A state of emergency has existed in The Bahamas for 13 months and counting.
This has permitted the prime minister, as the competent authority, to restrict the movement of all individuals found in The Bahamas, to shutter schools, businesses and places of worship or otherwise limit operating hours and the numbers of individuals allowed to congregate in such places – all with a view to curtailing the spread of the coronavirus.
Behaviors, particularly in public, have also been prescribed dealing with the attendance at the funerals of loved ones, wearing of face masks, social distancing and frequent washing or sanitizing of hands.
Also, protocols have been established and enforced dealing with COVID-19 infections in places of business, schools and the like. Invariably this involves the quarantine/isolation of the infected individual(s) and all those with whom they have had close contact for more than a prescribed period of time. As well, affected locales are temporarily closed to permit deep cleaning and sanitization before the resumption of “business as usual”.
The majority of members of the House of Assembly have willingly agreed to the continuation of these protocols each time the prime minister has sought their concurrence to continue the emergency.
Recently, we have been disturbed by the alacrity with which the prime minister and his parliamentarians, followed by the leader of the opposition and his members, have chosen to ignore the protocols imposed on Bahamian businesses, schools and churches by them when they move about the country campaigning for what continues to appear to be a certain snap general election.
Last week it was revealed that the clerk of the House of Assembly has tested positive for COVID-19 and that in addition to his staff, most members of Parliament were exposed to him during the last sitting of the House.
One would have expected that immediately the established protocols created by the government, endorsed by the House of Assembly and enforced by law enforcement and the public health sector would have applied. This most particularly so because we have been in a third wave of the pandemic for the better part of the last month.
Surprisingly, this does not appear to have been the case. And, as the government has made no public statement on the matter, the public remains in the dark as to any steps which may have been taken to safeguard the health of those who are required to work/attend the precincts of the House of Assembly.
The House of Assembly is not the first public office to be affected by staff exposures to the disease. A wide variety of ministries and departments have been closed for varying lengths of time and staff sent home to quarantine following COVID-19 exposures while deep cleaning and sanitizing of offices have been undertaken.
Not so for members and staff of the House of Assembly.
Last Wednesday, the House met as scheduled. After scolding the government and particularly the prime minister and repeating his list of grievances, the speaker adjourned the House.
So, once again the Bahamian public had to witness incompetence and pettiness in the conduct of their affairs.
As a consequence, the government’s intent to table and pass a bill by April 30 to amend the Securities Act and assist in influencing The Bahamas’ ranking in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business” listing was thwarted.
It is unconscionable that the political discord between the prime minister and the speaker of the House of Assembly should be played out in public. They must become civil and respect each other’s position.
The sorry state of political leadership in the country is appalling. Perhaps it is time that the government be returned to the people.