Apply the COVID laws on congregating to all and stop using different strokes for different folks.
That was the general sentiment yesterday from various citizens, the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), Opposition UNC and NATUC regarding last Sunday’s pool party where 40-plus young people were allowed to congregate at a pool at the gated Bayside Towers apartment complex.
A media report on the matter stated the group received only a warning from police who were called to the location by apartment management.
Current COVID-19 regulations outlaw gatherings of more than five. The penalty for violation is a fine – $50,000 at last count – and six months jail.
Public concerns about the pool party have sparked circulation of videos showing foreigners closely packed in hot tubs and frolicking at close quarter at parties. The hashtags in the videos bore T&T’s name and “pool,” “privada” (private) and “Chaguaramas” (and other locations) but it couldn’t be ascertained exactly when the events occurred, or where.
Yesterday the contentious party was being widely slammed outright and satirised on social media.
Among (milder) comments was the wry observation that those “who zess in the West shall not get arrest.”
Others questioned COVID safety with using a pool of stagnant water.
Several people living in gated communities with pools – from North and Central Trinidad – said since the COVID regulations against congregating came into effect, pools at their respective locations were closed.
A Southern business said the law was clear against congregating, but Government’s COVID regulations should have specified that private pools – and other private recreational bodies of water – be drained during the period or have a $100,000 fine – for non-compliance. He noted there were only specifics in the law on public pools and closure of water parks.
MSJ leader David Abdullah said, “That pool party demonstrates there are two different types of treatment in T&T – one for the boys who were held in Sea Lots by police about congregating and another for the people in this recent party.”
“If it was a pool in Maloney or elsewhere or people going to a bar, you can be sure of what would happened. A pool isn’t a private place, it’s public. This is also an issue of class and race – it all shows there are different strokes for different folk. That must never be.”
AG, Deyalsingh at fault – UNC’s Rambally
UNC MP attorney Dinesh Rambally (shadow Attorney General) said “I’ve noted with concern the current societal discord stemming from the widely held perception that our police service is selectively enforcing the COVID-19 Laws which exist. But the problem isn’t the existence of any inherently discriminatory approach by our police service; these officers deserve our collective respect and admiration for enforcing law and order during these challenging times. “
“The root of the problem is firstly the vague, uncertain and imprecise regulations which have been promulgated by the Health Minister and secondly, with the greatest of respect to him, the politically immature decision of the Attorney General to refuse to place these regulations before our Parliament for debate. The Covid-19 Regulations as it is presently drafted is too vague in many respects and is already proving detrimental to the welfare of the population.”
Rambally noted that England’s Supreme Court has stated in several leading cases that vague and imprecise law leads to arbitrary enforcement.
“In other words, when law enforcement officials are given too wide a discretion, there will inevitably be a degree of inconsistency in their enforcement.”
“This is not the fault of an individual police officer or the Commissioner, it’s the fault of the legislators, in this case, the Health Minister and the Attorney General, who continue to hold the indefensible view that they needed no assistance from Parliament in drafting these regulations.”
Rambally said proposed law such as the COVID regulations, is sometimes crude, improperly expressed or simply not thorough enough.
“It’s quite possible that if these regulations were laid in Parliament one of my colleagues from either side of the House may have seen the need to crystalize the law in a sufficient manner so as to cover the use of a common area pool located within a residential complex or similar dwelling arrangement.”
“The issue isn’t simply whether the law is broad enough to cover these scenarios. Perhaps that is an academic question for pseudo-legal intellectuals to pontificate.”
“The material question is whether or not the law is sufficiently precise and comprehensive enough to enable citizens to understand what conduct is expected of them and to enable our cherished police service to apply the law in an equitable fashion.”
Rambally said reinforcing the UNC leader’s call for citizens to stay safe and to continue to abide by health professionals recommendations/protocol.
NATUC president Michael Annisette said the pool party reflected “…That there are rules for other people in T&T given who you know and where you live. Changing the law alone can’t always change this -the issue is discipline. Citizens must understand they have rights and the power to democratise the system and e should participate if things have to change – as they do.”