PNP urges Gov't to declare SOE in response to COVID-19

PNP urges Gov't to declare SOE in response to COVID-19

Monday, March 30, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Opposition spokesperson on justice, Senator Donna Scott-Mottley, is urging the Government to declare a state of public emergency to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

According to Scott-Mottley the People's National Party (PNP) is of the view that a declaration of a state of public emergency, in the current circumstances, is one which will ensure that the clear signal is sent that the Constitution is supreme.

“This crisis which we face as a nation is unprecedented. It is a time when the entire country should come together in recognition of our humanity and vulnerability,” said Scott-Mottley, hours after the Ministry of Health confirmed two more cases of the virus in the island taking the number of cases to 36 with one death.

“The PNP stands ready to support the Government in the measures being taken to combat this deadly disease but they must be anchored within ambit of our legal provisions,” addedScott-Mottley

Taking note of the ongoing debate about the constitutionality of some of the measures so far introduced by the Government restricting freedom of movement and association the opposition senator said there should be no ambiguity in Jamaica's efforts to combat the COVID-19 crisis and the rights and freedoms of its people.

“The Constitution sets out the framework for a situation such as the one being experienced in Jamaica and the rest of the world. As Jamaica wrestles with this crisis, it is important that there be no division over this issue.

“For the avoidance of any doubt, the Government should cause the Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, to issue the appropriate proclamation under Section 20 of the Constitution which gives him the authority to so do, if he is satisfied 'that a period of public disaster has arisen as a result of the occurrence of any earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire, outbreak of pestilence, outbreak of infections, disease or other calamity, whether similar to the foregoing or not',” Scott-Mottley said.

The PNP spokeswoman pointed to the two developing narratives in relation to the restrictions placed on individuals' right to freedom of movement and association in the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and argued that there must be a united effort to protect all Jamaicans at this time.

Scott-Moittley noted that the chairman of the Independent Jamaica Council of Human Rights Dr Lloyd Barnett QC, has argued that the restrictions which have placed Jamaicans' right to freedom of movement and association in the country's Covid-19 response are unconstitutional as they have not been promulgated in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.

But former Solicitor General Michael Hylton QC, has proffered a different view on the matter.

In a letter to the Jamaica Observer Hylton argued that Section 14 of the Constitution, which sets out the right to freedom of the person, permits the State to detain people in some circumstances in order to prevent the spreading of contagious diseases.

“That is another situation where the Government can implement restrictive steps without declaring a state of public disaster or emergency,” said Hylton.

In the meantime Scott-Mottley has urged Jamaicans to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their family and follow the advice issued by the health authorities.

"We are all in this together,” she said.

Several countries in the region including St Lucia, the Dominican Republic, Belize and the United States have already declared states of emergency to deal with COVID-19. Grenada has declared a limited state of emergency.

Arthur Hall

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