The rapid international response to our Hurricane Dorian crisis is heartwarming.
Our nearest neighbor, largest trading partner and largest tourism market, the United States of America, was on the ground immediately, rescuing the stranded and transporting the injured and ill to safety. They are still here, in large numbers with expertise and equipment, life-saving medical services and supplies.
American federal government assistance is enhanced and extended by US state government assistance, American NGOs, private-sector and individual Americans who have responded to our needs as if responding to their close families and friends.
The Americans have been joined in their rescue and assistance efforts by our other long-time good friends and allies – the British, the Dutch, our CARICOM sister states and the various official emergency response units and agencies of the United Nations, the European Union, the OAS, WHO/PAHO, the International Red Cross, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CEDEMA) and the World Food Programme.
Prayers of encouragement and support have reached us from every corner of the world.
Joining in what has become a global response to our personal tragedy has been the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with whom The Bahamas has enjoyed warm diplomatic, cultural, educational and economic relationships since 1997.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations with The Bahamas, the PRC has proven to be a friend providing soft loans to permit two important infrastructural developments and gifted the Thomas Robinson National Stadium.
In the private sector it permitted the investment of Hutchison Whampoa and provided financing for the development of Baha Mar.
Over the weekend, we were flabbergasted to read the reported comments of the speaker of the House of Assembly to a high-ranking Chinese delegation which paid a courtesy call upon him. To be clear, the Chinese delegation paid a courtesy call on the speaker of the House of Assembly of The Bahamas, not a call upon Halston Moultrie.
The speaker’s role and duty are to preside over and manage the affairs of the House of Assembly, a responsibility he is executing with very mixed reviews.
Still, the speaker seems to believe that he is qualified and authorized to comment upon and make recommendations on policy matters that fall very far from his purview.
He proposed to the high-ranking Chinese delegation that the PRC ought to consider developing the southeast region of The Bahamas.
The speaker has no role in the executive and hence no authority to opine upon matters that fall within the purview of the executive – the Cabinet.
We state the obvious: Decisions on foreign affairs are the responsibility of the government of The Bahamas, more specifically, of the Cabinet. Similarly, decisions on economic development in the country are also the responsibility of the government which takes its direction from the Cabinet.
It would be a tone-deaf government that would propose that a sector of the country might be turned over to a foreign government for development purposes.
And, it would have to be an indifferent government that failed to understand the implications of inviting Chinese control of development in a region long acknowledged as an American sphere of influence.
The speaker does not understand his role. Clearly, he believes that a delegation from a foreign government calling on his office is calling on him personally and hence his ability to offer his personal recommendations.
His personal recommendation to the official Chinese delegation was completely out of order. The speaker owes an apology to the House of Assembly, to the government and to the people of The Bahamas.
A crisis cannot be an excuse to abandon strong, long-lasting alliances. We dare not seek to quantify America’s distance from and importance to The Bahamas.
We state the obvious, the United States of America is a friend of The Bahamas like no other nation.