Social gathering restriction ‘unconstitutional’, lawyer claims

Leon Chaku Symister, the United Progressive Party (UPP) Spokesman on Public Safety
- Advertisement -

By Latrishka Thomas

A local lawyer claims the recent restriction placed on social gatherings is unconstitutional – and has pledged to file an application in the High Court to prove his claim.

Attorney Leon ‘Chaku’ Symister disclosed this on Tuesday in St John’s Magistrate’s Court when representing a man arrested and charged for staging an event in St Johnston’s Village on Saturday.

“Any law that is in the interest of public safety, public health or public morality shall not be deemed consistent with the constitution if it violates any fundamental rights,” Symister told Observer.

“You have a constitutional right to assemble, you have a constitutional right to freedom of movement. Those have been interfered with with these Covid regulations,” he claimed.

Last week, government amended a regulation in the Public Health Act to completely ban

public gatherings.

Anyone found in violation – by organising or attending an event, or owning the premises at which one takes place – risks a $5,000 fine or six months in prison, or both.

Symister also claims that the government and other authorities are selective with who they enforce these restrictions upon.

“One may want to say that these regulations are necessary to stop the spread of the virus, however the view is these regulations are being used to stifle political activity and what you want to look at is, if these regulations were acquired in the interest of public health, then how can you have the airport open but are in a state of emergency?” he asked rhetorically.

“How can you literally be returning things to normal except the fundamental rights that people are supposed to enjoy?”

He also claimed social distancing protocols were not being enforced at some government agencies’ offices.

Furthermore, Symister believes that the regulations were not appropriately drafted because the authorities were “not going through the proper process”.

He explained that a board should make the regulations before they are approved by Cabinet, tabled before Parliament and the Senate, and then gazetted.

But, according to him, “they continue to change them before them being tabled before Parliament”.

Symister’s application is expected to be filed in the High Court within a week.

The legal luminary is hoping that through this application, the court will grant a stay in the matter of his client Havil Donald.

Donald, who maintains his innocence, is expected to return to St John’s Magistrate’s Court on November 5after his lawyer provides documentation proving that he has filed the application.

Attempts to reach Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin for comment were unsuccessful up to press time.

- Advertisement -


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here