Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi yesterday warned that the current regulations governing this State of Emergency would be “stricter” as it was not imposed to deal with crime but with an infectious disease.
Al-Rawi attended the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 update yesterday and sought to clarify the SoE regulations and what is permitted and urged the population to stop looking for loopholes.
“This is not an opportunity for smartman-ism or smartwoman-ism where people try to come into the dance and give you all the technical reasons why the law does not apply to them,” Al-Rawi warned.
On Saturday Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the imposition of the SoE and the regulations were proclaimed and published several hours later.
“The Prime Minister explained to the population on Saturday that the time had arrived, as result of the situation of the COVID measures, and also the population reaction or lack of compliance,” he said.
“The Prime Minister has already explained that in this pandemic, measures are applied depending upon the population reaction to the regulations, and obviously the CMO (Chief Medical Officer) and his team advise on what steps are required in light of the pandemic,” he said.
“Therefore, it is open to stricter measures to be applied,” he said.
Al-Rawi said that the SoE regulations are “very unique”.
While Trinidad and Tobago has operated under SoEs before, it has never happened during a pandemic.
“On this occasion, we have issued a State of Emergency for an infectious disease, we are therefore dealing with an enemy of a different type,” he said.
Al-Rawi said that the regulations are focused on public health issues.
“I wish to caution that the regulations do permit the TTPS and the TTDF, within the parameters of the law, to engage in causing compliance in any place. That is both in public and in private,” he said.
“Therefore, members of the population, citizens of T&T, residents, visitors, you are obliged to be aware, it is a State of Emergency and you need to comply with the law and comply with the lawful directions of the TTPS and the TTDF,” he said.
“At present, there are two regimes that are operating in T&T, firstly the State of Emergency by virtue of the regulations which guide that State of Emergency and secondly, the Public Health regulations,” he said.
Al-Rawi said that under the SoE regulations, outside presence is generally banned except for specific circumstances.
“Under the SoE, the TTDF (T&T Defence Force) can be called by the Commissioner of Police to provide assistance and very specifically they have, under law, the powers of the police,” he said.
Al-Rawi said that the public was “obligated’ to explain the reason for being out.
“The obligation to explain your circumstances why you are outside during daylight hours and also nighttime hours while a curfew implies is upon every citizen of this country,” he said.
“The TTPS and the army could stop you, ask you questions and assure that they are satisfied that you are acting within the regulations,” he said.
One of the newly imposed regulations under the SoE prohibits outdoor exercise, which caused a lot of concern on social media.
Al-Rawi acknowledged that concern but said that the population should not be surprised.
“When one observes a mad rush of individuals, more than groups of five, all congregating in areas such as Chaguaramas, Lady Chancellor hill, Palmiste Park, San Fernando, the steps etc, one has to be conscious that it is the congregation of people that we are managing. Therefore the advice that came to the Government and which was accepted and introduced into the regulations, the expert medical advice is, that we have to reduce circulation,” he said.
Al-Rawi said that he too loved to exercise and needed it to ward off depression.
“We all feel the same way, we can exercise at home, we can exercise in our yards,” he said.