Parliament extends state of emergency – despite kickback from opposition

Prime Minister Gaston Browne (file photo)
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By Latrishka Thomas

A resolution to extend Antigua and Barbuda’s state of emergency for a further 65 days – up until New Year’s Eve – has been passed in parliament.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne tabled the resolution saying that “the state of emergency clearly will empower the executive to make certain policy decisions to protect the population”.

He explained that winter may be a more active season for the coronavirus.

“We have to prepare for more serious infections this winter. We all know that the virus is far more potent during the winter months; that is why too having this state of emergency is so important.

“We cannot just relax things now and to discontinue the state of emergency, discontinue the curfew…,” the St John’s City West MP said.

Browne elaborated saying that late this year “we are likely to see an increase in tourism traffic and with that increase in traffic there’ll be more imported cases and with more imported cases we may have more significant cases coming in with maybe one or two super-spreaders”.

Leader of the Opposition Jamale Pringle, who spoke immediately after Browne, said that while he understands the need for a state of emergency to be in place, he is not in support of the 11pm-5am curfew.

“I’m not going to stand here and be hypocritical. We all have a responsibility as it relates to the spread of Covid and while it’s safe to say the protocols established were necessary, in my view, while I will agree that the government may need to act swiftly through a state of emergency, I cannot support the curfew that is before us,” he asserted.

The All Saints East and St Luke MP continued saying “we can have a state of emergency, but we don’t have to have a curfew”.

Pringle suggested that law enforcement officials ramp up efforts instead.

“Thieves are out high daytime and we cannot use that alone…what I think we need is for the police to increase their presence during those hours,” Pringle said.

Meanwhile, Barbuda’s MP Trevor Walker said he was not supporting the resolution at all.

“It doesn’t get dark until 11 o’clock?” he queried.

Walker also accused the government of “running a perpetual state of emergency” for several months unnecessarily.

“Given the fact that this country boasts that we only have what, nine active cases of Covid. You do a comparative analysis with places like Jamaica, the Bahamas, that they have one death a day that they had to impose a hard lockdown the other day and we have nine active cases and we are coming to this parliament asking the members of this honourable house to support and approve a state of emergency until Christmas,” he remarked.

He then directed a question to Browne asking him “if it’s the state of emergency that has kept us safe or the protocols that the government implemented that has kept us safe?”

Several other members rose to counter both Pringle’s and Walker’s remarks.

In the end, the resolution was passed in the lower house with support from the majority.

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