Symonette: PM dictator claim “unsubstantiated nonsense”

Symonette: PM dictator claim “unsubstantiated nonsense”
St Anne's MP Brent Symonette (FILE PHOTO)

LBT: State of democracy a “one-man show”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — While some have branded the government’s extension of the state of emergency as a power grab, St Anne’s MP Brent Symonette insisted yesterday there is no proof that the prime minister has been leading in a dictatorial style.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has made the case that the extension was necessary for the government to have the legal authority to use certain measures when necessary to save lives, noting there could be a third wave of the virus in The Bahamas.

The opposition has slammed the move to extend the state of emergency as a “power grab”.

The prime minister has been accused in different circles of operating in a “dictatorship” style.

However, Symonette once again defended the move, noting that while there is no legislation in place to implement the sweeping measures needed, the state of emergency is the “most efficient, effective and proven way” to do it.

The St Anne’s MP insisted that while the state of emergency remains in place, the emergency orders do not have to be used and are being lifted gradually to allow for the economy to reopen.

Symonette labeled accusations of Minnis’ style of governance as a “dictatorship” as “unsubstantiated nonsense”.

“I don’t understand where the word dictatorship is coming from,” he said.

He maintained the Constitution permits those emergency powers to be utilized in such a time as a pandemic.

“He has made it very clear that he takes advice from the health authorities on what has to be issued and what doesn’t have to be issued,” Symonette added.

“…We have to stop being sensational and really get down to being factual.”

Among critics of the prime minister’s leadership and the extension of the proclamation was former Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner.

Butler-Turner said she believes the extension of the state of emergency seems to be “heavy-handed” and is not in line with the government’s indications that COVID cases are decreasing and things are getting better.

“I thought that by this stage, they would have had a plan in place, outside of the continuous curfews and the lockdowns,” she said.

“People are feeling that their democratic freedoms are being infringed upon [by] the orders and it really does not [augur] well for the society or the economic viability of our country.”

She noted that the state of democracy in The Bahamas looks like a “one-man show” and echoed concerns that the emergency powers were being “abused by the competent authority”.

“At least, that’s how it’s perceived and people are feeling that they are being subjected in a very dictatorial type of governance at this point and there is very little room for questioning or reasoning or for having diverse discussions on this,” Butler-Turner said.

She added that the whole focus of the country’s democracy is to have an executive that sets policy but legislation must be “considered on all sides”, even if the opposition is few in numbers.

The opposition has also suggested that the government use “ordinary legislation” to implement measures to mitigate the pandemic.