The House of Representatives will meet today virtually to allow Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne to lay on the table the first, second and third readings of the Emergency Powers (Dangerous Infectious Disease) Bill 2020.
The Government on Wednesday last instituted a State of Emergency to give the government powers to address the spread of the Coronavirus COVID-19 in Antigua and Barbuda. To date, six persons have tested positive for the virus in the country and the government has instituted an 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. curfew to suppress the spread of the illness.
In accordance with the State of Emergency, Parliament is required to pass a number of powers granted to the Cabinet to include the following;
- Social distancing;
- Ban on social gatherings;
- Restriction on the number of people who may gather in any place;
- Closure of public spaces;
- Restriction on the movement of persons;
- Mandatory curfew;
- Stay-at-home orders;
- Closure of non-essential businesses;
- Public sanitsation;
Under the Act, Cabinet may compel compliance with any order by force, if necessary.
Under the Act, persons who fail to comply with an order, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of Ten Thousand dollars or to imprisonment for one year or to both such fine and imprisonment.
During the sitting, parliament is also expected to approve the State of Public Emergency Resolution to be tabled by Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne.
This is the first time in the history of the Antigua and Barbuda parliament that members will meet virtually.
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The House of Representatives (Parliament) did meet virtually, which was historic since it was the first such meeting ever for Parliament. However, it was also unlawful since Parliament had no power to meet virtually. In fact at that said virtual meeting of Parliament, one of the Bills to be discussed was the Emergency Powers (Dangerous Infectious Diseases) Bill 2020. That Bill was not discussed since it was withdrawn by the AG because aspects of it were unconstitutional. Tell me then, if the Bill that was supposed to give the power to Parliament to meet virtually is not law, how then could the virtual meeting be lawful. Moreover, Parliament would first have had to meet the normal way in order to pass that Bill. I hope Ivor Ford now understands the process and stop talking nonsense when he says that the virtual meeting was not unlawful.
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