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Sands: Govt “squandered credibility” over Dorian deaths

After shedding collective responsibility along with his cabinet post, former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands transformed into a bold and ballsy backbencher who isn’t afraid to highlight the Minnis Administration’s many missteps, particularly in the wake of catastrophic Hurricane Dorian.

He bluntly stated that the government’s decision to spread responsibilities across multiple ministries and agencies was “a recipe for disaster” and suggested a coroner’s inquest be held to help bring long overdue closure to countless grieving families.

“We did not handle the identification of those who lost their lives or those still missing well,” Sands said in his first contribution in the House of Assembly since resigning from the Minnis cabinet.

“Let us agree to convene the coroner’s inquests to bring closure to grieving families,” he said.

According to Sands, the official death toll post-Dorian stands at 74 but the actual death toll and reconciliation of missing persons remains unknown.

“I fear that we have not sufficiently elevated this matter as a national priority.

There was too little focused attention and management of the issue of missing and deceased persons. Responsibility was spread over multiple ministries and government agencies. It was believed that this would ensure greater clarity. In action, it proved to be a recipe for disaster.”

Sands said the government must look objectively and honestly at its approach to missing persons and deceased persons.

“Let us dissect the process used to arrive at the official count of 33 even as many more families mourn missing persons.

“We started with a list of several thousand persons missing. That list was managed by the Ministry of Social Services. We ended with a missing persons list controlled by the Royal Bahamas Police Force that included less names than the number of unidentified persons buried.”

He said to this day, it is unknown what caused thousands or hundreds of names to be excluded from the official list. He said there may be reasonable, justifiable reasons for “pruning the list” but those reasons and process have not been shared and explained to the public.

“Because of that process, we have raised many questions and squandered credibility,” according to Sands.

He added that people want to know why there are no DNA matches for those persons recently buried and the public deserves to know how many samples were taken, how many times those samples have been tested and by whom?

55 Hurricane Dorian victims were recently buried in Abaco as grieving family members watched and cried from a considerable distance. Eight months after the tragedy, the caskets bore numbers and the graves had no names. There was a general consensus that the burial was handled disgracefully and without regard for the dignity of the dead or the feelings of their already traumatized families.

“If we are to get closure as a country, we must accept the loss, outline the process used, admit our missteps and operationalize systems to do better,” according to Sands.

“Perhaps this is simply because we continue to exist in an environment where information is not shared with the public freely, openly and frequently.”

What an interesting observation from a former member of an administration that prides itself on accountability and transparency.

The former minister of health said the country has not completed the grieving from Dorian and added that incomplete grieving was interrupted by the covid-19 crisis.

“But that grieving debt will have to be paid, either pay it now or we will pay it later.”

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