Elizabeth MP and former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said the mass burial of 55 unidentified victims of Hurricane Dorain on Abaco last month was done respectfully and was not “premature”, but that unanswered questions still must be addressed for the nation to heal.
Appearing as a guest on “On the Record” with host Jerome Sawyer on Our TV on Thursday evening, Sands said, “There was a meeting held at Bethel Baptist Church on Meeting Street.
“I was present, along with Minister Iram Lewis and a number of senior permanent secretaries, when I had an opportunity to brief the families.
“As the senior-most member of government, I did most of the speaking. And certainly we were aware of the anguish that was being conveyed by the families because there were a number of people who felt their loved ones were in the refrigerated cooler, but because there was no identification or no match that they were never able to get these remains and get closure.
“So the issue of the identification process, the DNA, what happened and why is it that people could have believed in their heart that their loved one was there, but we could never confirm, and so all of those remains were buried as unidentified persons.
“So, when you look at this process, I think the human suffering of survivors is one of the most poignant parts of my memory of Dorian, having been an integral part of my interaction with the people in Abaco.
“You’ve heard a lot of things said, some of it is true, some of it is not true; and the burial was done even with unanswered questions. It was, I believe, a very respectful process.”
When asked if he felt the burial was “premature”, Sands added, “I don’t believe it was premature.
“I think, like I said, that we have some unanswered questions and those unanswered questions once they’re answered, they will help all of us collectively to heal.”
Sands also said he believes the coroner’s inquests that he has called for regarding storm victims “are going to be very important to help people get closure”.
He called for the inquest during his contribution to the 2020/2021 budget debate in the House of Assembly on June 11.
At the time, Sands said thousands of names of people reported missing after Dorian were removed from the official list after police took responsibility for that aspect of the storm’s aftermath, but no explanation was ever given for why the list was “pruned”.
Some people have since questioned why Sands is calling attention to this now, but he insisted that it was not done as an attack.
“What’s happening [with] this thing is, the well is being poisoned with innuendos and allegations and urban legends and so on and so forth,” he said.
“And at no point in time, if you go back to my parliamentary contribution, or even now, am I making any disparaging comments about any of my colleagues, or about the actual events that took place. That said, there are gaps and those gaps need to be closed.”
Sands added, “The truth will set you free. Whatever we come up with, is going to be to the benefit of the Bahamian people.”