CHAGUANAS (Sept 10, 2020): I have noted with concern the current societal discord stemming from the widely held perception that our police service is selectively enforcing the current regime of Covid—19 Laws which exist. The problem is not the existence of any inherently discriminatory approach by our police service; these men and women deserve our collective respect and admiration for enforcing law and order during these challenging times.
The root of the problem, in my humble estimation, is firstly the vague, uncertain and imprecise regulations which have been promulgated by the Minister of Health; and secondly, with the greatest of respect to him, the politically immature decision of the Attorney General to refuse to place these regulations before our Parliament for debate.
The Covid—19 Regulations as it is presently drafted is too vague in many respects and is already proving detrimental to the welfare of the population.
The Supreme Court of England has stated in several leading cases that vague and imprecise law leads to arbitrary enforcement. In other words, when law enforcement officials are given too wide a discretion, there will inevitably be a degree of inconsistency in their enforcement. This is not the fault of an individual police officer or the Commissioner of Police, it is the fault of the legislators, in this case the Minister of Health and the Attorney General, who continue to hold the indefensible view that they needed no assistance f rom Parliament in drafting these regulations.
Uncertainty and vagueness were the grounds for challenging the Sedition Laws. The citizenry has already witnessed how the selective enforcement of that archaic law could infringe on their constitutional rights.
Parliament serves two purposes ; firstly, it is the premier democratic institution which allows citizens to partake in the law—making function of their society through their elected representatives . A citizen has a say through their parliamentary representative .
Perhaps more importantly, for the purposes of this discourse, Parliament is an institutionalised filter for law and policy in the governance structure of our beloved Twin Island Republic. Proposed law (such as these regulations) is sometimes crude, improperly expressed or simply not thorough enough.
The reading of bills and Parliamentary debate serves to filter these laws and refine them into a product which can hopefully serve our citizens in a fair and equitable manner.
It is quite possible that if these regulations were laid in Parliament one of my colleagues from either side of the House may have seen the need to crystalize the law in a sufficient manner so as to cover the use of a common area pool located within a residential complex or similar dwelling arrangement .
The issue is not simply whether the law is broad enough to cover these scenarios. Perhaps that is an academic question for pseudo legal intellectuals to pontificate. The material question is whether or not the law is sufficiently precise and comprehensive enough to enable citizens to understand what conduct is expected of them and to enable our cherished police service to apply the law in an equitable fashion.
I end with the clarion call of the Leader of the Opposition, Mrs. Kamla Per sad Bissessar SC that citizens take all measures necessary to stay safe and to continue to abide by the
recommendations/ protocols of our health professionals.
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR CHAGUANAS WEST