Dame Joan: PM is breaching our rights
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Former Court of Appeal President Dame Joan Sawyer ripped Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis a new one over the two-week lockdown and said Minnis doesn't appear to understand where his powers end and Bahamians' freedoms begin.
Minnis has been on a power trip since a state of emergency was declared in March, imposing lockdowns at a moment's notice - with no regard for weddings and funerals planned weeks and months in advance - and shutting down beaches, parks, and Arawak Cay restaurants with no scientific explanation to back up his decisions.
"What they're doing to you is placing you under house arrest," said Dame Joan adding, "What they've done to us since the 20th of March, 2020 is to put us under house arrest."
On Monday, Minnis announced that a two-week lockdown would begin at 10pm on Tuesday and the country could face another two-week lockdown after this one ends. Critics have questioned the effectiveness of lockdowns as Grand Bahama's COVID-19 cases continued to soar while the island was under two-week lockdown.
"They even tried to tell us what day to go to the food store depending on your surname. You're trying to micromanage my affairs and you can't manage the affairs of which we elected you to office."
"You don't know where your powers end and my freedoms begin," stated Dame Joan.
"You even have the gall to say on public tv that you might have to do something that's unconstitutional?"
She was referring to the prime minister's assertion in the House of Assembly last month that the government may be faced with making decisions that are unconstitutional in the future.
"You're breaching our rights when you lock us down. Who gave you that authority? The constitution gives you the right to declare a state of emergency and it gives you the powers to exercise due process in a situation," she said. "You can't have police coming to my porch and telling me I can't go on my porch."
"When did we become a police state?" asked Dame Joan.
Bahamians have been dragged before the Magistrates Court and fined for driving in their own vehicle without wearing a mask, selling coconut water on the side of the road, exercising on a Sunday and going to the community pump to get water.
However, the law states that "no person shall be held to be guilty of a criminal offense on account of any act or ommission that did not at the time it took place consititute such an offense and no penalty shall be imposed for any criminal offense that is severe in degree or description than the maximum penalty that might have been imposed for that offense at the time when it was committed."
"You cannot make a crime which was not a crime before," said Dame Joan.
"I don't know what world the prime minister is living in," she said.