Bahamas Bar Association President Kahlil Parker, QC, this week called for the establishment of an independent public inquiry into the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic under the numerous states of emergency that gave rise to the competent authority’s rule via emergency powers from March 2020 through November 2021.
“The emergency powers regime involved significant and substantive interference with the liberty, lives, and livelihoods of every Bahamian citizen, resident, and visitor throughout its duration,” Parker said during the Opening of the Legal Year on Wednesday.
“It is, therefore, essential that a clear account be given of our national response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the decisions made under the emergency powers regime.”
While Parker’s intentions appear pure, we think it best we all move on.
An expensive inquiry about why arbitrary decision after arbitrary decision was taken, without the backing of any science we could see, by the last administration that led to the needless suffering of so many, would likely be fruitless at this point.
We understand the gist of what happened – government politicians, scared witless of a pandemic that scorched the Earth, meekly handed sole control of the governance of this nation to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis who wielded that power like a bludgeon much to the detriment of the Bahamian people.
Dissecting why Minnis did what he did would likely only unearth trauma that most Bahamians would like to forget.
And while in May of last year, Parker did call for an end to the emergency powers, and a return to governance through statute law, the Bahamas Bar Association did not seem motivated as a body to do anything about it when law offices reopened the year before.
If he so chooses, Parker could call on the current administration to table in the House of Assembly the details of spending outside of normal public procurement procedures as was required by law.
Knowing where the people’s money went would be more useful than knowing why Minnis put the people through what he did.
When in opposition last year, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis vociferously called for the details of who was awarded contracts to be made public; PLP Deputy Leader Chester Cooper made repeated calls for the same.
Now, holding the two most senior posts in government, Prime Minister Davis and Deputy Prime Minister Cooper have scarcely made mention of the issue.
Davis is now minister of finance. If he is to be taken seriously, he should table this information at the next sitting of Parliament, inclusive of the funds spent in this manner from when this administration came into office last September until the expiration of the last emergency order.
Cooper, who scored countless political points from wailing the last administration over its unwise decision to purchase the Grand Lucayan resort, is now minister of tourism.
He should table the amended agreement the government was negotiating with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and the ITM group, as well as the details of the $150 million reportedly spent since the government acquired the property.
Then, as was suggested earlier, let’s move on.
We are in the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen the swiftest rise in cases since the beginning of this ordeal.
We have hospitals that are reaching capacity with a shortage of nurses, despite the expected arrival of 50 nurses from Cuba in the coming days, and an additional COVID-19 treatment facility due to open by next month.
Thankfully, the level of serious sickness and death in this latest wave has been low so far.
We are also in a situation where this administration, much like the last administration, has yet to open public schools for in-person learning.
While the Bahamas Union of Teachers and the government bicker over who has the better plan, children continue to suffer.
The minister of education bandies about numbers on absenteeism but, without hard data, it is guesswork so far.
We suspect the number of children who have not attended school, or have simply dropped out for good over the past two years, will be shocking, if ever revealed.
The Davis administration has had enough time to learn the lay of the land.
And though great transformative change is not expected in just over 100 days, we find it odd that the prime minister would use his time speaking at the 31st Bahamas Business Outlook yesterday to remind us all of the poor decisions made by the former administration and questioning business owners about what they plan to do to more fully participate in the economy.
We remember quite well the last administration, prime minister – it was not so long ago.
It is time for you, as it is time for us all, to move on.