[UPDATED] Parliament to debate SoE on Monday


FILE PHOTO: Red House, Abercromby Street, Port of Spain. –

GOVERNMENT will go to the House of Representatives on May 24 to seek an extension of the state of emergency that was imposed from midnight on May 15, for another three months. The House sits from 1.30 pm on May 24 and the Government’s proposal to extend the SoE is contained in the second of two motions filed on the order paper in the Prime Minister’s name.

The first motion calls on the House to note the statement made by President Paula-Mae Weekes on May 15, in accordance with Section 9(1) of the Constitution, declaring the existence of a period of public emergency and issuing a proclamation to that effect on the same day.

This motion said within three days of this proclamation, the President will deliver a statement to Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George and the House should debate this statement no later than May 30, 15 days from the date of proclamation of the SoE.

In a letter dated May 17 to Annisette-George, Weekes outlined her reasons for the proclamation. “In recent weeks there has been a surge in the number of persons infected with covid19, an intensifying of symptoms, a lengthening of the period of infection, and a troubling increase in the number of deaths attributed to the virus.”

She also said while many citizens are adhering to the public health regulations “others across the board have failed to follow the guidelines and protocols intended to minimise the spread of covid19. Weekes added, “It is either they have not received the messaging or are unable or unwilling to abide by it.”

Weekes was confident that the country’s best hope of “stemming the tide” of rising covid19 cases is to vaccinate sufficient number of members of the population. Against this background, she concluded, “I am satisfied that the outbreak of the infection disease covid19 with its deleterious effects on the health of our citizenry provides grounds on which I could and should declare the existence of a state of public emergency.”

The second motion notes the SoE has been enacted in accordance with Section 8 and 9 (2) of the Constitution. Unless previously revoked, the motion continues, the SoE will remain in force for 15 days. This means that under the current circumstances, the SoE remains in effect until May 30.

The motion says in accordance with Section 10 (1) of the Constitution, the proclamation of the SoE can be extended before it expires, by a resolution supported by a simple majority vote of the House, for a period of three months. This means the Government, by virtue of its 22 seats in the House to the Opposition’s 19, can extend the SoE until August 15.

The motion adds that under Section 10 (1) no extension of the SoE exceeds three months and in all the extensions may not exceed six months.

Section 10 (2) of the Constitution states the SoE can be further extended from time to time, but not more than three months at any one time. These additional extensions need three-fifth majority votes in the House and Senate for approval.

The process to end the SoE is much simpler. Section 10 (3) of the Constitution states, “The proclamation (of the SoE) may be revoked at any time by a simple majority vote of the House of Representatives.”

Should the SoE be terminated and there is need for another to be called, the process is repeated, with the SoE only being valid for 15 days from its proclamation and parliamentary approval being needed to extend it.

At a news conference at the Diplomatic Centre on May 14, Dr Rowley announced the SoE would go into effect from midnight on that day. He explained the SoE will involve a curfew from 9 pm-5 am. That curfew began on May 15.

Rowley said associated SoE regulations would follow. Under these regulations, certain activities are prohibited between 5 am and 9 pm daily.

These include: no one can gather in groups over five or be at any workplace unless considered an essential service, as well as measures that were already covered by the public health regulations.

New restrictions include no exercising or drinking in public or running any sporting club.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi warned that stricter measures could be applied if people do not adhere to the SoE regulations.

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