By Caribbean News Global contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia – Prime minister Allen Chastanet took the privilege and protective custody of the House of Assembly, September 29, to respond to the Saint Lucia Bar Association letter on the matter of the COVID-19 (Prevention and Control) Bill.
According to the prime minister Chastanet, he came to the realisation that the Saint Lucia Bar Association did not consult its own members in expressing concern over the COVID-19 Prevention and Control bill … based on his phone calls with other lawyers.
“There certainly seemed to be a varied mood of the interpretation of what was being done. I don’t think that we are doing anything wrong here – we are simply putting into one act, what we have currently been doing,” Chastanet explained. “I would like to say to everybody, how can you argue with success?”.
I have taken note of the comments made by the Prime Minister in relation to my letter of 28 September 2020 on behalf of the Bar Association requesting a deferral of the Covid-19 Bill pending review and comment by the Bar Association and the public.
The Prime Minister seems to suggest that the President of the Bar Association needed to consult with the over 200 lawyers of the Bar Association to submit a letter to him, the Attorney General and the Speaker of the House of Assembly to request that they follow and consider basic democratic processes and principles in relation to proposed legislation. The Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the Speaker of the House of Assembly would know that this is the standard position of the Bar Association. We have before written to request the deferral of Bills to provide for review and comment within a reasonable timeframe. Indeed, we have also written to express our concern over the lack of public consultation on Bills and the practice of Governments in expediting all 3 stages of a Bill at one sitting of the House, under the guise of urgency.
One of the purposes of the Bar Association is to promote, maintain and uphold the Rule of Law. I am therefore concerned that the Prime Minister would seek to bring members of the Association into disrepute by suggesting that they would agree that a “landmark” Bill that seeks to deprive personal and civil liberties, should pass through all stages of the House in one sitting without comment or review by the Association or public consultation, given that these are factors essential to a democratic society and the Rule of Law.
The Prime Minister’s comments would suggest a lack of understanding of the meaning of consultation and the purpose and function of the Bar Association. It is unfortunate that he has chosen to address the matter in this manner rather than addressing the concerns raised by the Bar Association in its letter. It is also unfortunate that the Attorney General, legal advisor to the Government would suggest that all necessary consultation was undertaken, despite the lack of consultation with the Bar Association, SLHTA, Chamber of Commerce and SLMDA, revealing the clear intention to proceed with this Bill without consultation with these stakeholders.
The Bar Council will be meeting tomorrow and will determine the way forward with this Bill in view of the fact that our request for deferral was refused.
Renee T. St. Rose
Bar Association of Saint Lucia