COVID-19 emergency powers in St Lucia: What’s the relevance?

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Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Allen Chastanet

By Caribbean News Global fav

LONDON, England – On March 23, 2020, Governor-General of Saint Lucia Sir Emmanuel Neville Cenac, acting under Statutory Instrument No. 39 of 2020 — Constitution of Saint Lucia — Proclamation for Declaration of State of Emergency, “do hereby declare – (a) that a state of emergency exists for the purposes of  Chapter 1 of the Constitution of Saint Lucia, Cap. 1.01; (b) that I am satisfied that a public emergency has arisen as a result of the occurrence of 2019-n CoV, an infectious disease commonly known as COVID-19.”

The parliament of Saint Lucia dual sittings of the House of Assembly and the Senate for Tuesday, March 24, 2020, specifically to pass “the draft Emergency Powers (Disasters) (COVID-19) Order by an affirmative resolution of parliament to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” was quickly shuffled through and passed in much the same manner, the new Alien Landholding (Licensing) Act.

According to the member of parliament for Vieux-South, Dr Kenny Anthony: “I don’t hold much hope at all; that the voices you have heard on this side will be listened to – what is a very provocative piece of legislation … you get the impression that there is accompanying schizophrenia when dealing with policies and legislation, and if by schizophrenia we simply mean conflicting or inconsistent elements characterise by unusual disparity, then this Bill qualifies as being schizophrenic,” he said.

Dr Alphonsus St Rose advised in his article — Healthcare nightmare: COVID-19 and ‘State of Emergency’ declaration, “It must be worthwhile to consider the need to include somewhere in the declaration instrument or parliamentary resolution an accountability clause whereby the government is required to lay in parliament a detailed accountability package at the termination of the said State of Emergency Declaration for parliamentary and public oversight.

Opposition leader Philip J Pierre cautioned that “with the best intentions in the world, there are some people who will use that opportunity to settle ‘political points’. We hope it doesn’t happen, but that has been our experience” adding, “anytime the opposition supports a measure there is a political backlash – political spin because it’s just in their ( government ) nature to make people cry,” Pierre declared. “So we hope that’s a different beginning to what we are accustomed to,” albeit the reservations that the same effect could have been achieved under other laws.“We err on the side of the health of the people of Saint Lucia,” he explained in parliament.

Stephenson King, minister for infrastructure, ports, energy and labour said: “As in the view of many, it may seem to be overkill by introducing a state of emergency, but it is probably necessary to keep people in line and to understand that we are talking about serious business, it is a matter of life and death and we do know the impact on this virus.”

“I believe when you consider the behaviour of people, particularly of recent times in terms of disobedience, the manner in which we have seen our people conduct themselves as if it’s business as usual and not taking heed of what is happening on the international scene, the situation in Italy and even the United Kingdom and the United States, where the authorities in these first world countries are already battling to contain the virus, I believe at this time we need to take all precautionary measures and to a great extent, tighten those measures to ensure that our people are safe,” King said.

Thaddeus Antoine, president of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Bar Association said: “Declaring a state of emergency is premature. Sorry, but the lawyer in me, the defender of the rule of law, is of the opinion that the powers required for this public health pandemic, COVID-19 are available, [by] passing orders or regulations to the public health act and the quarantine act,” adding, “ the emergency powers are too wide … we do not need a state of emergency,” Antoine said. “No government should have no greater powers or latitude than is necessary for the health and safety of our people.”

In an apparent offensive to queries, whether Emergency Powers (Disasters) (COVID 19) was really necessary at this time, the attorney general of Saint Lucia proffered a statement by the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the global pandemic.

“I will again refer to what director-general Dr Tedros said, ‘And we have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action,’” he stated. “So do we decide to be Italy and what is happening there, this scourge called coronavirus or do we take an example from our friends from Taiwan? Do we wait till it is literally, knocking at our door or do we wait before it arrives at our shore…”

“We know our resources,” he stated. “So I think we have done, and I am convinced that the state has done the responsible thing in trying to curtail any spread beyond the level that it is currently at. And this is what we have been implored to do by the technocrats, the health care workers from within the region and from within our shores. We need to take these pre-emptive steps,” the attorney-general said.

This development reveals Saint Lucia’s second declaration of a State of Emergency. In 1957, Sir John Compton was detained, due to uprisings (poor working conditions and low wages) in the sugar estates in the Dennery Valley.

Notwithstanding the skepticism of the government of Saint Lucia’s legal advice to “satisfied that a public emergency has arisen as a result of the occurrence of 2019-n CoV,” is understandably inadequate capricious jurisprudence, simple common sense should prevail on legal guidance and appropriate national security intelligence to policy-making.

The Emergency Powers Disaster (COVID-19) Order and the imposition of a State of Emergency “for a period of 26 days commencing the 31st day of March 2020 and ending on the 26th day of April 2020,” historically, in other jurisdictions is commonly used to submit to egocentric leadership, conquest to fundamental liberty, and to affirm entitlement.

The implementation of Emergency Powers Disaster (COVID-19) Order therein, despite a ‘democratic equilibrium’, precedes a suspension of the Constitution, to singular adjudication. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” tend towards dictatorship and mechanisms to plunder the wealth of a nation unrestricted.

Under wise counsel, opposition leader Pierre said: “I would do things much differently. We will remain vigilant in ensuring that the government does not abuse their power. The issue that people are having is whether they trust the government to have these powers.”

Therein, the relevance of the Emergency Powers Disaster (COVID-19) as argued (external interpretation, obedience and the growing clamour for conformist group-think) conceivably make the argument on eligibility for quarantined, to prevent the spread of ‘stupidity’. And besides inadequate conclusion on healthcare, security, economic and national intelligence on the decree imposed, questions persists: Which law is applicable? English Law (UK) or Saint Lucian Law?

1 COMMENT

  1. What it actually means the government can do anything it wants without referring to the constitution, the constitution is suspended, it also means that no elections need to be held. Its an extremely profound measure to take and it cannot be of any use in the matter of the virus that could not have been taken under normal laws. Its most probably a political matter and the instigators are taking an advantage for reasons not yet obvious.

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