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.
In recent times, the streets of the country have become occupied with street vendors, selling bottled water, coconut water, fruits and peanuts, some on sidewalks, and others in the middle of two-lane traffic.
Unemployment, compounded by the increased cost of living, has rapidly accelerated street vending in the country, particularly in New Providence.
On Monday, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis addressed them, promising to review the current licensing and regulatory procedures. Dr. Minnis said his government wants to enable street vendors to sell their products in safe and secure venues.
He said street vendors play an important role in the country’s economy. “Accordingly, we will be offering a way for enterprising Bahamians to be able to sell their products on the streets of their respective islands,” Dr. Minnis said.
“We want them to be able to do so in a way that does not pose undue dangers to themselves, pedestrians, or the motoring public. We will put in place the standards that ensure that they are able to meet health code requirements and thus not pose any health risk related to COVID-19 or otherwise. The vendors will be trained in these standards as a requirement of their license.”
This comes after some ‘coconut boys’ have been arrested and charged before the courts for violating the order and selling their products during the pandemic.
Regulations implemented by Minnis to limit the increase of street vendors
In May, Dr.Minnis announced plans to put an end to unregulated street vendors.
In the country’s fight to prevent the spread of the virus, Dr. Minnis said the government will create designated locations for vendors.
“This sprawling of vendors that we see today throughout New Providence will no longer be seen nor tolerated,” he said.
Letter of inspection from Environmental Health – if selling food.
Letter from District Head Quarters of Police Department.
A Valid Business Licence.
Who are the ‘coconut boys’?
Economic hardship experienced by these young people has resulted in the creation of a small street business in search of better livelihoods.
Many of the vendors selling coconut water are males between the age of 18 and 25. Many have recounted stories of hardships and accumulating only enough money to cover expenses and care for their families.
Jason Williams is an 18-year-old graduate of C.I Gibson who started his own business one year ago, selling coconut juice and jelly to locals and visitors throughout Nassau. He said he operated the small business to help support his family as he searches for a job. Williams said street vending keeps him focused in a society where young men have turned to violence and gang activities.
Marvin Joseph is a 20-year-old man who sells mangoes, coconut water, and coconut jelly on the side of the street. Joseph said life has been hard for him and the job allows him to make enough money to feed his daughter, and pay rent. Joseph said he was evicted from his home and was living with his aunt.
Moreko Mackey is a 19-year-old street vendor of Harold Road who sells coconut water and meat.
The public has criticized Minnis administration’s hard stance against vendors who have won the empathy and support of the public.
On Monday, Dr. Minnis said his government will make available additional funding to the Small Business Development Center for business loans or grants for the street vendors. He said this will allow them to adjust to the current circumstances and to support or expand their business start-ups or expansion.
He said the coconut boys will be given a financial grant, which is a gift from the government, to establish and expand their business
Minnis added that materials needed for the job will also be provided such as coolers and umbrellas to operate on the street.
Attorney Wayne Munroe and activist Khandi Gibson have since called on Dr. Minnis to assist in the expungement of the coconut boys’ criminal records which they said pose a threat to their advancement.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused couples to spend more time together than ever before. While quality time is beneficial, it may present challenges since too much time together may become overwhelming due to lack of space and little individual time for oneself.
In fact, attorneys have expressed that marriages in the Bahamas are dissolving during this time, as they have received numerous calls to assist in divorce cases.
QC Wayne Munroe said spending too much time together is the quickest way to get a divorce, as little things become annoying. Munroe said he expects more divorces as lockdown continues.
While Munroe may have a bleak outlook on marriages, Therapist and Relationship Consultant Harrison Thompson says your marriage can survive the lockdown.
1. Carve out Individual time
We all need to ensure that while spending more time together, we don’t run into ‘proximity fatigue’ where we’re tired of seeing our partner when we usually don’t. Don’t get offended by space either but use it to refresh so that you can come back together, reinvigorated.
2. Allow your partner to have feelings
Sometimes we don’t let our partner feel and go through their emotions without judging them for it. Feelings are meant to be felt and when we don’t do that, problems get worse and so do our responses to them.
3. Be silly
Only be an adult when absolutely necessary. Sometimes we take in too much information that overwhelms us and makes us anxious. Being silly with one another is a great way to break tensions and return to a lighter mood.
Lamont and Raynita met more than 15 years ago, and this month, the couple is celebrating their union as husband and wife during the coronavirus pandemic.
The onset of COVID-19 has changed travel protocols, so the couple who usually travel to the United States at every anniversary, is forced to celebrate at home under a national lockdown.
When plans were made to travel to a Family Island to celebrate their union instead, that too was cancelled.
So they celebrated at home. They got dressed, hired a photographer for pictures in their backyard, and sat down for a beautiful dinner.
Lamont, a Bahamian citizen and Raynita, an American national said the lockdown has forced them to rediscover love.
“This lockdown has made us much closer than we already were. We love being in each other’s presence, laughing and having fun.
“We realized that we weren’t spending much time together due to our busy schedules…Sometimes I would have to carry the boys to their basketball games or music performances, while my husband is still working. We didn’t realize until the lockdown, that we were barely spending quality time together,” said Raynita, the mother of two boys.
While the Sweetings are celebrating love and are enjoying quality time together during the national lockdown, many couples are inquiring about the dissolution of their marriages.
QC Wayne Munroe said he has received numerous phone calls of couples seeking divorce, as he and other attorneys see “a tremendous increase” in cases.
