Saturday, March 9, 2013

Soldiers with policing powers nothing new; gives law enforcement officers added strength: AG Ramlogan

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan told Parliament on Friday legislators in Trinidad and Tobago must think "outside the box" and not let "a tiny minority" hold "the silent majority to ransom".

Ramlogan was presenting the Defence (Amendment) Bill 2013 in the House of Representatives. He held up a NEWSDAY newspaper from 2008 to show that the previous administration used soldiers for policing but did not do it right.
AG Ramlogan in Parliament - Newsday photo
Ramlogan said the former Manning PNM administration used soldiers against crime without giving them legal protection. He cited one instance when soldiers held held two men with illicit drugs during a joint patrol raid on a warehouse.

He said that case was thrown out of court because the soldiers were not legally empowered to make an arrest. 

Ramlogan also pointed out that 400 soldiers were part of the now defunct Special Anti-crime Unit (SAUTT), which had only 81 police officers. 

He asked why civil society and stakeholders were silent when the former PNM regime used soldiers to fight crime in its Operations Anaconda and Baghdad, and in the lockdown of Richplain in Diego Martin. 

Ramlogan told the House what the People's Partnership government is doing is trying to increase the strength of protective services in order to fight crime. He noted that the state invests $1 billion a year to maintain the country's defence force so what the bill seeks to do is use soldiers to help the police.

He also noted that the bill has "a sunset clause", which means it will automatically lapse after two years. 

He said there are safeguards against abuse, noting that the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) Act would have jurisdiction to investigate alleged wrongdoing by any precepted soldier. And he gave the assurance that only specially-selected soldiers would be precepted.

He explained that individual soldiers can be identified by their personal regimental number worn on their uniforms. He said those soldiers who have been precepted for policing duties would be identified by an arm-band similar to the type worn by military/regimental police (RPs).

The AG also promised the selected soldiers would get police training of the same intensity and duration as provided to special reserve police (SRPs).
Ramlogan noted that what the government is proposing is nothing new. He said other states use of soldiers to fight crime, citing Jamaica and Antigua as examples. 

Ramlogan made the point that Customs Officers and Transport Officers currently have 
policing powers and asked the opposition why it wants to deny similar powers to soldiers.

He urged all members of Parliament to support the bill so as to give TT a chance to breathe by tackling gangs. “Trinidad and Tobago is waiting to exhale,” he pleaded.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai