Acting PM Cooper assures Mayaguanians of government’s commitment

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(BIS Photo/Anthon Thompson)

Acting Prime Minister, and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation, the Hon. I. Chester Cooper, Wednesday (September 21) assured residents of Maygauana that the Davis Administration is committed to meeting the needs of all citizens who find themselves in vulnerable situations.

The Acting Prime Minister’s assurance came during a meeting with island residents, Local Government Officials, members of the island’s Disaster Consultative Committee and other stakeholders at the conclusion of a field visit to Mayaguana to personally assess any damages that may have occurred as a result of the impacts of Tropical Storm-Force conditions associated with Hurricane Fiona. The island received minimal damage.

Forecasters at the Bahamas Department of Meteorology had forecast that the island would receive “minimal Tropical Storm-force conditions associated with the passage of Hurricane Fiona.”

Mr. Cooper arrived at the airport in Abraham’s Bay accompanied by Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Obadiah H. Wilchcombe; Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs with responsibility for Local Government, the Hon. Clay Sweeting, and Mr. Joel Lewis, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development. The Acting Prime Minister was met by Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response, the Hon. Myles K. LaRoda; Minister of State for the Environment, the Hon. Basil McIntosh; Mr. Alex Storr, Chairman of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA), Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister’s Disaster Management Unit, Mr. Carl F. Smith; Captain Stephen Russell, Director, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), and Mr. Neil Campbell, the Acting Director of Local Government, in addition to Senior Government Officials from across the government sector, including the Royal Bahamas Police and Defence Forces, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Local Government, Bahamas Power and Light and the Ministry of Works.

Officials on the ground off-loaded supplies of water and tarpaulin flown in by the National Flag Carrier, Bahamasair, for distribution. The delegation’s assessment tour took them to Pirate’s Well, Betsy Bay and Abraham’s Bay, assessing infrastructure such as the dock and the Reverse Osmosis (RO) Plant in Betsy Bay. The Plant services Betsy Bay and Pirate’s Well. Abraham’s Bay has its own Reverse Osmosis Plant.

Acting Prime Minister Cooper said the presence of “a full team to perform the assessment” was a further indication of the Government’s commitment to, and support of, the citizens of Mayaguana in this instance, and indeed, the entire Bahamas “I am here today to demonstrate, on behalf of Prime Minister Davis (Prime Minister, the Hon. Philip E. Davis, K.C.,) who is out of the country, our Government’s commitment to and support of, all of the people across the Commonwealth of The Bahamas whether you live here in Mayaguana, or Ragged Island or anywhere in MICAL, or whether you live in New Providence, you have a government that is committed to the well-being of all of our citizens,” Mr. Cooper said.

“It is important that we came today to demonstrate that support; that we came in good numbers to demonstrate to you that you are not going to be forgotten, and so we brought a full team to perform this assessment. We were delighted to see and hear that there was no major damage. We did look at your dock (and) clearly we recognize that there is some work to be done. We checked out some of your major infrastructure and we do see some work that needs to be done, and we acknowledge that there are some roofs across the island that will be in need of some repairs. I am advised by Captain Russell (NEMA Director, Captain Stephen Russell) that we did bring some tarpaulin in today on Bahamasair. We are going to ensure in short order that you have as many of those as you need for temporary fixes, but we also acknowledge the need for ongoing support to ensure that you are restored back to pre-Fiona levels.

“We understand that the issues of immediacy right now relate to food and water supply, and so we are going to be working along with the mail boat company, if necessary, (to further ensure these needs are met); we are going to cause Bahamasair to come back and bring supplies if need be.

With that said NEMA, of course, is committed to doing all that is within its remit to continue to support the people of these islands and the people here in Mayaguana.”

The Acting Prime Minister told residents that the matter relative to both of the Reverse Osmosis Plants needing back-up generator systems will be addressed. The island’s water supply was interrupted due to a loss of power.

“Notwithstanding it is good quality and modern equipment, there is need for a back-up generator. They are reliant completely on the BPL facility and if we have a situation that BPL is down; if we have a back-up facility, it doesn’t mean that we have to lose our water supply as well (and) so that is something that we are going to be looking at in relation to both of the R.O. Plants. Minister McIntosh has expressed that this is a matter of concern for the people of Mayaguana and we are going to see what we can do about it.”

Acting Prime Minister Cooper said the government will do all that it can to address the island’s needs with regards to the dock in Betsy Bay and the Airport.

“We came, we saw, we acknowledge the need. The Ministry of Works’ Senior Engineer is here. He will take back his report, we will discuss it with the Minister responsible and we will do all that we can to restore the dock. In these islands, roads and docks are critical infrastructure and we will make every effort as quickly as we can to restore the facility and even make it better,” the Acting Prime Minister said.

“Let me also say in relation to the Airport which falls within my remit (as Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation,) and I can say to the people of Mayaguana, that we are going to be looking very closely at building a small terminal here much like what we did in Ragged Island to ensure that (you) have the same level of comfort for air travel as we have in other Family Islands. I think that is a model that we can duplicate. It was indeed distressing what we saw there and we are going to do something about it,” Acting Prime Minister Cooper added.

By MATT MAURA/Bahamas Information Services

(BIS Photos/Anthon Thompson)