..but TTTI urges caution
Story Updated: Mar 15, 2013 at 10:08 PM ECT
THE Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce is supporting the Government’s move to give soldiers precept powers whilst The Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute (TTTI) is urging caution.
In a release, the Chamber stated that this measure could “represent an effective weapon in the crime fighting arsenal at this time”. “The Chamber believes that the country is now at a critical juncture, and cannot continue to depend solely on traditional measures that have been taken, if we are to reduce crime to a level where we can all feel some level of safety in our communities, schools, places of work and homes,” stated the release.
The Chamber noted that in the past there were police-soldier patrols to maintain law and order and this has had some impact on crime. “We believe that giving soldiers the same powers, authorities, privileges and immunities as are given by law to members of the Police Service and others can potentially have a positive impact on the reduction of crime,” stated the Chamber.
However, the Chamber noted that there must be necessary controls, checks and balances in place to ensure that constitutional rights are not breached, and, as noted by the Law Association, “there remains ‘the separation of powers and insulation of certain elements of the public service— in particular and law enforcement, from political control”.
Noting further that the Bill proposes a term of operation for two years, the Chamber called on the Government to publicly define how it proposes to measure the success of this initiative over that period.
“We do acknowledge that there is a constraint in the resources in the police service, and we hope that alongside implementing this new measure, immediate efforts are also being made to deal with the current inefficiencies in the service and also to increase the numbers of policemen and women on duty and available for our crime fighting initiatives on a daily basis,” stated the Chamber.
The Government, the Chamber added, must also use this opportunity to address the long-standing underlying issues, such as public confidence and terms and conditions of service — which all affect the morale within the police.
“The fight against crime is for everyone — whether government, individuals or corporations — and the Chamber continues to pledge its support without reservation,” the release stated.
The TTTI stated that it was obvious that all action must be taken to address crime.
“These actions however must be balanced with the need to safeguard the constitutional rights of citizens. Powers of arrest and seizure can easily be abused,” stated TTTI.
TTTI noted that the Defence Force and the police operate under two distinct pieces of legislation and their objectives and administrative mechanisms were completely different.
“Transparency is of the view that these and other issues arising out of the proposed amendment must be clearly and properly addressed. Full debate and consultation is required, not only in the Parliament, but in forums where citizens themselves can articulate their sentiments,” stated the release.
TTTI stated that there were some pertinent questions to be answered such as What is the administrative machinery, the checks and balances to manage this initiative? Who has oversight and accountability for the actions of the precepted officers? Who can the public turn to for redress? What is the process for taking possession and storage of evidence?