OPM says no approval given for large funeral held on Sunday

The Office of the Prime Minister said yesterday that the competent authority made “no special provision” for the Voice of Deliverance Disciple Center (VODDC) to hold a funeral outside the guidelines of the emergency order, which stipulate that no more than 10 people, excluding the officiant and mortuary workers, should attend a graveyard service on New Providence.

Scores of people — all wearing masks — were in attendance for the funeral of Leonie Wallace, the wife of VODDC Senior Pastor Leon Wallace, which was held at Woodlawn Gardens on Sunday.

The ceremony started as a 10-member band led a processional of more than five dozen people. It was livestreamed on Facebook.

When called for comment yesterday, Wallace said he did not invite most of the individuals who attended the funeral.

“They saw the announcement and decided to come,” he told The Nassau Guardian.

“We did not invite them. We made certain that all of our announcements were crystal clear that we had a public viewing and we had a private viewing. The announcement was crystal clear that it was a graveside funeral and only a certain amount of persons were allowed.”

When asked how many individuals were invited to the graveside service, Wallace replied, “Family only.”

He said 10 individuals were invited.

Asked if he attempted to turn the attendees away after noticing the crowd, Wallace said, “Darling, my wife of 44 years is dead.

“I didn’t know if I was there, yet alone the crowds. I can’t tell you if my children was there. I am just now leaving the graveyard. That’s what that means to me.

“So, who was there, I cannot tell you. Only thing I know is we got strict announcement that it was not opened for the public, a strict announcement that 10 persons were allowed, a strict announcement that it was a graveyard funeral and that was it.

“We got no recommendation or approval from the prime minister for even one extra person to be there. He was crystal clear with it that it cannot be.”  

Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Delton Fernander gave remarks at the event.

During the ceremony, he told Wallace that he “wanted to be here for you”.

Yesterday, when asked why he attended the event, which violated the emergency order, Fernander told The Guardian, “No comment…I just showed up to give my remarks and the crowd was there.”

In March, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, in his capacity as the competent authority, implemented a limit on how many people are allowed to attend funerals across The Bahamas.

That limitation has been in effect for nearly a year.

In August 2020, Minister of Health Renward Wells said increased COVID-19 cases on New Providence, Grand Bahama and Bimini had been linked to one particular funeral.

The latest emergency order notes that residents on Acklins, Andros, the Berry Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Chub Cay, Crooked Island, Elbow Cay, the Exuma cays, Inagua, Mayaguana, Grand Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Harbour Island, Long Cay, Long Island, Man-O-War Cay, Ragged Island, Rum Cay, San Salvador and Spanish Wells are permitted to hold funeral services in churches or other religious facilities provided that the number of attendees is limited in accordance with physical distancing protocols and other protocols issued by the BCC and approved by the Ministry of Health.

It also states that residents on those islands are allowed to hold graveside burials with no more than 30 people, including officiants and funeral service workers.

Repasts are limited to 20 people at private homes and facilities on those islands.

However, they are banned on the remaining islands, including on New Providence.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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