Independent Senator Dr Maria Dillon-Remy

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Overall behavioural change across society is needed during this pandemic period, and the new mask legislation is just one means of pushing us towards accepting that reality, Independent Senator Maria Dillon-Remy has said.

The Independent senator rebuffed criticisms of the recently passed law, while speaking on CNC3’s The Morning Brew, as she said it went beyond a concern about the potential abuse of power by the police.

“All I know is to leave this to the police alone, it will not work. So even as you know the law is made for the lawless, people will always find loopholes in the law. So this is why my message is what must be done has to be internalised so you don’t have to be looking for police,” she said.

She also said the complaint concerning the wearing of masks by families driving in a vehicle was a minor matter when one considers what needs to be accomplished.

“And people have been saying if we’re a family why would you be wearing masks but how would the police know you’re a family? They’ll have to stop you, they have to ask, you’ll have to bring what marriage certificate, birth certificate. All that is not necessary. It’s simple, once you’re more than one person in a vehicle, wear the mask so you don’t waste police time,” she said.

“So my view of the whole thing about the legislation and the powers and stuff like that that have been given to the police, I would like to see that no longer an issue as people take the responsibility that we need to take.”

She did, however, express concern over the clause of the bill which would see children aged eight or older, liable to being ticketed and fined under the law.

“There’s one concern I have with his legislation and that has to do with the children. Making children responsible if they are found without an adult with them, I have a concern about that. This is not a criminal matter, this is a matter of resources, people understanding what they need to do and doing it. If an eight-year or nine-year is not given a mask by a parent and sent to the shop to do something, a police is going to arrest that child because they don’t have a mask on?” she asked.

“I think it should be the responsibility of the parent, not of the child. Deal with it at the parental level, let the parent deal with the child, if the parent gave the child a mask and the child decided not to use the mask, let that be a conversation between the parent and the child. The parent had to let the child know why it’s important to wear the mask. Don’t put the child before the court. I don’t believe in that at all,” the independent senator said.

She stressed however it would take more than the law to get the wider public to do the right thing.

“This is why the issue of behaviour change does not stand with a law. We have to get to the people and this is where now you drill down so the law has been made, and the guidelines are out there yes, but how do we drill down to make sure that people at every level do what they are supposed to do and that is the responsibility of all of us. The government, the media, the business sector, faith-based organisations, all of us have the responsibility to help our people, to make that change because this behaviour change we are talking about is not going to stop tomorrow. It’s not gonna stop in December. We are going to be with it for a while and therefore we have to help each other to drill down and do what is necessary and stop fighting.”

The law came into effect last week Monday, August 31.