by Linda Straker
- Bill being proposed takes away State of Emergency, and gives a substantive provision to govern
- Objections to bill include unconstitutional sections and violation of fundamental human rights
- Bill withdrawn from order paper following emergency cabinet meeting on Sunday
Attorney General, Darshan Ramdhani, has explained that the proposed Covid-19 Control Bill which has become the subject of a heated debate among members of the legal profession, civil society and the general public, is less stringent than the current Emergency Powers regulations under which Grenada is currently functioning.
Ramdhani explained that the decision to get parliamentary approval is to stop the weekly cabinet repealing of the emergency regulations and allow for members of the legislature to approve legal guidance based on advice from science. “When you look at the present regulations and you look at the provisions in this present regulation and you look at this draft bill, you will realise that the draft is actually substantially identical to the regulations except that it actually relaxes one or two of the measures in the regulations,” he said during the weekly post-cabinet briefing held on Tuesday 28 July.
“Our government is making decisions based on feedback, based on decisions coming from the medical and scientific community, based on an analysis of the rest of the world and having regards for the present regulations that are in place, the government felt it necessary that we can go to parliament,” said Ramdhani.
“The bill that is being proposed takes away the State of Emergency. It gives a substantive provision to govern. Those substantive provisions are nowhere else in the law except if you call a State of Emergency.” He explained that new health protocols and regulations can only continue to operate if Grenada continues under a state of emergency.
Many of the lawyers and others who are objecting to the bill are claiming that sections are unconstitutional and will violation fundamental human rights as provided in the Grenada Constitution. They are also complaining that the police power to arrest without a warrant contravenes the constitution.
In late March, as part of measures to contain and control the spread of Covid-19, government declared a State of Emergency with a curfew that restricts the movement of citizens. The only exemption was for essential services workers as listed in the regulations, and medical emergencies.
Since then, the Cabinet in accordance with the Emergency Powers legislation has repealed regulations weekly or fortnightly, for the country to function under a state of emergency. However, the Government has proposed the Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19) Control Bill, 2020 to make provision for living with the new disease in the absence of a vaccine.
The bill which was anticipated to take effect 15 August seeks to regulate the containment of the spread of Covid-19 in the State of Grenada, in the interests of public safety, public order, and public health, and for the maintenance of a substantial portion of the community, and supplies and services essential to the life of the community of the State of Grenada.
After much debate on the weekend, the bill which was scheduled to go before Parliament for approval on Wednesday, 29 July in the House of Representatives and on Friday, 31 July in the Senate, was withdrawn from the order paper, following an emergency cabinet meeting on Sunday. It has become the subject of public consultations with various interest groups including the Grenada Bar Association.
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