Pandemic of politics

The Competent Authority has some explaining to do.

On the heels of controversy over last week’s entry of permanent resident donors, Eyewitness News reports that Lyford Cay resident Elizabeth Dingman, widow of the late billionaire philanthropist Michael Dingman, was granted entry via private aircraft last week, and was permitted to self-quarantine at home.

Dingman, who said she was not a passenger on the donor flight, is quoted in the report as stating she “filed the right papers and got the right protocol [and] went through the chain of command” for re-entry into The Bahamas from California.

Order 10 of the Emergency Powers COVID-19 No. 2 Order states that all airports, including private airports and fixed-base operations (FBOs), shall be closed to incoming international flights carrying any visitor “except with the prior written permission of the Competent Authority.”

Subsection 1(c) of the order states “no visitor shall be permitted to enter and disembark for any reason, including transiting through The Bahamas”.

We understand that permission for landing with passengers has been granted to other private aircraft since the country’s border closure on March 23.

As we pointed out in our call for accountability regarding last week’s donor flight, only the prime minister, as the competent authority under the emergency regulations and orders, could have approved the landing with passengers.

The same applies for the flight carrying Dingman, as well as any other flights with passengers.

Given the emergency order currently in place and against the backdrop of the previous policy to close the country’s borders to Bahamians, the prime minister must explain to the nation why approval was granted for Dingman’s flight.

We still await an explanation of how last week’s controversial donor flight constituted what he categorized as a breach of protocol, an explanation that is especially warranted in light of the revelation that at least one other Bahamian resident on a separate occasion received the same permissions of the donors — to land, to disembark and to quarantine at home.

In the interest of accountability and transparency, the competent authority should provide a report to the nation on all flights with passengers approved by him since the country’s border closure, and the reason for the approvals.

That the fallout over the entry of residents has resulted in the resignation of one member of his Cabinet and questions regarding the involvement of several others, the prime minister ought to recognize the urgency of his duty to fully account for the execution of his powers under current emergency orders.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis should explain to the Bahamian people what accounts for his apparently contradictory position regarding the acquisition of COVID-19 test kits for the country.

During the last sitting of Parliament, former Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands advised that the country remained challenged in acquiring sufficient test kits to carry out testing on demand because of “international supply chain limitations”.

To this, Davis said, “You have friends in Lyford Cay, get one of their jets and fly to where the tests are and pick them up, we are in a crisis.”

Now, Davis is calling for an investigation into whether COVID-19 testing materials donated by American permanent residents constituted a violation of “another country’s export laws”.

We question how the leader of the opposition reasoned that a potential violation of another country’s export laws (presumably the United States) could be avoided, if the government followed the recommendation as put forward by him on the floor of Parliament.

What is true is that the country is in a crisis, both of public health and our economic and financial standing.

But in recent days, national attention on this crisis has become overshadowed by the eruption of politics and intrigue, distracting Bahamians from what is at stake in the COVID-19 battle, and why they must remain vigilant in protecting themselves and one another.

After recording a leveling off of cases, The Bahamas recorded a spike in cases over the past two days, with the nation’s COVID-19 case count now standing at 92, as of yesterday.

The country is still very much in the throes of battling COVID-19, and the hardship job losses and necessary containment measures have caused for thousands of Bahamians and residents.

A pandemic of politics can do nothing but frustrate and potentially derail efforts to safeguard the country against the pandemic of COVID-19.


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