Amendment to business hours for Easter weekend not legal, UPP says

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Thursday afternoon’s last-minute amendment to the opening hours for businesses this weekend is illegal, says Leon Chaku Symister, the United Progressive Party (UPP) Spokesman on Public Safety.

The relevant legislation, published in the No. 21 Extraordinary Gazette and widely disseminated, states: “No business activity or service not listed in the Schedule to the Essential Services Act, 2008 shall be permitted to open or operate on Friday 10th April, 2020 (Good Friday), Sunday 12th April, 2020 (Easter Sunday) and Monday 13th April, 2020 (Easter Monday).”

However, after an extremely busy Thursday, in which financial institutions and Government agencies were open for the first time since last week’s curfew was imposed, the Government today amended the law to enable selected businesses to open on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

A Government notice, distributed via State media and social media on Thursday afternoon, advised that “supermarkets may operate on Sunday 12th April, 2020 (Easter Sunday) and Monday 13th April, 2020 (Easter Monday) from 7 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.”

However, Symister points out that the law cannot be amended by the pen of the Director-General of Communications in the Prime Minister’s Office.

“The amendment of the Regulations by a statement from the PM’s Office has no legal effect. The amendment must be appropriately signed and gazetted for it to have the force of law,” Symister explains.

Meanwhile, the UPP says it has been reliably informed that the earlier restrictions, in observance of the Easter celebrations, were put in place by Attorney-General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin.

It learned that the changes were effected after business connections made an appeal to Prime Minister Gaston Browne.

The UPP is concerned by this illegal action.

These conflicting interests continue to water down the protective and proactive measures taken in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. They also serve to undermine public confidence in, and respect for, the Executive, as the prevailing sentiment is that “Government is playing dollyhouse.”

“If the Government continues to act with this high level of incompetence, the people will eventually ignore all their statements, guidelines, and regulations and act in their own interest,” Symister says.

The UPP is further concerned that the Browne Administration continues not only to “stretch the law,” but to break it, for its own convenience.

Accordingly, the Party calls upon the Executive to admit its error and speedily correct it.

“Doing the wrong thing, even for the right reason, is simply not acceptable,” Symister says.