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Woman decries double standard in govt’s return home policy

Days after it was confirmed that several permanent residents were permitted to enter The Bahamas on a private flight and quarantine at home, Renette Harding’s elderly parents and 19-year-old son are still awaiting permission to return home on a charter flight after weeks of being stuck abroad.

“I just wish I could plead to the prime minister to show some compassion because it’s very stressful,” Harding said yesterday.

She has been attempting to bring her parents and son back to The Bahamas since the border closed on March 27.

Last week, Harding wrote to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis requesting permission to bring her family home from Florida on a private plane. But she said the letter hasn’t even been acknowledged.

“I have not heard back from the prime minister or his office,” she said.

“They have not even acknowledged receipt of my letter, let alone sent a response.”

Harding added, “It’s very frustrating, and I’m very disappointed. I don’t understand the prime minister’s position on this, because it appears to me that residents seem to have more pull than a Bahamian citizen.”

Her comments came on the same day that an Eyewitness News online report confirmed that Lyford Cay resident Betsy Dingman returned to The Bahamas from California on a private plane last week after being stuck in the United States for five weeks.

According to that story, Dingman did not say who specifically approved her return, but said she “filed the right papers and got the right protocol”.

Harding, meanwhile, told The Nassau Guardian, “… I took the time to write a letter asking permission for my Bahamian citizen parents to enter the country. I didn’t ask him to bring them in, per se, but that they would have permission to return to their home where they grew up.”

After weeks of criticisms against the government over having the borders closed to Bahamian citizens and permanent residents, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday Bahamasair will fly 190 of them to New Providence and Grand Bahama tomorrow.

The ministry said all of them have tested negative for COVID-19.

Harding also said her parents tested negative for COVID-19, but she is hoping her elderly parents can come home on the private charter given that they are in the high-risk group.

She is, however, afraid to arrange a charter for her family without permission from authorities in The Bahamas.

“They have been in contact with the consulate and have been tested, got results back, got an email saying that they were negative,” she said.

“But our intention is, because they are 79-years-old, to have them come back on a charter flight. But I am afraid to have them, at that age and having gone through what they’ve gone through in the past five or six weeks, to then go to the airport to get on a charter and be denied.

“And we have yet to have confirmation from the consulate that they are approved to get on said charter.

“So my anxiety now lies in, do we go ahead? You know, I don’t know.”

Last week, The Guardian revealed that two Bahamas permanent residents who are American citizens (later revealed by the prime minister to be six people in total) were allowed to land on New Providence.

Dr. Duane Sands, at the time minister of health, took responsibility for allowing them to disembark and quarantine at home as they donated 2,500 COVID-19 testing swabs to the Ministry of Health.

Unlike Bahamians abroad seeking to get home, they were not required to test for COVID-19 prior to coming to The Bahamas.

The matter led to Sands’ resignation from the Cabinet on Monday.

 The prime minister had said those returning would have to quarantine at a facility guarded by Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers.

Amidst the controversy involving the permanent residents, he announced on Sunday that Bahamians coming home will now have the option to quarantine at home.

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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