Elizabeth MP and former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands is vowing to hold the Minnis administration to account, but said he is not seeking to rebuke the government and remains a part of the Free National Movement (FNM).
Asked whether the public can expect him to speak out more now that he is a backbencher, Sands, who resigned from the Cabinet on May 4, said, “It’s not about rebuke. I’m an FNM, okay?
“I want my government and my country, but more importantly my country, to thrive, to excel, to do well. And so, my country is owed not only my allegiance but my best advice. And so, there will be things that I absolutely agree with, there will be things that I don’t agree with.
“As a part of the executive, you have agreed, you have sworn an oath and, through Westminster convention, you do not disagree with a position of the government. Backbenchers are not bound to that, okay? So, it is, in the Westminster convention, the way that the executive is held to account.
“[T]his ain’t about friendship; this is not about, ‘That’s my boy’; ‘That’s my girl’; ‘Everything cool’, and I think it’s very important for us to understand our roles.”
He added, “I think it’s important that this doesn’t become an issue about Duane Sands. This is really how do we build our country, how do we improve our country. And I think if anything comes out of this that’s positive for The Bahamas, then that’s a good thing.
“My colleagues in Cabinet, they work very hard. They try their best, they give it the best that they can give.
“In Cabinet, we didn’t always get it right. Sometimes, we didn’t get it right; we got it wrong. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t try.”
Sands made the comments in a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian, and said he stand by statements he made in the House of Assembly last week regarding hundreds of names of people being removed from the list of the missing in the wake of Hurricane Dorian last fall.
Sands again suggested that the government should “reveal everything” that transpired to bring a list of around 1,200 names in October down to what police reported three weeks ago was 33.
Minister of National Security Marvin Dames has since said that 279 names are on the missing persons list.
Sands said, “I think that as a government of transparency – as we are, and historically, that has been the strength of the Free National Movement – I think we would do the people justice by a step-by-step explanation of what happened.
“The public, the grieving public, would also appreciate such an approach.
“We need to find out whether there are people who believe that their complaints of a missing person has been lost.
“All of the names of the [Department of] Social Services list, did they make it onto the Royal Bahamas Police Force list? And did they subsequently fall off because those persons were found, they were identified, they were found to be duplicate complaints, et cetera?
“Transparency and accountability is what we are about, and certainly I think it would go miles to maintain the confidence of the Bahamian public if we demonstrate; just unfold everything, reveal everything. Just how did we get from here to here to here?”
Sands has called for coroner’s inquests to be convened and for the Minnis administration to apologize for how it handled this critical matter.
Dames, in his statement on Sunday, said that no names were removed without the police “first performing due diligence”.
He also called the comments “disingenuous”, as he said Sands had opportunities to voice concerns at the time, when he was minister of health.
But Sands claimed that he did speak to the matter at the time, adding that as a member of Cabinet, there are things he could not say under Westminster rules.
“There are many comments that I would have made in the [media] as to this, but there is another caveat,” said Sands, whose most recent comments came before the statement from Dames.
“That is, as a member of Cabinet, I agreed to, was bound, and still am bound by, secrecy and collective responsibility. And certainly, there are things that I could say, and things I could not say.”
Sands added, “I’ve spoken about it, and I think it’s important to know that these things are ventilated in camera, in private and, sometimes, publicly.”