Days after 55 Hurricane Dorian victims were laid to rest on Abaco, Central and South Abaco MP James Albury asked Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to launch an investigation into the “process and timeliness” of the burials in an effort to “bring answers and closure” to the people on that island.
But Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell called for his resignation, charging that Albury, a parliamentary secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, is bound by Cabinet decisions.
Albury, in a letter dated May 23, noted that many Hurricane Dorian victims remain missing almost nine months after the storm.
“As you are aware, on Friday, May 22, the bodies of 55 victims of Hurricane Dorian were laid to rest at the Central Pines Public Cemetery,” Albury wrote.
“Though some in Abaco feel a sense of relief and closure that the victims’ bodies have now been laid to rest, as we approach another hurricane season, there are many who still remain unsure of the location and fate of their loved one(s).
“Sir, I would be remiss if I did not request that a formal inquiry into this eight to nine-month process and the timeliness of this procedure be looked into by the appropriate agencies.
“I feel a review of this is not only imperative for the families of Abaco, but also for the proper handling of any future mass casualty events – God forbid. I believe your assistance with this may help to bring answers and further closure to the people of Abaco.”
Albury noted that his letter “does not seek to reflect poorly” on the Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA), but to request clarity on the matter.
Mitchell shot back, noting that the burial process was a Cabinet decision that Albury is “bound by” as a parliamentary secretary.
He called Albury’s request “perplexing”.
“Mr. Albury, a parliamentary secretary, is bound by Cabinet conclusions even though he doesn’t attend Cabinet meetings,” Mitchell said.
“What took place regarding the handling of those 55 bodies over the last eight or nine months and the eventual mass burial, budget included, was sanctioned and approved by Cabinet conclusion.
“James Albury is bound by these decisions. It therefore begs the following question: How could Mr. Albury question the conclusions of the Cabinet by asking the chairman of the Cabinet committee, the prime minister, to investigate a matter that was unanimously agreed to and concluded on?
“Mr. Albury is well advised that in light of this what must naturally follow is, he must do the honorable thing and resign or be relieved of his duties failing his resignation.”
Some Abaconians have been critical of the ecumenical service held on Friday, in addition to the fact that the 55 bodies remain unidentified almost nine months after Dorian wreaked havoc on Abaco and Grand Bahama in September.
The DRA has pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused delay with the process of identifying and the ultimate burial of storm victims.
The service was originally scheduled to take place in March, but was postponed as the country entered a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The DRA also noted that DNA analysis profiling is still ongoing in an attempt to identify the bodies, but that laboratories processing DNA sampling have shifted priorities due to COVID-19, thus causing further delay.