BELIZE CITY, Wed. Jan. 20, 2021– Last week, the United Democratic Party issued a press release calling for the government to revisit the quarantine regulations imposed by SI 175 of 2020. The release said that the stringent measures do not reflect the current situation on the ground, since the number of new infections and deaths related to COVID-19 has been on a steady decline over the past weeks. The release even called the imposition of a curfew with no fixed end date, unconstitutional.
In response to these critical comments made by the Opposition, the Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries, Hon. Kareem Musa, questioned the source of the Opposition’s legal advice. He asserted that section 83 (1) of the Public Health Act empowers the Director of Health Services to pass statutory instruments of this nature.
“I don’t know why they are now coming and saying this is unconstitutional. That is a completely untenable position. If you recall, when the previous government was imposing this State of Emergency, I believe they were using the quarantine regulations, the Quarantine Act, and it was a time when they were trying to stop crime as well. Crime was out of control, and they were trying to do a dual-purpose capture of both the pandemic and the out-of-control crime situation.” Minister Musa shared.
At the time, a State of Emergency was declared, under which hundreds of alleged gang members from southside Belize City were rounded up and incarcerated for months during the lockdown in 2020. This decision by the UDP to imprison the men was seen as a knee-jerk reaction to the spike in crime within the city and as unconstitutional by many legal minds. Many questioned whether there was indeed a state of emergency in the city that justified the measures that were taken.
Minister Musa remarked that this time around the situation is completely different, and the measures that are in place are completely legal. During an interview with the media, Hon. Musa stated that the United Democratic Party is simply “grabbing political straws” for “cheap political mileage.”
“They condemn these regulations, this statutory instrument, and refer to it as being unconstitutional. I don’t know where they are getting their legal advice. But clearly, it appears the Opposition, UDP, is in a very discombobulated state that they are now grabbing on to political straws when the country needs us to fight this pandemic, to fight coronavirus. So they are attacking this, even though they are also the ones who had imposed curfews as well. It is, in my opinion, grabbing at straws for cheap political mileage, and it is going to be for their own demise, because people are appreciating the results we are getting,” he said.