Wednesday, April 3, 2013

AG Ramlogan urges senate to join hands to pass legislation to give soldiers power of arrest

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan called on the Senate Tuesday to "join hands" to support legislation to give soldiers additional powers to fight crime, noting that the army cannot sit idly waiting for war while the country is under siege and being “terrorised by gun-toting bandits”.

Ramlogan started the debate on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Defence and Police Complaints) Bill, 2013, successor to the Defence Amendment Bill.

The AG said a small country like Trinidad and Tobago cannot afford to invest one billion dollars a year on the Defence Force with the expectation that "one day, we would go to war or have a prolonged state of emergency".

He stated, "If Venezuela or any other country wants to invade Trinidad and Tobago, the fact of the matter is our army, small and loyal, and committed, and powerful as it is, we’ll have to seek external help. We’ll be calling Uncle Sam or somebody else."

He argued that it is "simply not practical in today’s day and age to have an army on stand-by, standing idle, waiting for something to happen that may never happen."

Ramlogan said with respect to the current situation when police and defence force personnel are on joint operations, soldiers have no power to detain or arrest individuals because soldiers know they do not have that power.

He made it clear that contrary to the hype that the legislation is creating "soldier-police" the reality is that their powers would only be used when on joint operations with the police. 

“So...we are simply seeking to give legal protection and status to soldiers, coast guardsmen, and air guardsmen and women when they are accompanying police officers during joint police operations," Ramlogan said.

He stated that soldiers have been operating without legal protection for too long and noted that this is a violation of the rule of law, which the Government wants to change. 

The AG said while there has been "ill-informed" criticism and hype over the bill when you remove "the smoke and hype" the bill really deals with  with a simple problem - getting soldiers involved in the fight against crime. And that is nothing new, he said.

Ramlogan made reference to a newspaper report in August 2005 when then chief of defence staff Col Edmund Dillon noted that soldiers had been assisting police since the 1970s. 

He noted that Dillon had pointed out that the national security environment had changed drastically and the Defence Force could not only focus on external enemies.

He also stated that in 2006, the People’s National Movement (PNM) commissioned Justice Ulric Cross to review the role of the Defence Force, and he recommended a radical transformation with legislation to expand the role of the Defence Force.

The Attorney General said denied that the legislation would create military state as stated by critics. He noted that the PNM administration used soldiers with police for initiatives such as Operation Baghdad and Anaconda. 

He wondered why those who are now speaking out against the bill were silent when soldiers locked down Richplain, Diego Martin, in June 2008.

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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