NASSAU, BAHAMAS- Centreville MP Reece Chipman did a “disservice” in criticizing the government’s proposed amendments to the Disaster Preparedness and Response Act, according to Attorney General Carl Bethel, who insisted yesterday the bill is a “new development”.
Chipman resigned from the Free National Movement yesterday, pointing to the Minnis administration’s handling of Hurricane Dorian, and disdain for partisan politics.
The Centreville MP said the legislation government is seeking to implement is already in place but not being enforced.
Bethel defended the amendment bills in an interview with Eyewitness News Online.
“The bill we have has not been in law before and we don’t need an assessment to know areas, it’s helpful in confirming but you could look and see the low-lying area,” the attorney general said.
“…What the law that is presently before us will do; it will address two things.
“One, it will allow the immediate issuance of mandatory evacuation orders; that has never existed in Bahamian law before.”
Bethel continued: “…The first draft we had was objected to on constitutional grounds a year or so ago. We came back with one, that in my view, and in my opinion is sufficiently within the boundaries of the constitution.
“You don’t have to rely on an Article 29, Declaration of Emergency.
“This is a new development we’re bringing into law. So this is not something that would have visited before and hasn’t been enforced. This is a new development.”
Bethel said: “So to call it a scrap of paper is a disservice and I suggest he read the bill and then look at the existing law.”
The orders in the bill would provide for mandatory evacuations, curfews, and restriction of movement in certain areas for a period of time.
If passed, the bill would provide for orders declaring relief from the disaster, including 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.
During a press conference announcing his resignation, Chipman said, “Our laws are in place.
“Don’t let them bring these new laws over and over again, pretending as if they are doing something. We have a constitution that deals with disaster, we have an emergency act of 1974 that dealt with it, and now we have a Disaster Preparedness Act that deals with it in 2008.
“So go to work,” Chipman said, “stop wringing paper and throwing it in the House of Assembly, and pretending we’re doing something. The idea is that if you really care about people, there is no need to try fool them.”