JUSTICE JEANNE THJOMPSON SAYS: Eggs on our faces over travel ban reversal

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27 July 2020

Dear Editor,

On July 22, The Bahamas government banned all commercial flights to The Bahamas save for those originating in the United Kingdom, the European Union and Canada.

This meant that commercial flights emanating from the USA, where most of our tourists come from, would not be allowed.

In an attempt at damage control, much air time was used to let US citizens know that they were not banned as they could come by air charter or private yacht. Big deal.

On July 24, this position was reversed, the Office of the Attorney General announcing that because of treaties and the Chicago Convention there was to be parity so the embargo was released. However, all persons arriving in the country had to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Subsequently, at a press conference on July 24 held by the Ministry of Health, the prime minister was asked by a reporter if the reversal in policy had been dictated by pressure from the US. The reporter was referred to the message from the AG.

I anticipated follow-up questions from the other reporters, which never came. I wanted to know, as I am sure other Bahamians were wondering the same things.

For instance, why, when treaties and a convention were in place, was the embargo made? Why wasn’t the PM reminded by the relevant ministers or the senior civil servants of these obligations when he decided to place the embargo? Or did he not confer? Were these matters brought to the attention of the government by the US?

In any event, we have been left with egg on our faces, and the possibility of tourists not coming to The Bahamas because of the 14-day quarantine and closed beaches.

Most vacations don’t last as long as 14 days.

Further, by making the embargo in the first place, it can be construed that we treated our neighbour to the north in a manner befitting one of the countries their president lives to hate, the s-hole variety.

We like to shout about our sovereignty, but without the US we would have a problem with food supply and tourists for our number-one industry. I await the repercussions.

On another note, with no or minimal tourists and no planes flying, and Bahamasair staff having to consider possible deferments of salary, how do we justify appointing a parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation at this time?

In light of the appointee’s work in social outreach in his constituency, if he had to be rewarded, social services would seem to be a better fit.

 Jeanne Thompson