Senior Opposition legislator in the House of Assembly, Julian Fraser, is accusing the Andrew Fahie administration of flouting the constitution in relation to how it went about imposing curfew orders.
Fraser criticised the government for imposing the curfew orders without bringing it before the House of Assembly sooner. It’s been three weeks since the first order was imposed.
The senior legislator said while he was not objecting to the curfew, he must impress on the government that rules of law must be followed.
“No one is telling the executive that what they are doing is unnecessary. No one is telling them that they shouldn’t do it but there are protocols … You have to come to the House of Assembly with these things in order to get the blessings of this government,” Fraser argued.
He said four curfew orders were made leading up to Thursday’s sitting of the House and each one has the same stipulations attached to it – bring it before the legislature.
“Maybe I wouldn’t feel the way I feel right now if it was only one. So that’s why I am holding the government’s feet to the fire on this particular issue,” said the Opposition legislator, who represents the Third Electoral District.
What the constitution says on the matter
Citing Section 27(8) of the Virgin Islands Constitution (which speaks to provisions for periods of public emergency), Fraser argued that when the governor makes a proclamation, a copy of the proclamation shall “as soon as practicable be laid before and debated in the House of Assembly”.
And if the House is not due to meet within five days of the making of such proclamation, “it shall meet as soon as practicable possible or as soon thereafter”.
“’Practicable’ has to be reasonable as well,” Fraser argued. “Can we accept for that proclamation that was made on March 27 – that was the first one that came out – how many weeks have passed since that date? And, here we are today, several weeks after, where the Minister (the Premier) read the proclamation in the House of Assembly and we are trying to walk away from here without debating it. It cannot work. It doesn’t work that way.”
Fraser said the legislature needs to function and the executive (government) needs to be reminded of it.
“Having a curfew is no simple matter. It’s huge because what you are doing under this emergency; you are restricting what is constitutionally right under normal circumstances which are civil liberties. So these orders are not the executives alone,” he argued.
Fraser gets support
Opposition legislator Melvin Mitch Turnbull, who also spoke on the issue, said Fraser’s “points are all valid”.
Fraser’s statements came immediately after Premier Fahie laid five old and new statutory instruments (legislation) for the Imposition of Curfew Orders during Thursday’s sitting of the House.
Government’s latest curfew order
For government’s latest order, Premier Fahie announced that a new 14-day curfew would be put in place for from 6:01 am on Thursday, April 16, to 6 am on Thursday, April 30.
For April 16 and 17, the order will operate similarly to the 24-ongoing hour lockdown. However, from April 19 to June 1, a night-time curfew commencing from 7 pm to 6 am would be imposed.
The territory initially went through a six-day curfew, followed by three days where residents were allowed a limited time to stock up on supplies before entering a full lockdown for 14 days.
This ongoing lockdown comes to an end on Sunday.
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