June 16, 2020
The Ministry of National Security is shocked and profoundly disappointed by the recent comments about missing people by former Minister of Health, Dr. Duane Sands.
His recent remarks in the House are particularly surprising given that as the Minister of Health he played a leading role in the Government’s Hurricane Dorian’s response and restoration. He was afforded every opportunity to voice his concerns about the process and offer solutions to improve it.
In an interview with the Miami Herald on Sunday, 8 th September, 2019, Dr. Sands called information suggesting a cover-up “false” and “unfortunate.”
In light of the aforesaid, the Ministry finds the former Minister’s most recent comments disingenuous. His comments malign the good name and reputation of the hard working men and women in uniform, who continue to this day to make sacrifices to help those families affected by Dorian.
His recent comments are misleading, and whether intentionally or unintentionally, impinge the good standing efforts of our nation in the eyes of the international community and to reopen up old wounds of a people whose lives have been shattered as a result of this tragedy.
Given the magnitude of this disaster, the Government of The Bahamas mobilized the public and private sectors, while seeking the assistance of the international community to manage the crisis.
The Royal Bahamas Police Force, by law, is the agency of Government responsible for the investigations of all persons reported missing in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
The Police, in partnership with other Government agencies, NGOs and international experts undertook the very arduous task of compiling a list of missing individuals.
From the onset, it was a known fact that some people in search of missing relatives were making reports to agencies/organizations other than the police including the Department of Social Services, the Red Cross and NEMA. The Police immediately went to work to compile a centralized list which totaled 1,092 people from both Grand Bahama and Abaco. Of the total, 34 were from Grand Bahama and 1,058 were from Abaco.
After the Police took receipt of the initial list and began their reconciliation work, they discovered that the list consisted not only of missing persons but also persons in need of housing assistance, persons reporting other crimes, persons who were displaced, and duplication of names. The number of persons falling within these categories totaled 813. The Police missing persons list currently stands at 279.
As the reconciliation process continues these numbers are expected to fluctuate. It should be noted that fluctuations after such a disaster is common as was the case in Hurricane Katrina. A National Geographic Report (16th January, 2019) noted that 14 years after Katrina officials are still trying to
determine the accurate number of missing persons. Hurricane deaths are often difficult to fully quantify and numbers vary.
The Police Force and its partner agencies will continue with its efforts which are well documented and consistent with international standards and best practices.
The Police continue to use flyers in English and Creole to encourage individuals to report sightings of missing persons; PSAs online and local media; canvass communities in Grand Bahama and Abaco; and visit shelters.
At no time was any attempt made by the Police or anyone else to delete any names off the list without first performing due diligence. If the former Minister or anyone else has information to prove otherwise the Ministry request that it be made public for all to see.
The Ministry of National Security would like to commend the efforts of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and its partner agencies for the work they continue to do to help those impacted by this incident.
Hurricane Dorian is the worst natural disaster to affect The Bahamas and it has caused severe psychological, economic and social challenges. While our Government remains committed to assisting those displaced, we are equally committed to recovering and identifying the missing.
This is important as it will reveal the fate of the victims and provide closure for the families. The Ministry of National Security has sought to be truthful and as thorough as possible in accounting for the death toll.