Monday, January 18, 2021


Minnis Hints at Extension of Emergency Order Until Vaccine Availability

In Prime Minister Hubert Minnis’s New Years National address on Wednesday, many Bahamians expected an announcement of relaxation of COVID-19 measures.

Instead, Minnis cautioned a tightening of measures if the COVID-19 cases rise before the arrival of vaccines into the country.

“It is possible that cases will rise again before vaccines arrive,” he said. “If this happens, as a government and people, we will have to return to some of the measures that worked to beat back previous waves.

“Through our experience during the pandemic year, we now know the formula that works. Tough times do not scare us. Difficult circumstances do not break our resolve,” he said.

Some social media posters were critical of the address, asking for Dr. Minnis to address when the COVID-19 restrictions will be further relaxed.

However, Minnis emphasized in his address that the reopening of the country depends on the successful distribution of the vaccine, which he expects in the coming months.

“Thankfully, because there are now successful vaccines for COVID-19, our country, and our economy, are set to reopen more fully in the months ahead.

“The end is in sight. Restrictions will end. We will get back to our way of life. Jobs and the economy, are coming back, he promised.

This means the emergency order is expected to extend beyond January 31, 2021.

In November of last year, the House of Assembly passed a resolution for a two-month extension of the emergency order.

Minnis at the time said when the emergency orders help in lowering cases, the restrictive measures will be reversed, permitting residents to live a more normal life.

Moultrie in Spat With Davis Denies Reports of Minnis Acting Like a ‘Demigod’

House Speaker Halson Moultrie  said the media reports that he referenced the competent authority as a “demigod,” is “false.”

Moultrie’s comments came in the House of Assembly on Thursday during the debate on the extension of the emergency order to January 31.

Opposition Leader Philip Davis while arguing against the renewed emergency order, said it gave the impression that Prime Minister Hubert Minnis was someone of divine status.

Davis said, “There is a view emerging that the member (competent authority) might be a demigod.”

The issue is, the label “demigod” was attributed to Moultrie as reporters spoke to him on the sideline of a constiutency event. Moultrie then called for the autonomy of Parliament, which he believes is held hostage by Cabinet.

He told reporters at the time, “We have developed situations where the leader or the prime minister in these jurisdictions can function like a demigod–like a person who is maximum leader, a person who could dictate.”

When PLP Leader Philip Davis used the term to describe Minnis in the House, Moultrie then presumed that Davis was underhandedly using the words attributed to him as quoted in the newspaper, to describe the competent authority.

Moultrie said, “You are sliding down a slippery slope. It is clear what the honorable member for Cat Island and San Salvador is attempting to do. And what you are attempting to do, you are trying to attribute something to a member in this parliament (Moultrie himself) that was falsely reported in the newspaper. And so I would advise you to…

Davis then interrupted and said, “I said emerging. I never attributed that comment to anyone. I didn’t ask. I said a view is emerging that the member may be a demigod. I attributed that to no one.”

“If you feel as if I’m talking about what you have been saying, that’s not it.”

Many Bahamians have expressed issue with the competent authority as they say he is operating without the consent of the Cabinet and solely by his own authority.

Govt Targets January 31, 2021 for Emergency Order Extension

The Senate is set to debate a resolution for the extension of the Emergency Order until January 31st.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Carl Bethel tabled the bill in the Senate, stating that the bill will be debated on Friday, which is one day after Prime Minister Hubert Minnis is set to address the House of Assembly regarding the extension of the emergency order.

Why it matters

  • Last night, Governor-General C.A Smith declared a third state of emergency, giving the competent authority the ability to extend the order for the next six months.
  • Last week, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced the intention of the government to extend the order to December 28th, which he was expected to be debated on Wednesday morning in the House of Assembly, but was postponed to Thursday morning.

What Attorney General Carl Bethel said

  • “I beg leave to give notice that at the next sitting of the honorable Senate, that we will adjoin to a fixed date, which is anticipated to be Friday, I will move the following resolution which I will read at this point, the first and second paragraphs and on the adjoin date, I will read the entire resolution.”
  • He continued:

Whereas, pursuant to article 29-1 of the Constitution, the government of the Bahamas will move a proclamation of emergency declaring that a state of public emergency declaring that a state of public emergency for the priveledges of that article, exist in the Bahamas.

  1. Now, therefore, be it resolve that this House approves the continuance of the Proclamation of Emergency made on the 24th day of November 2020 until the 31st day of January 2021.
  2. Affirms the continuance in effect of the emergency powers COVID pandemic, Risk Management Regulations 2020, made on the 24th day of November 2020 until the 31st day of January 2021.
  3. Affirms the continuance in effect of the emergency powers COVID pandemic, Risk Management Special Provisions order 2020, made on the 24th day of November 2020 until the 31st day of January 2021.

What the Proclamation signed by Governor-General C.A Smith says:

  • “…scientific and medical experts have advised that COVID-19 is likely to persist as a pandemic in many parts of the world, including the Bahamas, for the foreseeable future until a vaccine is available for wide public distribution.
  • “…I am satisfied that due to the presence of COVID-19 in The Bahamas and the expected continuance of the presence of COVID-19 in the Bahamas for the foreseeable future, a state of public emergency continues to exist in The Bahamas.”

What the Opposition said

Opposition Leader Philip Davis said, “The Progressive Liberal Party does not and will not support the new proclamation of emergency issued this evening by the governor-general.
“We will refuse to allow the matter to be debated tomorrow 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.”

How Minnis Intended 2-Month Emergency Order Extension, But Seems to Have Changed Mind

Prime Minister Hubert Minnis wanted to extend the emergency order by two months when the proclamation expires on November 30th.

CSJ Report understands that Minnis as the competent authority intended to continue the state of emergency order to January, but faced opposition from a few Cabinet ministers.

When Minnis presented the fixed plan to ministers, he expected them to come in agreement but an outspoken minister told him he could not consent.

Why it matters

The emergency order expires on November 30th, after the country was placed under nearly eight months of the emergency order. Minnis gave notice in the House of Assembly on Wednesday that once the order expires this month, he intends to extend the order to December 28th, an indication that he had changed his mind.

The big picture

As COVID-19 cases rose in the country, Governor-General C.A Smith declared a state of emergency in March. The order was initially set to expire on June 29.

Attorney General Carl Bethel said the proclamations “ensure public health.”

The order faces opposition

  • Attorney Wayne Munroe is a known opposer of the emergency order, threatening to file a lawsuit against the government.
  • Attorney Damien Gomez says he will join that lawsuit if the emergency order is extended beyond January.
    • He says, “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.”

Partiers Ignore COVID-19 Measures. They are Slapped with Fines

The proprietor, manager and patrons of a restaurant and bar were cited for violating COVID-19 Emergency Order.

A video circulated on social media, showing scores of patrons hurriedly exiting the establishment as police officers inspected and issued tickets.

What is known

  • Shortly after 6:00 pm, officers from the Northeastern Division and COVID-19 Enforcement Unit were alerted to a social gathering at a lounge located on Madeira Street, Palmdale.
  • It was discovered that the patrons and proprietor were in violation of the COVID19 Emergency Order.
  • The proprietor and the manager of the establishment were cited for hosting a social gathering and failing to practice social distancing.
  • A number of the patrons were also cited for attending the party and failing to practice social distancing and wear a mask.
Police citing attendees and managers at the social gathering.