Former PM Christie was also approached to serve, says Minnis
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday he was surprised and disappointed by former Prime Ministers Perry Christie and Hubert Ingraham’s “misleading statements”, which he called an unnecessary distraction.
“The Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas is leading the largest natural disaster response effort in Bahamian history along with our international allies and partners,” Minnis said.
“As a government, we are completely focused on helping to restore the lives of the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama after this catastrophe.
“I was surprised when I heard the misleading remarks made by the former prime ministers on Wednesday. I am disappointed by this unnecessary distraction. I will only address this briefly as the country has much more important work to do.
“We as a country do not have the time for divisiveness, partisan politics or jockeying for position.”
With thousands displaced and the death toll rising, amid a humanitarian crisis left in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, former Ingraham and Christie said they were willing and available to assist in any capacity that could be utilized given their combined experience.
However, Minnis said after the passage of the storm Ingraham reached out to him and an “offer of a major assignment was made, but Ingraham declined the offer.
The prime minister said Ingraham also declined to meet with him at the Office of the Prime Minister. He said in the spirit of bipartisanship, the Cabinet recommended that Christie be asked to serve and an approach was made.
“It is clear that there was and still is a misunderstanding but patriotism requires us to put this aside and move forward,” the prime minister said.
During a joint press conference Wednesday at Odyssey following a tour of Abaco, Christie recommended a special unit be created with legislative authority, to assist the government because “one man cannot do it”. He suggested the relief efforts in Abaco be led by Ingraham, a former member of Parliament for North Abaco for over 30 years.
He said the another unit should be created to lead efforts in Grand Bahama. Christie said the units would report to the prime minister, so there was no question of control, but it would be “foolish” not to recognize the strength of the recommendation.
Christie added if the prime minister did not act on the recommendation, history would judge him very harshly.
Responding to the recommendation, Ingraham said he spoke to the prime minister following the hurricane and offered his assistance in any form. He said the prime minister thanked him for the offer and would get back to him. He did not mention an offer being made by Minnis.
Yesterday, Minnis also asserted that Ingraham’s suggestion that had the residents of The Mudd in Abaco for example been warned in their native language more people would have evacuated, as “mistaken”.
Ingraham said there is a misconception that those residents are illegal immigrants. Eighty per cent of those residents have some form of legal status, according to a recent report.
Minnis said, “The other thing I wish to mention is the claim that government officials did not visit shantytowns with Creole speakers to warn residents to evacuate. Mr. Ingraham is mistaken on that issue as well. Media reports attest to this fact.”
The prime minister has named former National Insurance Board Director Algernon Cargill and permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jack Thompson as hurricane coordinators in Abaco and Senate President K. Forbes Smith as the coordinator for relief efforts in Grand Bahama.
“I am heartened and deeply grateful for the extraordinary number of Bahamians and foreigners who volunteered to help and are helping the government and charitiesin response to Hurricane Dorian,” Minnis ended the statement. “I thank all who are contributing their time, resources andtalents
“As I have said in my addresses, this is a time for the greatest act of volunteerism in Bahamian history. We welcome all Bahamians of goodwill and generosity of spirit to make their contributions to helping those in need.”