NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Health Minister Dr Duane Sands has suggested there may be changes to the seven-year rule on death certificates for missing people.
His comments outside Cabinet on Tuesday indicate a shift in the government’s position after Attorney General Carl Bethel dismissed a suggestion by Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis to amend the law last week.
Sands said: “I think if there is overwhelming evidence that somebody is missing as a result of the storm then some considerations should be made. What that timeline should be, should it be six months or a year, that is when discussion with all the stakeholders will come up with an appropriate time line.”
”We have started that discussion,” Sands continued.
“I believe the Attorney General would have made a few comments about it. Bear in mind this is this is not something you can just pull out of thin air. It requires consideration of the implications. What would happen if they declared Duane Sands to be dead and then six months later he shows up. Does he get to return his real property, does he get to pay back the life insurance on his life? These are serious questions.”
Under the current law, there is a seven-year period before anyone can be declared dead in absentia.
Davis was contributing to the debate on the proposed amendments to the Disaster Preparedness and Response Act, when he suggested the government turn its focus to amending other relevant laws, like death certificates for missing people.
The Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador MP suggested an amendment to allow for people declared missing from Hurricane Dorian to be presumed dead after the passage of six months from the date that the person was last seen, but noted that time period could be adjusted based on consultation and best practices.
Bethel yesterday shut this proposal down in an interview with Eyewitness New Online last week.
“That would then create a presumption of death and no person should be presumed dead by act of Parliament, merely because of convenience,” Bethel said at the time.
The attorney general insisted there are already methodologies in the country’s law for death certificates to be obtained in an expedited fashion with judicial oversight and “not by virtue of some artificial parliamentary presumption after six months”.
Yesterday, Sands said: “While there is a need for closure, I think we have to be very careful that we think this through very carefully. I suspect what will happen is we come up with an intermediate, a consensus position. I don’t know what that time is.”