Declaration of new state of emergency immoral and unconstitutional

Dear Editor,

The government of The Bahamas has clearly lost sight of what is decent and morally justifiable with the declaration of a new emergency order to possibly extend for an entire six months.

This new declaration of a state of emergency comes after more than nine months of emergency orders and curfews, that have shut down the economy, and left many Bahamians reeling from unemployment and a new normal that is not so comfortable.

The Bahamas Constitution Party condemns this attempt to stifle democracy by stealing the opportunities of political parties to campaign while robbing the Bahamian people of their constitutional rights to the freedom of movement and freedom of assembly.

The government of The Bahamas, led by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, has clearly lost all moral authority to govern, as in the midst of one of its biggest scandals involving its former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K. Peter Turnquest, who is facing a litany of fraud charges, it has asked the governor general to declare a new state of emergency that could end May 31, 2021, handicapping all political activities, and the right of political parties to garner support against his administration.

The merit behind a new emergency order is not warranted, as the criteria for a state of emergency, according to Article 29 of the constitution, is that a state of public emergency exists.

Also, according to Article 29 (4), the governor general can only declare a state of emergency for 14 days and may summon the Parliament to extend the period before the expiration of the 14 days.

As the BCP stated on March 18, when the first emergency order was enforced by the declaration of a state of emergency, the BCP believes that a state of emergency and emergency powers laws should be extended only for 14 days at a time, as emergency orders infringe heavily on the constitutional rights of Bahamians.

We believe that in a democratic country such as The Bahamas, the government should not intentionally seek to stifle the rights and steal the opportunity of its citizens for more time than is necessary.

The real purpose of each extension being limited to 14 days at a time is to provide health officials adequate time to observe and evaluate the curve of the COVID-19 spread, while also giving consideration to the dramatic impact that the curfew and subsequent lockdowns are having on the economic survival of families and businesses, and the economy in general.

A 14-day extension provides more than sufficient time for the evaluation of both patient health, and the dichotomy of the disease among the nation.

Additionally, the BCP condemns the decision of this administration to place a summary conviction of breaking a curfew or any temporary measure of the emergency order on the criminal record of citizens.

We believe that this is contrary to Article 19 of the constitution, once that person is not directly responsible or seeking to spread a disease relating to the public health mandate.

And a BCP government will evaluate the expunging of the record in each of these cases.

Article 19 indicates that any act that was not a crime incurring a penalty or imprisonment before the emergency order cannot be made a crime with a penalty of law or imprisonment within the emergency order. 

Therefore, the strict and stringent penalties that have been outlined in the recent release from the Office of the Prime Minister and competent authority are outlandish and are considered against the people’s constitutional rights to freedom of movement, and their right to work and prosper.

At this time, the condition in the country regarding COVID-19 as a public emergency does not warrant the full-scale emergency powers assumed by the prime minister as the competent authority.

I believe that it is wrong, immoral, and unjustifiable and that this prime minister, Dr. Hubert Minnis, and this FNM administration will pay dearly at the polls for this if they do call a general election, based on what we are observing as the undemocratic practices of this seemingly dictatorial FNM administration.

– S. Ali McIntosh, servant leader, Bahamas Constitution Party

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