Last update: 10-Dec-2013 1:42 am
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Why police-soldier bill should be rejected
The decision by the Government to introduce the Miscellaneous Provisions (Defence and Police Complaints) Bill as a means of dealing with the crime situation, has sparked a great deal of discussion. After listening to arguments on both sides and taking into consideration what this piece of controversial legislation is intended to do, I have come the conclusion that this bill should be rejected by the senators in the upper house.
The facts of the matter are very clear. First, the procedure adopted by the Government in the introduction of the bill was wrong. Before bringing this bill to parliament, the Government should have had open discussions with the major stakeholders ie. the Police Service Social and Welfare Association and representatives of the Defence Force, in order to hear their thoughts. The Police Service Social and Welfare Association has clearly and openly rejected the bill, claiming that it threatens the independence and integrity of the police service.
Their members have signed a petition to register their disapproval and they have also called on the Acting Police Commissioner to declare his stand on the issue. They have also planned two vigils, one in Trinidad and the other in Tobago, as a form of protest. We are yet to receive an official response to the proposed legislation from the Defence Force.
Additionally, a number of reputable organisations have expressed serious reservations about the proposed legislation. They include the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), the Law Association of T&T, the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA), the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC), the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU), the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), the Roundtable in Defence of Democracy in T&T, Fixin T&T and, more recently, the Federation of Independent Trade Union and Non Governmental Organisations (FITUN).
Some of these organisations represent thousands of people all across this country and despite the concerns raised by these groups, the Government is determined to go ahead with this bill. This is supposed to be a People’s Partnership Government. If this is so, then where is the partnership of the people in this process?
Further, this bill is unnecessary. The Prime Minister, in her contribution to the debate in Parliament on March 15, noted that since the joint police and army patrols began in Laventille, there has been no murders in 12 days. If this is true, then why do we need legislation to do what could be done without it? If manpower is the issue, then the solution is to recruit and train more police officers, not more legislation.
Finally, the proposed legislation is designed to give soldiers powers equal to those of police officers. But as we have been told over and over, the major problem in dealing with crime in T&T is detection. If we don’t know who and where the criminals are, then there would be no arrests, no prosecution and no conviction. The Criminal Bar Association is right, therefore, when it asserts that “fighting crime with more laws won’t work.”
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