Editorials

There is no need for Dorian celebrations

The third anniversary of Hurricane Dorian’s landfall in The Bahamas is less than a month away.

On September 1, 2019, Dorian hit Abaco, then Grand Bahama, reaping calamity not seen in this country in living memory.

In the aftermath, scores were found dead, hundreds were reported missing and more than $3 billion in damage was wrought.

To add insult on top of injury was the Minnis’ administration’s response to Dorian.

An agenda of self-aggrandizing puffery, scapegoating of vulnerable migrant populations and the creation of even more bureaucracy that proved even less effective for, and neglectful of, the people who needed help the most followed.

In opposition, the Progressive Liberal Party railed relentlessly about the mismanagement of the response to Dorian.

While the current administration has been meticulous in detailing the ways in which the former administration failed, it has done little to distinguish itself as being more intentional about Dorian relief and recovery since last September.

It has, to its credit, passed an amendment to the Evidence Act, which provides for the presumption of death for people who disappear “in circumstances of peril” and have not been heard from for at least two years.

This provides mental and legal closure for many who lost loved ones to Dorian.

It has spoken about removing the costly domes erected in the aftermath of the storm but has given no definitive date for that.

It has signed a contract to build the hurricane shelter the previous administration failed to build that was to be constructed chiefly with money from the government of India.

And it has spoken repeatedly with regard to the contracts given to those connected to the Free National Movement.

It has not, however, presented a plan on the way forward for Abaco and Grand Bahama.

It has not adopted or announced plans to adopt the recommendations that came out of a coroner’s inquest into the fate of 22 people declared missing in the aftermath of Dorian.

In May, six recommendations were included in the findings of Coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez: develop and implement a missing persons call center; establish a mobile national mortuary unit; establish a national forensic morgue separate from Princess Margaret Hospital; invest in amphibious craft to better assist people during hurricanes; incorporate a national mass fatality team; and make preparations to ensure that victims, staff and volunteers receive professional help to reduce the adverse impact on their mental health.

To our knowledge, none of this has been set in motion by NEMA or the DRA.

However, gleefully announced by Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Press Secretary Clint Watson last week was a week of “celebrations” meant to memorialize the passage of Dorian.

Among the events will be a concert featuring gospel superstar Cece Winans on New Providence on September 1, followed by a concert on Abaco on September 3 and another on Grand Bahama on September 4.

“These events have been planned taking into account that some Hurricane Dorian survivors have relocated to New Providence and would like to participate in the memorial,” OPM said, pointing out that the New Providence concert is “being sponsored by the private sector”.

While Cece Winans will no doubt put on a great show, we wonder why anyone thought a concert in recognition of the death, destruction and still present trauma of Dorian will be appropriate.

No series of concerts will repair those whom Dorian has broken, as they get up every day going through the motions and shells of who they used to be.

And it will not repair or build homes, but the money spent to hold the concerts could.

Nor will it build mental health service capacity for Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Memorials are supposed to be understated affairs, reverent and respectful of trauma, loss and the resilience of survivors.

But what appears to be planned is a Hollywood-style spectacle of a memorial announcement that does not give the victims of Dorian their just due.

On top of that, it is exploitative and disrespectful to put New Providence at the forefront of Abaco and Grand Bahama with regard to Dorian yet again.

Save for those who escaped with their lives and the people who helped them do so, we see nothing to celebrate about Hurricane Dorian.

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