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Subhas on powers of arrest to solders: Threat to T&T’s democracy
Former minister in the Ministry of National Security Subhas Panday believes that giving powers of arrest to members of the Defence Force will create opportunity for widespread abuse.
Speaking to reporters during a press conference at his office in San Fernando yesterday, Panday said if soldiers had powers of arrest, T&T’s democracy would be undermined because the Government could use the army to suppress its opponents, including members of the media.
He said under existing laws, the Defence Force has the power to protect the country during war, insurrection, hostility from external sources, emergencies and public state of emergencies.
However, because the law allowed the minister to promote high-ranking soldiers, there is possibility that T&T could become a dictatorship and military state.
He explained that Section 12, Chapter 14:01 of the Defence Act states: “The Minister of National Security, after consultation with the Prime Minister could advice the President on opportunities to promote soldiers above the rank of major or lieutenant.”
“Further the Chief of Defence Staff shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the minister after consultation with the Prime Minister,” Panday said. He said this part of the law created an opportunity for abuse.
“I am not saying that this is the intention of this minister or anyone now living who may become Minister of National Security but in the future when the politics gets rough you may never know if it may be used to stay in political office,” Panday said.
He added, “We may be creating a monster we cannot control.”
Instead, Panday recommended that the police work with the Regiment and the Coast Guard.
“Let us take the intelligence from the Defence Force and make it available to the Strategic Services Agency (SSA), Security Intelligence Agency, (SIA) and the police,” he said.
“Hundreds of millions were spent on developing expertise in Sautt (Special Anti-Crime Unit of T&T); let us use these officers in sync with the Coast Guard and army to bring down crime.”
He said there was no proper regulation of the military and putting powers of arrest into the hands of soldiers would bring disaster to T&T’s democracy.
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