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London: State of emergency hindering THA public meetings
The Government should review the regulations and conditions that govern the current state of emergency, Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Orville London told reporters at the weekly Executive Council Media Briefing on Wednesday. London said a review of the curfew was not enough: “I am hard-pressed to see the correlation between those kinds of actions and those kinds of restrictions and the type of objective the government wishes to achieve.” While admitting he could not judge the effectiveness of the SoE because of insufficient information, London said every citizen should not have to endure stringent conditions of the 1970 and 1990 uprisings.
Two regulations London took issue with were those preventing public meetings and marches and the use of instruments which amplify sound. For the past months, the assembly had been engaged in a series of community meetings. At the meetings officials spoke of the assembly’s plans, listened to the concerns of villagers and answered questions. With the present SoE the THA had been hard-pressed to hold these meetings, which can only take place with the permission of Assistant Commissioner of Police Franklyn Edwards. London admitted, though, that the ACP had been “extremely co-operative and has given all the assistance but he has to work under orders”.
London said similarly the rights of trade unions were being taken away. “I empathise with the situation of the trade unions. The fundamental business of trade unions is, of course, to take care of the interest of their members and in order to do that they must make the public aware of what those concerns are”, he argued. “When you take away from the trade union that critical area of protest or area of communication, I think you are emasculating the trade unions and that should only be done if there is good reason.”
The Chief Secretary emphasised that the fundamental rights of living in a democracy must be respected and guarded. Only in “very strenuous circumstances” should otherwise take place. He, however, added that whether or not a citizen was 100 per cent in favour of the regulations, he or she had a responsibility to obey the regulations at this point in time.
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