It has now been about 12 weeks since the Bahamian society has been under an emergency curfew due to the onset of COVID-19.
The government used the provision of Article 29 of the constitution to effect the proclamation of emergency, which empowers the government to restrict civil liberties.
It is interesting to note that the only emergency actually named in the constitution is the highly unlikely event that The Bahamas is at war.
It leaves any other emergencies to be determined in a proclamation of emergency to be made by the governor general.
It could be discerned, accordingly, that the procedure was intended to be used only sparingly and for the shortest possible duration.
The constitution does permit the emergency powers to be extended.
In March of this year when the emergency powers were invoked, the actual emergency that challenged the state was to mount a national effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure that the virus did not overwhelm the resources of the local health facilities.
The government also needed time to adequately prepare the Bahamian institutions and the general public in order to save lives.
However, Dr. Nikkiah Forbes, head of the Infectious Diseases Unit, recently admitted that the country had flattened the curve.
She also confirmed that there remained 25 active cases but only one hospitalized case.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 stands at 104 and the number of deaths from the virus has stood at 11 for a number of weeks. So, what is the emergency now as we head into mid-June?
Why does The Bahamas remain under “temporary” emergency powers?
Bahamians have willingly sacrificed their civil liberties for far too long and in my last letter, I quoted a number of warnings against conceding these liberties to the government in the name of safety.
Bahamians have now become increasingly exhausted by the prolonged emergency curfews and weekend lockdowns to the extent they are now largely ignoring them.
I seriously doubt that the continued imposition of the emergency powers is based on any epidemiological evidence or by medical advice.
There is ample evidence that many of the decisions during the emergency were never the advice of the scientists and were clearly arbitrary or political in nature.
In times of emergency, there has to be a level of trust between the government and its citizens.
That needed trust cannot be sustained if the citizens believe that their trust in the government has been abused.
So, I again pose the question: Why does The Bahamas remain under emergency powers?
Why haven’t the civil liberties of Bahamians been restored after 12 weeks, in spite of the fact that a state of emergency no longer exists?
Has the competent authority become intoxicated with his new found power?
Is the new normal too frightening for him to accept?
Is the virus spread and contracted only after 9 p.m.? Or is the extended duration of emergency powers being used in an attempt to quell violent crimes at night as the minister of national security suggested?
If the denial of civil liberties is in fact being used now as an anti-crime measure, I maintain that it is an unconstitutional exercise of the emergency powers.
You have to be totally honest, open and transparent with citizens when you are taking away fundamental rights.
You must trust the people!
The government ought to have revoked the proclamation of emergency after the initial 14 days as intended by the constitution.
They then could have gone to Parliament and legislated any measures they felt were required to contain the spread of the virus.
These measures would have included physical distancing, the necessity of wearing masks, hand sanitizing, among others.
These measures would have served further to contain the virus without denying fundamental rights.
Parliamentarians are legislators and legislation should have been the device utilized to enact measures to keep Bahamians safe and the economy moving.
Rather, the competent authority has chosen to impose a curfew on the people for an indefinite period.
— Maurice Tynes