Amid heavy criticism over the prime minister’s decision to close public parks and beaches on New Providence and Grand Bahama for the Independence Day holiday weekend, St. Anne’s Member of Parliament (MP) Brent Symonette said Dr. Hubert Minnis owes the Bahamian people a full explanation as to why he made the decision.
The Free National Movement (FNM) MP, who resigned from Cabinet last year, also suggested that Minnis has become comfortable with making pronouncements without providing an explanation and said after months of being under lockdown, Bahamians deserve to know why they are being “cooped up” for another holiday weekend.
“I was not in the House when he made the mention, so I cannot comment on what he said,” Symonette said.
“But after being under lockdown and perpetual order for this space of time, the Bahamian people need a full explanation of why they are being cooped up on a long Independence holiday weekend. And I think that’s only fair to ask, in light of the fact that we do not know what caused him to make this comment.
“Is there some other issue that we should be made aware of? Are we trying to avoid panic? I mean, The Bahamas has been under lockdown for some time and very few active cases of COVID-19.”
Monday night, in the House, when he gave notice of the resolution to extend the state of emergency, Minnis said, “I want to remind this Parliament and this Bahamian populace that we are quite aware of the surge of COVID-19 virus that is occurring in the United States, particularly Florida and Arizona,” and that those matters are being taken into consideration to “avoid such activities in The Bahamas and the possibility of introduction and consequently spread”.
However, The Bahamas has not confirmed a new case of COVID-19 for the past three weeks since June 14.
Symonette pointed to the numbers, saying the prime minister should be able to explain his reasoning and whether there is anything the Bahamian people should know.
“The fact that we have not had an active case of COVID-19 in many days does not seem to balance with the closing of the beaches unless the prime minister is aware that there is a possibility of a large scale breakout, which is not identified recently and succinctly to the Bahamian people,” Symonette said.
“If I put it in my simple language, he must know something that we don’t and he hasn’t told us. And he has to know because he’s the competent authority and the minister of health.”
During his interview with The Nassau Guardian, Symonette also pointed to the fact that tourists have been allowed to enter the country on boats and private aircraft since June 15 and on commercial flights since July 1.
“Another question for me is, how do we deal with the tourists that we have welcomed to our country, saying we are a healthy nation and now we lock down the beach, which is why they came here?” he asked.
The prime minister has not attended any of the Ministry of Health’s virtual press conferences since taking over as minister in early May.
Minnis has only spoken in Parliament and given national addresses.
He did, however, take questions from the press on one occasion since then, on June 4, during a press conference from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).
When asked whether he feels the competent authority has become comfortable with making pronouncements without giving an explanation or reasoning to the Bahamian people, Symonette responded that he “agreed”.
Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday said the prime minister appears to have let the power of being the competent authority get to his head and also called for Minnis to explain the rationale behind closing the beaches for the Independence Day holiday weekend.
Davis asked whether there was medical evidence to support the decision and called on the prime minister to share that information with the public.
The Bahamas has confirmed 104 cases of the virus.
That number has not risen since June 14.
Back in June, when he announced the reopening of public parks and beaches, Minnis said the response and behavior of the public would determine whether beaches would be open for the upcoming holiday.