RADHICA DE SILVA
Calls are being made for more soldiers to be deployed for patrols during the current State of Emergency (SoE).
The T&T Regiment has been noticeably absent from the streets since the SoE was announced by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, last Saturday.
A high-ranking source told Guardian Media that just under 50 out of 5,000 soldiers came out to patrol on Tuesday night.
The T&T Defence Force (TTDF) has some 200 vehicles in its fleet, but so far, only two vehicles were utilized during the SoE.
A few soldiers were spotted at Lady Hailes Avenue in San Fernando on Tuesday night. However, on Monday and Wednesday, there was no visible army presence in the South city.
Speaking to Guardian Media on Thursday, the President of the Greater San Fernando Chamber of Commerce, Kiran Singh, expressed disappointment by the lack of support from the TTDF.
“We are calling on the Chief of Defence Staff to immediately deploy more soldiers to help with patrols,” Singh said.
He added: “During an SoE, military forces are in control. I would have liked to see more patrols by the Defence Force. We don’t have to protect ourselves from an international invasion, but we need the army to protect ourselves from ourselves.”
He said the presence of the army will also deter looters and burglars.
“Already we have had a burglary at a jewellery store on Charlotte Street. In San Fernando, we are thankful that the TTPS is diligent in their duties and crime is at an all-time low. We are thankful for the TTPS and the Police Commissioner, but we are also saying that if the army is out there with the police, we will have more success because there is greater fear from the public about army patrols, rather than police patrols,” Singh said.
Thousands of police officers have been doing frequent patrols since the SoE was announced. An average of 77 roadblocks take place nightly, while frequent patrols have been ongoing in the main city centres to ward off any looters or burglars prowling around shuttered stores.
Earlier this week, the T&T Regiment announced that a soldier who threatened to beat people if they broke the curfew has been confined to the barracks.
Several videos circulating showed the soldier in uniform warning the public that they could “get it” if they were caught outside after curfew.
In a statement, the Regiment said it “holds its members to the highest standards of discipline and professionalism and measures taken by persons which contravene good order and military discipline will not be tolerated.”
Guardian Media will bring you more information on this story as it unfolds.
Emergency Powers Regulations, 2021
Chapter 14:01 of the Emergency Powers Regulations 2021 states:
11. (1) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, the Chief of the Defence Staff under the Defence Act shall hold his forces in readiness to assist, and if called upon by the Commissioner of Police, cooperate with and assist the Commissioner of Police in the performance of his duties under these Regulations.
(2) A member of the Defence Force referred to in sub-regulation (1), shall, for the purposes of these Regulations, have the powers of a police officer and shall, where acting in accordance with any general or special instructions of the Chief of the Defence Staff or of any superior officer of that force, given in pursuance of sub-regulation (1), be deemed to be acting in the performance of the duties imposed on a police officer by these Regulations or by any Orders made thereunder.