Opposition leader says emergency measures are “not a plan” to fight COVID pandemic
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday opposed the government’s move to extend the current state of emergency to January 31, 2021, suggesting instead that “ordinary legislation” can be used to implement measures to mitigate the novel coronavirus pandemic.
During debate on the matter in the House of Assembly, Davis criticized the government for “patting itself on the back” about its handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
He said: “If it is so good and you’re doing so well, why then the need for a proclamation?”
Insisting COVID-19 was no longer a new crisis, Davis said the state of emergency as “an unnecessary intervention in the fight at this stage”.
“There have been many lessons learned, around the world, about how to protect public health during this pandemic,” he continued.
“The need to do so via one-man rule has long expired.
“This government has a sizeable majority in this House. They could pass any legislation that they want. Their own attorney general has been quoted in the media as saying that the government could protect public health through ordinary legislation.”
He said: “Eight long months it’s been, more than enough time to draft a Medical Emergency law, one that could be debated and then passed by representatives of the people.”
Davis suggested the competent authority’s move to extend the state of emergency “has nothing to do with public health”, slamming it instead as a “power grab”.
The opposition leader’s comments drew pushback from some parliamentarians and ultimately led to a spat between Davis and House Speaker Halson Moultrie, during which Moultrie warned Davis that his speech was “sliding down a slippery slope”.
The governor general declared a public state of emergency on March 17.
It was extended twice and set to expire at the end of May.
In late May, however, the government tabled a resolution to extend the orders to June 29.
Due to a procedural oversight, which Attorney General Carl Bethel took responsibility for, the governor general signed a new proclamation of a state of emergency on June 29.
The original proclamation would have come to an end last month.
The latest proclamation gave the government up to another six months to extend the state of emergency with parliamentary approval — until the end of December.
But Davis claimed that the powers disrupt Bahamians’ constitutional freedom.
“Mr Speaker, this is not what the drafters of the Constitution envisioned,” he said.
Davis added: “Instead, the prime minister’s tenure as competent authority has been a failure… Lockdowns and curfews are not a plan.”
“Mr Speaker, I rise to confirm that we emphatically do not support yet another proclamation of emergency.”