Beware rule by edict!Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Rule by prime ministerial edict? Who would have thought we would ever get to this and would all be accepting it without (it appears) demur? All, that is, except for Dr Lloyd Barnett, the watchman of our constitution and a voice not to be ignored.
We are accepting it, chiefly, I would guess, because Andrew Holness has been exercising this huge responsibility so commendably. He has acted with explanation, taking of Christopher Tufton and Ministry of Health's advice and other countries' examples.
Naturally there have been missteps. The big one was reopening the 'gate' between March 18 and 24. The Ministry of Health has had to scramble to find those thousands who came in without adequate checks. The consequences we are yet to see.
The virus is still to invade lower-income communities. Its impact there is expected to be dreadful. Many, including me, have pleaded for so long for them. Their crowded conditions and need have become now more visible.
COVID-19 is an extraordinary experience. Prime ministerial and presidential edicts and fiats are now common around the globe. Still, in Jamaica's case, I would have preferred to have the prime minister issuing rules with some measure of parliamentary approval beforehand. This might not be necessary for each and every fresh instruction, but certainly for each new batch or in an overall way. Virtual meetings of Members of Parliament should not be a problem.
This is where the role of the constitution can enter the picture. The constitution is our ultimate law. It could be appealed to, for example, to decide whether to admit or not those Jamaicans stranded overseas who have the right as Jamaicans to be admitted. Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson argues that this right, affirmed by the constitution, is the supervening right. Others, including me, would regard the collective well-being and right as having greater weight.
Our Parliament is our day-to-day lawmaker, ensuring adherence to the constitution. Cabinet, led by the prime minister, is the executor of Parliament's directives. I would want to see this structure respected and implemented.
Respect for the constitution has not been a strong point of this Administration, regrettably. However, as with all matters on Earth, the opportunity to correct failings is always given.
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