Hon. Philip Brave Davis, Q.C, M.P.
Cat Island, Rum Cay & San Salvador
Leader of The Opposition & Progressive Liberal Party
Good morning to the media, our supporters and friends and especially my Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador family who are tuned in to our continued national dialogue with the Bahamian people on any number of national issues affecting their daily lives.
Before going further, once again I extend a heartfelt thanks to all essential workers, who, after all these weeks, continue to work tirelessly to protect us all. We are so grateful to you for what you are doing. We continue to hold you in our prayers, and pray that you and your families remain safe and well.
1. UNFAIR APPLICATION OF THE EMERGENCY ORDERS
The Progressive Liberal Party welcomes the resignation of the now former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands and the acceptance of that resignation by the Prime Minister. It was long overdue and should be a lesson to this Government that notwithstanding their super parliamentary majority that no one is above the law.
For weeks, the Prime Minister was deaf to the cries of hundreds of Bahamians who have been trapped abroad, out of money, with nowhere to live. The Prime Minister insisted, INSISTED, that the borders remained absolutely shut, with no exceptions.
There are still many questions to answer. We believe that there are other Minsters who have to explain and account for what happened in this matter.
The persons who entered had to get the permission of the Civil Aviation Authority, the Immigration Department and the Customs Department. This means that the Ministers of Aviation, Immigration and Finance have explanations to give to the country for the conduct of their departments.
The Attorney General must say whether or not the criminal law was broken in these circumstances and what is to ensue if the laws were broken.
We understand that this is not the first occasion on which certain persons have been allowed to fly in on their private aircraft, while once again, ordinary Bahamians are left stranded abroad.
Were the export laws of another country violated by bringing the Covid tests into The Bahamas?
To pass the smell test, it is imperative that the Prime Minister and his ministers fully account to the Bahamian people and answer truthfully these questions.
Ladies and Gentlemen: These issues have only deepened the trust deficit between this corrupt FNM government and our people.
2. ASSISTANCE TO ORDINARY STRUGGLING BAHAMIANS
For the thousands of Bahamians suffering financial hardship and economic challenges due mainly to the COVID-19 Emergency Orders, the Prime Minister’s national address on Sunday offered little help or hope, if any at all. 3
There is still too much bureaucracy that is standing in the way of people receiving help. As we have said for many weeks now, the government needs to act to make sure our people do not suffer unnecessarily.
Actions, not words.
This singular, compelling issue that strikes at the dignity of our people continues to be of grave concern to us.
There was no encouraging news on better and more social services to the poor and marginalized, and nothing substantive on getting cash into the hands of thousands of displaced workers.
The Food Distribution Task Force commissioned by the Prime Minister is apparently still in the phase of collecting data and talking with their local and international partners while the cry for food and other assistance grow stronger each day.
The so-called rental assistance program is woefully inadequate. This program defers debt owed by tenants for up to twelve months, but offers no relief for displaced workers with no income. Further, landlords – many of whom hold mortgages on their rental properties – are at risk of defaulting on mortgage payments. This program has to be revisited. If the government can see its way to save owners of large business enterprises as much as $500,000 annually, surely the government can offer subventions to affected tenants and landlords.
3. LOCAL GOVERNMENT
I wish to point out our party’s concern for what is happening in the Family Islands, particularly as it relates to Local Government Administration. The Minister announced in February that Local Government elections are to be held on the 20 May 2020. It does not seem to us that these elections can take place given what is happening in the country. The Government needs to say whether given the emergency, they intend to proceed with elections because the mandate of Councils expires on 30 June 2020.
I am also concerned about the following:
The Government has asked all local government authorities to send all money not expended back to the Treasury. This is part of the Covid 19 strictures. However, Local Government Councils are still being asked to perform core functions that require funding and there are pending contractual arrangements which likewise require funding.
I am advised that there are some islands and districts that are without a lawfully appointed Administrator. These appointments would seem to be more crucial in the midst of the Covid 19 crisis.
If Administrators are to head the Covid-19 Task Forces on the islands who is leading as there are reportedly no administrators in these districts: City of Freeport, East Grand Bahama, North Eleuthera, Spanish Wells, Harbour Island and Sweetings Cay.
5. THE REOPENING OF THE ECONOMY
We note that the Prime Minster unveiled a chart in the House of Assembly when it last met on 27 April 2020 without dates to reopen the economy. We think that the economy should be opened based on evidence. There should be a balance between the need to protect life and the need to provide everyone with a livelihood.
The Government has opened up certain businesses with restrictions. We are monitoring this carefully. The southern islands are especially grateful for the opening. However, some of our supporters in Andros and in my own constituency in San Salvador and Cat Island are looking toward the opportunities in the field for crabbing as the season comes upon us. There has been no reply there.
There is the argument by the residents in those islands demanding to know if some islands can be opened in the south, what prohibits the others from being opened.
There has been no reply to the vendors at Potter’s Cay and Arawak Cay for permission for take-out business while other restaurants have been allowed to do so.
Some church leaders met with the Prime Minister and thought that there was an agreement to allow the return to worship spaces and general religious gathering like funerals with the restrictions of limited numbers, hand sanitizing and physical distancing.
There is a need for these matters to be reviewed. We need to know what is the plan Mr. Prime Minister?
I thank you for your attention, and now invite your questions.