By Concerned Vincentian Citizen
Permit me to get straight to the point. The article “Police to enforce COVID-19 ‘guidelines“, published on iWitness News on April 10, 2020, has raised some concerns in my mind with respect to public law in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
The article, in essence, stated that the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force (RSVGPF) intends to ensure adherence to the COVID-19 protocols and guidelines over the Easter weekend; that there are no “mass gatherings of persons on beaches, churches or other social events viz a viz – river cooks, picnics, etc…” among other things.
Certainly, it is sound advice and recommendation for everyone to practise social distancing. More importantly, those who are on mandatory quarantine and isolation ought to respect the protocols and guidelines concerning such, in the interest of public health and safety. That being made crystal clear, I do have some questions I would like the RSVGPF or those who are knowledgeable about public law in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to address.
- Are these “COVID-19 protocols and guidelines” legally enforceable laws? If not, in what way does the RSVGPF really intend to ensure “adherence” through their patrols over the Easter weekend?
- It is an effective strategy to close all sites operated and managed by the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority over the Easter weekend in an effort to reduce social gatherings, but will it be an offence enforceable by the RSVGPF for those who go to parks, rivers and beaches which fall outside such the management of the National Authority?
- On what legal authority will the Police rely in order to ensure that there are “no boat rides and/or excursions” given that SVG is not presently under a state of emergency? (at least as far as I know)
- Is it that there is some Statute that gives the RSVGPF legal authority to invent legally enforceable “protocols and guidelines” as they see fit under circumstances like the Corona virus pandemic despite a state of emergency not having been declared?
While Dr. Simone Keizer-Beache in the aforementioned article merely encourages social distancing (which is wise), the Police appears to want to legally enforce that encouragement, which should worry all Vincentians, whether or not you’re inclined to stay at home all weekend or go the beach or river to escape the boredom of home.
This concerns me deeply because it is my OPINION and OBSERVATION that the RSVGPF seems to have a tendency to act beyond the scope of their legal authority whenever the existing legal mechanisms do not afford them the right to take action.
Of course, many of these instances rarely go before the court, so, they never become an issue, but what can you do if eight armed police officers of the Rapid Response Unit come to the beach where you are relaxing with your family and tell you to leave immediately?
Is that their strategy for ensuring “adherence”? Let’s not wait until it’s our son, daughter, uncle, aunt, cousin, parent or close friend who falls victim to the Police acting ultra vires before we take interest in the questions asked above.
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