Disaster Preparedness and Response Amendment Bill 'unconstitutional'

Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC. (File photo)

Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC. (File photo)


Deputy Chief Reporter


ATTORNEY Wayne Munroe, QC, believes the government’s proposed Disaster Preparedness and Response Amendment Bill 2019 is “unconstitutional”, as he accused the government of causing harm to scores of Abaco residents.

In an interview with The Tribune Friday, Mr Munroe said should this proposed amendment be passed and made law, it would without doubt be challenged in court as going against the country’s constitutional provisions.

If passed, the Bill makes provisions for a peace officer who can take into custody a resident who has not evacuated from a specified high-risk area according to orders. That person would be handed over to a shelter.

The prime minister would also have the right to demand the evacuation of any person or group from any place once there is a threat of disaster.

Also no first responder would be obligated to risk their lives to rescue or recover any person in a specified area or island.

The Amendment Bill comes about three weeks after category 5 Hurricane Dorian devastated Abaco and Grand Bahama.

It also comes two years after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said the Attorney General’s Office had been drafting a mandatory evacuation bill.

“I’ve spoken to the attorney general and they are drafting it,” he said in September 2017. “I think it’s essential we have mandatory evacuation. Not only that but we must now have a manual for evacuation so we have guidelines; guidelines for category one, for category two which may not require evacuations. A requirement may be category four or five; that’s things that have to be discussed. We’ve learned quite a bit from this procedure therefore our manual will tell us exactly how individuals are dispatched, how people are collected, how facilities are set up, etc.”

Fast-forward two years and faced with unprecedented destruction due to monster storm Dorian, Mr Munroe said the government’s proposed legislation is nothing but a “great ruse”.

He said: “When the Governor General proclaims a state of emergency, your fundamental rights are abridged or suspended, so for instance you can be subject to arbitrary arrest so this thing about peace officers arresting you - if the constitutional fundamental rights provision isn’t suspended article 19 of the Constitution says no person should be deprived of his personal liberty save as maybe authorised by law in any of the following cases execution of sentence or order of a court; execution of a court order to bring him before the court; unreasonable suspicion of having committed an offence; if it’s somebody under 18 for the purpose of education and welfare; To prevent the spread of infectious disease or to prevent unlawful entry into the Bahamas.

“Now unless the provision is covering any of those you can’t be detained. But if you declare a state of emergency your article 19 rights are suspended but they make it quite clear that they are doing that. So immediately they passed this legislation (but) it’ll be challenges as being unconstitutional, which in fact it would be."

Mr Munroe told The Tribune that the government was to blame for the deaths of Hurricane Dorian because it did not evacuate residents ahead of the storm. He said even if every single person left their homes, including those in The Mudd and Pigeon Peas the island had nowhere to safely shelter them all, noting orders to seek shelter in Marsh Harbour made no sense. Officials have said the death toll as a result of the monster storm is 52.

“So all of that in my view is just a deflection. It is to say and this is my view, it would have been very clear to them that they were unprepared as the storm bore down on Abaco and Grand Bahama. Although we would have known that those islands were going to be hit as the storm passed the Dominican Republic.

“So they are trying to say that they told people to leave and they didn’t leave and they have succeeded in detracting attention so that the question isn’t asked: why did you tell people to go to Marsh Harbour? Isn’t Marsh Harbour low lying? Isn’t it called Marsh Harbour because it’s a Marsh?

“That’ll be like telling people to go to Pinewood Gardens and Marshall Road as the storm came down on New Providence.

He continued: “And then they say we told the people out of the shanty towns to move, but exactly where were they going to go because they didn’t have shelters for them.

“All of this is one great ruse. There was nothing wrong with the existing law. You declare the disaster emergency, the prime minister under the disaster can under the preparedness act if per chance you think there is a state of emergency suspend people’s fundamental rights.

“The only way you do that in this country is under the article 29 process where the Governor General declares a state of emergency, it remains in place for 14 days unless its shortened. Then your right to protection from arbitrary arrest, your freedom of movement, your sanctity of your home, your protection against compulsory acquisition, all of that goes away during the period of the state of emergency.”

The amendment bill is expected to be tabled in the House of Assembly when it reconvenes on October 2.


