By LEANDRA ROLLE
HOUSE chair Patricia Deveaux yesterday claimed she saw nothing wrong with her criticism of National Emergency Management Agency director Captain Stephen Russell and saw no need to excuse.
In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, the MP for Bamboo Town explained that her rebuke of Captain Russell was out of concern for the residents of her constituency and the Bahamian people and not for political reasons.
She also advised people to learn to accept constructive criticism to “get stronger and do better” when there is a need for improvement.
“My thing is that,” she said, “and it wasn’t political, and it wasn’t personal to me.
“It was me acting in my capacity as the deputy of Bamboo Town, okay. When I entered the Bamboo Town area, it was first and foremost a disaster.
“It was not a mop and broom situation. What I was up against and what I mean by that is that we could sweep up the water and clean the floor and clear up the whole thing. When I spoke to Mr. Russell, it was past seven. My indication is this – disasters and disasters do not happen between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., ”she added.
“It could happen just overnight. If it was midnight, I would have gotten out of bed and gone down to any place in Bamboo Town (the) disaster would have happened, there with the voters and called for the necessary services to help relieve the citizens of this country. That’s what I was hired for. »
Ms Deveaux continued: ‘All he had to say to me was ‘Ms Deveaux, I’m in the field but here’s someone else’s name – Jean Doe, John Doe from NEMA. This is their number and maybe they can come down and get you some help and if all else fails here is an emergency response number you can leave for your constituents where they can get some level of contact even if something untoward happens throughout the night’.”
Speaking from her chair in Parliament last Thursday, Speaker Deveaux issued a scathing rebuke to Captain Russell after he claimed the NEMA official had failed to respond effectively to his pleas for help following the damage caused by a tornado in his riding on Wednesday.
While she admitted that various agencies had responded to her pleas for help, the MP for Bamboo Town singled out NEMA and its director as absent.
Speaker Deveaux said when she spoke to Mr Russell, he directed her to the Department of Public Works.
However, in a statement released hours after his speech, NEMA defended the agency’s response to the event.
The agency described efforts it said were underway after the tornado and also assured the public that the director was engaged throughout the process.
As a result, some – including the opposition – called on the Speaker of the House to issue an apology in view of the episode.
At a news conference on Friday, Opposition Leader Michael Pintard told reporters that what happened in the House of Assembly on Thursday was most “inappropriate” and unfortunate.
He said: ‘Let me say at the outset that we believe every MP, including the Speaker, has the right to speak on behalf of their constituents and we all get emotional when we think something has happened to our voters and that needs to be addressed. .
“But what we have to be careful of is that in speaking on behalf of our constituents we are not doing so at the expense of others and unfortunately we felt that the way NEMA Captain Russell was characterized was the most inappropriate and unfortunate..
He also said parliamentarians must be careful not to “characterize negatively” defenseless citizens and former officials who are not in the House of Assembly defending themselves.
“The President owes Captain Russell an apology,” he added.
However, President Deveaux said she stood by her statements and did not believe an apology was necessary.
“Why am I apologizing?” ” she asked. “Because I’m asking someone to act. What am I asking? I ask him to muscle up and fix it. Listen to all my comments and I told him to fix it because you know during hurricane season it’s been there for many years.
“It’s been there for so many years and it’s been through so many other tunnels and disasters. When such an unforeseen tornado hits, let’s take action. I’m calling for action. That’s all I asks and I don’t see anything wrong with my comments asking because if a hurricane were to hit and we had something larger in scale is NEMA ready?”
The MP for Bamboo Town also noted that the backlash she has received will not deter her from speaking out and speaking out on issues of concern in the future.
“Listen, I took the oath,” President Deveaux told this newspaper. “My oath is to make sure I bring help and hope to a group of people who have had no hope in the system and have lost faith in it and as long as I have a voice and my voice comes from my chair, I will use it. president for the benefits and benefactors not only of my constituents, but also of the citizens of this country.
“You as a national and national entity and a national agency that covers not only here, but the islands family. Let’s fix it now and we have to be able to accept constructive criticism. Criticism is there to make us stronger and to do better,” she added.