Thoughts on the proclamation of emergency

Dear Editor,

On March 18, 2020, the government of The Bahamas presented in the House of Assembly a state of emergency proclamation and draft Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations.

The proclamation and the attendant COVID-19 regulations were far-reaching, with extreme infringements on fundamental rights and freedoms protected by articles 19 to 26 of The Bahamas constitution, and allowed for executive powers to create and enforce laws for mandatory quarantines, use of masks, social distancing, restrictions on movement, business closures and the utilization of essential services, amongst other things.

Additionally, the regulations also prohibited the spreading of false information across social media or any other platform that could induce fear and panic.

To date, the order and regulations persist with numerous variations and amendments as the country tackles the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result of the imposition of such stringent laws on the population, we have seen drastic unemployment; increases in poverty and hunger; excessive strain on social services and the National Insurance Board; massive business closures; closure of schools and colleges; a spate of evictions, arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations; mounting individual and national debt; travel restrictions and prohibitions; and several other consequential events.

My questions were then as they are now: how do we define a “state of emergency” pursuant to an Article 29 proclamation?

With just 0.00078125 percent of the population affected (March 18, 2020) did the circumstances provide reasonable justification for the “proclamation of emergency”?

We must have an intelligent dialogue in this matter in the public’s interest.

Arguably, the prime minister, who is the “self-appointed” competent authority, advanced his position as it relates to the government’s mandatory adherence to the provisions of the constitution.

He states: “…Governments will be placed in situations where at some point in time they will have to make discriminatory or unconstitutional decisions against their people in the interest of the advancement of their nation.”

The comments are startling and concerning because the constitution that the prime minister avers governments will have to breach is the very document that gives governments their powers and authority.

Outside of it, their actions are unlawful and iurisdictionem (without jurisdiction)!

Robyn D. Lynes

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