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Photo by Brian Seymour

The following statement was delivered by the Leader of the Opposition at his press conference in Freeport, Grand Bahama after his site visit to the east end of the island:


Leader of the Opposition

At Freeport Press Conference

For Immediate Release

24 January 2020

Today I am paying a general visit to the island of Grand Bahama and in particular the Freeport and East Grand Bahama communities.

I want to thank our local leadership here in Vice Chair Julian Sawyer and Assistant Secretary Chala Cartwright as well as the many branch chairs and executives, stalwart councillors and supporters who keep the flag held high on our behalf in this city. 

It is still PLP all the way!

This visit is in response to specific pleas from the people on this island that they feel neglected and abandoned by the Government. The pace of the hurricane restoration efforts seems like that of a snail and it appears that the Government is unfocused.

It must be also pointed out that there is a second layer of bureaucracy in this city. That is the Grand Bahama Port Authority. There are complaints about their performance in this hurricane restoration as well.

The Government has further confused the issue by creating a ministry of disaster relief and now a disaster relief authority and put in charge of those agencies politically divisive figures. This is quite regrettable and slows down the pace of recovery.

What greeted me today is a city that I remember as a worker in this city as being green, clean and pristine. Sadly I see too many examples of garbage along the verges and there is no excuse for that. The place does not look up to mark. This is quite incredible for a city and island that has some five FNM representatives. 

For the moment, I exclude our colleague Frederick McAlpine from the mess because I know from personal experience that he is trying his best. We cannot speak for the others.

I want to comment on some specific things about Freeport and then some specific things about our visit to East Grand Bahama.

Something must be done about the lack of international air traffic in Grand Bahama and the  tourist traffic in particular. It seems disgraceful almost six months after the storm that we do not have an adequate and functioning international airport.

I read in this morning’s press that the Government plans to buy the airport. But while in principle I believe that services of this kind ought to be owned by the Government, I am concerned that the private authorities that have the responsibility of running and managing this city are in fact abandoning the provisions of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement and simply skimming profits without living up to their responsibilities. 

Tangentially, I want to say this is clearly reflected in the state of the roads in Freeport.

Next, I want to comment on the potable water situation.

The utility company says that they are only at 25 per cent potable water supply. They claim that they will be up to 75 percent by May. This too seems unacceptable. What is required is an investment in reverse osmosis to supply this city with fresh water. It appears that the authorities here do not have the will or the capital to do anything about it.

Finally, I address the economy and the long running march up the aisle by the Government and the putative buyers of the Grand Lucayan Hotel. The purchase has cost the Bahamian taxpayer some 100 million dollars and yet today, many in the Port Lucaya market report to us that there are no sales at all during the day. Cleary something is wrong.

This evening I will be hosting a dinner for the St George’s Basketball Team and their coaches. This is part of our outreach to young people in our country and to highlight the need to invest more national resources into education and sports.

In East Grand Bahama, I found that the presence of the NGOs has been a life saver for the people of that area. The Government’s presence is minimal.

I believe that the Government can help by trying to provide resources for the fishermen of the area to get  their boats back in the water so that the bone fishing business can resume. Many of the fish houses have bene destroyed and there does not seem to be nay movement on getting them up and going. There is no reason why these fishermen should not get support and get it immediately.

Downed power lines and debris still remain an issue.

There’s no real presence in the restoration process from the National Emergency Management Agent. The Government is just now doing assessment for the restoring of electricity five months later post Dorian in East End. 

If there is any doubt it is clear that they don’t know what they are doing; they aren’t prepared to learn how to do anything; they don’t listen; they are just arrogant and think they know what’s best. 

They would rather spend their money and their time advertising fake townhall meetings when it is really a rally. They are really interested in clinging onto power as they see it slipping away from them. By having the rally this week,  the Prime Minister seems more interested in being re-elected than bringing relief or acquiring an understanding of the plight of Bahamians generally and those affected by Hurricane Dorian specifically.

Time and again we have offered to help on a national level – not just the PLP – but international agencies have criticized this government for incompetence in dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Dorian rises above partisan issues. 

People of Grand Bahama and Abaco need help. They need it urgently and this government with their incompetence needs to accept that help.