Sunday 7 June, 2020

Attorney to ‘explore legal options’ after doubles business shut down

St Augustine MP, Prakash Ramadhar, said he asked an attorney to ‘explore legal options’ in connection with a local doubles business which was allegedly shut down by the authorities, due to current COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) regulations. 

Ramadhar said via a social media statement on April 5, 2020, that he asked attorney Larry Lalla to examine legal options available and said a letter was sent to the National Security Minister Stuart Young.

Lalla clarified that the letter was not a pre-action protocol letter but a call that authorities 'exercise common sense' when exercising their duties. 

He said with regard to the doubles business in question there was no issue of congregation as customers had been instructed to place orders by phone and collect via a curbside pick-up service.

“Doubles is a delicacy to every strata in Trinidad and Tobago. But to the working man, it is a staple in their diet that is affordable and accessible. We have now heard that the police have shut down a doubles vendor from conducting their business in the Constituency of St. Augustine.”

“I imagine that the Police Officers acted on the basis that there is to be no congregation, to which we must all abide.”

“However, in relation to the specific vendor, they had put into place protocols to ensure social distancing and it was a curbside pick-up service, where orders are placed via the telephone and an employee would bring the order out to the customer.”

The business shared social media posts asking why the business was shut down when all relevant COVID-19 regulations were followed. 

Ramadhar said that the business enacted the same health and safety protocols as other fast-food businesses.

“There was no issue of congregation. In the classic sense, a doubles vendor's stall will be seen as a place where many would congregate, where there would be ordering and eating on the spot, and this certainly must not be permitted.”

“But just as KFC and the Banks have put protocols in place, any vendor who puts the same protocols in place should be entitled to equal treatment by the law.”

Ramadhar said common sense should prevail.

“It is a call now to the authorities to ensure that we exercise common sense in whatever rules or regulations that we put in place and not throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

“Protocols have been put in place, and have been exercised by other businesses, and equally any vendor: doubles, corn soup or otherwise, who wish to continue their trade must be allowed to do so because one does not know how long we will be under these regulations.”

“There must be a balance between normalcy and the need to protect our citizens which we must all adhere to and participate in. Those persons who abide by stipulated and proper protocols should be allowed equally to continue their work, and to provide an essential service to our communities.”

Ramadhar also shared the letter sent by Lalla to Minister Young, which states that the doubles shop is not a stand or stall but is done on a shop or parlour setting at a property owned by the business owner. 

The essential services listed under the Public Health [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)] (No. 7) Regulations, 2020, include “services relating to food, beverage, agriculture and fisheries such as– (i) take-away and delivery food service operations but does not include in-dining facilities”.

Under the Regulations, non-essential services have been suspended until April 15, 2020.

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