NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The resignation of former Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands has sent shockwaves throughout the country, with Bahamians and residents across the archipelago expressing mixed views over the mounting controversy.
The prime minister accepted Sands’ resignation five days after it was revealed a family of six Americans had been allowed to disembark a plane in New Providence, despite the country’s border closure.
Sands took responsibility for the decision, which Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said represented a breach in protocol.
The group brought with them a donation of 2,500 test swabs – reportedly valued at $11,250.
Sands tendered his letter on Monday, noting that his continued presence on the Cabinet may serve as a “distraction” from the government’s effort to manage the spread of the virus in the country.
Yesterday morning, Cabinet ministers filed into the Churchill Building but remained tight-lipped over the issue, opting not to comment on it.
Most of the ministers whisked passed the media, save for Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd, who insisted that Bahamians can trust that the government is operating transparently.
Lloyd, who called Sands his brother and friend, categorized the series of events as very sad.
“I am greatly and the country is indebted to him for his contribution, so there’s no question about that,” he said.
“Naturally in these circumstances there is an understandable and palpable grief, certainly in my heart. He’s been a stalwart of a contributor in this land.”
Lloyd wished Sands and his family the absolute best.
“For us as government, we will continue to serve the Bahamian people,” he said.
“I’ve said any number of times, every decision that we make, every decision we made, is made with one objective because we have one goal, and that is the highest good of the Bahamian people, every decision.
“We have been honest, we have been transparent, we have been sincere, and as you can see we have also been accountable.”
Lloyd also took the time to hit back at critics.
“All of the naysayers, and you know precisely who I mean, who don’t have a moral inch of on which to stand cannot say the same and they have had the opportunity to demonstrate their moral fiber of accountability and integrity and have failed in every instance, so I don’t even pay any attention to them in any way; not the slightest piece of credibility.”
While Youths, Sports and Culture Minister Lanisha Rolle also did not want to address the issue, asked how she’s feeling after hearing the news, Rolle said, “I’m hurt”.
Information surrounding the incident continue to trickle out into the media.
The Tribune revealed in an article on Monday that Aviation Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar approved the arrival of the aircraft that brought the supplies and its passengers to the country.
Immigration Director Clarence Russell also reportedly provided the Department of Immigration approval for the passengers, the article revealed.
D’Aguilar opted not to comment on the matter yesterday, even as members of the media shouted questions as he made his way inside and up the elevation.
When asked for comment on his ministry’s involvement, Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson also chose not to address it. Johnson however insisted that “Dr. Sands is a decent and good man”.
In a message on the matter, House Speaker Halson Moultrie called the resignation “the Honorable thing”.
“In Parliament you raised the bar through your professionalism, preparedness, and demeanor,” Moultrie said.
“It took strength of character to acknowledge you’re wrong, take responsibility, and accept the consequences.
“In so doing you have distinguished yourself, particularly as a black politician. The Bahamas will miss the reassuring confidence of your voice in your COVID 19-updates.”
Moultrie added that he has no doubt Sands “will rise again to serve our nation”.
The decision to allow the residents into the country has repeatedly been condemned and has sparked from Bahamians who are stuck overseas and waiting to come home.
Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) Executive Director Matt Aubrey said yesterday that the most apt reaction thus far has been that Sand’s resignation is “unfortunate, but just”.
“I have tremendous respect and admiration for Dr. Sands and what he has done throughout this crisis to keep the nation safe,” said Aubrey.
“However, from an ORG standpoint we recognize Dr. Sands taking responsibility and resigning and the prime minister’s acceptance of the resignation as acts of good, accountable governance.
“The timing is difficult, but hard choices still have to be made in tough times.”
The health labor force has remain mum on the issue thus far, as doctors, nurses and frontline workers continue to tackle the spread of the virus.
Bahamians across social media platforms have not stopped short of expressing their opinions on the matter.
In reaction to the news, Lisa Edwards commented, “I am very sorry, this is such a horrible time for resignation. Bahamians you need Dr. Sands and Minnis at this time. Forgive him for what he has done.”
Gary Duncombe wrote, “To those who are against this have to be out their mind. It’s the principle. Bahamian people are serving time and had to pay a fee for breaking these laws…Y’all should be tired of being put second in y’all own country”.
June Moss added, “I respect you for doing the honorable thing of resigning and hope others will definitely follow in your footsteps that may also have some involvement”.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis will now “temporarily” assume the position of health minister, the Cabinet Office announced shortly before 10 pm last night.