Letters

Civil Society not happy with COVID-19 Control Bill

July 26th, 2020

Dr. the Rt. Hon Keith Mitchell
Chairman
Committee of Social Partners
Prime Minister’s Office
Ministerial Complex
Tanteen, St. George’s

Dear Prime Minister Mitchell,

Re State of Emergency and the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Control Bill, 2020 and Other Matters

We, the representatives of the Grouping of Civil Society Organisations on the Committee of Social Partners, write to you to express our concern re the proposed legislation Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Control Bill 2020 and in particular Section 25 re declaration of a state of emergency.

In your appearance on the To the Point programme on Tuesday, July 21st, 2020, you advised the nation that “we” would go Parliament “for a permanent state of emergency for period of time“. You further added that “until a vaccine is found, I don’t see us removing it“. Via the media we the CSO representatives have accessed the draft legislation that was proposed to be tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, July 29th. We have since noted a GIS notice which advised that the bill will not be tabled on Wednesday, July 29th as was formerly scheduled.

The last meeting of the Committee of Social Partners was held on Wednesday, June 17th. In your capacity as Chairman, you advised that the meeting was “an appropriate time to bring Social Partners up to date on actions that the Government of Grenada is planning and get your views” (i.e. the views of the meeting). While mention was made of plans to open the borders on July 1st, there was no mention of any consideration to extend the State of Emergency. Therefore, we are rather taken aback by this Bill.

Permit to us to observe, Rt. Hon. Prime Minister:-

  • To the best of our knowledge, there are other laws and existing legislation under which emergency measures in respect of COVID-19 can be adequately addressed.
  • Prolonging the state of emergency is adding to the already significant psycho-social pressures that the populace is battling.
  • The Act particularly Section 25, declaration of a state of emergency touches and concerns the fundamental rights of citizens protected under the Constitution. and may be described as significant overreach. Section 25 seems to provide for the imposition of martial law, more appropriate for situations where a country is under threat of war or facing some political crisis resulting in the absolute break down of law and order.

One appreciates that the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19 has overtaken countries everywhere and Grenada is no exception. It has placed our country, its leadership and our people under tremendous pressure. COVID-19 is a long term health challenge and in going forward, everyone is speaking of the new normal. Some more than others are already aware that significant adjustments will have to be made in respect of lifestyle and behaviours. Significant efforts are also required to deal with the psycho-social issues.

Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, we respectfully suggest that there should be broad stakeholder engagement on the Way Forward in shaping the new normal, inclusive of legislative measures that may be required. We trust that it would be found that the Committee of Social Partners has an important role to play in facilitating this engagement.

Permit us to also take this opportunity to express our concern and confusion in respect of the role and functioning of the Committee of Social Partners. Last year, you expressed your dissatisfaction with the functioning of the Committee and requested that an assessment be undertaken. To the best of our knowledge the final report on this matter is still outstanding and the Committee was not involved in any decision-making in regards of its mandate going forward. We respectfully suggest that closure be brought to this matter soonest.

Please receive, Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, assurances of highest regard.

Respectfully yours,
Sandra C.A. Ferguson and Brian Joseph  
CSO Representatives, Committee of Social Partners

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