New state of emergency declared

New state of emergency declared
Governor General CA Smith

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Governor General CA Smith yesterday signed a new proclamation of a state of public emergency in The Bahamas, the third such proclamation since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic in mid-March.

Under Article 29 of the constitution, the governor general may make a proclamation that a state of public emergency exists.

The proclamation reads: “…And whereas COVID-19 has persisted in The Bahamas since March, 2020, and continues to exist in The Bahamas; and whereas COVID-19 has now infected over 7,000 persons and has caused over 150 deaths in The Bahamas; and whereas scientific and medical experts have advised that COVID-19 is likely to persist as a pandemic in many parts of the world, including The Bahamas, for the foreseeable future until a vaccine is available for wide public distribution; and whereas I am satisfied that due to the presence of COVID-19 in The Bahamas and the expected continuance of the presence of COVID-19 in The Bahamas for the foreseeable future, a state of public emergency continues to exist in The Bahamas.”

It continues: “Now therefore, I, the Most Honourable Cornelius Alvin Smith, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, in exercise of the powers conferred upon me by Article 29 (1)(b) of the constitution of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas hereby declare that: with effect from the 24th day of November, 2020, a state of public emergency exists in The Bahamas; this proclamation of emergency shall continue for a period of fourteen days unless extended by each House of Parliament by resolution continuing it in force for a further period as provided in Article 29(5) of the constitution.”

In a statement, Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis said the Progressive Liberal Party does not support the new proclamation and will “refuse to allow the matter to be debated tomorrow in the House and will not waive the notice requirement”.

Davis said: “The issue of the proclamation is an abuse of power.

“Civil liberties have been suspended long enough and we say the suspension must end and go no farther.”

Last week, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis gave notice in Parliament of his intention to extend the state of emergency until December 28.

Parliament is expected to debate that resolution today.

The most recent emergency order was set to end on November 30.

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.

International and local health experts have said the pandemic will remain a challenge well into 2021.

Responding to questions from Eyewitness News last month, the prime minister said he did not know how long The Bahamas will remain in a state of emergency.

A legal argument has been made that the constitution does not provide for a second proclamation for the same emergency, though the proclamation has yet to be constitutionally challenged for legal review by the judiciary.

Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, said recently he was still working on a legal challenge and class action lawsuit against the government of the state of emergency and emergency powers.

The Bahamas has recorded 7,460 COVID-19 cases, 1,535 of which remain active.

Another 5,708 or 76 percent have recovered.

A total of 163 people have died from the virus.