Court backs govt’s lock-down exercise

The recent High Court ruling in favour of the government on the legality of the Emergency Powers and its Regulations to the lock-down conducted last year is a major boost to government’s redirection policy on containing and eliminating covid-19 virus.

According to the High Court judgement delivered on Wednesday, June 30, the accused Denis Mitoro was charged with one count of restriction of movement contrary to paragraph 4(1) (a) and (b) of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) (Restriction of Movement of Persons in Honiara) as read with regulation 11 (1), 2 (a), (b) and (c) and (3) of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) (No.2) Regulations 2020.”

The High Court heard that Mitoro who is the respondent was allegedly not at his place of residence at Talise, East Kola’a Ridge, at 8.05pm on May 20, 2020. He was seen at Tanuli Ridge a designated area within the emergency zone during the restriction period by the Prime Minister.

Mitoro’s lawyer Ben Ifuto’o argued that Mitoro’s freedom of movement is protected under the National Constitution and Ifuto’o further argued that there was no justification for the lockdown as there was no reported case of covid-19 in the country at that time.

However, in the ruling by the High Court it stated “…the Prime Minister had reasons to believe that the May 2020 lockdown was reasonably justifiable…” in light of the proclamation of the pandemic by World Health Organisation (WHO) to which government responded by testing our capability and preparedness during the lockdown.

The court further added, “Being a responsive government certain measures and restrictions were put in place. Upon the circumstances at hand, COVID-19 was and still can be seen as Health Emergency. There must therefore be preparedness on how the government would respond in the actual emergency.

“About March 11, 2020, there was a declaration by WHO that COVID-19 was a global pandemic. Our government should be commended for keeping the virus at the border. So far, there has been no community transmission of the virus in the country. That in my view was the purpose of the lock down. The government was proactive in their efforts in preparing for and putting in place plans and measures on how to respond to a health emergency,” the Court stated.

After judiciously analysing, the reasons to the lockdown the Court point out that “It will therefore follow that the order for restriction of movement of persons in Honiara from 6pm on May 20, 2020 to 6am on May 22, 2020 is valid and lawful in the particular circumstances of this case.”

The Court ordered that “paragraph 4 (1) (a) and (b) of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) (Restriction of Movement of Persons in Honiara) (No.2) Order 2020 as read with regulation 11 (1), (2) (a), (b) and (c) and (3) of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) (No.2) Regulations 2020 are constitutionally sound and valid.”

The case is referred to the magistrate for disposal.


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