Q. Has COVID-19 threatened the nature of Bahamian Independence?

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By: An Opinion of Faith

Wednesday, July 8, two new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed by the Prime Minister.

We learned hours after that one of the cases was that of an illegal Haitian national. He was among thirty others interdicted by the U.S. Coast while on an attempt to forge a new life in the United States. It is unclear who the second confirmed case is. However, for a few worrisome moments there, Grand Bahamians, and Bahamians at large, held our breaths as to the potential
implications of the new cases.

Our Independence Celebrations, like some of our civil liberties are already restricted even though hard working civil servants and health officials with the cooperation of our Bahamian citizenry, have already flattened the curve of this destructive
pandemic.

Disappointment looms for the thousands who adorn themselves in patriotic colors, and look forward to attending the national observance of the day The Bahamas gained self rule from its colonial head. This year we will all have to cling to our computers, cell phones or television sets to enjoy the Independence celebrations. Covid-19 has made us a virtual society. And we are virtually, up to out necks with rules and threats of punishment should we break the rules. This week, the Prime Minister also shared that beaches in New Providence, and Grand Bahama are off limits for the long holiday weekend.

In his own words the Prime Minister

boasted, “The Bahamas has been a model nation so far in our handling of the pandemic because

we locked down early and are now trying to gradually reopen. 


An embattled Prime Minister, in an attempt to be empathetic shared this on the 8th in Parliament as he made his contribution to the debate on the resolution to extend the Emergency Powers (Covid-19 Pandemic)(Special Provisions) Order, 2020 to July 31, “I understand people’s disappointment of not being able to go to the beach on the holiday weekend.  I was once young also. 

However, our decisions are for the protection of Bahamians, residents and visitors to our shores. 
We have considered the representations made by our partners in the Tourism Sector. The decisions taken have been done so soberly, and in conjunction with the health advisors to the Government.”


The Prime Minister also certainly took the time to sing his praises on his handling of the crisis and now economic fallout, which comparatively was not as disasters us as some nations, like our great neighbor to the north-west. But there was still an air of old wisdom about it – that admonition that “self praise is no recommendation!’ In his own words the Prime Minister
boasted, “The Bahamas has been a model nation so far in our handling of the pandemic because
we locked down early and are now trying to gradually reopen. 

We have been widely praised internationally, news which has apparently not reached some quarters, including the Opposition, which seems to be deaf and blind to any news that does not suit their agenda. 
Mr. Speaker: My Government took the crisis seriously from the beginning. We imposed restrictions early and moved to closures, physical distancing, masks, curfews and lockdowns, though these quick measures were criticized by some. Together, we stopped the virus in The Bahamas during the first wave.  During this pandemic we have not made decisions in order to pander and to posture for personal political gain. We want our people to live! I want our people to be healthy and safe!”


Not all Bahamians share the Prime Minister’s view. The Opposition’s take on the Government’s handling of these troubling times is starkly different. They are an Opposition that sometimes has under the threat of being muzzled or denied equal time in the Halls of Parliament to voice their concerns? Philip Brave Davis, Opposition Leader believes that this government’s incompetence
is “dangerous”, and he sites two reasons for it, “The first is that the government is not doing enough to protect Bahamians as we reopen our borders. And the second is that the government is not prepared to shield Bahamians from the worst of the economic crisis.”

Throughout the implementation of the emergency orders, the Opposition has also pleaded with the government to be scientific, transparent, and where there were breaches by ordinary citizens, lenient. The former advocate for Amnesty International, has attempted to be a watchdog for the rights and freedoms of Bahamians. At his weekly press conference last Tuesday, Mr. Davis warned, “The greater the infringement on civil liberties, the greater. The responsibility of the Prime Minister yo provide sound scientific justifications. When the government restricts the freedom of movement of its citizens, it had better have a good
reason,”

Current restrictions and complications remind us of days gone, when these same rights and freedoms of the ordinary majority in The Bahamas were compromised by more tangible elements. Unfair wages, segregation, denial of the right to vote, and conventional rules about the livelihood of most Bahamians led to frustrations which could no longer be contained in the late 40’s to late 60’s. The quiet revolution as it was called was born of feelings similar to those resulting from lockdowns and curfews, and the subsequent economic fallout from this tyrant which cannot be seen with the human eye. Ironically, typhoid fever swept through The Bahamas in the early 1940’s just as World War ll impacted and reshaped economies around the world.

But all of this sparked something wonderful and resilient about the emerging Bahamian spirit. We know the story, the strikes, the formation of the PLP, the deepening of democracy, the various voting rights victories, the intensification of the movement, and majority rule in 1967.

But the culmination and truly happy beginning from a past rooted in injustice and struggle, came on July10, 1973, when a new flag was hoisted to the sound of a new national anthem, as the monarchy through Prince Charles, joined a Black Prime Minister in the birth of a new nation.

Forty-seven years later, a pandemic has cast judgment on our performance as an Independent country. It is alleged that Sir Stafford Sands left The Bahamas, having expressed doubt that Black people could successfully run the affairs of an Independent Bahamas..

COVID-19 seems intent on proving him right. More than 100,000 Bahamians struggle daily to find their next meal. Too many of us are mired in poverty or just at its threshold. Fifty percent of the revenue from the economic pillars upon which we depend have been decimated, and unemployment is set to reach that same marker. The moral and patriotic ethos are strained. There is a lack of needed unity and collective vision throughout leadership roles, adding to an overwhelming stench of national uncertainty. And to top it off, Independence like so many other areas of national life, is virtual.

Yet, if history teaches us anything, we have proof that out of chaos the Bahamian spirit and experience always rise stronger and better than before. We have also seen this in our historical response to natural disasters.

How then do we truly commemorate Independence in the time of the upheaval of normal due to a menacing virus?
We life up our heads – that’s hope
To the rising sun – that’s new opportunity
Bahama-land;

March on to glory – that’s perseverance and determination ;

Our Bright banners waving high – that’s national pride and ingenuity.

See how the world – that’s an international context

Marks the manner of your bearing – even the world knows our potential

Pledge to excel – that’s a commitment to be our best

Through love and unity – we will only overcome together!

Steady sunward – that’s focus

Though the weather hides the wide and treacherous shoal – that’s blind faith
So lift up your heads, to the rising sun Bahama-land

‘Til the road we trod – that’s a journey of continuity

Lead unto our God – that’s a divine destination
March on – (keep on keeping on) Bahama-land!!!!!

Everything we need to continue to justify our move to Independence is within us and within what is natural to our country. We just need to transform the energy of fear and uncertainty into creativity and progress. We can in our present generation, ensure that no child ever has to worry again about his or her next nutritious meal or fresh drink of water. We can continue to ensure that healthcare is accessible and affordable or free. We can put relevant cutting edge education at their fingertips, free of charge. We can deconstruct our urban areas and provide affordable housing around opportunities on other Islands. And we can adopt community renewable energy solutions to keep all Bahamians lit in this 21st century Information Age. This is how we will secure the next generation of Bahamians who will be charged to own and secure more of their economy.

The Bible teaches us an elementary lesson – that trials come to make us strong. Our history testifies on our behalf that we are a peculiar and chosen people, and our faith in God has carried us safely through thus far. This Independence let us see COVID-19 for what it is, a muscle enhancer, a confidence builder, a status quo shaker, and an unraveler of another layer of reimagined self rule.

Wave those flags and show those colours, and while you’re at it, share a meal, and hug somebody, if you can

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY, BAHAMAS!

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