PM DECLARES LIMITED STATE OF EMERGENCY
By SEAN DOUGLAS and LAUREL V WILLIAMS Monday, August 22 2011
AT midnight last night, TT was placed under a limited state of emergency to facilitate anti-crime curfews in hot spots, as announced a few hours earlier by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
The measure specifically allows the 5,000 Defence Force powers of search and seizure, and of arrest, so they will be able to better supplement the work of the TT Police Service, she explained. Details are due today of the areas in which the curfew takes effect.
At a 15 minute news briefing at her Phillipine home at 8 pm, she said the documents to effect the state of emergency — a proclamation and regulations — were already on their way to President George Maxwell Richards to be signed.
The measure follows two recent instances of mass killings, namely four persons shot dead at Jonestown, Arima, on Thursday, a woman killed at Pt Lisas on Friday and three killed in Laventille and another in El Socorro yesterday .
The 2011 murder rate is about 261 persons.
Persad-Bissessar said the State must respond to a very tragic spate of murders.
“We are of the view that this situation has reached proportions that we must respond in a most definite manner possible.”
The spike in murders, she said, was ironically due to the police’s success in seizing large drug hauls, saying such sums won’t disappear from the drug-trade without such consequences.
“There comes a time in the history of a nation when we have to take very strong action, very decisive action.”
She said Government has spent more money on crime than its predecessors, noting this problem is the result of years of neglect and would not disappear overnight. “The current crime spree indicates that more must be done and stronger action must be employed now. The situation cannot continue like this without a response that is commensurate with the wanton acts of violence and lawlessness,” she said.
Such a response must halt gang activity and lawlessness in the shortest possible time. “After much deliberation with the National Security Council and members of my Cabinet, it has been agreed that Government impose a limited state of emergency in hot spots across the country,” she said.
Saying this measure needs the nod of the President of the Republic, she said as she spoke the proclamation and the regulations were on the way to him for signature for a limited state of emergency, under section 8(1) and 8(2) of the Constitution.
She said a limited state of emergency would allow a number if things to be done, but she declined to spell these out, citing grounds of security.
Admitting the state of emergency would affect the lives of law-abiding citizens living in the affected areas, she asked them to bear with the Government in its anti-crime fight. “We have the will. We will succeed. The nation must not be held to ransom by groups of thugs bent on creating havoc in our society,” she said. “We will hunt them down. We will search them out, and we will bring them to justice.”
Persad-Bissessar vowed to talk to the Opposition about the initiative and seek their support in Parliament for other steps such as another attempt at the Capital Punishment Bill and a Gun Court.
She said the state of emergency is not extra-constitutional but was placed in the Constitution by its framers.
Persad-Bissessar read out the proclamation, by which the President declares he sees a sufficient threat to justify a state of emergency. She said she has spoken to Richards, whom she expected to sign the documents.
Alongside the proclamation, she said, are the Emergency Powers Regulations and Orders. She vowed to give details of the latter today, saying it allows curfews in designated areas and for designated time periods. She said the initiative has not been an easy decision, but said it is demanded by the circumstances.
Police sources have indicated that so far, as far as they have been informed, the immediate areas are Arima, Arouca, Beetham, Carenage, Cunupia, Diego Martin, Enterprise, Felicity, Gasparillo, Grand Couva, Hermitage, Icacos, Laventille, Maloney, Morvant, Sea Lots,Trincity, Pigeon Point, Crown Point.
The rights of the many cannot be curtailed by the rights of the few, she added. “We have advised the President to have a limited state of emergency from 12 midnight tonight,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar said Minister of National Security Brig John Sandy will today give details of a gun amnesty. She said a curfew order may last three days, after which extensions must be approved by the Speaker and Parliament. She said she would review curfews on a daily basis.
Persad-Bissessar denied it was an anti-trade union measure. She declined to spell out steps to be taken to tackle criminals who might migrate from hot spots to avoid the curfews.
Media personnel were told to arrive at the Prime Minister’s house located along the SS Erin Road, Phillipines for about 5.15 pm. Persons from various media houses waited in the front porch as Cabinet members did likewise.
Ken Gordon, whom Persad-Bissessar said had suggested such a move, last night told CNC3 television he agreed with the initiative, but Newsday could not contact Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley for his views.