NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Senators debated and passed the government’s three post-Dorian response bills yesterday.
The bills passed include the Disaster Preparedness and Response Amendment Bill, 2019, the Hurricane Dorian (Replacement of Government Issued Documents Exemption from Fees) Bill, 2019, and the Harbour Dues Amendment Bill, 2019.
As he contributed to the debate on the disaster preparedness bill, Senator Kwasi Thompson yesterday defended the government against ongoing criticisms over its recovery and relief efforts.
The minister of state for Grand Bahama made an emotional appeal to members of the opposition to stop politicizing the matter.
“We could have our political debates and I’m fine with having a political debate, I give my political punches just as good as I get them,” Thompson said.
“But for this one, this is not one that we should have any kind of politics with respect to this one.”
The orders in the disaster amendments bill provides for mandatory evacuations, curfews, and restriction of movement in certain areas for a period of time.
The bill also provides for orders declaring relief from the disaster, including a rebate of business license fees, waiver of value added tax, exemptions from excise tax or tariff tax, and waiver of any other fee, levy or tax payable under any law.
The opposition did not support the disaster preparedness bill in its current form.
Opposition Senator Clay Sweeting insisted that the criticisms of the government have not been based on politics.
“The government must realize that constructive criticism helps improve governance,” Sweeting said.
“As members of her majesty’s loyal opposition it is our responsibility along with the many NGO’s operating in the affected areas (who by the way, in the absence of government presence are playing major roles in the current recovery efforts both in Abaco and Grand Bahama) to highlight our frustrations with the government’s disaster preparedness protocols and their failures in the execution of their constitutional responsibilities.
“The prime minster as leader of NEMA must stop dodging, blaming and delegating his legislative responsibilities.
“He must come to the realization that the buck stops with him and all of the successes and failures with the handling of hurricane Dorian must fall at his feet.
“We are not criticizing only because of politics, we do so because real people are hurting and they need real attention and assistance.”
Sweeting, who aided efforts in the Abaco Cays immediately after the storm, said that restoration efforts in Grand Bahama and Abaco are “moving at a snail’s pace”.
“Many of these communities are still finding it hard to repair homes because they cannot get supplies,” he said. “I know, I’ve been there.”
Hurricane Dorian devastated parts of Grand Bahama and Abaco from September 1 -3, leaving thousands displaced and hundreds missing.
The official death count stands at 67, but authorities have said that number is expected to rise.