EDITOR, The Tribune
We are sitting back as citizens in this country and allowing our country to become a police state!
This pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus has resulted in many governments around the world declaring states of emergency to address the said virus outbreak. This is understandable in a democracy in the name of public safety. Under the Emergency Powers Act, regulations were issued that involved a national curfew and lately it has morphed into a national lockdown.
What is disappointing to me, is that the “competent authority” has made the breach of the said curfew and lockdown an arrestable offence. This means that police officers are able to arrest a citizen and have them prosecuted before the court to address the allegation of the breach.
The better approach to my mind would be to make the breach operate as a “fixed penalty” offence. The penalty can be made to be a $1000 fine. An individual can be given twenty-four hours to pay the fine or forty-eighty hours to challenge the allegation of the breach before the magistrates court. By approaching it this way, it limits law enforcement’s exposure with individuals and allows the court to still dispense “justice” in a democratic society.
This approach will also reduce the risk of a potential outbreak among police officers, arrestees and inmates at the prison. The risk of community spread exist highest among these constituents at this time. A number of persons charged have been remanded to the Bahamas Department of Corrections. Needless to say, these persons haven’t been tested for covid-19. And certainly can’t observe the social distancing order. Luckily so far, there has been no confirmed cases stemming from that facility.
Law enforcement is more likely to come into contact with more individuals than the public health officials at this time, due to the nature and mandate of their work. Why can’t that opportunity be used to administer a covid-19 test? The Royal Bahamas Police Force and Royal Bahamas Defence Force possess medical services units with trained medical professionals staffing these units.
Do we have in our arsenal any of the point of contact tests?
Arresting persons and taking them into custody at this time defies all logic to my mind! These citizens aren’t being tested and haven’t been tested. It actually increases the risk of community spread. I am no medical doctor. But I like to believe that I have commonsense and critically think.
The Police and Defense Forces at this time must be seen to be a partner of the Medical Community and not people bullying citizens into submission while risking their very own health. The videos circulating on social media is my authority for stating this.
The forces should be used to disseminate critical information directed by the medical community and public health officials, while obviously still carrying out its duties. But arresting and taking away citizens’ liberty because of curfew breaches cannot be seen to be the focus at this time.
The focus of everyone needs to be on keeping safe and combating the covid-19 virus. The ultimate responsibility, however, is a personal one. Citizens are to obey the orders and follow the protocols as given by the public health officials. But arresting citizens and detaining them in custody is not sensible at this time.
For what it is worth!
April. 6, 2020