by Linda Straker
- Covid-19 bill proposed as sunset legislation for 12 months
- Grenada Trades’ Union Council (GTUC) objects to bill in its current format
- NDC describes bill as unjust to population
- Protesters only allowed in the carpark
Members of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and other persons representing civil society on Wednesday morning took their message of “No” to the Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19) Control Bill 2020 in a silent protest on the compound of the Parliament building.
The Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19) Control Bill, 2020 seeks to regulate the containment of the spread of coronavirus (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.
However, since the documentation became public, there has been loud objection to the bill. During a special Cabinet session on Sunday, government agreed to withdraw the bill which was on the order paper for first readings and remaining stages during Wednesday, 29 July sitting.
Among the protesters, Senator, Andre Lewis who represents the Labour Movement in the Upper House, said the Grenada Trades’ Union Council (GTUC) recognises the need for legal management, but the council is objecting to the bill in its current format. “It’s quite necessary to have some law to manage the unknown, but we have deep concerns,” said Lewis in a live interview. He listed the section of the law which gives the police authority to arrest without a warrant and the powers provided to the minister as causes for concern. He called for genuine discussion and consultation on the bill.
Franka Bernardine, the present leader of the NDC, described the bill as unjust to the population. “This bill is oppressive,” she said, sharing the view that Covid-19 has exposed weaknesses in the system. “Covid has shown us where the loopholes lie,” she said, without providing examples of loopholes within the legal or health systems.
The entrance to the Parliament chambers was surrounded by police officers and thus the protesters, most of whom were wearing masks and displaying placards, were only allowed in the carpark.
Grenada’s first Covid-19 positive case occurred in March, and by May there were 23 persons, most of whom have been declared medically recovered. While the protesters were outside parliament displaying placards that the country was Covid-19 free, Health Minister, Nickolas Steele, announced that Grenada has confirmed case number 24.
Attorney General, Darshan Ramdhani, said that the bill is not different from what is currently in the State of Emergency regulations. The Covid-19 bill receiving objection is proposed as a sunset legislation for 12 months and will remove the state of emergency.