The new mantra being preached by government to citizens involved in non-essential activities is to “STAY SAFE, STAY HOME.”
Yesterday, government officials held their first virtual news conference to update the public on the COVID-19 cases in Trinidad and Tobago. Journalists accessed the event online and either messaged or called in their questions as part of the government’s drive for safe distancing, an essential element in preventing the spread of the unseen virus causing COVID-19 to spread like wildfire across the globe.
Yesterday, T&T’s cases stood at 82 people with three deaths linked to the virus.
In an effort to curb the virus’ spread, the government has put all non-essential services in a state of “dormancy.” Both Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh have urged citizens to stay home to protect themselves and the society during the initial phase.
The irony is that even as this plea was made to the citizenry, a small group of police officers and soldiers charged with the responsibility for the safety of citizens and country during the period, misbehaving in the worse way possible.
They targeted homeless men who did not have anywhere to go as the midnight stay-at-home order kicked in. They forced these individuals, undoubtedly the most vulnerable at this time, to undertake some despicable acts in order to avoid “getting ah case.” They laughed as they terrorised their targets and recorded each incident. What pathetically disgusting behaviour from these soldiers.
National Security Minister Stuart Young, who was not at yesterday’s news briefing, condemned the inappropriate behaviour by certain members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) and the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF). He has called on the Commissioner of Police and Chief of Defence Staff to investigate the matter.
There is no doubt the TTPS and the TTDF have important roles to play during this period. These are serious times for the country and the world. If all of us are being called to do our parts and make sacrifices in so doing, then so too must those charged with the responsibility to protect and serve.
If we understand how important the fight against COVID-19 is, we will also know why each of us must obey the order. And we dare say that if law enforcement misbehaves at this early juncture, they will not have the moral ground on which to demand the public does the same at this critical time.
So just as the heavy hand of the law came down on a bar owner found to have breached the Public Health Act last weekend, these law enforcement officers, after a full investigation, should also be made to pay for breaching the public’s trust. Anything less will tell the population that the government is not as serious about sending the right signals to all who misbehave during this critical period in the fight to rid the country of COVID-19.