Friday 23 October, 2020

Executive Director of Manufacturers Association speaks on COVID bill

Executive Director of the St Lucia Manufacturer's Association, Paula James

Executive Director of the St Lucia Manufacturer's Association, Paula James

Executive Director of the St Lucia Manufacturers Association, Paula James spoke on the COVID-19 (Prevention and Control) Bill that was passed in Parliament late Tuesday evening.

James told reporters that at the time of the interview, she had not yet finished reading the bill, but had read up to page 22, which is about half way.

The St Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association and the St Lucia Bar Association had both expressed concern regarding a lack of consultation on the important bill. 

Attorney General Stephen Julien said in response, "I could give you the assurance that everything taken into consideration; time and the need to protect the citizenry, that this thing was done with sufficient consultation."

James said: "If it is anything in comparison to what we had to go through for the beginning of COVID, remember when they had to go to parliament, I think the gist of it is to have something in place whereby if we have a second wave, it means we do not have to go back to parliament to get something done."

"If it's for a short period of time, I would give them the opportunity to do what they have to do because I did not find that there was an abuse of power with regard to the last things [State of Emergency], people had to abide by the distancing... I did not feel threatened in any way that I had to wear masks... so it's something we need to go back to and I didn't have a problem with doing what we had to do in regards to the curfew and all the other things we had to do because it saved us," she continued.

"So if what's in the bill is not threatening your rights and your respect, then I have no concerns about it, but if it's abuse of power then I can see people asking, 'well, I would like to see what it is first before you do this,' but in the same breath I think we need to be cognizant that any time we ask for things we do it for everything, not be selective, this is what I think is difficult, the selective part," James stated.

The opposition St Lucia Labour Party posted to its official Facebook page yesterday saying, "At 4:55 p.m. Section 62 of the COVID-19 ( Prevention & Control) Bill was removed from the SoE 2.0 Bill. This section read as follows:

Publication of false statements.

62. A person shall not publish or cause to be published, posted or re-posted over a media platform inclusive of social media, any purported news or report, or purported statement of fact, knowing or having reasonable cause to suspect that the news, report or statement -

(a) is untrue or false; and

(b) may incite public fear, panic or ethnic hatred

This section was an attempt at censorship of the citizenry and should have never have been a part of the bill, along with other controversial sections which are still included."

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet posted to his Facebook page earlier today saying, "On March 23rd, 2020 it became necessary to implement a State of Emergency to protect the health and safety of Saint Lucians amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. This State of Emergency officially comes to an end today, September 30th, 2020.

As predicted by the Director General of WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, we anticipate the threat of COVID-19 to be around for the next two years. As COVID-19 cases and deaths have started to spike again globally, we are still in a very critical position and need to put targeted, sustained measures to protect the health of citizens.

Given this grim reality, it is necessary to introduce the COVID-19 (Prevention and Control) Bill, specifically to deal with and manage the effect and impact of COVID-19 which continues to be a threat to our island.

For emphasis this is not a State of Emergency Bill!

This Bill is permissible under the Constitution as it exists to maintain and protect the interests of public safety, public order and public health and for related matters. This Bill, notwithstanding the existence of any other piece of legislation is for the sole purpose of controlling the spread of COVID-19 outside a State of Emergency. Therefore, it does not conflict with any other piece of legislation."

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