shantytowns on Abaco and a statement by the prime minister — who is the minister for lands — on the floor of the House of Assembly that he had informed the attorney general to acquire the underlying land.
But when questioned later by a reporter, the attorney general said he had not been “instructed in respect to an acquisition policy or plan”.
The AG in another interview said storm victims who have work permits but whose employers have stopped paying them because their jobs are no longer available should go home.
But Monday, the immigration minister said skilled laborers will have to be brought in to rebuild storm ravaged communities.
After he was appointed last month, the new minister for disaster preparedness and recovery opined that all of Abaco might have to be evacuated to permit its reconstruction and recovery.
Later, the minister for the environment suggested that the removal of all of the hurricane debris from Abaco was likely to be too expensive.
Then the government indicated that a curfew might be required to make Abaco safe from looters “as there is no need to move around in the dark”.
Our understanding is that the largest of the shantytowns – The Mudd – may be located on government land. It is a former duck pond that was filled in with the muck dredged from Marsh Harbour’s port.
The owner of the Pigeon Peas land, where another of the shantytowns is located, has publicly said that he would welcome an offer to buy his land. Clearly the acquisition process is not required.
As our door-kicking prime minister and his government remain laser focused on hunting for Haitian immigrants on Abaco, government schools in Freeport remain closed, as are the international airports on Abaco and Grand Bahama to international commercial air traffic.
But the prime minister felt safe to spend the night in Winding Bay, Abaco.