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Sands says he was asked to resign

Elizabeth MP Dr. Duane Sands said Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis asked him to resign as minister of health.

His comments came three months after he resigned amid controversy.

On Sunday, while appearing as a guest on the Love 97 FM talk show “Jones and Company” with host Wendall Jones, Sands was asked whether he was asked to resign.

He replied, “Yes.”

When asked if he was fired, Sands said, “Semantics, Mr. Jones. At the end of the day, I am no longer a Cabinet minister.”

He continued, “I believe that this was something that got away. This was never intended to rise to this level and there was a certain anticipated set of optics, that a letter of resignation is tendered, it’s refused, it’s nice and tidy and we move on.” 

Sands offered Minnis his resignation from the Cabinet on May 4 after The Nassau Guardian reported that permanent residents — later revealed to be six people — were allowed to enter The Bahamas and isolate at home while the borders remained closed to Bahamian citizens.

A day before Sands’ resignation, the prime minister noted that protocol had been “breached” when the decision to allow the permanent residents to disembark was made.

Some members of the public criticized Minnis’ decision to accept the resignation amid a worsening COVID-19 pandemic.

On Sunday, when asked whether he got along with Minnis, Sands said, “Define getting along. We were not drinking buddies by any means. We did not go out to dinner. But, certainly, we had a working relationship.”

He added, “What I can say is that Duane Sands made a decision back in 2016 that I would support Hubert Alexander Minnis as the leader of the Free National Movement and then subsequently as the prime minister of this country and Duane Sands did exactly that. Whether there was that mutual feeling and action I can’t say.”

Sands expressed disappointment in the Ministry of Health’s accomplishments during his time in office.

He said he thinks more could have been accomplished.

“I don’t think that health got the level of funding support that it should have gotten, that it deserved,” Sands said.

“I don’t believe that a number of the challenging and vexing problems were dealt with adequately. For instance, we had an opportunity to dramatically change the breadbasket. If you recall that process, it was a heated [and] impassioned public discussion and at the conclusion I don’t think we went anywhere as far as we could have.

“The fact that corn beef remains on the breadbasket is symbolic of the inertia in terms of the movement to adjust the surge of chronic non-communicable diseases in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”

He added, “Let me be very clear that the decision making of the prime minister plays a tremendous role in the ultimate direction of the Cabinet and the budgetary allocation.

“I believe there were priorities of the Minnis Cabinet that did not put health near the top of list, certainly not during the first three years of this administration.

“Now, I notice that there has been some significant changes since demitting office and I’m happy to see that and perhaps now health will get its fair share of the budgetary allocation. Why that is the case? I can’t say. I think the thing speaks for itself.”

In the months following his resignation, Sands has sought to hold the government “to account” as a backbencher in the House of Assembly.

On Sunday, when asked whether he would serve as health minister again if asked, Sands replied, “I think that ship has sailed, Mr. Jones. That ship has sailed. That opportunity was there. I would have made commitments subsequent to reengage in practice.

“Those commitments to my family, to my patients, to my practice — some of them are incredibly expensive commitments to rebuild a practice, which had been put on the back burner for three years. If I had to do it again, I would do it again.

“It was a tremendous privilege to serve, but you don’t stay in limbo forever.

“And so, if there is an opportunity to provide service in a different way, [then] absolutely, Duane Sands is there.” 

Renward Wells now serves as minister of health.  

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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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