Sen. Fred Mitchell
Chairman of The Progressive Liberal Party
Leader of Opposition Business – Senate
Opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs & Shadow Attorney General
For Immediate Release
22 May 2020
We note the state funded, sponsored and recognized ecumenical service and mass burial of fifty-five victims of Hurricane Dorian held in Abaco today.
Apart from the family members of the deceased being denied the opportunity to properly say goodbye to their dearly departed loved ones, we make the following observations.
In these circumstances, established conventions and protocol norms dictate a minimum participation in and attendance of these official events by state officials that were noticeably absent. We wonder why. We know for sure that the Leader of the Opposition, a member of the government, was not invited.
Was the government physically distancing itself from this ecumenical service and if so why? The public broadcasting network also did not air this national and public event. Again we question why.
The President of the Abaco Branch of the Bahamas Christian Council delivered a remark during the service that could be interpreted as a politically partisan swipe or jeer. In our considered view, the cleric crossed the line as an official state recognized event is not the appropriate forum for these types of utterances.
This brings us to the Prime Minister’s latest amendments to the Emergency Orders issued today, Friday, 22 May 2020. Residents of Bimini, a family Island in the middle of a 14-day lockdown, are allowed to attend church services which raises the questions of whether Bimini is in lockdown or not or whether a lockdown was even necessary in the first place.
We also find it inexplicable that San Salvador and Exuma are being treated the same way as New Providence in terms of the start up of religious services. We remind the Prime Minister that there are no covid cases in those two islands.
The notion of drive up religious services seems unnecessarily complicated, particularly in the islands where there are no covid cases. But even in New Providence the Prime Minister is skirting dangerously close to interfering with freedom of worship.
This decision underscores the fact and validates the mounting levels of criticism of the government’s handling of this pandemic that its decisions are not well thought out and are not driven by evidence-based science or expert medical advice but by weighty political considerations brought on by social and political pressures.
In outlining the terms and conditions of worship, in our view the Prime Minister appeared to have crossed the line in seeking to tell the religious community how they should conduct their worship services. This in inappropriate.
The Prime Minister is reminded and well advised of the time honored principle of the separation of church and state.