Editorials

Enough

The House of Assembly will today debate an extension of the state of the emergency the country has been in since mid-March.

It is proposed that the extension would last until the end of October.

With the supermajority the Free National Movement holds in Parliament, its approval is all but a foregone conclusion.

However, the prime minister, who has singularly assumed the role of the competent authority, has yet to demonstrate a case as to why the state of emergency should not fall away at the end of this month.

Having so cavalierly surrendered the power vested in them by their constituents who sent them to the House of Assembly to legislate, it is doubtful the prime minister has bothered to explain his rationale to the members of Parliament whose votes carry just as much weight as his own.

The founders of our nation did not envision a country governed solely by a single individual for any extended period of time.

The concept was so foreign to the framers of the constitution that the only circumstance explicitly mentioned in the constitution of what we are now experiencing was at times when the country is at war.

Some may argue that the framers of the constitution could not have envisioned a worldwide pandemic.

That, however, is doubtful, with the world just having emerged from a devastating flu pandemic a few years before most of them were born.

It would also fly in the face of article 19 of the constitution which clearly outlines how the rights of those who are detained for the purpose of preventing the spread of an infectious or contagious disease are to be regarded.

They would also have to explain the existence of the Quarantine Act of 1905 and the Health Services Act of 1914, both of which have been consistently amended since their enactment over a century ago.

When COVID-19 first emerged, we knew very little about it; the state of emergency for a certain period of time was warranted for us to quickly implement measures in the interest of public health.

But as we have grown to understand more about the disease, we can navigate governance in the face of it without emergency powers.

There is certainly little rationale in the prime minister asking Bahamians last Wednesday to bear with the protocols for three more weeks, while seeking to hold on to his emergency powers for at least another six.

The supposed science has led the competent authority to conclude that restrictions should be relaxed on New Providence as cases climb in double — and sometimes triple — digits by the day.

It would be interesting to know what science undergirds a continuing state of emergency in these circumstances.

And what assurances do we have that the prime minister will not seek to have his emergency powers extended further than the end of next month?

With a legislature so willing to surrender its power, the prime minister has no real fear of backlash from the majority of his party’s parliamentary caucus should he seek another extension.

The state of emergency has lulled parliamentarians into a sense of normalcy with regard to their inability to advance the legislative agenda of the House, with only the budget and a handful of perfunctory amendments and bills being passed in the last six months.

The trend now seems to be to come to the House to extend the state of emergency then take lengthy breaks.

COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon.

As we must all learn to live with it, the Minnis administration must also learn to govern and legislate with it.

The tools for the management of COVID-19 already exist in law outside of the emergency powers.

The lawfully elected legislators of The Bahamas only need do their job and amend the laws we have had for generations to fit our current circumstances.

And the Cabinet of The Bahamas should do its job and oversee their proper implementation and execution.

It is time to move on from this state of emergency.

The nation has had enough.

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