Bahamas Bar Association President Kahlil Parker, QC, on Wednesday, called on the government to establish an independent public inquiry into the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, stating that the “emergency powers regime involved significant and substantive interference with the liberty” of all in The Bahamas.
He made his call for the inquiry during his address at the ceremony to mark the Opening of the Legal Year, which was held virtually, due to the high number of COVID-19 cases.
Parker said, “As a nation, we continue to grapple with the myriad logistical and legal implications of life in the midst of a global pandemic. We have, thankfully, seen the expiry of the emergency orders and have returned to, somewhat normal, constitutional function. However, as today’s fully virtual ceremony demonstrates, we remain subject to the serious public health considerations raised by a virus that is far from being in retreat.
“Yet, still, we must continue to demonstrate the fortitude necessary to see ourselves, and our fellow Bahamians, through this ordeal. The emergency powers regime ended, and the Health Services (COVID 19) (Prevention and Management of Community Spread) Rules regime commenced under the Health Services Act, on the 13th day of November A.D. 2021.
“While the impact of that transition may not be felt in our day-to-day lives, and although it was an important step on our journey to normalcy, it ought not cause any complacency on our part as guardians of the rule of law and partners in the administration of justice.”
He added, “The emergency powers regime involved significant and substantive interference with the liberty, lives, and livelihoods of every Bahamian citizen, resident, and visitor throughout its duration. It is, therefore, essential that a clear account be given of our national response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the decisions made under the Emergency Powers regime. I, therefore, call on the government to, as a matter of urgency, establish an independent public inquiry into The Bahamas’ pandemic response.”