Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper yesterday slammed Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis over the “discriminatory” decision to close restaurants at Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay Dock while allowing other restaurants to remain open.
“As an aside, let me also say how offensive it appears that you are applying discriminatory practices to the vendors of Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay,” he said in the House of Assembly.
“It is shameless and you must give an account.”
Cooper added, “As a group of thriving Bahamian entrepreneurs, you shut them down, whilst you exempt foreign franchise chains and restaurants in other areas.”
On Sunday, Minnis ordered the closure of Arawak Cay and Potter’s Cay following a surge of COVID-19 cases in The Bahamas.
He said those closures will remain in place until officials are able to ensure that better social distancing can be practiced and enforced.
This is the second time the prime minister has ordered the closure of those areas in recent months.
In late-March, Arawak Cay, Potter’s Cay as well as hundreds of other businesses in The Bahamas, were ordered closed.
As he called for an explanation, Cooper said the move was “pathetic”, “offensive” and void of scientific rationale.
“What you have done is pathetic,” he said.
“You are intentionally driving a certain segment of people out of business.
“It is offensive that I cannot have a meal at Trudy’s or Curly’s or Drifters, but I can at Cricket Club across the street or at a restaurant on Cable Beach.
“What is it that I’m missing? There has been no scientific rationale for any of this.
“You must explain.
“They think it’s discrimination and it looks like discrimination to me.”
Cooper said that instead of shutting down the entire strips, businesses that fail to comply with the necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 should be dealt with individually.
“These are Bahamian entrepreneurs who strive to make a living the right way,” he said.
“If you have restaurants that are not complying, shut them down. But don’t allow the innocent to suffer for guilty.”
Cooper also noted that the vendors should have been given more notice before being shut down.
“Why allow these business owners to go out and shop for the weekend for perishable goods?” he said.
“They shop for the weekend and the week, only to learn on Sunday that they will be closed in less than 24 hours.
“As a result, they will have spoilage and waste that they could least afford.
“They have employees and light bills and children. Why not give them appropriate notice?
“Who will compensate vendors for their loss?
“Where is your heart? Where is your soul? Where is your compassion?”