By Shermain Bique-Charles
The Barbuda Council has abandoned plans to implement a 12 pm to 5 am curfew that was expected to take effect yesterday.
The council has now agreed to fall in line with the 8 pm to 5 am curfew currently in place on the mainland.
This after Prime Minister Gaston Browne wrote to the Secretary of the Barbuda Council, Paul Nedd, citing that the council’s decision to partially shut down the sister isle was unlawful.
And after hours of deliberations yesterday, the council decided to stick with the government’s directive instead.
“We have decided that we don’t really want a political battle with the government, and the prime minister [has] written to us,” Nedd told our news desk yesterday. “We decided, as a sensible council, we don’t want to go into a political fight when Covid-19 is spreading.”
He hastened to add, however, that all other measures outlined by the Barbuda Council still stand.
“Schools will remain closed, teachers and students are to remain indoors at all times, and ferry and airline operators are only allowed to make trips to Barbuda during the times stipulated,” he said.
But Prime Minister Browne said the decision to implement these restrictive measures is unlawful, stating frankly that “the Barbuda Council has no lawful authority to impose any such measures”.
He is adamant that such a resolution cannot stand since there was no consultation with the government on the matter.
“The Barbuda Council should be advised that the lawful authority in the state of Antigua and Barbuda to make recommendations and decisions for the closure of any establishment and the imposition of any restrictions on the movement of persons or their activities during a public health emergency are regulated by the Public Health Act,” Browne told Nedd in a two-page letter.
He said further that all such measures and any others akin thereto shall only be lawful following the amendment of the Public Health Act Regulations and subsequent gazetting.
What seemed confusing to PM Browne is the fact that Cabinet was not informed about the actions being taken by the council, which is contrary to measures already in place for the country.
Cabinet also agreed that the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment should work with the Barbuda Council to approve measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 on the island, or elsewhere within the state.
In the meantime, Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin told state media that the laws passed in Antigua are applicable to the sister isle.
He said the Barbuda Council has the option to make recommendations to the Cabinet which could be taken into consideration.
“The procedure is not correct … the lawyers have been examining the facts … I want to make it clear we have one executive dealing with Antigua and Barbuda … the council cannot operate on its own. They did not even bother to consult with the Cabinet. That is not correct in law and we shall not make it happen,” h Benjamin stated.