Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj is calling on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to apologise to hundreds detained during the November 2011 state of emergency. And he wants that apology before the upcoming general elections.Maharaj said this at a press conference at his Irving Street, San Fernando office yesterday.
A legal claim against the state was already filed in the San Fernando High Court by Police Inspector Earl Elie, who is seeking punitive damages for being detained for 13 days during the state of emergency, said Lawrence, who is representing Elie in the matter.The government should apologise to Inspector Earl Elie and all the people detained under the emergency regulations and emergency powers and all the people who were detained under the Anti Gang Act, who had to be freed because there was no evidence, Maharaj said.
"There should be at least an apology from the Government to these people and their families. As a lawyer I intend to prosecute this claim in the High Court and if necessary in the Court of Appeal, and if necessary in the Final Court of Appeal for Trinidad and Tobago, because it is my view as a lawyer that not only was an injustice done to Earl Elie but an injustice was done to the people and the constitution of Trinidad and Tobago," he said.
On August 23, 2011, Persad-Bissessar announced that the National Security Council and Cabinet agreed to have a state of emergency declared."The question which arises in the claim filed by police inspector Earl Elie is whether the alleged public state of emergency which the government said was in existence to declare the state of emergency in 2011 threatened the life of the nation," Maharaj said.
Elie was detained under the premise that he was a suspect in a plot to assassinate the Prime Minster and then attorney general Anand Ramlogan. But Maharaj said a state of emergency can only be constitutionally called if there was an "exceptional situation of crisis of public danger which affects the whole population and which constitutes a threat for the organised life of the country."
"A public emergency in law means more than a threat to some people, it means disorder or violence which is so extensive and so serious as to threaten the guardians of public safety, namely civil government and police, or damage their ability to guard the public safety," he said."If a Cabinet could 'willy-nilly' cause a state of emergency to be declared, then Trinidad and Tobago can have a state of emergency created on a regular basis."
Following is the timeline of events detailed in a statement made yesterday by Lawrence.Elie was on duty at the St Clair Police Station on November 23, when he was arrested and taken to the Woodbrook Police Station, where he was told he was being detained under the Emergency Regulations. He was a sergeant at the time.He was taken to his home, which was searched for illegal firearms. Nothing illegal was found.
Elie was given a detention order, which stated that he was detained on the grounds that he was named as a person involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and two other government ministers on November 24, 2011.Maharaj said Elie was interviewed about those allegations during an interview on November 24.On December 5, 2011, 13 days after he was first detained, Elie was released from custody.