Article by: Kareem Smith taken from the Barbados Today March 27, 2021
The COVID-19 emergency directive is in no way designed to criminalize shop owners, Minister of Small Business Kerrie Symmonds insisted Friday amid a barrage of criticism of lawmakers and magistrates following the death of shopkeeper Hamenauth Sarendranauth who had been jailed for breaching the protocols.
Symmonds however acknowledged that as a “member of the public” he found some of the penalties “concerning”.
Sarendranauth, 47. was remanded to Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds after admitting to operating his shop on February 14 and 16 in contravention of the directive then in force during the lockdown.
Three days later, he was hospitalized and lost his mobility. His condition worsened this week and the small businessman died on the day he was due to be sentenced.
Sarendranauth’s relatives are now threatening to sue the state as they demand answers about the Guyanese man’s treatment while at HMP Dodds. Fellow shopkeepers have threatened to protest the criminalisation of small business people through the directives.
The added pressure on the administration and the courts follows at least two lawsuits challenging the directives’ constitutionality.
But the small business minister declared that the safety of employees, owners, and the wider society amid a spiralling COVID- 19 outbreak was the rationale for the directives.
Symmonds said: “If the COVID-19 monitoring unit has to enforce the protocols regarding public safety and well-being, that cannot be the fault of the Government.
“The protocols are framed in a manner that allows for the courts in Barbados to exercise a discretion. In some cases, the court may feel that there are sufficient grounds for imprisonment and in other cases, the court may feel that a fine ought to be imposed.
“The court has a framework within which to exercise that discretion in a judicial manner taking all of the circumstances before the court into consideration and I cannot superimpose my personal views on any judicial tribunal.”
Yet Symmonds acknowledged that as a “member of the public”, he was “concerned” about some of the penalties.
He declared: “As a member of the public, I can say, that there have been cases where I have seen certain people, who do not come from around here, being given penalties that I consider to be a slap on the wrist, and equally, I am concerned that they were not made an example of, by way of far more severe treatment.
“On the other side of the coin, I have been at times concerned with treatment being accorded to fellow Barbadians, but these are matters for the courts and it would be improper for me to involve myself in that.”