The Bahamian public learned today that the Prime Minister has decided to grant himself a new extension of his emergency powers, to the 28th of May, allowing him time to secure approval from his yes-men in Parliament to prolong his current emergency authority for another six months.
With the Prime Minister’s own Attorney General acknowledging that necessary health measures could be enacted via ordinary legislation, Bahamians understand that any move to extend the emergency powers has more to do with the state of Hubert Minnis’s political health rather than with the state of public health.
This isn’t complicated: Minnis is scared. He does not want to debate COVID measures in Parliament, he wants to act without having to defend his decision-making. He is worried that he cannot point to science or common-sense to justify the restrictions on the public. He certainly does not want scrutiny of how, and with whom, he has spent pandemic funds.
We are in the middle of a deeply concerning third wave. Because this government spent most of the second wave locking Bahamians down instead of building health care capacity up, we are facing this new wave of COVID cases with a severe shortage of nurses.
Because this government failed to aggressively source vaccines or to earn the trust of Bahamians, we are lagging behind many in the region in vaccinations. One example: Barbados, with a much smaller population, has administered 75,000 vaccinations – The Bahamas, only 36,000.
We have a Competent Authority who has failed to consult Bahamians doctors on the front lines, who has failed to make testing free, even as FNM insiders benefited from pandemic spending, and has failed to take steps to prevent or mitigate this third wave.
In other words, this government does everything possible to make herd immunity unobtainable, then tells us until it’s achieved, they’ll keep their emergency powers and hide the details of their pandemic spending.
The Progressive Liberal Party supported the initial Emergency Measures, as necessary for the government to gain footing during a new crisis. But that was some 17 months ago. With new variants circulating, among other challenges, COVID will be with us for some time. Transparency organizations have warned for some time that crooked governments could use COVID to grant themselves the power to spend without accountability. That is what is happening in our country today.
The PLP supports the enactment of health measures that can be supported by science, but we cannot support the continued suspension of civil liberties through an extension of the state of emergency.