Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell said yesterday the government has much to answer for concerning the handling of missing persons reports in the wake of Hurricane Dorian last September.
Mitchell’s statement came after former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands raised concern over what he characterized as a lack of transparency in the storm’s wake.
Sands, the member of Parliament for Elizabeth, told Parliament, “We started with a list of several thousand persons missing. That list was managed by the Ministry of Social Services. We ended with a missing persons list controlled by the RBPF (Royal Bahamas Police Force) that included fewer names than the number of unidentified persons buried.
“To this day, we do not know what happened that caused thousands or hundreds of names to be excluded from the official list.”
Mitchell called Sands’ statement “explosive and extraordinary”.
He said it is “consistent with repeated questions and calls by the PLP for the government to provide the public with an accurate accounting of missing persons. Our repeated questions and calls were met with stone silence from this government.”
Mitchell said Sands’ comments suggest a cover up.
“It is hoped that with this revelation from a former Cabinet minister and colleague, the public will finally receive the answers they sought from this secretive government for the past 10 months.
“Failing a full and frank disclosure, the Bahamian people deserve an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the planning, execution and general handling of much of the pre and post-Dorian processes.”
Mitchell said both the prime minister and his national security minister should speak to the matter.
During the budget debate in the House of Assembly yesterday, Sands said, “Let us agree to convene the coroner’s inquests to bring closure to grieving families.
“Identify and empower a single empathetic team. Separate the process from the spectre of immigration intervention. Start a public conversation and then let us apologize for getting it wrong the first time.”
At a Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) press conference last month, Assistant Commissioner of Police Solomon Cash said 33 people were still listed as missing in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.
Fifty-five unidentified remains of storm victim were buried in Abaco on May 22.
The official death toll from the catastrophic Category 5 hurricane that devastated Grand Bahama and Abaco last September stands at 74, Sands said in Parliament yesterday.