Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and his People's National Movement (PNM) were denied permission yesterday by Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs to hold a post-budget public meeting at Piggott's Corner, Belmont, on Friday evening. Shortly after the letter was received at Balisier House a new letter was dispatched seeking permission to hold the meeting, PNM general secretary Ashton Ford said. A copy of Gibbs' letter to Ford, dated October 11, stated: "As a result of the state of emergency currently enforced and in accordance with Regulation 7 (1) of the Emergency Powers Regulations, 2011, I am unable to accede to your request to hold a public march on October 14, 2011."
The PNM, in its letter to Gibbs, dated October 7, 2011, requested permission to hold a public meeting between 6 pm and 9 pm on October 14. "We are requesting your permission to use a public address system on the night of the meeting," the letter added. A second letter from the PNM to Gibbs was dispatched yesterday seeking permission for the public meeting on Friday. Government declared a state of emergency in T&T in August 21 and it is expected to continue until early December. An 11 pm to 4 am curfew is also in effect in selected communities in T&T, including Belmont. Under a state of emergency public political meetings are not usually allowed.
Ford said he received the police rejection of the party's application yesterday. He insisted the PNM did not apply for any march but to hold a meeting with citizens to discuss the national budget. He said: "We are no threat to national security. We find it strange that we would be denied permission to hold a public meeting to discuss the budget." Ford said the commissioner initially said the PNM never applied for permission. "We find it very strange and we knew that something was cooking," Ford added.
Rowley said last week the PNM intended to apply for permission to hold the public meeting after his budget response on Friday. He said he noticed one of the member units of the People's Partnership Government was able to stage a public march on the island recently while the trade unions were not allowed to do so.