July 21, 2021
ATTORNEY Wayne Munroe said the Minnis administration cannot implement COVID-19 restrictions of any kind if the state of emergency is allowed to expire.
In the last week, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis and Health Minister Renward Wells have indicated the government will let the Emergency Powers Order lapse on August 13 without renewal.
This has surprised many observers as hospitalisation numbers are rising and the country is experiencing a spike in cases, while questions about whether the Delta variant of the virus is in the country remains. According to data released by health officials on Monday, 81 people are hospitalised with COVID-19, 12 of whom are in the intensive care unit.
Although vaccine hesitancy remains high, Dr Minnis suggested last week that in removing emergency restrictions, the plan is to rely on getting more people vaccinated.
But Mr Munroe – a PLP election candidate – said without the state of emergency the government cannot restrict people’s fundamental rights.
“Their ability to talk about controlling the movement of citizens of The Bahamas is contingent on the state of emergency being in effect,” he said. “To create these curfews and other restrictions that require you to infringe on people’s rights you have to rely on that constitutional provision or create laws allowing it to be done. For instance, the Constitution allows you to infringe on people’s fundamental rights for health reasons but there are no statutes in place right now to do that. What they would have to do is to pass the statutes allowing it and they haven’t done so. Other countries did it, but they didn’t.”
Attorney General Carl Bethel has previously indicated the government is drafting ordinary legislation to deal with COVID-19. However, Parliament went on its summer recess before any such bill was tabled and passed.
Mr Munroe said: “Either they are just pretending they meant to let Parliament break without extending the state of emergency or this is part of a planned early election ploy. I don’t think any sensible person believes they are stupid enough to think you don’t need some order and since they haven’t put in place any statute and Parliament is on recess, there’s only one way of dealing with this and that’s making another proclamation.”
Mr Munroe said the administration could release a new Proclamation of Emergency when the current one lapses.
“That proclamation would be good for 14 days, after which the Governor General would summon them back to Parliament to extend the period,” he said.
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