Monday 28 September, 2020

MP: No discrimination by police on COVID-19 rules

Photo: Private COVID-19 party at Bayshore. Credit: Image taken from video.

Photo: Private COVID-19 party at Bayshore. Credit: Image taken from video.

There’s no inherently discriminatory approach by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service in its application of the COVID-19 regulations.

That’s according to Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally who said the problem lies not in the enforcement by police but the law itself.

Rambally was weighing in on recent criticism of the TTPS’ apparent treatment of “zessers” versus “partygoers”.

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, who in April said police could shutdown parties on private property in breach of COVID-19 regulations on gatherings, seemed to have changed his position on Wednesday when he said the law was “sticky”.

Griffith, at the time pointed to Section 133 of the Public Health Ordinance which gives police the right to enter any land or building to "save lives".

Rambally echoed Griffith’s change of heart as he said the regulations currently in effect until mid-September are “vague, uncertain and imprecise”.

He said this is proving detrimental to the welfare of citizens.

Using judgements of the Supreme Court of England as an example, the MP said vague and imprecise law leads to arbitrary enforcement.

He said, in this regard, the law is at fault – not the enforcers.

Rambally said: “This is not the fault of an individual police officer or the Commissioner of Police, it is the fault of the legislators, in this case the Minister of Health and the Attorney General, who continue to hold the indefensible view that they needed no assistance from Parliament in drafting these regulations.

Uncertainty and vagueness were the grounds for challenging the Sedition Laws. The citizenry has already witnessed how the selective enforcement of that archaic law could infringe on their constitutional rights.”

The MP contended that the regulations should have been brought to Parliament to be debated before being brought into force.

“Proposed law (such as these regulations) is sometimes crude, improperly expressed or simply not thorough enough. The reading of bills and Parliamentary debate serves to filter these laws and refine them into a product which can hopefully serve our citizens in a fair and equitable manner,” he said.

He suggested that Parliamentary debate would have ensured that there was no room for confusion in the application of the regulations with respect to the use of a common area pool at a residential complex or similar dwelling arrangement.

He said, however, that the issue is much more than the sufficiency of the law to cover these scenarios.

Rambally argued that the law must be precise to guide citizens on what is expected of them, and allow the police to apply the law in an “equitable” manner.

The Chaguanas West MP, however, reminded citizens to take all measures necessary to stay safe and to continue to abide by the recommendations/protocols as set out by healthcare professionals.

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