Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday accused Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis of “stoking mass hysteria” and “fearmongering”.
Davis’ comments followed a nearly hour-and-a-half address in which the prime minister offered worst-case health, economic and social scenarios for the fate of The Bahamas as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many Bahamians tuned in to watch the prime minister give his national address two Sundays ago and no doubt they tuned in to listen to him here today,” the opposition leader said in the House of Assembly.
“And they tuned in because they hoped that he would have offered some new strategies to alleviate the economic pain which, I can assure him, is widespread across our islands. Unfortunately, they didn’t hear any new ideas or plans to help them through this economic crisis.
“Today, for example, what we saw was a stoking of mass hysteria. We saw a stoking of fearmongering. We heard about when this disease got ya, what could likely happen to you.
“But, Mr. Speaker, it has never been more important to have a leader who can face the Bahamian people and to protect them because, Mr. Speaker, we are here once again being asked by this government to extend a set of emergency orders after Bahamians have already been deprived of their fundamental rights and freedoms for over three months.
“And now, laughably, they’re saying, ‘Give me three days.’”
On Monday, the prime minister announced that beaches and parks on Grand Bahama, Paradise Island, New Providence and its surrounding cays will be closed as of tonight at 10 p.m. They will reopen at 5 a.m. on Monday.
That announcement was criticized widely on social media.
St. Anne’s MP Brent Symonette, who served in Minnis’ Cabinet before resigning last year, told The Nassau Guardian on Tuesday that the prime minister owed the public an explanation. Yesterday, while defending the decision, Minnis said, “I ask the young people today, I’m only asking you to sacrifice three days for a healthier and better nation. I ask the entire nation, tourists included, just three days.”
He asked, “Are we not worth three days to save a nation?”
Minnis noted that a potential surge in COVID-19 cases may result in the “meltdown” of The Bahamas’ healthcare system.
“It means that you will have no beds for sick persons because your hospital is being utilized by all COVID patients,” he said.
“It means that all elective cases are canceled and you have great difficulty even performing emergency cases. It means, Mr. Speaker, that our routine maternity cases cannot be cared for properly and babies can be born at home or wherever because our hospital is in a meltdown.
“It also means that our children, our kids, who need hospitalization for care, there will be no facility for them.”
However, Davis shot down the prime minister’s claims.
He said the government “better have a good reason” for seeking continued restriction of freedom of movement.
Davis said The Bahamas faces a “crisis” of the competent authority.
“Prime minister, don’t go making yourself the laughing stock of the country,” he said.
“That’s what is coming when people look at these measures. At this stage of the pandemic, because of the failed leadership of the prime minister and his government, it is the Bahamian people are who are left facing two terrifying consequences.
“The first is that, as the borders have just been reopened, the government is not doing enough to protect Bahamians. Fearmongering and hysteria, as we heard here today, is not the answer.
“And the second is that the government is not prepared to shield Bahamians from the worst of the economic crisis.
“In both cases, the government’s incompetence is dangerous.”