A State of Emergency in Trinidad and Tobago!!!
Well today is the fourth day in a Limited State of Emergency imposed by the government of Trinidad and Tobago. This State of Emergency gives the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment powers of arrest, while simultaneously giving the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment and Trinidad and Tobago Police Service the ability of search and seizure of any premises or private property nationwide without a search warrant, and finally any person who is arrested can be detained for twenty-four (24) hours without charge then a magistrate of the Court or a Senior Superintendent of the Police can authorise a further period not exceeding seven (7) days and during this period there will be no bail.
With this gift of the government certain areas of Trinidad have been designated “Crime Hot Spots” and have been geographically bordered and targeted with a curfew of 9pm to 5am. Constitutionally they can impose this state of emergency for fifteen (15) days then it has to go to the lower house (The House of Representatives) if an extension is needed, the lower house can approve extensions up to three (3) months with a general majority then, any further request for extensions have to go to the upper house (The Senate) which can continue the state of emergency for up to six (6) months with a three-fifths majority.
Special passes can be applied for for those who need to travel within curfew areas and a tribunal is enacted for those who feel that their rights have been unjustly violated by authorities.
All of this was penultimated with seven (7) murders over forty-eight (48) hours last weekend, which were suspected to be tied to recent successful drug busts by the police. The largest being worth approximately twenty-one million Trinidad and Tobago Dollars ($ 21,000,000.00 TTD = $3,360,000.USD), street value on August 16th 2011. Also the Ministry of National Security had intel that reprisals killings would escalate, so in order to prevent all out gang warfare and “blood in the streets” drastic measures had to be taken.
Now if you are not living or passing through in the “Crime Hot Spots” you are not to be subjected to the 9pm to 5am curfew, but you can be detained or searched by the regiment and/or police.
Now the matters that I am not clear on are:
1. Does the first extension up to three (3) months that can be granted by the lower house include the fifteen (15) days already imposed by the government?
2. Does the six (6) months extension that can be granted by the upper house include the first three (3) months imposed by the lower house?
3. Or, Does “extension” mean extension? I am unclear since the information was given by the Attorney General in layman’s english on television so I didn’t get a chance to question him and neither did the reporter maybe it was obvious to them?!
Then are serious issues that manifested themselves with this “Limited State of Emergency”
1. Was it legal? as the commissioner Dwayne Gibbs was out of the country at the time and Steven Williams who signed as the Acting commissioner was not appointed till a day after he signed the document for a State of Emergency.
2. The Police Service Commission who was responsible for appointing the Police top brass, didn’t know that commissioner Dwayne Gibbs was not in the country thus the lapse in giving Officer Steven Williams the position of Acting commissioner.
3. Despite saying that the Curfew is in the “Hot Spot” areas most communities nation wide seems to be observing it.
4. The commissioner Dwayne Gibbs after returning to the country then contradicts the Attorney General and The Minister of National Security by saying that the Curfew is Nation wide.
5. The law council of Trinidad and Tobago has stated that there is no such thing as a “Limited” State of Emergency.
I am not even going to venture into the discussion of us heading into a totalitarian state but I do believe in a quote from Benjamin Franklin “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” Nuff said!!
I am truly concerned about is the “success” that is being toted by the government, why could you not have successes outside of this state of emergency? does it mean that the Police and Judiciary are being made toothless by bureaucracy, or maybe they are incompetent or just plain corrupt?!
Well at the end of the day I am unsure about the long term effects of this action but I do feel it would be foolish to think it wont have economic and social effects for sure….but time will tell and I am only a citizen with a blog.