The sitting is to take place at the Red House and up to yesterday afternoon preparations were in train for MPs to debate the grounds of the nationwide state of emergency.
Moonilal, who met with the members of the National Security Council yesterday, did not give a date for the sitting but said it will come next week. Red House sources indicated that they are making preparations for a sitting next week or even earlier.
Under the Constitution, the debate of the state of emergency must occur no later than September 5, or 15 days from the date of the proclamation of the state of emergency which was signed by the President on Sunday.
Section 9 (1) of the Constitution stipulates that after the President declares a state of emergency he must issue a statement giving the reasons for the declaration. That statement of grounds must be submitted to the Speaker within three days of the making of the formal emergency proclamation. The President’s statement is expected to be received by the Speaker today.
According to Section 9 (1), once the President’s statement of grounds is submitted, “a date shall be fixed for a debate on this statement as soon as practicable but in any event not later than fifteen days from the date of the Proclamation.”
Parliament sources yesterday indicated that preparations have been advanced for a sitting.
“Yes we are we are making preparations,” one senior source said. “I anticipate that some day next week we will have a sitting, or even earlier. The Parliament chamber is in place in the event that the Speaker Wade Mark and the Government Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal call for a sitting at short notice.”
Newsday understands that Moonilal attended yesterday’s meeting of the National Security Council, the high-level body charged with the nation’s security, at Temple Court, Port-of-Spain. Other Cabinet ministers in attendance included Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Communications Dr Suruj Rambachan.
With scaled-back Independence Day celebrations due to take place next Wednesday, if the Parliament does not meet this week it may opt to sit next Monday or Friday. The sitting will be to debate the state of emergency, not to approve it. Only extensions beyond the first 15 days will need Parliament’s approval.
A sitting of the Parliament to debate a state of emergency is not unprecedented.
After a state of emergency was declared on July 28, 1990 during the Jamaat insurrection of that year the then Acting President Emmanuel Carter issued a statement to the Speaker, dated July 30, 1990, explaining the grounds for the state of emergency.
That statement was read in a special sitting of the Parliament, 13 days after the state of emergency was declared at a sitting of MPs held at the Central Bank Auditorium on August 10, 1990. The statement was read out by then Attorney General Anthony Smart and debated by MPs.
While a state of emergency was declared on August 4, 1995, during the impasse between the then Prime Minister Patrick Manning and Speaker Occah Seepaul, that state of emergency ended exactly three days later. When the Parliament sat on August 7, 1995, no statement was debated.
At a press-briefing yesterday members of the National Security Council, which comprises Cabinet members, the Police Commissioner and Chief of Defence Staff, clarified that the state of emergency declared on Sunday was nationwide and not limited to hot-spots.
“A state of emergency exists in Trinidad and Tobago,” National Security Minister John Sandy said to reporters at a press briefing at Temple Court, Port-of-Spain. “There is a misconception that only the areas under curfew are under a state of emergency.”
While on Sunday Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had announced a “limited” state of emergency at crime hot-spots, it was explained that the police and Defence Force have taken up extraordinary powers of stop, search and arrest throughout the entire country.
Curfews are, however, limited to the six local government corporations of Port-of-Spain, San Fernando, Arima, Chaguanas, Diego Martin and San Juan/Laventille.
“For those who would want to migrate to other areas, let it be known that the state of emergency exists in the entire country,” Sandy said.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, who also attended yesterday’s briefing, said the country’s borders are being guarded.
“Land, sea and air boarders are protected as we speak,” he said. “That has been adequately taken care of.” He noted that while the curfew–but not the state of emergency–was limited to targeted areas, this was subject to review.
“There are a panoply of options open. Government can increase the number of areas under curfew or decrease or target zones in particular areas,” he said.
Chief Justice Ivor Archie is due to today announce the special tribunal which is to adjudicate over appeals of persons detained by police under detention orders issued under the Emergency Powers Regulations 2011.
Sandy also indicated that while Independence Day celebrations will go ahead, there will be no fireworks display in the evening, given concerns over persons meeting curfew times.
Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams said the first 24 hours of the state of emergency has seen six firearms seized as well as 825 rounds of ammunition.
“All of these would have been recovered in targeted areas,” he said. Ask to disclose these areas he listed: Diego Martin, Maraval, Arima, Chaguanas and San Fernando. He said four persons were arrested in relation to a stolen vehicle but, “there were no additional arrests.
Williams said there were exercises conducted in all of the targeted areas and said the heightened nationwide police net announced on Monday remains in place. He scotched claims of a lower police presence on the roads.
“There were far greater police patrols,” he said. “If you are inside your house you can only identify what is happening on your street.”
While the Government has indicated that the state of emergency will last until September, Ramlogan said possible extensions–which will require the permission of Parliament–will be determined after a review of the period.
“Yes, it can be extended but it is premature to speculate as to whether we will extend it,” he said. “We prefer to adopt a wait and see approach and gauge its results then take it from there.”
Ramlogan once more urged citizens to come forward to volunteer information about criminal activity.
“This is your time Trinidad and Tobago and all those who whined bitterly about crime, to come forward with information about criminal activity in your community,” he said. “This is your time, please make use of it wisely.”