New bill: Evacuate or face one month in prison

Residents who refuse to leave mandatory evacuation zones would face up to a month in prison, according to the proposed Disaster Preparedness and Response (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

The proposed legislation was revised before Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis tabled it in the House of Assembly last week.

“Where an evacuation order is in effect, any person within the specified area, island or cay who refuses without justifiable cause to evacuate, commits an offense and is liable to a term of imprisonment of one month or to a fine not exceeding $500 or to both such fine and imprisonment…,” the proposed bill notes.

“…Where such refusal is likely to imperil the life of another, imprisonment of three months or to a fine not exceeding $1,000 or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

If passed, the bill will authorize the government to impose curfews and prohibit travel in areas declared mandatory evacuation zones.

The proposed bill would also prohibit the movement of anyone “within any specified area or island where necessary”.

First responders would not be obligated to risk their lives to rescue or recover residents in evacuation zones until the Department of Meteorology has given the all-clear that weather conditions are “no longer a threat”, according to the proposed legislation.

“The prime minister may also make an order declaring relief from the disaster,” the proposed bill notes.

“This relief shall include a rebate of business license fees, waiver of value-added tax, exemptions from excise tax or tariff tax and waiver of any other fee, levy or tax payable under any law.”

Last month, The Nassau Guardian obtained the initial draft of the proposed bill, which recommended that residents be arrested for refusing to evacuate their areas.

On September 20, following the publication of that document, Attorney General Carl Bethel said the proposed bill would be “substantially amended”.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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