Wayne Munroe, QC, said yesterday he intends to challenge the state of emergency proclamation issued by Governor General C.A. Smith on Monday, noting that there should only be one proclamation per event.
This is the second proclamation declared since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March.
“We’re going to have to make some changes, which I hope to make today and hopefully file tomorrow at the latest,” Munroe told The Nassau Guardian.
“The allegations would be that this breaches constitutional rights because just about every one of your constitutional rights are affected by these orders: your freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, even your freedom of worship is affected.”
In the House of Assembly on Monday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis gave notice of a resolution to extend the previous state of emergency from June 29 to July 31. The government planned to debate the extension the following day – Tuesday. However, it was later revealed that the emergency proclamation and accompanying orders would expire Tuesday at midnight.
Attorney General Carl Bethel said the oversight was on the part of the Office of the Attorney General, as draftspersons were focused on the budget.
“It inescapably was an oversight and there’s no excuse for it,” he said Monday afternoon.
“My office and I, representing my office, would have to take responsibility for it that it was an oversight.
On Monday, the governor general issued a new proclamation of emergency.
A state of emergency was declared in mid-March following the country’s first case of the novel coronavirus. The government then moved forward with emergency orders restricting the movement of residents, closed the borders and issued other provisions to stem the spread of COVID-19.
“When the first state of emergency was declared, we had taken a decision not to challenge it in its earlier stages,” Munroe said.
“As it wore on and people got tired of it, we got instructions to challenge, which we were in the process of doing. Then, of course, the events of yesterday happened and so we’re now expanding the challenge to include this proclamation, this emergency regulation.
“I haven’t seen any orders being made under this regulation yet. So, although we might have a state of emergency regulation, unless there are orders gazetted or broadcasted, you still don’t have any restrictions in the country.”
He said that Article 29(5) of the Constitution notes that a state of emergency should be declared for “extreme measures”.
Munroe said it is “supposed to be a last resort”.
“It was a first resort here,” he said.
“And so, when you look at Article 29, your rights are affected when we’re at war and that’s an actual war and not this supposed war on COVID or when you have a proclamation of an emergency. Then, you go over to 29(5) and a proclamation for any event can only be extended a maximum of six months.
“So, when the governor general makes a declaration that has a life of 14 days and within that 14 days Parliament extends it and Parliament can do a cumulative extension of up to six months per state of emergency. We say you can have one state of emergency per event.
“So, we had a proclamation that was extended for three months: April, May and June. So, if they put a fresh one in place that has a life of six months then you can potentially have a state of emergency for an event that lasts beyond six months.
“We say that is not permitted and so you get one state of emergency for every event and the maximum life for that state of emergency is six months.”