GOVERNOR General C A Smith issued a new proclamation of emergency last night, his third since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The Progressive Liberal Party called the act an “abuse of power” and said the official opposition will not support the move in Parliament.
A new proclamation means a state of emergency — and the competent authority’s associated emergency powers — can remain in effect for another six months, if not revoked sooner.
The new proclamation was issued a week after Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis told the House of Assembly he intended to seek Parliament’s approval to extend the country’s state of emergency, which was set to expire on November 30, to December 28.
The Governor General’s second proclamation of emergency was also set to expire at the end of December.
Attorney General Carl Bethel told The Tribune that a new proclamation was issued last night because the government “wished to avoid debate on a new proclamation in the middle of the Christmas holidays”.
“It would take MPs out of their constituencies for about a week having regards to the need to table in both Houses (of Parliament) and debate the next day.
“The Governor General in his own deliberate judgment decided to make the proclamation. He could have always said no. It was ultimately his decision,” Mr Bethel explained.
Last night, Progressive Liberal Party leader Philip “Brave” Davis said the opposition party “does not and will not support the new Proclamation of Emergency issued this evening by the Governor General.”
Mr Davis said in a statement: “We will refuse to allow the matter to be debated tomorrow (Wednesday) in the House and will not waive the notice requirement.
“The issue of the proclamation is an abuse of power. Civil liberties have been suspended long enough and we say the suspension must end and go no farther.”
The Bahamas has been under a state of emergency since the Governor General first issued a proclamation on March 18, shortly after the country recorded its first COVID-19 case.
That initial proclamation expired on June 29 after the government failed to bring a resolution in time to have it extended.
However, the Governor General swiftly issued a second proclamation.
Last week, former Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez, QC, told The Nassau Guardian that the government may face litigation if a new proclamation of emergency was issued.
“I think they’ll start to see litigation at that point,” Mr Gomez told The Nassau Guardian.
He also said: “My view of it is, firstly, you should only use states of emergency sparingly. Doing it repeatedly undermines the perception of the country as a country governed by laws and freedoms.”