St Augustine Campus history lecturer/vice chairman of the Board of Governors at Cipriani Labour College Dr Jerome Teelucksingh says the state of emergency should have been implemented a decade ago. To date, Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs said a total of 462 people have been arrested including alleged gang leaders Cedric Burke and Keon Bain. Commenting on the drastic move to eradicate crime, Teelucksingh said: "I think it should have been implemented a decade ago. It should have been in force for about six months to deal with crime and nip it in the bud. Overall, it's good decision but late. He noted members of the older generation were comparing the present lockdown to the Black Power movement.
Teelucksingh begged to differ. He said: "It is unfair to compare it with 2011. Black Power Movement did not have murders and kidnappings. We should be mindful of that. It was about addressing racism, workers' rights and socio-economic imbalances." Teelucksingh was adamant that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar needed to make a drastic intervention. "If this state of emergency was not enforced something would have erupted in T&T. We were heading down a precipice."
Teelucksingh was aware some citizens have expressed the view their fundamental rights and freedoms have been temporarily suspended. But he said it was part of the democratic process. He added: "Some people believe their rights and freedoms have been taken away. In a democracy, we have freedom to speak, to write and prayer. Yet, certain boundaries exist." "We have freedom of speech but we can't curse. We have freedom of speech but we cannot utter treason against the government. We have to be mindful of the boundaries within which our freedom is tested." Another negative factor was that innocent people were being labelled "gangsters."
"It is being done without sufficient evidence. I think that is where some people would be justly concerned about their rights being infringed upon." He cited the example of a neighbour reporting another neighbour to the police for drug-trafficking. Teelucksingh said: "If you tell the police I am a gangster, you could send me to jail. The police have a lot of authority." He also knocked the ad hoc manner in which people were being carted off to the prisons resulting in overcrowding. "You need to have a venue to keep these people. A proper facility should have been thought about. You cannot hold a citizen and put them in the same prison with murderers, rapists, kidnapppers and con men."
A report said there were 11 inmates to a cell at the Golden Grove Prison in Arouca. Prison officers have complained about the severe overcrowding. Teelucksingh expressed sympathy for the small businessmen who make a living at night. He said: "They are hurting the most. I don't mean the DVD pirates. People like doubles, pudding, corn and souse vendors. The cinema owners are adversely affected."