No end to Trinidad & Tobago curfew

Authorities in Trinidad have decided to continue curfews and emergency rule in certain areas in Trinidad, saying that the lowest number of murders recorded in a decade justifies the special powers granted to police, the military and the Prison Service in recent weeks.

Prime Minister Kamla-Persad-Bissessar, 59, under increasing fire from opposition and rights groups about prolonging the limited state of emergency in a 17 areas including the capital Port of Spain, says that no action to terminate curfews will be taken until the island’s security forces say so.

“I have been advised that the murder rate has now dropped to the lowest in a decade,” she said after a series of review meetings last week and after the attorney general’s office had tried to dissuade some of the more than 3,000 people arrested since curfews began in late August from suing the state for wrongful arrest and detentions.

Local courts have been throwing out many of the cases brought before them, saying that the police had no real reason to round up and detain them for days on end. Judges and magistrates argued that authorities were simply acting on the premise that those arrested were members of gangs or had links to the nefarious underworld.

No real proof was furnished and so an increasing number have been filing lawsuits or laying the groundwork to do so. This has so irked Attorney General Anand Ramlogan that he has threatened to use resources at the disposal of authorities to “vigorously assert the rights of the state in these matters,” a euphemism activists interpret as a ruse to discourage such actions.

Opposition Leader Keith Rowley says legislators from his side of the house are on the side of those seeking redress because it is their right to do so.

“Since when in T&T the state has a right to false imprisonment and malicious prosecution? Since when in the matter of justice of any citizen that the state has a right in those matters; a right to be defended by the attorney general of all persons? Here the AG is threatening citizens saying, ‘I will vigorously assert the rights of the state,’” he said, vowing to oppose the move on all fronts.

Persad-Bissessar on the other hand thinks that the emergency rule in the designated areas is working just fine and has been producing figures to back her case even though there are signs that the population is growing a bit weary of the restrictions and fears in the carnival industry that there could be negative stigma from just having it in place and being reported on internationally.

The head of government says that authorities have seized 356 weapons, pulled in $1.1M worth of narcotics and the murder rate is unlikely to reach anywhere near the average 430 of recent years.

“So this adds up and the security heads advised us that they wanted more time with the emergency and we have accepted their recommendation that the state of emergency continues.

“They advised that they need (to keep) the curfew hours as they are and to retain the existing curfew hours in the areas identified.

“ So the state of emergency continues until we are advised otherwise by the law enforcement officers and the curfew hours, and areas within which the curfew operates will continue until further advice,” Persad-Bissessar said.

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