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PLP still has questions after Sands’ resignation

The Nassau Guardian May 6, 2020

Jasper Ward

While noting that the opposition will seek explanations from other Cabinet ministers, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis said yesterday he found it “difficult to believe” former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands acted alone when he made a controversial decision to allow six permanent residents to disembark on New Providence, a week ago, and quarantine at home while the borders remained closed to Bahamians.

“What I’m saying is that it is very difficult to believe that Dr. Sands would’ve acted alone,” Davis said during a press conference at PLP headquarters.

“The mere fact of all the ministries that had to be involved for the end result of the matter, it gives me comfort that others should’ve known or ought to have known.

“If they didn’t know, they were negligent in their own duties; so, for example, permission had to be given for the flight to come in, that’s the Ministry of Aviation.

“We heard that the director of aviation, he himself did not give that permission and it seems as though it was the minister himself who did. Well then, he ought to speak as to the circumstances as to which he, as the minister, instead of the director, gave that permission.”

The decision to allow the permanent residents in was revealed by The Nassau Guardian last Thursday as hundreds of Bahamians who are stuck abroad were told they would have to quarantine at a government facility upon arrival to The Bahamas and would have to show COVID-19 negative test results before being allowed in.

Davis said the opposition has asked for explanations from all of the government ministries and departments involved in the matter.

“There are still many questions to answer. We believe that there are other minsters who have to explain and account for what happened in this matter,” he said.

“The persons who entered had to get the permission of the Civil Aviation Authority, the immigration department and the customs department. This means that the ministers of aviation, immigration and finance have explanations to give to the country for the conduct of their departments.”

Davis added, “If [Tourism Minister Dionisio] D’Aguilar was a part of that, then certainly we will have to examine it to determine whether the same call will be made for him as we made for the minister of health.”

He said the attorney general “must say” whether any laws were broken.

Former Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe connected the government with the permanent residents.

Yesterday, when asked about Wilchcombe’s involvement in the matter, Davis said, “I have nothing to say about that. I know that the government has been asking for persons – if they have any ideas or any suggestions – to send them in.

“If Mr. Wilchcombe, as a citizen, provided Dr. Sands with information, I don’t know if that goes any further than that. I don’t know the context in which they spoke. From what I’ve seen, it appears Mr. Wilchcombe would’ve made the introduction and that was about it.”

Sands resigned from Cabinet on Monday. This came hours after The Tribune carried comments from him stating that he had no intention to step down.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said that protocol was breached when the six people were permitted to disembark. Sands had initially said there were two people who disembarked and were permitted to go home to quarantine.

The opposition welcomed the resignation as well as the prime minister’s decision to accept the resignation.

Around 9:30 last night, the prime minister announced that he has assumed responsibility for the health portfolio.

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