NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Abaco We Rise cofounder Denalee Penn-Mackey yesterday called for the entire Cabinet to apologize to Bahamians for their handling of the missing people in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.
Penn-Mackey’s comments follow a heated exchange between National Security Minister Marvin Dames and former Health Minister Dr. Duane Sands in Parliament yesterday.
The dispute has been brewing since Sands made damning revelations last week over the issue, and Dames responded in a statement expressing his shock and profound disappointment in his former Cabinet colleague.
“It is downright sickening to watch this back and forth between the former Minister of Health and the Minister of National Security,” said Penn-Mackey, in a statement.
“It is despicable that both men, that were at the helm of this crisis, find it reasonable to banter in the public without any regard for people’s suffering and the loss they have experienced.
“The only question I can ask is who are these men and have they no soul?”
She scolded the government for the disservice to Abaconians and people lost during the storm.
“It is already terrible that five government agencies, inclusive of the Office of the Prime Minister, cannot give an exact amount of missing people,” she said.
“The people of Abaco deserve more and they have not asked this government for anything that is so seismic that it cannot be measured.
“This singular incident has not only brought pain and suffering to Abaconians but it has now become an international black eye for the entire Bahamas, as it has been trending in the news in both North America and Canada.”
Last Thursday, Sands admitted that the government mishandled the identification of those missing and killed during the Category 5 storm in early September – noting responsibility was spread over multiple ministries and government agencies.
He acknowledged that no explanation had been given on how hundreds of names were excluded from an early list of people reported missing and called for a coroner’s inquest to bring closure to grieving families.
In a statement on Sunday, Dames said he was shocked and “profoundly disappointed” by Sands’ comments, which he called “disingenuous” and “misleading”.
He advised that the number of missing people in the wake of Hurricane Dorian currently stands at 279, and not 33 as advised by a senior police officer last month.
Dames told reporters outside Cabinet on Tuesday that he could not say why police gave that number, and urged the public not to “get fixated” on the issue, noting that the numbers will fluctuate from time to time.
But Penn-Mackey insisted that the suggestion by the national security minister was flippant.
“The minister seems unapologetic, out of touch, and obviously lacks the respect for human decency,” she said.
“While those missing are simply numbers to him, those numbers represent for the people of Abaco, a lost aunt; Ms. Astrid Stratton, a lost mother brother and cousin of Ceta Saintville, Myiesha and Jendaya, both missing children of the Edgecombe family.
“I am sorry to tell the minister that we cannot stop ourselves from being fixated nor can we stop the grief that we feel after being abandoned by our government.”
Pointing to the new hurricane season, Penn-Mackey said the greatest concerns remain the access to homes, electricity, and water; the mountains of debris piled up in some communities, the lack of reinforced shelters on the island; and a plan for possible mandatory evacuation.
“The people of Abaco require direction at this time,” she said.
“They require a government that is making preparations to ensure that they never have to relive the experiences of Hurricane Dorian ever again.
“My prayers are with the people of Abaco and I have committed all that I can in aiding their restoration. Hopefully, one day, the closure will come for the people of Abaco and all of its cays, as it relates to Hurricane Dorian, even if that closure simply comes at the polls in 2022 when they repay this government by booting them out of office.
Penn-Mackey urged Sands to lead the government’s apology.
“This entire administration should hang their heads in shame and Dr Sands is right, they should all apologize; starting with Duane Sands, as he cannot cleanse himself of his collective wrongdoing.”