"Ill-advised and precipitous."
Trade union leaders yesterday submitted a legal opinion to acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams to support their stance that they do not his permission to hold any peaceful protests.
Leader of the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) Ancel Roget delivered the ten-page legal opinion, authored by former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, at Police Administration Building, Sackville Street, Port-of-Spain yesterday.
JTUM has scheduled what they have termed to be “the mother of all marches” on May 23, the eve of the People’s Partnership fourth anniversary in office.
“We are going to hold placards against the Prime Minister to demonstrate the way in which this country is governed.
“And if we hold that placard against the Prime Minister, no police officer from the lowest rank to the highest rank, has the authority or chastise any member of the public,” Roget said as he addressed members of the media.
At a press conference held earlier this month Roget said on May 23, members intend to speak out against various social, political and economic issues which were having a “direct and adverse impact on the vast majority of citizens.”
“This Government has shamelessly departed from all protocols, accepted norms, best practices and conventions and procedures and has descended into an ‘anything goes’ mentality much to the embarrassment of T&T.
“The country is now being run by a small group of ‘cabalist’ who are amassing huge wealth by corrupt means at the expense of the majority of citizens,” Roget had said.
The legal opinion stated that it would be a serious violation of the Constitution to require individuals to get permission of the police to peacefully demonstrate in public.
“The new policy of the Government which the acting commissioner is implementing is intended clearly to restrict criticisms against the Government,” the letter said.
It made mention of reports in the media where on December 18, 2013 the views of Williams were published on the issue of the conduct of peaceful public protest.
The report said the Roget, also the president of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade union (OWTU) had met with Williams and a group of several trade union leaders.
After the meeting Roget had then said, “We were dealing with instances where our members were chastised by the police for not obeying the law, which law we said to the commissioner does not exists.”
The opinion also said the Constitution of T&T recognised the positive duty of the executive arm of the State to ensure that proper structures exist for members of the public to participate in legitimate political protests.
Contacted yesterday Williams said the letter had reached his office but he had not read it as yet.
He said he intended to do so over the weekend.