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Op-Ed: Govt manipulated state of emergency to extend PM powers


The recent pronouncements and actions by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis have led me to question whether we, as a country, are moving down that slippery slope of becoming a dictatorship nation.

As we recently celebrated our most cherished sovereign independence from our colonial masters and Emancipation Day commemorating the end of slavery in our country,  I wonder what those veterans of the revolution who fought so hard for our civil liberties would think of the current state of affairs.

As a Bahamian, there is nothing more important to me as my civil liberties, which the current Prime Minister seems hellbent on ensuring that I no longer enjoy at my free will but purely at his pleasure.  

Power tends to corrupt.  The Prime Minister, seemingly not satisfied with just having powers, is seeking absolute power.

We all know the saying, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The Prime Minister, under the guise of “protecting Bahamians from COVID-19” through his continued use of the Emergency powers, is displaying in no uncertain terms, the corrupting influence of power.

Given the alarming rise in new cases and COVID-19 deaths, which stood at 1765 cases and 27 deaths as of this morning, the government must understandably take measures to prevent the further spread of the virus.

However, it must be pointed out that the large number of new cases reported daily are due, in part, to a backlog of Covid-19 tests carried out.

Additionally, there is a way to do things and it doesn’t include shutting down New Providence completely for an entire week without giving Bahamians the opportunity to prepare.

Those who know Attorney General Carl Bethel, one of the few experienced members of the Minnis cabinet, are fully aware that he is not the type of person to make the kind of blunder which resulted in Governor General C.A. Smith declaring a new state of emergency at the end of June.

On June 29, Minnis gave notice of a resolution to extend the initial state of emergency from June 29 to July 31. The government planned to debate the extension the following day.

However, the emergency proclamation expired at midnight.

As a result, Governor General C.A. Smith had to declare a new state of emergency on the evening of June 29.

Bethel took full responsibility for the big blunder but inquiring minds question whether government intentionally allowed the declaration to lapse in order to restart the six months extension period provided under Article 29 of the Constitution with parliamentary approval. This means the state of emergency is now in place for the remainder of the year, allowing the competent authority to do as he sees fit.

In his case it means imposing new restrictions, with no scientific evidence to back them up, at a moment’s notice.

Recent events seem to be moving us further and further away from democracy into that dangerous realm of dictatorship.  Rather than being ruled by the will of the Bahamian people, Minnis has decided that the Bahamian people will be ruled by him and him alone.  He tells you when to be at home, when to go to church, when to exercise, which businesses are allowed to open and for how long.  And worst of all he threatens that if we don’t behave, he will withdraw the privileges he has so graciously bestowed upon us.  

Like a dictator, Minnis has seized ultimate power in the name of COVID-19. The emergency powers are being used as nothing more than control.

Some of the country’s most respected attorneys have argued the government is infringing upon our constitutional rights.

Referring to our rights, father of the nation, the late Sir Lynden Pindling so rightly declared that “if you’re not prepared to fight for it, then you don’t deserve to have it.”

It is time rise to the occasion.

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