Casual disregard of the law

We commented in this space that cavalier attitudes by some parliamentarians regarding their obligations to make annual declarations under the Public Disclosure Act may be used by some others in society to also ignore laws they find burdensome or inconvenient.

We consider, for example, the complete disregard of some Bahamian merchants to the law governing Sunday shopping.

Thousands of people routinely grocery shop on Sundays. Some large food stores are open until 8 p.m. with many customers dressed in their Sunday “best” notwithstanding that the law, as far as we are aware, prohibits their operating after 10 a.m. on Sundays.

The disregard of the law by the public is evidence that the people no longer wish to be bound by the law of Sunday shopping contained in the Public Holidays Act of 2001. And The Bahamas state appears unwilling to enforce the act. Sunday shopping has become the norm.

The law should reflect that standard. We believe this may be done without violating our tradition of weekend worship. Certainly, our Seventh-day Adventists brethren and Roman Catholics who worship at Saturday vigil mass demonstrate that it can be done.

Working on Sundays has never been foreign to Bahamians. Many citizens are engaged in the tourism and hotel sector that operates seven days a week. Additionally, many restaurants and gas stations that service all Bahamians have traditionally operated on Sundays.

Respect for and obedience to laws by the general public depends upon the willingness of the state to either enforce the law or change the law to take account of changing mores and customs. This would avoid the casual flaunting of the law that breeds contempt for law enforcement.

It is time for the law on Sunday shopping, like other laws that are casually ignored, to be revisited.

The onset of summer storm season

A dramatic lightning show and heavy rains a week ago, Saturday, paled in comparison to the intense lightning thunderstorm that unleashed torrents of rainfall on New Providence on Friday evening.

The Department of Meteorology’s Severe Thunderstorm Watch proved to be spot on.

Predicted heavy downpours were accompanied by thunderstorms that brought gusty winds, dangerous lightning, localized flooding and at least one waterspout that came ashore in western New Providence scattering customers at an oceanfront bar. And there were additional reports of suspected tornado damage to residences in Miller’s Heights and in the Cowpen Road area.

Daylight Saturday revealed flooded streets and neighborhoods, a number of stranded vehicles and some residences that had suffered water intrusions.

Remarkably, by mid-morning, most major thoroughfares were free of standing water though road-shoulder ditches were brimming and ponds, lakes and wetlands everywhere were swollen with excess water.

The official start of the hurricane season is still two weeks away, but it should not be lost on us that the hurricane season has started early for the past seven years, from 2015 through 2021.

The last hurricane season, 2021, was the third most active on record and several hurricane experts are predicting a very similar 2022 season with as many as 19 named storms and nine hurricanes.

From bitter experience, we know that the number of storms in a season is no predictor of possible impact on a community. It only takes one storm to devastate as Hurricane Dorian so mercilessly proved in September 2019 when it tore through Abaco and Grand Bahama.

The past week’s unsettled weather is a good reminder to all of us to begin our preparations for the 2022 hurricane season now.

Bahamas Power and Light has begun its tree pruning in advance of the hurricane season. So also should the Department of Public Works begin drainage clearings and commence the expansion of additional drainage ditches wherever appropriate.

Residents would be wise to begin assessing their hurricane supplies, and to include on their hurricane preparation “to-do” lists checking the condition of storm shutters, trimming large trees near residences, removing piles of debris from yards and perhaps, most importantly, developing a family plan for safe and timely evacuations, should that become necessary.

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