The YouTube livestream of the House of Assembly’s Jan. 5 sitting concluded with members recessing into a closed-door committee that House Speaker Julian Willock said would resume at 10 a.m. the next day.
But this week the HOA told the Beacon that legislators actually resumed that same evening and passed the Disaster Management Act 2019 during the remaining minutes of the sitting, which were not publicly broadcast in the usual manner until Wednesday afternoon.
On the morning of Jan. 5, Premier Andrew Fahie explained the revised version of the 114-page bill, which has run into roadblocks since at least 2014. It seeks to establish an updated, comprehensive mechanism for disaster management by outlining ways to mitigate injury and damage caused by hazards; providing authorisation to erect temporary safety structures; and implementing a protocol for activating mutual aid agreements, among many other provisions.
“With each passing year, we are seeing the hurricane seasons becoming more active, with more violent storms,” Mr. Fahie said when presenting the bill.
The version initially Gazetted also would take certain disaster-related powers away from the governor and give them to the government, legislators said.
In response to a Tuesday request for information about when the sitting would resume to vote on the bill, HOA Information Officer Linton Leonard told the Beacon the bill had passed with extensive amendments on Jan. 5. Though the end of the meeting was recorded, he said, it was not made publicly available at the time.
The video, however, was released Wednesday. In it, eight members voted in favour and five were absent at the time of the vote. The members present were Mr. Fahie; District Six Representative Alvera Maduro-Caines; Junior Minister for Tourism Sharie de Castro; Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone; Transportation, Works and Utilities Minister Kye Rymer; Deputy Speaker Neville Smith; Deputy Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley; and Opposition Leader Marlon Penn. The House did not vote on two motions concerning supplementary appropriations for 2019 and 2020, bumping them to a future session before adjourning.
Since the start of the pandemic, the HOA has been meeting in the Save the Seed Energy Centre in Duffs Bottom to provide space for social distancing.
Members of the media have mostly covered the sittings from the broadcasts on YouTube and other media, and when this reporter tried to cover the November Speech from the Throne in person she was turned away. She was, however, allowed to attend the House’s 70th anniversary celebration last month while following rigorous social distancing protocols.