Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller said yesterday that the government should have introduced the Disaster Preparedness and Response (Amendment) Bill, 2019 after Hurricane Irma devastated Ragged Island two years ago.
“It seems that this should have occurred before this disaster in light of the evacuation exercise of 2017 shortly after we came to power with Hurricane Irma, when many persons were evacuated from MICAL,” he said during debate on the bill in the House of Assembly.
“However, better now than never, and we learn and grow from our experiences.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis promised a mandatory evacuation legislation in 2017, but it never happened.
When asked in the days following Dorian why it was on the back-burner for so long, Minnis cited opposition to the proposed legislation, but assured the attorney general was working on it.
“Bahamian people now see the necessity,” Minnis said.
“Also, those who were objecting, they now see the necessity of bringing forth this legislation, and I am certain that we will have very minimal objection.”
The timeliness of the bill was not Miller’s only criticism yesterday. He also argued that the bill gives the prime minister too much power.
“This bill increases the power in the hands of the prime minister, who already has too much power,” he said.
“It is hoped that he would be guided by competent advisors when making critical decisions.”
He added, “The trajectory of bills and legislation during these times sometimes can be treacherous. In this instance, the Office of the Prime Minister already has powers that I personally believe should be reduced rather than bolstered. It is always good to exercise extreme caution when new legislation surfaces in times of crises and desperation.”
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.