Opposition Leader Mathew Wale said in parliament yesterday said with the exponential growth and fast spread of the coronavirus throughout the world, the country is not immune from and must take precautionary measures.
“We must take the steps that are necessary to protect our people against this pandemic. In many ways, the entire world is in a state of emergency and we are no exception,” he said.
Wale said our laws are made for the normal functioning of society, the economy, and government in ordinary times and there are very few laws that exist to guide our efforts and responses in states of public emergencies.
“In the Solomon Islands, the Constitution provides for it and the Emergency Powers Act [Cap 11] is an attempt to regulate government actions during an emergency. However, this Act may not be adequate,” he said.
He said there is a need for government, at the appropriate time to reflect on these experiences and ensure that the country’s laws are updated to provide adequate and clear powers and mechanisms to guide our efforts and responses in an emergency.
“As we can see with other countries, the COVID-19 pandemic has closed down education systems, forced economies into hibernation, citizens into self-isolation, disrupted food supplies and overwhelmed healthcare systems,” he said.
Wale said a health pandemic has become the source of a national security crisis for many countries including the world and middle powers.
“We are no different. This pandemic has exposed inadequacies in various countries’ laws and capacities to respond effectively,” he said.
He said a country’s speed and effectiveness to marshal resources and reallocate them to where they are needed most in a crisis may be the critical success factor on how that country protects its people and assures its national security.
“The enabling environment for such speed and effectiveness must include a robust legal framework, flexible administrative mechanisms, removal of red tape that may otherwise be necessary in normal times, stocks of strategic reserves, sound policy advice based on science, consistent clear simple messaging and effective communication to the people, political will and clear-headed leadership.
“In other countries, we see our nakedness clearly in the face of this pandemic. We must plan for, procure and store equipment and items that would be needed to protect our frontline professionals and citizens in an epidemic or a pandemic,” he added.
He said total reliance on donations from outside makes us even more vulnerable than we would be.
“In the face of the pandemic, we see countries are prioritizing their domestic needs and banning exports. This too is an important lesson to learn.
“Our hand to mouth fiscal situation must not be an excuse for the lack of planning for strategic stores of items that would be necessary in an emergency,” he added.
Wale said in emergencies, decision-making must not be compromised by political calculations nor by any other calculation that might sacrifice the health safety of our people.
“We would do well to reflect on these and see if there is room for improvement going forward,” he said.
He said the declaration of a State of Public Emergency by His Excellency on the 25th March 2020 describes the bases for the declaration being the declarations by the WHO regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and its spread throughout the world.
“His Excellency’s declaration of a state of public emergency also sets the parameters or boundaries of all regulations and decisions made and actions taken in the emergency period to be for the preservation of public security and as measures necessary to stop the importation into and or the spread of COVID-19 in Solomon Islands,” he said.
By IAN M.KAUKUI