Rambachan was participating in a forum hosted by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) on the topic “The State of Emergency: a necessary evil?”
The public forum was held at the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies (UWI). Speakers included Rambachan, Opposition Senator Terrance Deyalsingh, UWI Professor Patrick Watson and UWI Senior Lecturer Merle Hodge.
Watson, the first speaker, said he agreed that a state of emergency was necessary to combat crime but he felt the curfew was having a negative impact on the growth of the economy.
In her contribution, Hodge argued that the SOE was itself a tool of violence being used to fight violence. She said the state of emergency was affecting single women who lived in crime hot spots in that they were afraid to sleep at home at nights. She also said the self-esteem of young men living in these areas was being affected and she feared a backlash that there may be an increase in crime and rapes due to low self-esteem and the humiliation of men. .
Deyalsingh’s argued that there was no need for a state of emergency. He said that, to date, not one individual has been detained under the emergency powers, but that detentions have instead taken place under normal acts of parliament. He insisted that citizens were living in a police state. The audience applauded his contribution, appearing to agree with his statements.
Rambachan, the last speaker, responded to arguments put forward by the three other speakers. He disagreed with Deyalsingh’s contention that persons arrested during the state of emergency were not being detained under emergency powers and that TT was operating as a police state.
“...there is no police state in Trinidad and Tobago,” he rebutted.
“Perhaps, it’s very nice and political to say we’re living in a police state, and it makes good headlines for the newspapers, but I’m yet to be shown evidence that citizens of this country are living under a police state,” he added.
Fielding questions from the audience, Rambachan choose to not always respond to them instead returned to arguments made by other speakers.
He responded to Hodge’s observation that it appeared that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was being advised by a group of “patriarchal and authoritative men”, so much that her demeanour has changed and her usual compassion gone. Rambachan disagreed with Hodge, detailing the Prime Minister’s efforts to get women more involved in politics and said Persad- Bissessar’s compassion must not be confused with being seen as a sign of weakness.
Hodge replied, “The minister is preoccupied, he has a lot of things on his mind so he could not have heard what I said. I would have never said my sister Kamla is weak.” She said she was disappointed by the minister’s lack of understanding of her arguments.