DWW 3 years, 6 months ago

can you say "KneeJerk" and keep a straight face? :)


The_Oracle 3 years, 6 months ago

Hmm, ok, move people to shelters which have (historically) collapsed and been declared unfit for occupancy, from individual homes which are likely better built. Mathematically a stupid move. Logistically a nightmare with the potential for even greater death tolls. Maybe looting is now considered "wealth redistribution?"


Well_mudda_take_sic 3 years, 6 months ago

Typical dumb shiit Carl Bethel.

QC Munroe is 100% right. Bethel is trying to correct or cure by unconstitutional means the many failures of past governments to ensure the enforcement of laws that have been existing for decades.

Carl Bethel and his long history in active politics is a great part of all that's hurting our country today in a most terrible way, especially our illegal alien crisis which is literally strangling the Bahamas and destroying the lives of the vast majority of 'true' Bahamian people. Bethel is truly pathetic; he's as incompetent and dishonest as they come.


Foxie 3 years, 6 months ago

Munroe is correct. Neither The Bungling Attorney General or The Dumb Prime Minister seems to have read the constitution which they both took an oath to uphold.

Minnis "The Dumb" & Bethel "The Dumber".... May God help us all


henny 3 years, 6 months ago

I agree there should be a mandatory evacuation law but as far as a peace officer "arresting" anyone I don't agree. It stated the person would be "arrested and taken to a shelter" so how is that being arrested? It is more like being forced to leave your home. You can have mandatory evacuation but you can't force someone to leave. They would be responsible for their own life and possessions in case of loss. As for shelters, there needs to be several well built shelters to accommodate the homeless and those who need to evacuate, not some flimsy dilapidated building you expect them to go to..


My2centz 3 years, 6 months ago

The government did all they could to warn residents of the Mudd and Pigeon Peas. They had defence force officers walk through those villages with a creole speaker on a bullhorn. Thats as stern a warning as it could be. The only thing they could have done further would have been arrest...and as he states arbitrary arrest is unconstitutional. And despite those villages being destroyed, the other QC would have been seeking damages for the arrest that saved their lives.


geostorm 3 years, 6 months ago

@Wayne Munroe, its you and lawyers like you that are to blame for those Haitian deaths. You all try to counter every legal effort the government puts forward and tie up cases in court, leaving everything in legal limbo.

Go have several seats!! Mandatory evacuation it is!! I bet if you ask those storm victims if they had to do it again would they leave if told to evacuate, their answers would be a resounding YES!! In fact those people are so traumatized I bet when they hear a storm is coming, they will run to the hills. No one will have to tell them.


The_Oracle 3 years, 6 months ago

Ya know, They seem to think that terminology like "summary conviction" and Mandatory evacuation and "if the minister deems it necessary" in ALL legislation passed over the last 27 years, means anything in a country with zero enforcement, but all it all means is more power and potential for abuse of power in incompetent hands. Just as the Nema Legislation gives the Minister the power to appropriate private property/assets with terms for repayment to Follow. Again, refuse and Summary conviction follows. If they ever act in such a way the result will be no assets to seize going forward. They just don't get it. Title and power mean nothing if it is not coupled with logistical skill and purpose with the greatest amount of viability and Trust.


TalRussell 3 years, 6 months ago

The PLP government attempted use hot air tell populaces how and what to think. The elected comrades Imperialists red government, wants legislate to force what populaces be allowed think, yes, no ...


John 3 years, 6 months ago

Do you know if the government mandates an evacuation for a hurricane and they ‘forcef’ removes you, you are then a warden of the state. So if you are injured or lose your life as a result of that storm/hurricane, government is then responsible or legally liable. That’s why in the United States a mandatory evacuation means authorities will sternly ask a person to evacuate. If they refuse, then they must sign a waiver saying they are fully responsible for whatever consequences of their remaining in the affected area.


Millennial242 3 years, 6 months ago

This isn't rocket science, and The Bahamas is not unique to this scenario. Get someone on the team to research how other developed countries have tackled this issue successfully with the least amount of legal 'fall-out' and then see how (and if) that approach can be crafted to The Bahamas. It's called benchmarking.....


akbar 3 years, 6 months ago

From my understanding is that you don't really need a mandatory evacuation just declare a state of emergency like is usually done in southern states in the US when a hurricane approaches. So why go through this?


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