Attorney General Carl Bethel withdrew the latest proclamation of emergency from the Senate on Friday morning after the opposition questioned whether the parliamentary sitting was properly constituted.
Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate Fred Mitchell raised the issue shortly after Bethel tabled a proclamation of emergency from the governor general that saw the new state of emergency start on Tuesday.
“We are asking whether this meeting is properly constituted for the purposes of laying this proclamation today and we have examined article 29, sub article 3 of the Constitution and it seems to require certain specific things to be done in order to convene the Senate with regard to the laying of this particular proclamation,” Mitchell said.
Article 29 of the Constitution states: “Where any proclamation of emergency has been made, copies thereof shall as soon as practicable be laid before both Houses of Parliament, and if for any cause those Houses are not due to meet within five days the governor general shall, by proclamation published in the gazette, summon them to meet within five days and they shall accordingly meet and sit upon the day appointed by the proclamation and shall continue to sit and act as if they had stood adjourned or prorogued to that day provided that if the proclamation of emergency is made during the period between a dissolution of Parliament and the next ensuing general election.”
Mitchell asked for clarification.
“I am asking whether or not the governor general has published in the gazette a summons for the Senate to be here today for the laying of this proclamation within the five days and, if not, are we properly constituted to be here this morning? That is the question I raise,” Mitchell added.
Following Mitchell’s intervention, Bethel moved for the Senate to suspend for several minutes. Once proceedings resumed, Bethel informed senators that he required more time to ensure the process was lawful.
“We don’t want to take chances with the constitution and on that note, I would wish to do two things, I would wish to withdraw this tabling with your consent, if I may have the consent of the House to withdraw it,” he said.
The Senate is expected to resume at 3 p.m.
This is the latest hiccup in a series of issues with the emergency proclamation.
On Monday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis gave notice that at the next sitting of Parliament, which was Tuesday, he intended to move a resolution to continue the COVID-19 emergency order to the end of July.
But the emergency order became void at the end of the day Monday, creating a quandary for the government.
A proclamation of a new state of emergency came from the governor general Monday evening, not long after Bethel took “full ministerial responsibility” for what he called an “oversight” in not having the resolution to extend the state of emergency ready in time.
UPDATE: When the Senate resumed, Bethel tabled the measures after the reading of a proclamation by the governor general. The Senate adjourned to Monday at 3 p.m.