Responding to critics who have said it is time to end the state of emergency in The Bahamas, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday that his decision to extend it into October was not for power but to save lives.
“As prime minister, I would love to revert back to normal as quickly as possible,” said Minnis when called for comment.
But he said he is guided by the advice of health professionals.
Minnis said, “We don’t make decisions just for power. We do it to save lives; to open the economy as soon as possible and get people back to work.”
The Bahamas has been under a state of emergency since March when the first case of COVID-19 was discovered.
Nearly 3,500 cases and 77 deaths later, Minnis will seek to extend the state of emergency until October 31 when the House meets today.
The current state of emergency expires September 30.
Minnis stressed that his decisions are made in consultation.
“The world is grappling with this challenge,” he said.
“We have gone through a second surge. We don’t want to go through a third surge. We don’t want that.”
COVID-19 deaths in the United States surpassed 200,000 yesterday.
Minnis added, “We want to strike a balance. We see what’s happening in Europe.”
But Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Fred Mitchell said yesterday that the opposition will not support the extension.
It has not supported previous extensions either.
Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller, who resigned from the Free National Movement last December, said he currently does not intend to support the extension.
“At present I do not support an extension,” he said when called for comment yesterday.
But Miller said he is willing to listen to Minnis and give him the benefit of changing his mind.
“I’d like to have an open mind to it and hear what he has to say,” he added.
“The question for me is: are we abusing the constitution?”
Last week, former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands said he will not support an extension.
Sands said given the number of COVID-19 cases, the country is not a whole lot better off.
“So, it is time now for the legislature to assume its rightful place as one of the pillars of democracy,” Sands said.
“Let us move from a situation where all of the decision making has been vested in the hands of the competent authority for now moving into seven months and return to the appropriate representation that the people voted for.”
Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine recently said he, too, will not support the extension unless emphasis is placed on the economy.
When the prime minister gave notice of his intent to extend the state of emergency last week, he called on Bahamians to sacrifice three more weeks for a “lifetime of success”.
“So, I am just asking, Mr. Speaker, that [the] Bahamian populace just make three weeks of sacrifice by utilizing the masks and I know it’s uncomfortable and discomforting for some, but what is three weeks of discomfort for a lifetime of success, both economic and for the future of this country?” he asked.
As noted, Governor General C. A. Smith declared a state of emergency on March 18, three days after The Bahamas confirmed its first COVID-19 case.
A “procedural oversight” in the Office of the Attorney General led to the inadvertent expiration of the first state of emergency on June 29, leading to the governor general’s declaration of a new state of emergency on the same day.
Had that error not occurred, the six-month period permitted by the constitution for a state of emergency would have expired this month.
While the government has said the June emergency proclamation provides for a fresh six months, some legal observers have argued that the constitution does not envision a second proclamation — and by extension a new six-month period — for the same emergency.
Over the course of the last six months, there have been numerous lockdowns, curfews and other restrictive measures to fight COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
As Parliament prepares to debate the resolution for the extension, The Bahamas continues to battle the novel coronavirus.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pearl McMillan said last week Monday that a graph that shows a national breakdown of cases “reminds us that we remain in the fight against COVID-19”.
But she said that in the week prior, new cases on New Providence had been on a decline.
As of yesterday, there were 3,467 cases of the virus in The Bahamas.