Exumas and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper said he is “wholly dissatisfied” with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ rationale for not allowing commercial activity to resume on Exuma as it has on other Family Islands.
While he noted that he believes the curfew and lockdown measures implemented by Minnis were important and necessary, Cooper accused the prime minister of abusing his power.
“I am wholly dissatisfied with the prime minister’s apparent rationale for keeping commercial activity on Exuma closed,” he said.
“The prime minister expressed that he was operating on the assumption that people possibly infected with COVID-19 had entered Exuma since the 24-hour curfew measures were implemented.
“Where is the evidence of this on Exuma?
“And where is the evidence of this not happening on the islands that have been allowed to resume commercial activity?
“Why would this assumption be made about Exuma, but not most other Family Islands?
“The health professionals themselves cannot explain it.”
Cooper added, “He is abusing the power given to him.
“I, for one, will not support any extension of the emergency powers given to the competent authority without a clearly articulated exit strategy for how we emerge from this state of emergency.”
Normal commercial activity has been allowed to resume on Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco, Andros, Ragged Island, Rum Cay, Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins and Long Cay.
No case of COVID-19 has been confirmed on any of those islands, whose borders have been closed since late March. Exuma, Eleuthera, San Salvador and the Berry Islands have also not had any cases, but they remain closed.
Minnis said on Wednesday that his reason for opening Andros at this time is to allow residents to benefit from the historically lucrative crab season.
Cooper was highly critical of that reasoning.
“Andros is allowed to resume commercial activity simply because it’s crab season Christmas with no apparent medical concerns in mind,” he said.
“With no cases or suspected cases on all but three islands and one cay thus far, there does not seem to be any logical reason to keep the economies of the remaining Family Islands closed.
“Claiming that there is a threat of being overwhelmed by cases in one population that has had no cases, but not in another similar-sized population that has had no cases whose borders also remained closed, makes no sense at all.”
Cooper said the emergency orders have been clumsily handled and executed by Minnis. He said he is supporting his constituents in seeking legal advice on the issue.
“The health measures taken at the beginning of this crisis were welcomed and necessary, but the longer this continues, the more the prime minister bungles his role,” he said.
“The public grows weary of it.
“I can confirm that many in Exuma are rightly aggrieved by this emotional, irrational decision.
“I am currently supporting them in taking legal advice from a noted Queen’s Counsel and will consider looking to the courts for redress.”