St Lucia parliament to approve COVID-19 emergency powers

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By Caribbean News Global contributor

CASTRIES, St Lucia – The parliament of Saint Lucia has scheduled 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,” as quickly as possible.

The papers to be laid extensively by prime minister Allen Chastanet, to provide for –

(a)     the declaration of a quarantine facility to isolate persons with COVID 19;

(b)     the detention of persons with COVID 19;

(c)     the imposition of restrictions and requirements on persons with COVID 19;

(d)     the isolation of persons suspected to be infected with COVIID 19;

(e)     the screening requirements for persons with COVID 19;

(f)      the requisition of a building, ship, aircraft or article;

(g)     the requisition of an essential service;

(h)     the waiver of procurement rules;

(i)      the reporting requirements;

(j)      the revocation or suspension of permits for use of public open spaces;

(k)     the prohibition of assembly of persons;

(l)      the imposition of social distancing or isolation;

(m)    the imposition of a curfew;

(n)     the restriction of access of an area;

(o)     the power to stop, detain and arrest a person;

(p)     the publication of false statements; and

(q)     the authorization for international or regional forces.

BE IT RESOLVED that Parliament approves the declaration of state of emergency that was published in the Gazette on the 23rd day of March, 2020 as Statutory Instrument No. 39 of 2020 containing a declaration that a public emergency has arisen as a result of the occurrence of 2019-n CoV, an infectious disease commonly known as COVID 19 for a period of 26 days commencing the 31st day of March, 2020 and ending on the 26th day of April, 2020.

St Lucia set for State of Emergency

This extraordinary sitting focus on passing emergency legislation lack the implement of national measures to enhance COVID-19 health delayed policy, economic and benefits for Saint Lucians; but powerfully seeks to lay the basis for the 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.”

However, in the Proclamation for Declaration of State of Emergency, dated March 23, 2020, states.

“AND WHEREAS section 17(2) of the Constitution of Saint Lucia, Cap. 1.01 provides that a proclamation under section 17(1) shall not be effective unless it contains a declaration that the Governor-General is satisfied –

(a)     that a public emergency has arisen as a result of the imminence of a state of war between Saint Lucia and a foreign state;

(b)     that a public emergency has arisen as a result of the occurrence of any earthquake, hurricane, fl    fi    outbreak of pestilence or of infectious disease, or other calamity whether similar to the foregoing or not; or…”

The Constitution of Saint Lucia, 17. declaration of emergency further states:

(3) Every declaration of emergency shall lapse—

(a) in the case of a declaration made when Parliament is sitting, at the expiration of a period of 7 days beginning with the date of publication of the declaration; and

(b) in any other case, at the expiration of a period of 21 days beginning with the date of publication of the declaration, unless it has in the meantime been approved by resolutions of the Senate and the House.

The Constitution of Saint Lucia, protection of fundamental rights and freedoms – declaration of emergency is available here.

The government of Saint Lucia is notorious for working from behind, seeking approval after the fact and generally is lost and confused. This leads to confusion and fear as is the case with COVID-19 health and financial crisis, neither of which the government has a disaster/emergency plan and/or stands ready to advance an economic programme for recovery.

The Emergency Powers (Disasters) – Resolution of Parliament to approve draft Emergency Powers (Disasters) (COVID 19) Order government is seeking is frightening, and equates to giving a tin-pot dictator (prime minster) a kitchen cabinet and an ill-defined administration to “Exploit the suffering of the people for-profit” if the words “ You just start to cry” is correctly contextualized in any measured index.

“WHEREAS under section 3(1) of the Emergency Powers (Disasters) Act, Cap. 14.07 “the Act”, it is provided that the Minister responsible for disaster preparedness and prevention may, where the Governor-General declares that a state of emergency exists for the purposes of Chapter 1 of the Constitution of Saint Lucia, Cap. 1.01 and so long as the proclamation is in force, make orders securing the essentials of life to the community and for the preservation of the health, welfare and safety of the public;

“AND WHEREAS it is further provided under section 3(2) of the Act that orders made under section 3 of the Act may without prejudice to the generality of the power conferred, provide  –

(a)     for the requisitioning of all forms of transport and communications;

(b)     for requisitioning and regulating the supply and distribution of food, clothing, water, fuel, light and other necessities of life and for fixing maximum wholesale and retail prices in respect thereof;

(c)     for the requisitioning of private lands, buildings and premises;

(d)     for conferring on any person the right of entry on or passage through or over a private lands, buildings or premises;

(e)     for the demolition of any building or other structure deemed to be dangerous; or

(f)      for the disposal of the dead and for dispensing with inquiries under the Coroner’s Act, Cap. 2.16 and from the provisions of the Civil Code of Saint Lucia, Cap. 4.01 in relation to records of births and burials;

Read: Emergency Powers (Disasters) – Resolution of Parliament to approve draft Emergency Powers (Disasters) (COVID 19) Order.pdf

In exercise of the power conferred under section 3 of the Emergency Powers (Disasters) Act, Cap. 14.07, the minister responsible for disaster preparedness and prevention makes this Order: Section 1.Citation  2. Interpretation 3. Inconsistency with other enactments 4.Quarantine facility  5. Detention of persons  6.Imposition of restrictions and requirements 7. Isolation of persons suspected to be infected with COVID-19  8. Screening  requirements 9. Power to requisition a building, vessel or aircraft or article 10. Power to requisition essential services  11. Power to waive procurement rules 12. Power to waive fees  13. Reporting  requirements 14. Revocation or suspension of permits for use of public open spaces 15. Prohibition of assembly  16. Imposed social distancing or isolation 17. Curfew 18. Restriction of access to an area 18. Power to stop, detain and arrest  20. Obstruction 21. Publication of false statements  22. Governor General may authorize international or regional forces  23.Publication of order 24. General penalty 25. Expiry

Read:  Emergency Powers (Disasters) (COVID 19) Order.pdf

General penalty

  1. A person who contravenes this Order commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars or both and forfeiture of goods or money in respect of which the offence has been committed.

Expiry

  1. This Order ceases to have effect when the declaration of state of emergency pursuant to which this Order has been made ceases to have effect.

Emergency Powers (Disasters) (COVID 19) Order.pdf

In a request for comment by a Saint Lucian Think-Tank, the following was submitted;

“All told, prime minister Allen Chastanet COVID-19 update(s) is more in keeping with a monologue as witnessed Monday evening with minister Guy Joseph is not led by leading experts on science, health and financial crisis data and management, law, best practice in communication and the gravitas of confidence capable to ensure resolve, about the most effective way forward in this crisis, and the governance of Saint Lucia.

The expertise, support the global economic system to strengthen the ability of government through the COVID-19 is inadequate to support readiness and innovation. The government is also deficient, supported by comments that the government cannot fight two wars at the same time.

COVID-19 is a health and financial crisis and therein further substantiates the dangers to give emergency powers to a government devoid of the capability to save jobs and set the groundwork for economic recovery.

How can the government be entrusted with emergency powers and the State of Emergency, that is unable to support Saint Lucians during the COVID-19 pandemic, provided guidance for businesses and announce a package of measures to support employers and employees?

The worsening constraints to invoke emergency powers suggest essential workers, influential business and the 30 percenters have signaled SOS; knowing they are not ‘All In’, ‘Building a new Saint Lucia’. With emergency powers, the ill-defined government can now execute as it desires.”

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