BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — The National Disaster Management (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which had its first reading on October 15, was passed by the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis’ National Assembly on November 18.
Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis and Mover of the Bill, stated that the purpose of the Bill is to make for greater alignment between the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) within the national disaster legislative framework.
“Mr. Speaker, this is a very short Bill and it is a very consequential Bill that follows naturally from the discussions we had g with regard to COVID-19 and other related matters as they all attend in relation to the pandemic,” said Prime Minister Harris.
“We anticipate Mr. Speaker that there will be further and more comprehensive reviews and modifications of the National Disaster Management Act to seek and ensure that the administrative and institutional framework that is well established under the National Disaster Management Plan is captured under the new law,” he said.
The Prime Minister additionally said, “In fact, the National Disaster Management Plan regulates collaboration and the coordination of efforts during times of disaster and emergency and it goes without saying Mr. Speaker that ideally all the relevant persons and agencies should be well aligned during the critical times.”
“In that vein Mr. Speaker, the expression NEMA has been defined and its power has been clearly articulated,” said Dr. Harris. “Similarly, the NEOC’s location has been identified and linked of course to the National Emergency Management Agency.”
Dr. Harris said there are many persons and agencies involved in various disaster management exercises and at times they have similar or overlapping responsibilities.
“We know that we have a personal duty and responsibility to take care of ourselves and our families,” concluded Dr. Harris. “These include wearing masks, sanitizing our hands, and practicing physical distancing. All of these were covered in the legislation which we debated before. This attempts to put a stronger footing in the operations at NEMA and the NEOC and to ensure that we have an alignment of the COVID-19 Bill in terms of the expectations and the coordinating role.”