Opposition leader, Hon Matthew Weil, said another public emergency was unnecessary.
Hon Weil highlighted when he opposed the proposal in his State of Public Emergency (SOPE) debate speech in Parliament today.
I have come to the conclusion that emergency powers have not been required at any time since the coronavirus was first reported abroad. In other words, previous states of emergency approved by the House of Representatives were not necessary.
The opposition leader said parliament had not seen enough information to support SOPE in the past.
He said there are existing laws that provide sufficient provisions for an effective response to covid-19 before and during community transmission.
“The potential for government overreach under a state of emergency is greater than under our current laws. Accountability and transparency regarding government decisions and actions are better enshrined under current laws than under emergency powers,” he said.
Hon Weil said there was absolutely no need for SOPE measures whatsoever.
He said that all the regulations issued so far under the Emergency Powers Act could have been issued under the existing laws without loopholes.
“The argument made for public emergencies before the coronavirus was transmitted to the community was that we do not have provisions in our laws that meet the preventive measures that must be taken in the fight to protect our country and our population from COVID-19 and that our laws only provide for cases where the virus is already present in the community “.
The opposition leader said the argument is simply wrong.
“The Environmental Health Act and the Quarantine Act together adequately provide the preventive measures to be taken against diseases such as COVID-19,” he said.
Hon Weil said the Environmental Health Act (EHA) gives the minister three powers to: (1) make regulations; (ii) Appointment of officers; and (iii) delegate administrative responsibilities, and provide a robust platform for dealing with COVID-19 or similar illnesses, before and during outbreaks in the community.
One clear example of this strength, he said, is the Environmental Health (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) Regulations 2003.
Hon Weil said it was a regulation that was passed under the Environmental Health Act to deal with the SARS-Corona virus at the time.
This is particularly relevant to the current situation of the coronavirus and this debate. This regulation was enacted before the SARS coronavirus reached the Solomon Islands. Fortunately, SARS never reached the Solomon Islands, so our response has not developed after that.”
The opposition leader said the current framework under the Environmental Health Act allows for stronger and more comprehensive regulations to deal with COVID-19 across the country.
“Its framework provides better accountability and transparency compared to the emergency regulations for COVID-19. Moreover, it contains mechanisms for national enforcement of laws as it is better linked to the district government system.