A debate has started in Grenada on the legality of the State of Emergency that was announced Wednesday by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in an address to Grenadians.
“……I am asking the Governor General to declare a limited state of emergency,” he said in a midday national address.
According to one of the island’s senior lawyers there is nothing wrong in declaring a State of Emergency by Governor-General Dame Cecile La Grenade.
However, the lawyer said a number of tests have to be passed before the Head of State can be approached by government to declare a State of Emergency.
He pointed to a threat to the defence of the country and to public order as the key elements to form the basis of the state of Emergency coming from the Governor General under the Emergency Powers Act.
He said that there is no such threat in existence at the moment since the COVID-19 is a matter that concerns only the health of the nation and not a threat to the national security of the state.
The proclamation published under the Government Website for the State of Emergency has since been removed.
According to the lawyer, this proclamation has no validity in law as it is outside of Section 3 of the Emergency Powers Act which only permits a declaration where there is an insurrection involving persons who endanger the safety of public life or is likely to hamper public order.
The lawyer stated that the government is seemingly trying to find a way around the constitution to enforce a State of Emergency that is vested in the Cabinet of Grenada in which Prime Minister Mitchell is the dominant figure and not the Parliament having oversight of the powers that are contained in the provisions.
‘Under Section 17 of the constitution, all aspects including the duration of the State of Emergency have to be regulated by Parliament.
Parliament also has to approve the declaration of the State of Emergency itself.
The Prime Minister disclosed that the “limited” State of Emergency will run for the next 21 days.
He said that between the hours of 5.00 a.m and 7.00 p.m people would be allowed to leave their homes but only for specific purposes.
The legal official noted that the Mitchell-led government is trying to enforce the State of Emergency under Section 88 of the Emergency Powers Public Act and not under the provisions of the Constitution in which Parliament will be the oversight body.
Grenada’s first confirmed case was imported from the UK and it was later revealed that several persons were exposed during the period when she should have been in self-quarantine.
Grenada is among countries classified as having a weak healthcare system which makes early containment of the virus even more critical.