Mr PM, declare'emergency'now
I CALL upon the Prime Minister of our country to stop pussy-footing with our lives and declare a state of emergency (SoE) immediately.
Every day we are watching you address the nation and tell us of all the different rules, regulations and laws your Government is passing. From the prohibition of gatherings of not more than ten, now to the shutdown of non-essential services.
Each time you come out with a new, dressedup law to match your well-fitted suit. You can dress up the laws as much as you want, but any legal mind worth their salt knows that you cannot temporarily suspend a citizen's constitutional rights without declaring a state of emergency.
Any law to restrict people from gathering deprives a citizen of their constitutional right to freedom of movement and assembly. Any law that requires businesses to close infringes a person's right to enjoyment of property as this right includes the right to carry out a legal enterprise.
All around the world, governments have taken the appropriate legal steps to limit their citizens' rights and have done so by due process. Yet you have been 'holding your hand' for some reason, even saying (although as a joke) you will 'slap down people'.
If you want to 'slap down the people', then slap the SoE on them; it does seem that the country is waiting on that hard clout. But you keep playing the reluctant godfather.
There is talk that you do not want to declare a SoE because you do not want to disturb the one per cent whose businesses will be seriously affected.
I myself, with the members and staff of my law chambers, have been self-isolating because we know that is the proper thing to do, but for the others who are not listening-slap the SoE on them. It is better we get a hard slap than a fatal hit.
Mr Prime Minister, now is not the time for electioneering, now is not the time to pander to the PNM (People's National Movement) financiers, it is the time to save our lives, and if you do not take these harsh but necessary decisions, many of us could die. As for me, I do not wish to die, not just yet.
I thus recommend the following for your consideration: Declare a state of emergency for a short
period of three months and, if necessary, further
three-month periods until the virus is no longer a threat to our lives in Trinidad and Tobago.
Very importantly, the dire situation with
the 'remand prisoners' must be examined. It is already cruel and unusual punishment to have a man who is presumed to be innocent locked up for more than seven years in atrocious conditions, with more than ten persons in a cell.
A thorough review of their bail conditions must be done. If they have no deeds, as many people don't, they must be allowed to sign their own bonds and be let out of jail immediately. The high courts and magistrate courts have already been indefinitely suspended, which means that while this virus is still a threat, these remand prisoners will be there for even longer.
Of course, they must be examined to ensure they are free of the virus. Those with the virus must be quarantined.
And may God bless our nation.
Israel B Rajah-Khan SC