Hurricane relief efforts should be Prudent, Pragmatic, Logical and Holistic

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) joins the rest of the nation and the world at large in prayers for persons that have been displaced, dispossessed or impacted in some form by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. We are mindful that the devastation left in the wake of these storms has affected individuals both at home here in The Bahamas, the Caribbean region and the United States.

In the midst of the challenges we all face in rebuilding, it is imperative that a prudent, pragmatic, logical and holistic approach is adopted. In this regard, we note with interest the commitment made by Prime Minister, Dr. The Hon. Hubert A. Minnis to accommodate Dominican students into the Bahamian school system in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s catastrophic impact on the island of Dominica. We, in the DNA pledge to support reasonable and realistic proposals made by the Government that are aimed at assisting our Caribbean neighbors who have been devastated by natural disasters during this hurricane season.

It is the DNA’s position however, that any policy position taken on providing relief must be organized, well thought out and articulated to the Bahamian people to ensure the best possible outcome without further worsening socioeconomic conditions within our nation or negatively impacting persons that are meant to benefit from such a policy. According to reports, the Minister of Education had not been initially briefed on the Prime Minister’s commitment to the Prime Minister of Dominica, Mr. Roosevelt Skerrit to determine in conjunction with the Minister of Immigration (who had been briefed) the logistics or details of the Prime Minister’s commitment.

In this regard, we propose that every effort to provide relief to our regional brothers and sisters is outlined in a detailed proposal including: the duration of the proposal, place/islands of accommodation and the schools under consideration to facilitate the administration’s proposal. Additionally, the DNA would like Prime Minister Minnis to indicate the number of individuals (adults & children) that will be accommodated, the timeline for delivery of the list of persons to be accommodated, the process for screening the persons on the list and provision of the requisite details to the public on the policy regarding the bypass of our nation’s immigration laws and standing policies. More importantly, the DNA request further details on what if any monetary contribution will be made to accommodate this temporary policy and which line item of the national budget will be impacted as a result.

It is with regret that we acknowledge that mid-way through this hurricane season, the Caribbean region has been deeply impacted by these catastrophic storms during strained economic times. We support the government’s decision to provide reasonable and timely relief to countries impacted by these storms including Antigua & Barbuda, Turks & Caicos, Dominica and indeed our very own brothers and sisters in the southern islands of The Bahamas. We must also be mindful of the fact that there are still citizens in the central and northern Bahamas coping to put the pieces of their lives together after the passage of Hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew.

In this regard, the socioeconomic and psychological impact is real for both Bahamians and some of our regional brothers and sisters alike. Hence, it is incumbent upon the Prime Minister and his administration to take a comprehensive approach in arriving at a final policy position which includes collaboration with the Ministers of Education, Immigration, Foreign Affairs, Health, Social Services and Labour at a minimum.

Additionally, The Bahamas’ approach to disaster relief should be reasonable and calculated and delivered in the most efficient way possible to ensure a successful adjustment for both Bahamians and our proposed guests.

Finally, we strongly suggest that efforts to assist the region should be co-ordinated through CARICOM to avoid cherry-picking islands to assist, to reduce duplication of efforts and to ensure the best delivery of aid to our neighbors. In this sense, we expect our government to take the lead on such a measure. We cannot emphasize the fact that our response to the recent natural disasters that have impacted our region must be coordinated and should involve our allies in the region to ensure that the burden is borne proportionately.

Arinthia S. Komolafe