Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine yesterday hit out at the government’s response to Hurricane Dorian on Grand Bahama, charging that some feel that Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis showed more compassion to the people of Dominica in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017 than he did for Grand Bahama and Abaco.
“For the record, there are many out there who feel and felt that the PM showed more passion and compassion for Dominica than he’s shown for Grand Bahama, Abaco and the cays,” McAlpine said during debate on the Disaster Preparedness and Response (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
“People are extremely upset that the prime minister went to Dominica faster than he came to East Grand Bahama, where Bahamian lives were lost.
“The most destructive part of Grand Bahama took our prime minister over a month to get there.”
He added, “Many felt that the PM was kinder about Dominica than he was to Bahamians at some of his press conferences.”
In September 2017, following the passage of Hurricane Maria over Dominica, which devastated that island, Minnis said the government would relax immigration rules for Dominicans and would also accept students and other Dominicans with families into The Bahamas.
At the time, McAlpine strongly objected to this policy.
Hurricane Dorian flattened portions of Abaco and Grand Bahama.
At least 61 people died during the storm and some 280 people are listed as missing.
As part of the government’s post-storm initiatives, it moved forward with the Disaster Preparedness and Response (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
The bill will introduce mandatory evacuations, providing that those who fail to heed evacuation orders could be imprisoned for up to one month and fined up to $500.
McAlpine said while he believes mandatory evacuation legislation is necessary, the government must first ensure there are suitable hurricane shelters for people to evacuate to.
“Whereas it is important to eventually have a mandatory evacuation bill, Pineridge thinks it’s initially far more important for the government to build structurally sound hurricane-proof centers throughout The Bahamas, then we can discuss mandatory evacuation,” McAlpine said.
“Mama would say, ‘You are putting the cart before the horse.’
“Mr. Speaker, it makes no logical sense to me, demanding mandatory evacuation without having a safe place to put the evacuees.”
The outspoken MP also said he believes in Bahamians first.
“Any who loves others more than us or want us to love others more than us is not worthy to be amongst us,” McAlpine said.
“My mantra as a Bahamian is Bahamians first and I mean that in every sense of the word without any apology.
“For those persons who have been here illegally and have suffered loss, whether you have a work permit or not, if you’re no longer employed as a result of Hurricane Dorian and you’ve lost everything as a result of the storm, my recommendation to you is to return to your country of birth and seek assistance for your dilemma.
“The Bahamas is overwhelmed at this time. We are in a state of emergency and Bahamians are our top priority. We cannot help anybody until we can first help ourselves.”
This was a clear reference to the plight of the many Haitian migrants who were left homeless after Dorian decimated The Mudd, Pigeon Peas and Sand Banks shantytowns on Abaco.
Many are living in shelters on New Providence.