NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Attorney General Carl Bethel yesterday argued that the regulations and orders are in full force and effect under the Constitution and in law.
In Magistrate’s Court, several attorneys attempted to argue that their clients were not in breach of the country’s state of emergency and emergency orders, insisting that COVID-19 legislation was not properly constituted.
While representing three men charged for violation of the emergency orders, attorney Keith Bell argued that the law requiring establishments to shut down at 8pm had expired.
Bell said the Attorney General’s Office had failed to introduce a new order for which his clients can be charged.
But the prosecution noted that the Governor-General issued the proclamation, which brought a new order into effect on June 30 — days before the men were arrested on July 4.
Magistrate Derrance Rolle-Davis asked Bell to show him evidence of his argument, and he replied: “That’s just it, there is no new order”.
Despite this, Rolle-Davis insisted that he was sufficiently satisfied that the Governor-General order stands and it is only a matter of formality.
Yesterday, Bethel maintained that the constitution is clear on the issuance of a state of emergency by the Governor-General.
Governor-General C. A Smith signed a new state of emergency proclamation on June 30, after the government failed to pass a resolution extending the initial state of emergency proclamation which expired that night.
The proclamation was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday and was required to be tabled in both houses within five days.
On Friday, Bethel tabled the document in the evening sitting of the Senate after the opposition questioned whether the morning sitting was constitutional, given that they had not been summoned by the Governor-General – according to parliamentary rules.
The morning sitting of the Senate was then suspended to allow the Governor-General to issue a summons to convene the Senate and the documents were laid later that day.
Yesterday, Bethel said: “The proclamation summoning the Senate was tabled, a gazetted copy as required by the constitution, everything was in full accord with the constitution and the proclamation of emergency and all orders made under it and regulations are in full force effect.”
In the evening sitting of the Senate today, Bethel tabled the Emergency Powers COVID-19 Pandemic 2020 Order, Emergency Powers COVID-19 Special Provisions Order, and resolution to extend emergency order.
While the opposition once again questioned whether the tabling of the emergency orders were constitutional, Bethel advised that the state of emergency was tabled within the five day period required by the constitution.
“I clearly tabled the proclamation and I signed and dated it. It was the proclamation of the new emergency.”
Bethel also gave notice for debate on the resolution to extend the state of emergency to July 31.
The Upper Chamber is expected to meet again on Wednesday.