AG rejects suggestion that new proclamation unconstitutional

Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday he doesn’t accept attorney Wayne Munroe’s assertion that only one state of emergency can be declared per event.

“Mr. Munroe needs to show where the law says that,” Bethel said.

Bethel cited Article 29(4) of the constitution: “A proclamation of emergency shall, unless it is sooner revoked by the governor general, cease to be in force at the expiration of a period of 14 days beginning on the date on which it was made or such longer period as may be provided under paragraph (5) of this article, but without prejudice to the making of another proclamation of emergency at or before the end of that period.”

Highlighting the latter part of the article, the attorney general said, “This is my answer to Mr. Munroe.”

A state of emergency was declared on March 17, following the country’s first case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The prime minister as the competent authority then moved forward with emergency orders restricting the movement of residents, closed the borders and issued other provisions to stem the spread of COVID-19.

In the House of Assembly on June 29, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis gave notice of a resolution to extend the initial state of emergency from June 29 to July 31. The government planned to debate the extension the following day.

However, the emergency proclamation and accompanying orders expired midnight — hours after Minnis gave notice that an extension would be debated the following day.

Bethel accepted responsibility for the “procedural oversight”.

As a result, Governor General C. A. Smith declared a new state of emergency on June 29.

On June 30, Munroe told The Guardian, “When you look at Article 29, your rights are affected when we’re at war and that’s an actual war and not this supposed war on COVID or when you have a proclamation of an emergency. Then, you go over to 29(5) and a proclamation for any event can only be extended a maximum of six months.

“So, when the governor general makes a declaration that has a life of 14 days and within that 14 days Parliament extends it and Parliament can do a cumulative extension of up to six months per state of emergency, we say you can have one state of emergency per event.”

However, Bethel shot that down yesterday.

“There is no mention of the need for there to be a new, a different or another separate emergency,” he said.

“Under the Emergency Powers Act, the Houses must affirm all emergency regulations. They may refuse to do so; which could provoke the need to make a new proclamation and regulations before the end of the first proclamation.”

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