Emerald Memorial Mortuary Funeral Director Wendell Dean said yesterday Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis owes an apology to grieving families, as he decried the “double standard” that allowed a wedding on Harbour Island to continue as planned over the weekend, while funerals were postponed due to a weekend lockdown.
“I would dare to say, seeing that the prime minister took the initiative to apologize to the persons who went into quarantine after coming into The Bahamas last week, I would think it would be most appropriate for him to apologize to all of these families who had to suffer additional grief and sorrow because of cancellations, postponements, and for their anxiety levels being raised because of the bad decision that was made on Friday,” Dean said.
He added, “What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander. I was told that those persons wrote in and requested special permission to continue their wedding plans as they were previously scheduled.
“I see that as being very disingenuous in that I didn’t know that I could have written in to the competent authority or whoever the officials were to request special permission for our funerals to be carried on in the normal manner, as they would have been planned for the weekend. We were only able to abide by what the last minute order said as it relates to funerals and weddings.
“So, it is a double standard, to be frank with you, that we were not afforded the same privileges.”
Amid social media outrage over videos and photos of the wedding that took place on Harbour Island on Saturday, while some Bahamians were forced to postpone their weddings and funerals, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) said in a statement on Sunday night that the competent authority granted permission for two “pre-planned weddings” with more than five people in attendance.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced on Friday that weddings and funerals that had been scheduled for the next day could only happen with a maximum of five people.
Minnis announced the lockdown in response to a surge of COVID-19 cases in the country.
Dean said the order itself demonstrated a lack of sympathy for affected families.
He said two of the services organized by his funeral home had to ‘be rescheduled’ as a result.
“It impacted the entire funeral industry in The Bahamas very adversely,” he said.
Dean added that the prime minister’s announcement was “unkind” and “unempathetic” to those families “who would have already made preparations…to funeralize their loved ones”.
He added, “Everyone was in a scramble trying to contact families, families making phone calls and trying to reschedule or understand what was actually placed in the orders.”
Dean added, “It was very difficult. It became heart-wrenching for families. Sadly enough, about 1 o’clock Friday afternoon, when the circular first went viral on social media, the traffic situation became unbearable, congestion, panic, families calling wanting to know what’s going to happen and at that point, there were no answers to give them because we had to wait until the press conference to know exactly what was going to be said.”
The press conference, at which the prime minister spoke, did not happen until 6 p.m.
Dean said it seemed there was no consultation with stakeholders in the industry.
“I don’t know who they would have consulted with as it relates to the funeral industry, but it was clear to me that none of my colleagues were consulted and we were all caught unaware until the 6 p.m. press conference,” he said.
“The sad thing about that is there are persons who have funeral services or cremation services where there is no cemetery involved, and that aspect needs to be addressed. You cannot be so unsympathetic to be one-sided and one-track-minded to only focus on one aspect of a funeral service, when there are many aspects to be considered.”