By Arinthia S. Komolafe
STATEMENT| The Bahamian people have been subject to a roller coaster based on the events surrounding the breach of the Emergency Powers Order involving permanent residents who donated COVID-19 test swabs. ’The double standard which has left Bahamians stranded abroad and subject to restrictive rules while others have been punished for breaking rules has resulted in an outrage within the nation.
We submit that the Minister of Health could not have acted alone and the government must be made to account for the involvement of various Ministers or ministries in this fiasco. This is why we are calling for an independent investigation and probe into this scandal. The following questions must be answered:
- Did the donors of the test swabs require that the government grant them entry to The Bahamas as a condition of the donation?
- Were the test swabs properly obtained and cleared in the US before being shipped to The Bahamas?
- Were the swabs inspected for quality assurance purposes and determined to be safe?
- According to The Nassau Guardian, the Director General of Civil Aviation did not approve the disembarkment of the permanent residents. The Tribune reported that the Minister of Aviation stated that civil aviation approved the flight with his approval. Can the Minister of Aviation explain this disparity?
- Was there a flight plan and flight manifest for the flight that brought the individuals and swabs? If not, why? Was there a breach of civil aviation protocols?
- The Tribune reported that the Minister of Aviation advised the Health Minister that he needed the approval of the Department of Immigration and the Immigration Director approved the request. Can the Minister responsible for immigration explain why the approval was given in spite of the Emergency Order in force?
- The Customs Department falls under the purview of the Minister of Finance and oversees the clearance of goods entering the country. Will the Finance Minister confirm that this took place and clarify whether any exemptions were provided and any other items were brought into the country?
- If all of these arrangements were made and discussions took place in advance of the arrival of the permanent residents, how could the Ministers involved and the Cabinet of The Bahamas claim ignorance of this event and the number of persons on the flight? Who advised the Health Minister that there were two and not six individuals on board? How could the Prime Minister as the Competent Authority have been in the dark throughout this whole process?
- It was reported that the Immigration Department required the passengers to have tested negative for COVID-19 before entry to The Bahamas. Why was this not complied with and why were the individuals tested after arrival in The Bahamas? Who circumvented this requirement?
The Prime Minister has indicated that he would address the nation regarding Dr. Sands’ resignation and would announce his replacement. We submit that this press conference must not take place behind closed doors. The PM has some explaining to do and he must face the media and reporters to answer to the Bahamian people. Dr. Sands has resigned but many unanswered questions remain. The referenced Ministers responsible for Aviation, Immigration and Customs have cases to answer.
The public want to know whether the donors of the test swabs would not have proceeded with their goodwill gesture without any strings attached. Would they have withheld the swabs if they were not promised entry into The Bahamas? These passengers may also have to be questioned to verify the terms of their entry into the country.
The Bahamian people will be watching to see whether the Prime Minister of this nation will promote integrity in Governance and provide the Bahamian people with the necessary answers.
Democratic National Alliance