On the 31st of August 2021, the House of Assembly will be meeting for the second time following the general elections of July 26th this year. On the order paper will be several Bills for debate, including Covid-19 (Prevention and control) Amendment Bill and the Drugs (Prevention of Misuse) amendment Bill.
The Covid-19 (Prevention and Control) Amendment Bill is expected to go through all its stages at the day’s sitting. The intention of the Bill is to change the words “Command Centre” in the Covid-19 (Prevention and Control) Act, 2021 to “National Covid-19 Management Center”, an indication of a change in style and tone of the new government, from being instructional to being collaborative. The Bill is also expected to broaden the representational makeup of the National Covid-19 Management Center. Among the groups to be represented on the Covid-19 Management Center are the Trade Union Federation, the Saint Lucia Medical and Dental Association, the Youth, the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association, the private sector and any other persons approved by the Cabinet. The Bill is also expected to effect another significant change in approach in the treatment of citizens in breach of Covid-19 protocols: protocol breaches will no longer be criminal offenses but ticketable offences issued on the spot with penalties ranging from $250 to a maximum of $850 depending on the type of offender (private individual or business place) and nature of the breach. According to Schedule 2 of the Bill, which deals with the list of ticketable offences and penalties, a person failing to remain in isolation will be fined $850, while a failure to wear a mask or suitable covering over the nose and mouth in public will be subject to a fine of $250.
The much-awaited change in government policy on Cannabis use by some sectors of the society will commence, with the tabling of the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Amendment Bill to decriminalization small uses of Cannabis. This Bill is only expected to go through its first reading at the day’s sitting.
Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition, Allen Chastanet, is expected to be absent from the day’s proceedings, again, leaving the lone figure of Bradley Felix, the parliamentary representative for Choiseul/Saltibus with the daunting task of being an effective opposition voice. It is inconceivable that Allen Chastanet could not have foreseen a sitting of the House within a month of the general elections and to have made adequate arrangements to represent the people of Micoud South and the thousands of UWP supporters, in the parliament. Some have said it is yet another show of contempt for the people of Saint Lucia. All this will only lead to a build-up of an unfriendly reception from his political adversaries, who will be dutifully waiting around the entrance of the House of Assembly, on the day he decides to make his first appearance in the House.