Attorney General Dale Marshall has sought to lay to rest concerns surrounding paragraph 8 in the Emergency Management (COVID-19) Order, by explaining that the state needs to have reserve powers in the event of extraordinary circumstances.
Addressing the nation during a live press conference at Ilaro Court tonight, the Attorney General explained that paragraph 8 (6) of the Order under the heading, Power to requisition land or buildings, states that the owner or occupier of any lands or buildings who fails to comply with a requisition notice, could be fined up to $50 000, or imprisoned for one year, or both on summary conviction. He noted that this was always stipulated in every COVID 19 Order since March last year.
Mr. Marshall stressed that the island was still under a State of Emergency and it was being erroneously repeated that government had just passed this “particular kind of power in the COVID  Order as if it is something new”.
“That is not correct at all. In every single COVID Order that we have brought into force since March of last year, these particular powers have been included. Let me remind Barbadians that this is a State of Emergency. While it may not be the kind of emergency that you might think of when you hear of a hurricane or a war or anything of that sort, the State has to have reserve power in a situation which might arise which would call on it to do extraordinary things.”
The AG further stated: “Let me remind you for example, that during the course of the management of this COVID pandemic in this current year, we had a senior citizens home that most of the individuals there had come down with COVID and it became vital for the government to take charge of that facility. If the owners of the facility had refused the government the opportunity to take charge of it, we would have had a serious problem. It is in circumstances like that, that you utilise these reserve powers. Every year as we prepare for the hurricane season, in the possibility that the Governor General might need to do a State of Emergency Proclamation, we also prepare similar powers. The Government of Barbados is constrained by its Constitution…we cannot and will not, take anyone’s property without compensation.”
The Attorney General also pointed out that the Order did not say that government will acquire, but it said ‘requisition’, which meant that for as long a period as was necessary, the government may be required to take extraordinary steps and access facilities and assets that it “does not have in its control”.
Mr. Marshall said the island had been fortunate that government did not have to use it but in a State of Emergency, a government must have a set of reserve powers in case if the worse comes to the worst, they would be in a position to act in the situation.
He stressed that every COVID-19 Order had been gazetted and it was not something that government had surreptitiously “tried to slip into the COVID arrangement. It has been there from the very outset”.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley further explained that paragraph 8 in the current Order was merely an insurance clause.
She reasoned that if something happened in the night or on the weekend as had happened before, to requisition means to use and not take over ownership.
She acknowledged that legal language could be very stilted at times and archaic. “Some of the talk that I have heard after last weekend is that the government has issued [a Directive] and made it stronger…The government has done this…I deliberately walked tonight with the statutory instrument because I had to go through this with many persons over the weekend and during the course of the week to be able to show them how to read a statutory instrument and some of them may even be former parliamentarians, so that this is not a case where people will feel funny or stupid…,” she stated.
The Prime Minister noted that the Order would begin by saying that a curfew was imposed from X time to Y time from 9:00 p.m. at night to 5:00 a.m. in the morning, from the 28th of March to the 11th of April, and then it would tell you that no person can do, or shall leave his residence to do X, Y, Z, except…
The Prime Minister pointed out that far from strengthening the restrictions, the government had eased them by firstly, allowing the curfew to finish by 5:00 a.m. instead of 6:00 a.m. and secondly, permitting restaurants and fast food operations to still function on a Sunday.