“I tell people that one of the quickest ways to get divorced is to spend too much time with your spouse. The little things that annoy you, you cannot get a break from it. It’s a phenomenon you’re going to see a lot more of,” he said.
But Raynita said marriage relationships are not easy, and couples should make time for each other and themselves.
Lamont offers this advice to couples in lockdown: “Put God first. Always pray together, laugh together, trust each other and be each other’s number one supporter.
“I pray that God will continue to bless our union and that we be an example to many others in these tough times.”
Covid-19 has thrust the Bahamas in uncharted waters and like the rest of the world, the country has implemented curfews and lockdown measures to contain the spread of the infectious disease.
Attorney Wayne Munroe filed a lawsuit on behalf of 21 people, on the constitutionality of emergency orders, many of whom are business owners negatively affected by the orders, and other individuals charged and convicted for violations of the orders.
Now, two former prominent members of the Bahamas judicial system have ‘butt heads’ in the public domain, over the legality of the lockdown orders.
For the first time, the public has witnessed a fight between two well-respected women of the legal society.
Who are they?
Dame Joan Sawyer
79-year-old Justice Joan Sawyer is the former Chief Justice from 1996 to 2001 and former President of the Court of Appeal, where she served until 2010, when she retired.
Since leaving her post, Sawyer favours talk-shows, delivering fiery rebukes of politicians and their political decisions.
In 2016, she butt heads with Former Deputy Leader of the Free National Movement Loretta Butler Turner and Former Attorney General Allyson Maynard over the gender equality referendum, when Sawyer said she would vote ‘no,’ despite not reading any of the proposed questions.
At the time, Butler said of Sawyer, “What really bothered me and most Bahamians is the fact that persons like Dame Joan Sawyer have reached the pinnacle of their legal career, she retired as the chief justice and the fact that she was able to make such strong pronouncements in the absence of facts, really gives me reason to question the motive.”
In 2017, Sawyer rebuked several government initiatives of the Christie administration such as value added tax and Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival. Dame Joan criticised the festival where women make themselves “exhibits”.
Dame Anita Allen
72-year-old Dame Justice Anita Allen served as Justice of the Supreme Court of the Bahamas in 1995, and was elevated to Senior Justice in 2005. Allen is the former President of the Court of Appeal, having retired in 2017, a position which she has held since 2010.
She succeeded Joan Sawyer and became the second woman to hold that post, and is the current law reform commissioner for the government.
Allen is married to former Free National Movement Cabinet Minister Algernon Allen.
Why the Opposition and Dame Joan Sawyer agree
Since the implementation of the emergency order, the Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip Davis opposed the orders, citing social and economic impact on the country.
Attorney Wayne Munroe, who ran for the PLP in the 2017 election and is vying for PLP nomination in 2020 said, “We continue to say there is no state of emergency and that the emergency regulations are unconstitutional.”
He has not only filed a lawsuit for 21 people against the government, but has since filed a personal action against Dr. Minnis after a group of people were arrested on Tuesday morning for protesting against the immediate seven-day lockdown.
And recently, Sawyer, a prominent voice, has also come out against the orders, referring to the lockdowns as “house arrest” and “detention.”
“By ‘detention,’ I mean, telling us when we can leave our homes, when we can exercise, when we can go to the shops, telling us when we can get married, how and when we can bury our dead relatives, among other things, telling us when we can go to a doctor or a dentist as well as how many of us can go to church at a time, how long we can be in church and so on and so on,” Sawyer said.
“…It (government) has exercised an exorbitant power on the pretext that they are concerned to save lives from this “deadly virus” by detaining every person in The Bahamas — except for persons they have in their wisdom deemed “essential workers,” she said.
Sawyer likened the emergency orders to dictatorial practices of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.
“If your argument is correct, there is nothing wrong with the government inflicting torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment on people who have not been charged with any breach of any law let alone the orders of the administration during a declared period of public emergency.”
On whose side is the government?
Dame Allen supports a national lockdown implemented by the government and has called for stricter measures.
Highlighting the exponential increases in cases, she said, “If this (the COVID-19 numbers) continues, our medical capacity will be exhausted and we will all be in trouble.”
Allen then criticizes opponents of the lockdown like Attorney Wayne Munroe and Justice Sawyer, saying, she believes the lockdown is necessary.
Allen said, “The message regarding the seriousness of the situation and the absolute necessity for everyone to adhere to the protocols put in place for our protection is being garbled and diluted by people waving the Constitution and wrongly proclaiming the unconstitutionality of lockdowns, curfews and quarantine during a state of public emergency.”
She continued, “Moreover, if the science warrants a lockdown, and in my view it does, there should be a full and complete lockdown for a week with no businesses open, and a partial lockdown the week after, only allowing for food store and pharmacy runs!”
The next day, at 8pm, Prime Minister Hubert Minnis implemented a 7-day lockdown of Grand Bahama and New Providence, which experienced surging cases.
Minnis in his immediate implementation of the 7-day lockdown said, “Indeed, as noted by leading jurists in our country, the requirement for the constitutionality of various provisions is that is that they are ‘reasonably justifiable in the circumstances of the emergency.'”
“Indeed, our Founders fathers wisely placed in our constitution provisions allowing the Governor General to declare proclamations of emergency. Such proclamations exist to allow the Government to act to protect the people in times of great national crisis.”
Minnis continued, “If the Government did not have the Emergency Powers there would be mass death in The Bahamas beyond the imagination of most. Those who tell you the Emergency Powers are not necessary are unserious and dead wrong.”