By INIGO 'NAUGHTY' ZENICAZELAYA
THIS week, “all buck up go” forced a full-lockdown curfew, elitism stepped forward and got pushed back, and press briefings morphed into something unrecognisable. Let’s begin.
Slackness in the Time of Corona
A little more than a week ago, Prime Minister Minnis addressed the country on the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic threatening the world. It was then that he gave Bahamians the first emergency order; practice social distancing, and stay at home and off the roads in the evenings to avoid catching (and spreading) a highly contagious and deadly virus.
True to form, “some” Bahamians decided to ignore that sage piece of advice and continued to party on our beaches and elsewhere. All of a sudden, there were photos and videos on social media showing people (you know who you are salmon pants) throwing “big time” picnics on our beaches. Some people threw “brunches.” Some people had all-star pick-up basketball games. And yes, some (younger) people decided it was the perfect time to “tun up” in nightclubs and bars like there was no tomorrow.
To say Bahamians took an “emergency order” more like a casual suggestion than an actual legal decree is an understatement. Of course, what followed was to be expected - a second emergency order that came with a 24-hour curfew. Now we’re all locked down. Now we all have to ride this pandemic out the same way the worst-hit countries have to. All because “some of yinna’’ couldn’t calm down for a minute until this thing passed. The old saying “those who can’t hear will feel” is in full effect. And I honestly feel “some of yinna’‘ need a kick in the behind to wake up to what’s happening all over the world right now.
Rules for Thee
Speaking of a kick in the behind, what was up with that letter from Albany that leaked last week? According to Eyewitness News, after that first emergency order was implemented some not-so-smart person at Albany issued directives stating that their ‘community’ was ‘exempted’ from it. Apparently, someone there also took the words of the Prime Minister as a joke, telling their members “a large portion of the Bahamas is being asked to modify their behaviour” and that Albany was “exempt” from having to “shelter in place.”
Say what now?
The last time I checked, Albany was located in The Commonwealth of the Bahamas, subject to all rules and laws of the land. Less than a day after their letter went viral, a new missive was out, and they were singing a different tune. The new letter advised their members that their spa, salon and fitness centre were closed effective that day– how inconvenient!
I know there are some that would like to think that with enough money and clout, they can flout laws that they feel only apply to the “unwashed masses.” I, too, am terribly inconvenienced by not being able to get my weekly “shape up” since my barber is closed, but am I arrogantly writing my own rules? No, I’m following the ones designed to keep us all alive. This is not the time to play the old “rules for thee but not for me” card.
If you are in this country, you follow the law. End of discussion.
Besides, by now everyone should know Bahamians will “pull your file” if you try to get slick on laws they have to follow. Plus, we know Albany is probably not the only “community” that tried (or is trying) this. All I can say to any “members communities” that are not following the emergency order is, catch yourself! Get in order before you’re the next to be aired out. Who do you think you are anyway? AUTEC?
Please Be Brief
In times like these, when governments have implemented extraordinary rules and are exercising extraordinary powers, it is almost a duty for anyone who values democracy to pay very close attention to everything leaders do and say.
For one thing, emergency orders, though justified and needed during this pandemic, are of a nature in and of themselves that they have to be kept in check by “we the people.” So I watch every press conference I can. I listen for the whisper of a breath of a slip of authoritarianism, ready to do battle. So far, most of what I have seen with the emergency orders is above board. We even get semi-regular briefings from the Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands and his team. I appreciate Doc Sands trying to keep our (stubborn) populace updated on what is happening with respect to Covid-19. And I doubly appreciate all of the very hardworking and brilliant doctors and health providers going above and beyond to keep us safe. They all deserve kudos.
But I do have a bone to pick.
The last press conference Dr Sands held prior to me writing this column was what the kids would call “a hot mess.” For some reason, Dr. Sands is holding these press briefings without fully briefing the press. Stranger still, Dr. Dahl-Regis, who is a part of the team and who seems like a brilliant doctor capable of answering many Covid questions, has somehow been cast as the press conference MC.
My question is, why? Why do we have someone up there directing questions like a kind of press air traffic controller? Or like this is “Bahamas Got Corona Talent?”
To say this format is a fail would not properly relay the level of ruin in which it rests. At the conference today, reporters were told Sands and company only had ten minutes. Then reporters were treated like out-of-order children in classrooms who raised their hands to go to the bathroom one too many times. The result was that a meagre few of the questions from our already “wee” press corps were answered.
My suggestion to whomever is ultimately in charge of public relations for the government’s team needs to get it together. Our elected official and minister of health (who happens to be a top medical doctor) should be able to field most questions from the press. All the other drama happening around these important press conferences is unnecessary.
This is not the time to be stingy on information. Important information. Life changing information. Especially when you’re trying to reach Bahamians who need to hear you and who, quite frankly, would rather be throwing brunches and picnics on the beach.
Call the Shots
I must admit that when I tuned into Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ National Address on Monday evening, I didn’t expect to be impressed. I actually tuned in for “new” political material.
Considering Doc’s’ past track record with pressers and public speaking,
I wanted to be there in the moment when he suffered one of his usual bouts of ‘“foot in mouth” disease.
Surprisingly, the first ten minutes of Doc’s address went flawlessly, and it was at that moment I realised that Doc was in rare form. He was passionate, yet firm. He meant business, and was making perfect sense. If I’m not mistaken, he even had a tear in his eye at one point.
Twenty minutes in, and still nothing, not even a hard swallow.
After thirty minutes and still nothing, I wasn’t the least bit fazed. At some point, Minnis was bound to go off script – he always goes of script – and I would have my new material.
A few biblical references later, sprinkled in with some good old fashion Bahamian jargon, Doc was at the forty minute mark of a speech perfectly executed.
So in this instance, job well done, Mr. Prime Minister. You did what had to be done for the best interest of the entire Bahamas, Bahamians, and residents alike.(And who mad stay mad).
Your performance in this regard was very reminiscent of the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – “The true measure of a man, is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but rather where he stands during times of challenge and controversy.”
Just be reminded though, Doc, if you do fool, you know how I go.