Michael Hemmings, President of the Cornwall Bar Association
By Kimone Witter
The Cornwall Bar Association is positing that the manner in which the government has been using the Emergency Powers Act to declare states of emergency is unconstitutional.
Since December 6, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced the declaration of four states of emergency across several parishes and police divisions.
The latest declaration was on Tuesday when the measure was imposed in St. James and Clarendon.
No extensions were sought for the previous three SOEs.
Michael Hemmings, President of the Cornwall Bar Association, has said he supports anyone who challenges the government's use of the emergency measure in this way.
"You have a state of emergency declared for 14 days, you don't get the support of the opposition, you end the state of emergency and then shortly after you call a state of emergency for another 14 days. I believe the use of the state of emergency in that particular way was not what it was designed to be used for and the use of the state of the emergency in that particular way, in my view, is unconstitutional," he declared.
Mr. Hemmings called for the government to publicise the regulations governing the latest SOEs.
"Our concern is that measures that are to be engaged to ensure that the citizens' rights are safeguarded, we wish to see them. I have not seen the regulations but I assume that the regulations that were used in the last state of emergency are the regulations that will be used now. If it's going to continue beyond 14 days, if it gets the support of the opposition, we would like to know where it is that the tribunal will be held, if persons are detained, so that we can file our objections," he told Radio Jamaica News.
He said these issues have been recurrent, as "things [are] not being put in place simultaneously with the declaration of the state of emergency".
Opposition Leader Mark Golding disclosed on Tuesday that his party has sought a declaration from the courts on the constitutionality of the continued use of States of Public Emergency by the government to tackle crime.
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