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Gov't breached constitution by not declaring state of emergency before declaring disaster area - Barnett

Dr. Lloyd Barnett
Constitutional lawyer Dr. Lloyd Barnett is insisting that the Government acted in breach of the constitution by not first declaring a State of Public Emergency prior to declaring Jamaica a disaster area in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
 
The declaration of the disaster area was made under the Disaster Risk Management Act.
 
The declaration gave the government the authority to exercise emergency powers including the quarantining of communities.
 
However, Dr. Barnett said the constitution has special provisions for instances of public health emergency and for the government to "operate outside of a state of emergency is to ignore the constitutional provisions." 
 
"You can utilise the Disaster Preparedness Act, as the constitution expects that measures taken due to a state of emergency will be authorised by some law, but not that it will be done irrespective of whether a state of emergency is issued or not," he insisted.  
 
He said the Government has opened itself to possible legal challenge. 
 
Dr. Barnett, who was speaking to Hotline host Emily Shields on Friday, stressed that the argument is not about the necessity of the measures implemented so far, which the majority of Jamaicans support, but the appropriateness of the machinery used to carry out the actions.
 
Asked about the Government's decision to ban incoming flights to Jamaica, he said it is "very difficult to justify" because the move would, in essence, be a rejection of Jamaican citizens abroad who may want to come home, and every person has a right to be able to return to their homeland. 
 
The restriction on incoming flights, which came into effect on March 22, will last 14 days.
 


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