Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday denied claims that he turned down offers of assistance from two former prime ministers in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, which devastated Abaco and Grand Bahama.
In a joint press conference on Wednesday, former Prime Ministers Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie said they had offered help to Minnis, but the offers were not taken up.
But the prime minister shot back last night saying, “I was surprised when I heard the misleading remarks made by the former prime ministers on Wednesday.
“I am disappointed by this unnecessary distraction. I will only address this briefly as the country has much more important work to do.
“We as a country do not have the time for divisiveness, partisan politics or jockeying for position.
“After the passage of Hurricane Dorian, Mr. Ingraham reached out to me. An offer of a major assignment was made. He declined the offer. He also declined to meet with me at the Office of the Prime Minister.”
But Ingraham said last night, “The PM (prime minister) would have inaccurately represented the four brief conversations we had since the storm, the text messages exchanged and the email sent by me to him, which he claimed not to have received resulting in my having a copy delivered to him.
“Had he done so, he would have revealed that I advised him that I was convinced he did not wish my assistance.”
While Christie said on Wednesday he believed Ingraham — the former MP for North Abaco — would be the perfect person to lead the effort to rebuild Abaco, Ingraham said he did not see such a position being carved out for him.
Minnis said in his statement yesterday that the government has also asked Christie to serve in a position in the response effort.
“In the spirit of bipartisanship, the Cabinet of The Bahamas recommended that Mr. Christie should also be asked to serve,” he said.
“An approach was also made to Mr. Christie.”
At the press conference, Ingraham said he believed more lives could have been saved in Abaco shantytowns had people warned residents in Creole.
Minnis insisted that this did happen.
“The other thing I wish to mention is the claim that government officials did not visit shantytowns with Creole speakers to warn residents to evacuate,” he said.
“Mr. Ingraham is mistaken on that issue as well. Media reports attest to this fact.”
However, Minnis said he hopes to put the misunderstanding aside.
“It is clear that there was and still is a misunderstanding but patriotism requires us to put this aside and move forward,” he said.
Minnis’ statement did not address claims from Ingraham that hundreds of people died on Abaco.
The prime minister said the government is leading the largest natural disaster response effort in Bahamian history along with international allies and partners.
He said this is a time for the greatest volunteerism in Bahamian history.
“We welcome all Bahamians of goodwill and generosity of spirit to make their contributions to helping those in need.”