DELAY THE LOCKDOWN

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Leader of Opposition, Matthew Wale
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Wale calls for postponement of COVID-19 mock exercise

By EDDIE OSIFELO

OPPOSITION leader Matthew Wale calls on the Prime Minister to postpone the 36-hour mock lockdown set to start Sunday 6pm.

Wale made the call yesterday.

He said the public notice forewarning the public that persons acting in breach will be arrested, prosecuted and fined may be unconstitutional.

Wale added views expressed by former judge and Governor General Sir Frank Kabui suggesting, in the absence of Covid 19 in Honiara posing a real threat to the public, the arrest or prosecution of any person caught acting in breach of an order under the Emergency Regulations will lack jurisdiction in law. 

Sir Kabui relied on facts arising out of the previous lock-down exercise in supporting his views.

“This is a serious legal issue of public interest,” Wale said.

“It is not a question of whether the order for a lock-down is lawful but rather, whether giving effect to the order by actually arresting and prosecuting people found to be acting in breach in a simulated exercise is reasonably justifiable given the limited scope of section 16 of the Constitution,” he added.

“It is important to prepare our people for the worst-case scenario through practice however, it cannot come at the expense of openly violating our people’s fundamental rights under the Constitution.

“I therefore call on the Prime Minister and the Oversight Committee to call off the planned lock down and to take the matter to court for an independent ruling on all legal questions arising. 

“This is too important to be brushed under the carpet.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General John Muria Junior has defended the $15,000 fine to be imposed a penalty for people breaching the lockdown.

Muria said the fine is a maximum penalty and it’s  up to the courts to determine, taking into considerations mitigating factors.

“Last time someone was fined only $1,000.

“If you are a serial offender, then court will say you can’t learn so would impose $15,000 and put the person in jail. But this at its extreme,” he said.

Muria said for first offenders, the court normally considers mitigator factors when determining the amount of fine.

“What the executive did is set the maximum so the courts can’t go over the maximum,” he added.

Furthermore, the Attorney General said in some places, the seriousness of breach is high because it is a matter of public security and safety.

“Personally, I think it is still small for life of another one if you are going out or breach that causes an outbreak.

“$15,000 is small for price to pay for.

“When it is a lockdown, it is a serious thing and about life and death.”


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