Attorney General Carl Bethel.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel said Wayne Munroe, QC, is “plain and simply wrong” with his criticism of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ emergency powers order.
Mr Munroe told a local TV station the order was not well thought out.
“Very early on I have expressed that in my view the emergency regulations are ultra vires the Emergency Powers Act,” he said, adding he will challenge the order when the COVID-19 crisis ends so as to not “add to the confusion”.
“The Emergency Powers Act doesn’t authorise the making of emergency orders for public health reasons,” he said.
“There are other ways that you can abridge constitutional rights for public health reasons not under the Emergency Powers Act. When you look at how they have done this order, the government has decided in its wisdom to act quite unilaterally in a lot of matters. It has not put together a widespread task force where you can have consensus on such a touchy area. None of the legal stuff was sent to the Bar Council for comment. I would have told them the regulations (introduced in Parliament last week) were ultra vires and will cost you a lot of money at the end of the day.”
Mr Bethel, however, said the constitution does not limit why the Governor General might find it necessary to proclaim a national public emergency.
“No Act of Parliament can limit a right or duty to exercise a constitutional power,” Mr Bethel said.
“Having proclaimed an emergency, the Act kicks in. Public safety necessarily includes public health as does national security; and the safety of supplies for (saving) life and well-being clearly applies to this murderous virus, the treatment of which has overwhelmed hospital capacity and medical supplies throughout the world.”
Under the prime minister’s order, establishments, institutions, businesses, offices, stores and organisations will have to suspend operations to the general public. Exemptions include: wholesale or retail grocery stores and farmer’s markets; pharmacies, gas stations, laundromats and wash houses for hygienic purposes from 6am to 5pm; banks from 9am to 5pm; construction companies doing construction work from 6am to 7pm; drive through or take-away food vendors from 6am to 7.30pm, doctors offices, hospitals or medical facilities, medical supply establishments, hotels and airports.
All other establishments, institutions, businesses or offices inclusive of the public service —as may be authorised by the respective permanent secretary — shall work from home. The order states that these places “shall maintain only essential staff for the performance of core functions while adhering at all times to social distancing” of three to six feet. Mass social gatherings are also prohibited.
The order also put in place a national curfew which runs 9pm-5am until March 31.