What’s the real story behind this MV Ocean Pelican which had on board 100 people on the weekend and whose organizer was Adrian Scoon, the son of a popular government Minister?
The Minister in question has washed her hands off the matter saying her son is an adult. The Attorney General says he did not advise the organizer and the Health Minister says he was “informed” by the organizer who never sought permission from him but made him aware of the ‘safe zone’ event.
What is worrying about this matter is that all three people are public officials whose duty is to protect the public interest under an oath taken in public “without fear or favour.”
Yet something seems to be extremely wrong here.
No amount of playing with words or ducking and hiding will take away from the fact that something happened that requires someone to explain. Clearly, there was some kind of circumvention of the regulations. The public is looking on, talking and demanding answers.
Imagine the Health Minister under whose hands public health regulations are issued could shed no light, when asked for clarity, on what people are allowed to do under the Public Health Regulations.
Minister Deyalsingh left the door open when he advised that under Section 8 of the public health rules…”Once you download the (safe zone) poster that you put up, that is all you need to do and you have agreed to operate as a safe zone,” he said.
He’s right, there is no need for any ministerial sign off when it comes to the operation of safe zones and Mr Scoon seemed to have followed the letter to the law – first writing to the AG who then directed him to the Health Minister and whom he dutifully penned a letter to.
But nowhere in the regulations does it give permission for a party boat to operate as a safe zone.
The regulation clearly outlines those businesses that can conduct business as safe zones, these include restaurants, bars, cinemas, private members clubs, etc.
Regulation 4 (1)(b) however prohibits party boats from operating.
“For the purposes of controlling and preventing the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), it shall be an offense, during the period specified in regulation 19, for any person to– (b) operate a party boat, boat tour or nightclub.”
Deyalsingh has said that the matter needs interpretation and it is currently before the Director of Public Prosecutions.
As the man whose signature goes on the regulations, Deyalsingh must realize that if he does not understand the regulations then he can’t expect the police to know what is required of them. These regulations must be clear and cannot be so clouded or shrouded that they can so easily be breached, or perceived to have been breached.
So the ball is now, according to the Minister, in the DPP’s court and the T&T Police Service.
This cannot be allowed to die a natural death.
If there is something in the law that allowed for this to happen then the State owes a duty to fix it.
Gatherings such as this often result in no mask-wearing and can be the cause of further spread of a virus that has already claimed over 2,800 lives and counting.
Grey areas in the public health regulations that allow for things that should not happen to happen must be fixed. Those in authority owe it to the population.