Emergency order allowed to expire
I listened in shock as the attorney general, Carl Bethel, took responsibility for the government’s failure to extend the emergency powers order, which expired last night.
He said that all the fault for the oversight lay with him. He claimed that he and his office had been distracted by the budget and had forgotten to prepare the necessary resolution for debate and adoption in the House of Assembly.
That is ridiculous. What government functions in this way?
The country has been under a state of emergency for some 15 weeks because of the threat that COVID-19 presents to our well-being. As a result, we have lived under a state of emergency with curfews, lockdowns and emergency orders issued by the prime minister as the competent authority. He determined when we could move and where and when we could work, shop, exercise or worship.
When he assumed the health portfolio a month or so ago, he also took over the direction of our medical response to COVID-19.
Given the role being played by the prime minister in this emergency, I have to believe that all matters connected to COVID-19 are standing items on the Cabinet’s agenda.
If we had a truly functioning government, the matter of the extension of the COVID-19 emergency order would have been the subject of a Cabinet paper. I would expect that at least a week before the expiration, a decision would have been taken by the Cabinet on its extension.
That decision would then trigger the preparation of the necessary resolution for the attention of Parliament. Further, it would have prompted the government to initiate discussion on the resolution with the Opposition, so that its tabling in the House would have been expected.
Now I understand the governor general signed a new order late yesterday. I hope the police do not arrest or charge anyone for violations under that order. I do not believe it is lawful.
To claim that the emergency order expired and that no one in the government was paying attention amounts to an admission of dereliction of duty by the entire Cabinet, beginning with the prime minister, who holds primary responsibility for the conduct of the government he leads.
– Sam Cooper
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