Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the Hon. Philip Davis told Abaconians that since coming into office last year, his government has done its best to ensure that the national response to Hurricane Dorian was driven by compassion. He pointed out that from the many conversations he’s had with Abaco residents over the past few years, he’s come to understand how difficult it can be to move forward, especially for those who were left without certainty about what happened to family and friends.
“Not knowing makes it so much harder to move on, harder to rebuild our homes, our businesses and our lives,” said Mr. Davis. The Prime Minister was the keynote speaker during the National Hurricane Dorian Memorial Service at Friendship Tabernacle Church in Marsh Harbour, Abaco, on Thursday, September 1, 2022 – the third anniversary of Hurricane Dorian’s landfall (September 1, 2019).
In his address the Prime Minister told Abaconians that without closure, good mental health was hard to regain.
“During the past year, we have made strenuous efforts to give an account for each person, to say what happened to every individual, but the task has been made near-impossible,” said Mr. Davis. “Since 2019, the record-keeping has been extremely poor.
“We do not know for certain, the names of those who are in those mass graves. We do not know for certain the fate of those we have not seen since the storm. We do not know for certain how all the donations and pledges have been used. What we do know is that you deserve better.
“Since coming into office last year, we have done the best we can to ensure that the national response is driven by compassion. But there is still so much more to do.
“And so the lesson for all of us, especially those of Christian faith, is that ‘remembering’ requires more than recollection. We must not only bring someone to mind, but we must then act on that person’s behalf. So today, as we remember, we are also mindful of the need to act.” As part of the act of remembrance, and as an act of respect, Prime Minister Davis said he ordered that all national flags be flown at half-mast on September 1 st.
The Prime Minister said while there is still more work to be done in the rebuilding phase, the government has done much to try and bring some closure. That work included changing the law, in relation to the presumption of death, to facilitate quicker settlement of insurance, banking and other commercial claims.
He noted that the government has also completed the Technical Phase of the new Abaco Hurricane Shelter. He said that the government has helped people begin to move out of the domes, to cleaner, safer homes.
“It has not been easy, or perfect, but it is an important step in moving forward,” said Mr. Davis. “Where the domes stand now, there will soon be new housing, which is so badly needed.
“We have just launched a revamped ‘Homeowner Assistance and Relief Programme’, to provide real, urgent help to people, and do away with the chaos, confusion and unnecessary bureaucracy which came before.
“I want to say to you today that if you think progress has not unfolded quickly enough, I agree. I could detail the budgetary and bureaucratic obstacles we faced over the last year, but these kinds of explanations are of no use to you – you need action.
“And I am glad to say, that with the changes we’ve put in place, you will be able to see, touch and feel the results very soon, especially in the housing programme. For far too many of you, this is still so desperately needed. We are going to do our best to help bring relief and comfort in rebuilding your communities.”
The Prime Minister told those who lost loved ones in the storm and who were present at the Memorial Service, one of the most difficult things about grief is feeling alone – feeling the world has moved on, while they are still mourning.
“So it is very important to me to tell you that you are not alone,” said Prime Minister Davis.
“We are with you. Bahamians across our country are right now praying with you, and for you, and for your loved ones. It is a cruel irony that the origin of the name ‘Dorian’ signifies ‘a gift’. Dorian was certainly a most unwelcome gift. But it is not the name Dorian that matters.
“It is your names that we hold dear, the names of those of you who survived to tell the story of those terrible days. And it is the names of those who were lost, or perished, that we hold in our hearts. Each first name reminds us of that individual. Their surname reminds us of their family, of who their people are. And each act of remembrance hopefully brings some comfort, and some healing.”
By ANDREW COAKLEY/Bahamas Information Services
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