Even though Trinidad and Tobago was placed under a State of Emergency (SoE) as of midnight on May 15, Senior Counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj said there is a regulatory process that must be followed.
In a brief telephone interview yesterday, he said Under Sections 7, 8 and 9 of the Constitution, “That proclamation would be enforced for 15 days…but there has to be a debate in the Parliament and the Parliament has to approve any extension of 15 days by a simple majority. It has a system in which the Government has to account to the public through the Parliament, for the proclamation and also for any extension of the proclamation.”
Maharaj said restrictions would have to be imposed.
“They would obviously make it an offence for you to have a party at your house and contravening the regulations.”
Those offences will come with fines or jail terms or both.
“Under the Constitution, the Government can impose an SoE when there is an infectious disease or pestilence.”
He said the Constitution framers in 1962 recognised that the Public Health Ordinance may not have been sufficient if there was a pandemic.
Meanwhile, Maharaj said the regulations will give the police the requisite authority to act.
“It will give them much more power to deal with the regulation of activities and to make sure people comply with the requirements of masks and things like that.”
Maharaj said a lot of people are of the view that when an SoE goes into effect, the rights of citizens are taken away and there would be an abuse of governmental power.
This, he said, was a “complete misconception.”
He advised, “You can still access the court for judicial review and for Constitutional motions. And it provides that a review tribunal has to be established in which people can apply to have the review tribunal…if they detain anybody or confine anybody, without bringing an offence they can go to the review tribunal and that can even be challenged in the courts afterwards.”
Should the police misuse their power or act outside of the law, Maharaj said the Constitution provides a remedy for persons.
Questioned if the protective services can enter a civilian’s home without a warrant, Maharaj said it would all depend on what the regulations say.
He said citizens would not be able to enjoy their fundamental rights as they normally do.
In Legal Notice 141 of 2021 from the Attorney General’s office yesterday, the President’s Proclamation read that: “(a) section 8(1) of the Constitution, that the President may from time to time make a Proclamation declaring that a state of public emergency exists; and (b) section 8(2)(b) of the Constitution, that a Proclamation made by the President under section 8(1) shall not be effective unless it contains a declaration that the President is satisfied that a public emergency has arisen as a result of the occurrence of any earthquake, hurricane, flood, fire, outbreak of pestilence or of infectious disease, or other calamity whether similar to the foregoing or not.”
Under section 8(1) of the Constitution, the President indicated, “(a) I am satisfied that a public emergency has arisen as a result of the outbreak of an infectious disease [2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)]; and (b) a state of public emergency exists in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.”