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Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal, right, distributes a wheelchair to Sunardaye Bachan while relative Dhanasar Khalawan looks on.

A day before the government issued an exemption for sporting clubs, permitting them to remain open during the pandemic, police shut down the St Andrews Golf Club in Moka, of which Prime Minister Dr Keith is said to be affiliated.

The revelation came from Opposition MP Dr Roodal Moonilal.

Speaking with Guardian Media yesterday after donating a wheelchair in his constituency, Moonilal accused the government of amending the Public Health Ordinance regulations to serve its private interest. He questioned why gyms, which had non-contact activity, stayed closed while sporting clubs now had the privilege to remain open. “The Rowley Government is guilty of manifest inequality and hypocrisy in its rash decision to exempt members’ sporting clubs from closure in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis,” he said.

Moonilal said the government must explain the rationale behind this exemption.

“The Government must tell the nation whether the exemption was granted after the T&T Police Service had the day before, closed down a prominent golf club and facility in north Trinidad, of which Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is an active member,” Moonilal said. He added, “ There must also be a proper explanation for granting the exemption to the golf club and similar facilities after the Prime Minister told Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith that the law must be enforced equally.”

“The exemption would permit certain senior government officials and their deep-pocket friends to socialise at the club after a game of golf,” Moonilal charged.

He added, “The burning question is whether gyms which involve non-contact activities and support a wide range of sporting disciplines can open for business as golf clubs.” Contacted for comment, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith confirmed that Maraval police had shut down the club. Saying this was yet another example of how the regulations could be interpreted. Griffith said even though he would have left the retail outlet of the club open while the actual club remains closed, Maraval police interpreted the regulations differently and closed the club in its entirety.

“This is another example where the Public Health Ordinance can be based on interpretation and there can be blurred views which makes it difficult for the police at times. My interpretation is that even though the police may not have done anything incorrectly, it has stated that the club should be closed, it also gives allowances for cafeterias and retails stores to be open, so even though a club could be closed, I did not see a reason why cafeteria and stores could be closed,” Griffith said.

He added that some members of the club brought the matter to his attention, noting, “it was not the Prime Minister.”

Asked whether he agreed with Moonilal that the government was acting in private interest by changing the Public Health ordinance, Griffith said, “I would not make comments on the views of MP’s on either side. What I would do is to ensure the law is enforced and there would be no preferential treatment for anyone. At times it is very difficult because we always do everything based on political views, race. The TTPS cannot operate like this. However, when it comes to these regulations as I said it can be blurred and there could be a difference in interpretation.”