OVERSIGHT: GG issues new COVID-19 State of Emergency declaration

OVERSIGHT: GG issues new COVID-19 State of Emergency declaration
Attorney General Carl Bethel (FILE PHOTO)

Opposition says “heads must roll”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Governor-General C. A Smith has signed a new proclamation declaring that a “state of public emergency exists in The Bahamas”.

The proclamation came into effect at midnight after the government failed to pass a resolution extending the initial state of emergency proclamation, which expired on Monday night.

The new declaration means the government is allowed to restart the six months extension period provided under Article 29 of the Constitution – with parliamentary approval.

Attorney General Carl Bethel yesterday apologized for what he termed a “procedural oversight” in allowing the declaration to lapse, taking full responsibility for the lapse.

“This is not the prime minister’s oversight,” Bethel said, during the evening sitting of the Senate.

“This is not the government’s oversight. It is the oversight by my office and my oversight.

“I apologize for this procedural oversight to His Excellency the Governor-General, the prime minister, the government of The Bahamas, and the Bahamian people.”

He explained that the Office of the Attorney General failed to deliver a resolution to extend the state of emergency in time for the document to be tabled in Parliament.

The prime minister yesterday tabled the resolution to extend the emergency regulations to July 31, however, Parliamentary rules require 24-hour notice between the tabling of any motion and any debate on that motion.

While the rule could have been waived to allow the debate, Bethel said the Official Opposition did not support the waiver.

But Opposition Leader of Senate Business Fred Mitchell maintained opposition parliamentarians were prepared to debate.

“It is not for me to say what the government’s response ought to be for the attorney general’s apology for what has transpired,” Mitchell added, “but in our system, there’s another course of action that needs to follow.”

Asked by Senate Speaker Dr. Mildred Hall-Watson whether it was a course of action he was prepared to discuss at that point, Mitchell noted, “I leave it there. The attorney general is quite learned about our system, and he knows what the effect of taking responsibility for a faux pas for his department is in our system.

“Now someone else can say yes or no. We just went through this experience a few weeks ago, but it’s not for me to say.”

In May, former Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands resigned as after accepting responsibility for the decision to allow a group of six American legal residents carrying medical supplies into the country during the border closure.

Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip Brave Davis echoed similar suggestions in a statement yesterday.

“The Attorney General has a course of action to take,” Davis said.

“The collapse of the legal regime regarding the extension of the proclamation of the state of public emergency only shows what we have said all along and it is that this government is shockingly inept and incompetent.

“…This is just the latest in a series of missteps, misinformation, and disinformation on the part of this government.”

Bethel said he had no comment on the opposition’s suggestions of resignation.