No person arrested during the state of emergency may file a complaint against the State with the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) on the ground that he/she was discriminated against because of where he/she lives. EOC's legal head Narendra Lal Beharry made this clear during an interview following an awareness session at City Hall,San Fernando. Since the State of Emergency took effect last Monday the police have been moving into certain areas deemed "hotspots" where they have arrested several persons. Asked whether these persons could claim that they were targeted because they live in particular areas, Lal Beharry said: "It is interesting that you would raise that. Our Act does provide that a person could lodge a complaint of discrimination on the basis of geographical origin, so that is something that we have not yet thought of."
He explained that a complaint must be based on relevant grounds. For example, a complaint of discrimination could be based on sex, race, ethnicity, geographical origin, religion, marital status or disability, but it must be on relevant grounds such as employment, education, accommodation, provisions of goods and services, or discrimination by offensive behaviour or victimisation. "So it is not because the government chose a couple of counties to place under a state of emergency would they be allowed to lodge a complaint, unless it relates to a ground of discrimination," Lal Beharry said.
Earlier in the programme Commissioner Beverly Beckles indicated that the session was being held to educate the public about EOC since a lot of people are still unaware of its existence and purpose. Lal Beharry, the main speaker, said since the Commission's inception in 2008 they had received 500 complaints, most of which related to the public sector. He said, they are seeking to widen the ambit under which persons could file discrimination claims. Among the changes they have recommended are to include age and HIV status as specific characteristics of discrimination.