The Bahamas Constitution Party (BCP) is pleased to be a part of the solution for the situation the country faces regarding the COVID -19 virus, and its health, economic, social and spiritual impact on the nation. The BCP leadership wishes to lend support to the government’s overall program for the benefit of public health and public safety for the country and all its citizens; and do now make its recommendations, regarding constitutional implications and other concerns. Additionally, a follow-up statement of specific health recommendations will be shared with the media and the nation by our national chairman in short order.
Firstly, the BCP supports a provisional shutdown of the nation, with the view that the constricting of movement, the limiting of large gathering of people and the prescribed policies of social distancing be implemented in wisdom, in order to slow and ultimately stop the transmission of the contagious virus.
The BCP believes that a mandatory shutdown, enacted with a legislative resolution for a period of not more than fourteen days at a time (in accordance with Article 29 of the Constitution), which can provide for mandatory self-quarantine for persons exhibiting symptoms and the restricting of movement in most cases. This, along with a proclamation of emergency would be sufficient leverage to give the government the necessary additional powers to operate beneficial measures for public health and safety and give the public confidence, that this administration, led by Dr. Hubert Minnis, operating under extreme pressure by its political critics, is operating in the full best interest of the entire nation. The BCP is prepared to support such a measure, and would endorse it wholeheartedly.
However, our concerns regarding the proposed Emergency Powers (COVID 19) Regulations, 2020 presented in Parliament on March 18, will provide widespread powers to the prime minister, who is listed in the regulations as the competent authority. These powers are above those which the Office of the Prime Ministers already operates in, and are given without any restrictions.
The proposed Emergency Powers (COVID 19) Regulations, 2020 will amplify the declaration of the state of emergency, which will provide for the infringement of the majority of the fundamental rights of Bahamian citizens; particularly Articles 19, 21-26 of the Constitution; therefore it must, for all intended and purposes be fair and uncompromising, as to not allow for the competent authority to use such unrestricted powers, to cause his political opponents to be targeted by him for political prosecution.
While the proposed legislation is expected to accomplish the intent for the restriction of large movement or persons and large gathering, it seems extreme for the prerogative to be given to the competent authority, to break up a meeting of two or more persons. This will provide the targeting of any private meeting to be interrupted, based on law by the prime minister, for whatever reason he so chooses. In this political environment, this will certainly be unfair and considered malicious.
It is my opinion that the governor general should have been named as the competent authority, and/or the appointment of his constitutional servants or agents, as he appoints.
While the BCP appreciate the swiftness of action by this Minnis administration, the proclamation of emergency, at the confirmation of one positive case of COVID-19 (now three positives) appears overreaching. The aggregating of these superpowers to the prime minister, to the possible infringement of fundamental right of the entire citizenry without restrictions, when the same recommendation by the BCP on September 3 was declined, when dozens died and hundreds went missing, which produced great chaos and anarchy in Abaco and Grand Bahama relating to the destruction by Hurricane Dorian.
Closure of churches
While many differ on the closing of churches, and the Bahamas Christian Council has consented on the behest of the government, I believe that this mandate in the EP (COVID-19) resolution 2020 is wrong and goes against the spirit of the constitution and is not in keeping with intent of the founding fathers of the nation, regarding the governments’ partnership with the Christian church.
I believe that the church should not close their doors to the public. Even if the services are limited, with all precaution put in place regarding social distancing, we cannot “shut off” from the nation their only hope – God and prayer in this time of national emergency. While everyone in most cases are under mandatory restrictions, we believe to restrict people from finding a time and a place of prayer, for the six weeks suggested and recommended by the resolution, may be beyond reason.
While these measures of mandatory shutdown are necessary for all its intended purposes, we still feel great trepidation because we know that many persons will suffer as a result, and some small businesses will close permanently after several weeks of suspended operations. Therefore, we support and encourage any operation of the government that will assist the poor with food and necessities of life for the weeks that we will be under mandatory shutdown.
I also believe that several more days of notice, or at least leniency, must be given before the measures become absolutely mandatory, and the full restriction of movement and self-quarantine of the entire country comes into effect.
The prime minister has assured the public that the country has sufficient food supplies to last any incubation period of one to three months, and has discouraged panic buying. In that same vein, we wish to encourage our citizenry to always remember the person in the back of them, and leave something for someone else.
However, this concern for the food storage in times of crisis serves as a reminder of our country’s inability to feed ourselves. However, even these tough times, it can prove to assist us in making provisions despite these emergency situations. I have been advised that The Bahamas has the potential for sufficient resources to survive if it is managed with wisdom.
According to recommendations from the BCP shadow minister on economic development, we have enough produce and fishery products on Andros to feed the nation indefinitely. Our recommendation is that farmers can be instructed by the government to plant more acreage and harvest of some items that can be ready within three months.
We just need to plan and work accordingly.
In closing, I wish to reiterate that we are God’s people and He can and will take care of us. Therefore, I wish to end with a scriptural recommendation from II Chronicles 7:14: “If my People, who are called by my name, should humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sins and heal their land” – even from COVID 19 and any other pestilence and pandemic that may come our way.
May God bless and keep safe the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
—S. Ali McIntosh, Bahamas Constitution Party