Attorney General Carl Bethel. (File photo)
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A DRAFT of a post-Emergency Orders Bill that will replace current COVID-19 restrictions is still in the “consultation phase”, Attorney General Carl Bethel said.
It is not clear when the legislation will be completed or if the Minnis administration plans to have the bill tabled in Parliament before the current emergency orders are set to end next month.
Mr Bethel did not respond to additional questions sent by the Tribune.
He only said: “The draft bill is still only in the consultation phase.”
However, speaking in the Senate in February, Senator Bethel said his office was close to completing the bill, which he said was difficult to draft.
According to Mr Bethel, the bill will create an advisory committee to suggest protocols that fall in line with the constitution and suggested the move will ensure society returns to normal following the expiration of the COVID-19 restrictions.
“On the issue of the emergency orders, the government is and my drafts person has been working very hard on crafting a bill that will fill the void, if you will, between the Health Services Bill and the need for this constitutional order,” Mr Bethel said at the time. “The idea is that the bill, and we are in the very final stages of it, is going to be carefully crafted.
“Anything that is done must be reasonably justifiable, which is the constitutional standard for ordinary everyday conduct legislation, government actions, etcetera.
He continued: “So, everything is being based and premised on the phrase that it is ‘reasonably justifiable’ in the circumstance so we are very very close to having a post-Emergency Orders Bill and that will allow the Prime Minister to have an advisory committee (with) opposition members, government members, medical professionals on it, to advise the minister so that in a sense the political directorate on both sides would have a say at the advisory committee level and of course there would be parliamentary oversight.
“So, we’re trying to craft a house firmly under the jurisdiction of normality that is guided by ordinary constitutional principles of being reasonably justifiable and that has input on all sides at every stage. That should be forthcoming. As soon as it is completed of course it goes to Cabinet. Cabinet will have to approve it, but we’re trying to come up with a new framework,” he said in February.
When asked by The Tribune last month whether the government plans to end the state of emergency when the emergency orders expire in May, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis only said: “That would be my greatest and happiest moment to release the Emergency Orders. I would be elated and in fact on that particular day, you would probably see me jumping and kicking my two feet together.”