However, she noted that the 9 pm to 5 am curfew applies only to communities under six districts including the capital Port-of-Spain and the southern city of San Fernando.
In response to the events of the last two days whereby it was announced that the Government had declared a “limited” state of emergency in certain “hot spots” in the country, the Council of the Law Association, in keeping with its function to assist the public on all matters relating to law, advised as follows:
“The Proclamation by His Excellency the President of our Republic which was made under section 8(1) of the Constitution is to the effect that “a state of public emergency exists in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
“As such the entire country of Trinidad and Tobago is under a state of emergency; there is no “limited” state of emergency to this end. The President has made certain Emergency Powers Regulations under section 7 of the Constitution. These regulations apply to the entire country.”
Seetahal also noted that citizens should be aware that the regulations create certain new offences providing, for instance, that no person may:
(1) have in his possession, or under his control any document of such a nature that the dissemination of copies thereof is likely to lead to breach of the peace, or to cause disaffection, or discontent among persons:
(a) endeavour, whether orally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in a manner likely to be prejudicial to public safety and order; or
(b) do any act or have any article in his possession with a view to making or facilitating the making of any such endeavour.
Additionally a member of the Defence Force when called upon to assist the police in their duties under the regulations shall have the powers of a police officer (including powers of arrest, search and even to charge) in enforcing the regulations.
The Senior Counsel also advised that where a search warrant is usually required to search premises under the regulations a police officer or soldier may now, without a warrant and with the use of force:
(a) enter and search any premises; or
(b) stop and search any vessel, vehicle or individual, whether in a public place or not, if he suspects that any evidence of the commission of an offence created by the regulations is to be found therein.
In addition a police officer or soldier may also stop search any individual in any street or public place if he has reasonable grounds for believing that an offence against the regulations is about to be committed.
Persons may now be detained for up to seven days on the authority of a magistrate or of a police officer not below the rank of Assistant Superintendent pending inquires, the Senior Counsel also advised.
She pointed out that the Minister of National Security has the power to make detention orders if satisfied that, in order to prevent any person from acting in any manner prejudicial to public safety or public order or the defence of Trinidad and Tobago, it is necessary to provide for his preventative detention.
The order she added, (a) directs that he be detained; and (b) states concisely the grounds for such detention, and a detention order may be for an indefinite period but the detained person may request a review of his detention by a tribunal to be appointed by the Chief Justice. A person who is the subject of a detention order is not entitled to bail.
“A curfew order has been made by the (Acting) Commissioner of Police, under powers given in the regulations, which declares a 9 pm to 5 am curfew in our two cities: Port-of-Spain and San Fernando, two boroughs, Arima and Chaguanas and two regions, Diego Martin and San Juan/Laventille, all as demarcated in the Municipal Corporations Act. The effect of this order is that a curfew exists in the entire northern peninsula up to Uriah Butler Highway as well as in the Municipal Corporation of San Fernando and the entire borough areas of Chaguanas and Arima. The curfew is not limited to a few “hot spot” areas but applies throughout these six (6) regions.”
According to Seetahal a person who is in breach of the regulations may be detained. Although there is no specific penalty for breaching the curfew order, the regulations permit the police to arrest a person who is acting in a manner prejudicial to public safety or order. Thus a person who breaches the curfew may be arrested and detained as acting in a manner prejudicial to public order, noted Seetahal.
“The Council wishes that it be noted that this state of emergency is not in the least limited in fact or in impact. The Council expects that before September 5, 2011 the country will be apprised by the authorities as to what has been the impact of these measures and what is the intention of the Government regarding any extension of the state of emergency.”