PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell.
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Senate failed to debate a resolution for the extension of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis' latest emergency orders after concerns were raised by the opposition on whether the parliamentary session was properly constituted to meet.
Senator Fred Mitchell raised the issue in the Upper Chamber on Friday after Attorney General Carl Bethel tabled the new proclamation of emergency.
The proclamation was signed by Governor General CA Smith on Tuesday after the Attorney General’s office failed to deliver a resolution extending Dr Minnis' emergency orders in time for last week's sitting of the House of Assembly.
The Senate was expected to debate the resolution on Friday. However, during Friday’s proceedings, Mr Mitchell expressed concerns with the legality of the session.
The leader of opposition business said: “When the Senate adjourned on the 29th of June, it adjourned without a date sine die (with no date for resumption). You will remember that I objected to adjourning sine die without a date. You would also remember, madame president, that there was an exchange between the leader of the government and myself about the question of whether it was 14 days or five days.”
“The leader for the government agreed it was five days. Assuming that the gazette was done and the proclamation was signed on the 29th, if you count five days that means you have to convene the House, this Senate, the 30th, the first, the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth.”
“That’s five days, that means Sunday, the fifth. So, the House should have, in my view, adjourned to a date within those five days. It did not and so the House was not due to meet.”
He continued: “When you look at article 29, article 29 says when the House is not due to meet, the Governor General shall...it says for any cause of matter those houses are not due to meet within five days, the Governor General shall by proclamation published in the Gazette, summon them to meet within five days and they should accordingly meet.”
“I am asking whether or not the Governor General has published in the Gazette a summons for the Senate to be here today for the laying of this proclamation within the five days and if not, are we properly constituted to be here this morning?"
In response, Mr Bethel said he was of the view that “had the Senate adjourned to a fixed date, it would’ve not have been possible to call the Senate back to deal with the proclamation".
“And it is also in my view that the fact of the Senate is able to because we had adjourned sine die, just give the requisite notice within the five days as we have done and convene the senate and that is a sufficient compliance,” he added.
After Mr Mitchell reiterated his concerns for a second time, Mr Bethel moved to suspend the session for five minutes. However, when the session reconvened, Mr Bethel withdrew the proclamation of emergency and asked for the Senate to be suspended until 3pm.
Giving an explanation in doing so, he noted: “I don’t want to take chances with the constitution and on that note, I would wish to do two things. I would wish to withdraw this tabling with your consent if I may have the consent of the House to withdraw it.”
However, when the senate resumed after 3pm, the session was adjourned to Monday.