By Kadeem Joseph
Prime Minister Gaston Browne has defended the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) administration’s decision to extend the State of Emergency (SoE) by three more months, an announcement that has raised the ire of the main opposition the United Progressive Party (UPP).
Since news of the development broke last Thursday, the UPP has labelled the move “political repression and cowardice” on the part of the government, adding that government’s decision to extend the SoE until the end of September “is nothing but a demonstration of its political unease and its fear of a disaffected population”.
The opposition has maintained that the provisions of the Public Order Act are sufficient authority to impose regulations, provisions and protocols for managing the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, Browne, while speaking on his weekly radio programme, said the government must continue to take “prudent measures to protect livelihoods and to protect lives”.
He further stated that the opposition is questioning whether these protective measures should be supported by law (Public Order Act) versus the guidelines for an SoE as enshrined in the country’s constitution.
“We have said that we want constitutional protection to avoid any frivolous litigation, especially by those in the UPP,” the PM added.
Browne also rubbished the assertion that the extension of the SoE serves as a means of stifling political activism.
He said that large gatherings remain fertile grounds for the spread of the Covid-19 virus, noting that the government is acting responsibly by limiting such gathering, including political ones.
“Even the fete we are approving for up to 300 individuals, hopefully next month, [it will be] carried out under strict conditions involving only fully vaccinated individuals,” he added. “Why would we then want to go and have a very liberal Covid policy to allow public meetings so that unvaccinated and vaccinated people could gather in their hundreds or thousands?”
During the extended SoE, it is expected that the 11 pm to 5 am curfew will remain in place.