October 22, 2019
The Disaster Preparedness and Response (Amendment) Bill 2019 will permit the Prime Minister to protect the health and safety of the people of The Bahamas by ordering the movement of persons, imposing curfews, prohibiting travel routes, ordering certain businesses to close; or by authorizing certain persons to render essential services that are required said the Hon. Desmond Bannister, Minister of Public Works.
Minister Bannister, in his contribution to Parliament, expressed support of the Bill saying it is needed “yesterday” and, once passed, will also be able to authorize steps to be taken to suppress looting, home or shop breaking, assaults anarchy, or civil disorder.
“As a government, it is our duty to protect the vulnerable and the weak, [and yes Sir] we have a duty to protect those who are not prepared to protect themselves,” said Minister Bannister.
“The challenges that the country faces are unprecedented. All of us are feeling the impact. Mr. Speaker, every member of this Parliament has to be concerned about the well-being of our people; and I know that they all are. Every time that I hear of another body being found, as I did yesterday, I think of how critically important it is for us to take this Bill seriously, and to enact it without delay. That is exactly what this caring government is doing today.
“Prior to the arrival of Dorian, the Most Hon. Prime Minister continually advised the nation of the potentially devastating impact of the storm. He pleaded with residents in the path of the storm to evacuate. Some listened and took action. Others didn’t. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister did not have the legal power to order people to evacuate prior to a disaster occurring. If he did have that power, I’m convinced that he would have utilized it in the interest of preserving lives,” said Minister Bannister.
Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis opened the debate on the Bill in the House of Assembly on October 9th, 2019. The Bill seeks to amend the Act to empower the Prime Minister to make orders that cover a range of activities or prohibitions for the protection of people.
The Prime Minister said the purpose of the legislation is to help save lives in the face of approaching storms, and to maintain peace and order afterward.
Minister of Public Works, the Hon. Desmond Bannister.
(BIS Photo/Yontalay Bowe)