NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Leader of Opposition Business in Senate Fred Mitchell yesterday questioned whether Senate was constitutionally allowed to meet, given that they had not been summoned by the Governor-General – according to parliamentary rules.
During its morning sitting, Attorney General Carl Bethel attempted to table a new state of emergency proclamation signed by Governor-General C. A Smith on Monday.
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.
Prime minister Dr. Humber Minnis tabled the proclamation in Parliament on Tuesday.
Bethel previously apologized for what he termed a “procedural oversight” in allowing the declaration to lapse, taking full responsibility for the lapse.
However, Mitchell questioned whether the sitting was properly constituted for the laying of the document.
He insisted that given that the Senate was not scheduled to meet, the governor-general should have gazetted a summons for them to meet within five days.
Mitchel noted that he was advised by the leader of government business that Senate was being summoned and that an email will follow.
“It seems to me this is a specific rule and like with election petitions with specific rules you have to follow this right to the tea, otherwise the matter falls away,” he said.
“Are we properly constituted to be here this morning.”
However, Bethel noted that the last sitting of Senate had adjourned sine dine – without an affixed day.
“Because it is not within the power of either house to summon themselves after they fixed the date of their return, that is the genesis of the provision in my view “.
He said the Senate was given requisite notice and it was his view that that was a sufficient compliance.
“What is important in the constitution is that the proclamation should be laid on the table of both houses of Parliament within five days, that has now occurred as of today.”
Despite Bethel’s reasoning, Mitchell added that he made the statement for the record, given the “litigious” state the country is in at this moment.
“He knows there have been faux pas before coming out of his office which has led to error, I am now putting this in the public domain”.
“The terms are mandatory, not discretionary.”
The attorney general then moved the suspension of the morning sitting where he noted a request would be made for the Governor-General to issue a summons to convene the Senate.
The proclamation and emergency orders were later tabled during the evening sitting of the Senate.
The Upper Chamber is expected to meet again on Monday.
Mitchell also requested that the government address whether the 135 Mexicans entering the country on Thursday received negative COVID-19 tests before coming into the country.
But Bethel rejected a motion for debate, given that the responsible ministers – Minister of Health, Minister of Immigration, or Minister of Labour – were not present in the Upper Chambers.
He noted that Labour Minister Dion Foulkes had advised that he would be indisposed for yesterday’s sitting, prior to Mitchell’s request.
Baker’s Bay officials have confirmed that the workers were tested and issued travel cards from the Ministry of Health.