ST GEORGE’S, Grenada (CMC) — The Grenada Bar Association (GBA) said yesterday it would not participate in any meaningless consultation with the Government if the attorney general stands by his statement that nothing much will come out of the discussions with the lawyers regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Control Bill 2020.
“The role of the bar, as we see it, will be to critique the Bill as drafted based on applicable legal principles and to make recommendations for its replacement or amendment in compliance with the law and public policy as the case may be,” the GBA said in a statement.
The Grenada Government said it would no longer table the controversial legislation in Parliament on Wednesday after members of the population announced plans to stage public protest against the measures.
The proposed legislation would have provided for a maximum penalty of EC$25,000 in a magistrate court for any person found guilty of violating any section of the law.
A government statement said that the legislation had been drafted after nearly four months of managing the SARS-CoV-2 national crisis, and the continuous examination of the medical and scientific information, as well as the experience of the management of the emergency on the ground.
“These matters informed the Bill as the Government was paying keen attention to the continuous feedback which was being provided by the public and its stakeholders. The sole intention of the Bill is to protect our people, especially now that we have taken the decision to reopen our borders,” it added.
“Government accepts responsibility for not ensuring that the public had a full explanation of the Bill, before attempting to take it to Parliament, and therefore commits to improving the process,” the Keith Mitchell Government said in the statement. It had earlier submitted a copy of the law to the GBA for review purposes.
Attorney General Darshan Ramdhani, in a radio interview yesterday, said “we crafted a law suitable for our environment.
“Laws must serve the purpose for which they are passed. This COVID Bill goes further than the current regulation. Nothing in this Bill is unconstitutional,” he said, making reference to Section three of the Grenada Constitution which notes that no person shall be deprived of his personal liberty save as may be authorised by law in any of the following cases, that is to say (a) in execution of the sentence or order of a court, whether established for Grenada or some other country, in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been convicted, upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed, or being about to commit, a criminal offence under the law of Grenada and for the purpose of preventing the spread of an infectious or contagious disease.
But the GBA said that, having received the Bill from the Attorney General’s Chambers on Saturday for the first time, it had determined that the responsible position it should take is to help the process by first seeking the withdrawal of the Bill to allow for consultation with the government and other interested stakeholders, which the government has now admitted should have taken place but did not in fact.
However, it said it was unhappy with the action of the attorney general after the Government announced the delay of tabling the Bill during the Parliament sitting.
“One day after the Government issued its statement, its principal legal advisor has embarked on a round of media outings and has been heard to make statements which signal that he does not expect the consultation to be anything other than an empty exercise.
“Given the anxiety and agitation which this Bill has already caused to the public, at a time of unprecedented national anxiety and stress, the Government of Grenada must decide whether the message now being carried by the attorney general is in the interest of the public which has legitimate reasons to be concerned about the content and implications of this Bill,” the GBA said.
“For our part, the Grenada Bar will not participate in any ‘pappyshow’ consultation if, according to the attorney general, the outcome is already fixed. If the Government does not commit to a genuine consultative process, this will only invite further disquiet and disruption into our national space. We urge that good sense must prevail for the good of all of us,” the GBA added.