NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, said yesterday more than a dozen complainants have come forward to join a writ action he plans to file challenging the state of emergency proclamation issued by Governor General CA Smith on Monday, as well as “issues” arising from the original proclamation, which expired on Monday night.
Munroe said he will seek a “declaration and compensation” for a number of matters arising from the challenge.
“We are finding that people are now complaining once they know they’re able to vindicate their rights,” he told Eyewitness News.
“A number of people have come; more people have come to we’re at the point now doing a little bit more work from the context that we’re getting people for instance from, Eleuthera, because now they say they have closed all the bars in Eleuthera I think it was this past week.
“We’re getting people from Abaco — Abaco and Grand Bahama — with a point of view of having a challenge that says the first state of emergency at a first level couldn’t be called for a public health issue.
“If we’re wrong about that it could not be called for the entire Bahamas.”
Munroe said he originally planned to file an originating summons alleging breach of the constitution, but to allow for discovery of the medical advice provided to the Office of the Prime Minister, which has been predicated for many of the decisions made related to the ongoing pandemic, a writ action is necessary.
The proclamation of a state of emergency in mid-March applies to all islands of The Bahamas.
The borders were closed on March 23, restricting all domestic and international travel.
All the 104 confirmed cases were identified on four islands — 82 in New Providence, eight in Grand Bahama, 13 in Bimini and one on Cat Cay.
The remaining 26 inhabited islands had zero infections.
“Once you close your airspace; once you prevent inter-island travel, why are you having the same state of emergency everywhere?” Munroe asked. “And more importantly, why are you having all of the orders?
The complainants include 13 people who were charged in April with breaking the government’s 24-hour curfew following an alleged beach party.
The 24-hour curfew came to an end last month.
The country remains on a 10pm to 5am curfew.
Munroe also questioned why the commercial activity of islands with zero infections remained closed for weeks after the border lockdown, preventing businesses from operating at significant cost.
Ragged Island, Rum Cay, Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins and Long Cay were allowed to resume commercial activity on May 4, however, social distancing and curfew measures remained in place.
Commercial activity resumed on Cat Island, Long Island, Abaco and Andros on May 18.
The Queen’s Counsel also plans to challenge the issuance of the second proclamation of an emergency, arguing that while the measure it is limited to six months per event the new proclamation provides for another six months for the same public health matter — “which would be a total of nine months for the same event”.
The governor general issued a new proclamation of a state of emergency.
The proclamation came into effect at midnight on Tuesday after the government failed to pass a resolution extending the original state of emergency proclamation, which expired on Monday night.
Attorney General Carl Bethel apologized for the “procedural oversight” in allowing the declaration to lapse.
While the prime minister tabled the resolution to extend the emergency regulations to July 31 on Monday, the rules of Parliament require 24-hour notice between the tabling of any motion and the debate of that motion.
The rule can be waived to allow for debate, but Bethel said the official opposition did not support the waiver.
Article 29 of the constitution authorizes the houses of Parliament to approve a proclamation of emergency, which suspends fundamental rights afforded by the constitution, and shall cease to be in force at the expiration of a period of 14 days beginning on the date which it was made unless a resolution is passed by each house of Parliament approving its continuance for a further period not exceeding six months “beginning on the date on which it would otherwise expire”.