By Susan Mohammed
PRIME MINISTER Kamla Persad-Bissessar last night declared a limited State of Emergency in "hot spots" across the country which took effect from midnight.
Persad-Bissessar did not say where the State of Emergency's regulations would apply or when they would cease, saying she would give more details today. However sources indicated that it should apply in several areas across the country.
She said there was a need to implement strict conditions because of the crime spree over the weekend where 11 persons were killed in just over 48 hours. The Prime Minister said: "The current crime spree dictates that more must be done and stronger action has to be employed now. The situation cannot continue like this without a response commensurate with the wanton acts of violence and lawlessness; it must be a response as well that will halt the current spike in gang activity and crime in general in the shortest possible time".
The Prime Minister, who has been recuperating at her home since Wednesday suffering from a bout of dengue, yesterday held emergency meetings at her home from 4 p.m., first with the National Security Council consisting of commanding officer of the Army Colonel Anthony Phillips Spencer, Chief Defence of Staff Brigadier Kenrick Maharaj, Deputy Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams, Brigadier Colonel Albert Griffith, and Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson, and Commissioner of Prisons John Rougier and selected members of the Cabinet including Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Minister of National Security John Sandy, and Minister of Legal Affairs Prakash Ramadhar. After that meeting she then met with members of Cabinet for over an hour.
While she made her statement which was broadcasted live on the electronic media, she said the proclamation and its regulations were on their way to President George Maxwell Richards for his signature.
Persad-Bissessar said that the State of Emergency was agreed to by the Cabinet and National Security Council because: "The limited State of Emergency, pursuant to Section 8:1 of our Constitution, and Section 8:2, will take effect from midnight tonight. The limited State of Emergency will allow us to achieve a number of things in relation to crime reduction which would not be prudent for me to disclose in advance of the action taken. We are aware that such a decision will have an impact on the daily lives of innocent, law abiding citizens in these areas but I feel confident that they will recognise and appreciate the need to protect them and bring the current crime surge affecting them under control".
The Prime Minister expressed confidence that the State of Emergency would be successful in the Government's war against crime. "I say we have the will to tackle the crime problem in Trinidad and Tobago. We have the commitment to place every resource at our disposal towards waging and winning this war on crime. We will succeed. The nation must not be held to ransom by marauding groups of thugs bent on creating havoc on our society. We will hunt them down search them out and we will bring them to justice. "
She said the limited State of Emergency in hot spots across Trinidad and Tobago is merely part of a larger aggressive response by the government.
The Prime Minister said that the measures implemented were provided for in the Constitution, as the Government was not only mindful of the rights of citizens to freedom, but also it was important for citizens "to be protected and to enjoy a life of peace and tranquility".
"Whilst it is true that our Constitution gives us rights and freedom it is that very Constitution which provided, as the framers in their wisdom decided, to include provision that would allow for the measure that we are taking today. This measure is not extra constitutional—it is indeed within the body of our Constitution", she said.
She added that an "Emergency Powers Curfew" Order will also be put into place, to enable for curfews within the designated areas for certain time periods.
The Prime Minister explained that the limited State of Emergency: "Would allow for the members of the Defence Force and for persons from the military to have certain powers which allow for powers of search and seizure for powers of arrest, which they do not at present have. What this would do, amongst many other things, is to augment the manpower of the police service. We have 5,000 members of the Defence Force, able bodied men who are trained, who can assist at this time in the greatest battle that we are facing in the war against crime. This is part of this battle, this is part of the war, and this is one of the mechanisms that we are using, this is one of the mechanisms. There are others which we discussed which I prefer not to disclose at this time".
Persad-Bissessar said that she would meet with Leader of the Opposition Dr. Keith Rowley to not only discuss the State of Emergency, but also would be seeking the Opposition's cooperation in the defeated Capital Punishment (Death Penalty) Bill, among others, as well as the establishment of a gun court.
The Prime Minister said the Ministry of National Security John Sandy had measures to implement which would not allow the migration of criminals from the "hot spots", but she did not want to elaborate on those measures.
A 36-year-old woman stripped naked at LF Wade International Airport after she was informed that Customs officers wanted to search her, Magistrates’ Court heard.
Loukai Phillips, who was in a public area in the airport’s Customs hall at the time, today pleaded guilty to indecent exposure in a public place.
Her lawyer Charles Richardson said the former Bermuda resident “took her clothes off out of frustration”. He described the move as “an impetuous decision”.
Mr Richardson said that because of a past association, his client had been strip-searched every time she came through Customs.
Crown counsel Auralee Cassidy said Phillips removed all her clothes at the secondary Customs checkpoint at around 7.30pm on August 19, after arriving from London.
Phillips, a Bermudian who returned to the Island to close down her bank account, told airport police: “I would never do it again, I’m just tired of being searched.”
The Crown asked for a fine, pointing out that children had been present and Phillips had repeatedly used bad language while removing her clothes.
The court heard that Phillips said to officers: “If you want to see me naked, you can do it right f***ing here.”
Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner told her: “The Bermuda Customs have got a job to do, and one of those is to search you in accordance with the law.”
Phillips apologised to the court, and Mr Warner gave her a 12-month conditional discharge.
“If you don’t want to be searched, don’t come through Customs,” he told her.
St. Maarten – By three o’clock yesterday afternoon the worst of the bad weather tropical storm Irene brought to the island was over, but in the early hours of Sunday morning it brought such heavy rainfall that the department of disaster management issued a warning to residents to keep off the roads.
Low lying areas like the center of Dutch Quarter were completely flooded and made driving a hazardous enterprise.
At two thirty yesterday afternoon the department of communications reported that Irene was moving away from our area. According to Stormpulse, the storm was at that moment located 58 miles to the southwest of St. Maarten and traveling at a speed of 18 miles per hour towards Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
At five o’clock the tropical storm warning for St. Maarten ended. At that moment, the storm was 92 miles west of the island and moving away at a speed of 17 miles per hour. A small craft advisory remained in place until this morning six o’clock. Today is a normal school and business day.
Early on Sunday morning the storm system seemed to have move closer to St. Maarten. It had gained strength during the night and followed a course further north, though it was at that time still expected to remain well south of our island.
The Meteorological Department in Curacao forecasted winds of tropical storm force, with gusts of up to 60 miles per hour, and rough seas with waves building up to ten feet.
The disaster management department predicted rainfall of between 4 and 7 inches (10 to almost 18 centimeters) and warned motorists to look out for street flooding and falling rocks.
At twelve thirty, the department advised motorists to keep off the roads and asked residents to secure their garbage bins, after several bins had ended up on the roads where they posed a hazard to traffic.
The airport remained open during the heavy rainfall, and decisions about possible school closures were under consideration. However, the Dutch side was not under curfew.
The National Hurricane center reported yesterday afternoon the formation of a new area of low pressure, 200 miles west-northwest of the Cape Verde Islands. It produced widespread cloudiness and scattered showers. Because the system is moving in northwest direction over cooler waters, further development is unlikely, the Hurricane center reported, adding that there is a low chance (10 percent) that the system will become a tropical storm by 2 p.m. tomorrow.