Vague COVID-19 Regulations are resulting in societal discord because of the perception that the police service is selectively enforcing them, argues Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally.
The attorney-at-law underscored the point in a news statement he issued today, responding to the seeming “different treatment” being meted out to different classes of citizens, who have been caught breaching the COVID-19 Regulations.
The Chaguanas West MP argues that the problem is not the existence of any inherently discriminatory approach by the police service, but that the root of the problem is the imprecise regulations which have been promulgated by the Minister of Health.
In addition, MP Rambally maintains that the decision by the Attorney General not to have the regulations debated in Parliament, also has exacerbated the situation.
He references a decision made by The Supreme Court of England, which notes that vague and imprecise law leads to arbitrary enforcement. The UK Supreme Court observed that when law enforcement officials are given too wide a discretion, there will inevitably be a degree of inconsistency in their enforcement.
“The COVID-19 Regulations, as presently drafted, are too vague in many respects and already proving detrimental to the welfare of the population,” MP Rambally states. “This is not the fault of an individual police officer or the Commissioner of Police. It is the fault of legislators, in this case, the Minister of Health and the AG, who continue to hold the indefensible view that they needed no assistance from the Parliament in drafting these regulations.”
He adds: “Uncertainty and vagueness were the grounds for challenging the Sedition Laws. The citizenry has already witnessed how the selective enforcement of that archaic law could infringe on their constitutional rights.”
The Chaguanas West MP reiterates that Parliament is the country’s premiere democratic institution that allows citizens to partake in the law-making process through their elected representatives. He points out that Parliament is an institutionalized filter for law and policy in the governance of T&T. He said proposed law, as in the case of the COVID-19 Regulations, is sometimes crude, improperly expressed or simply not thorough enough.
“The reading of bills and Parliamentary debate serve to filter these laws and refine them into a product that hopefully can serve our citizens in a fair and equitable manner. It is quite possible that if these regulations were laid in Parliament,” he argues, “one of my colleagues from either side of the House may have advised on the need to crystallize 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 attorney-at-law added: “The material question is whether or not that law is sufficiently precise and comprehensive enough to enable citizens to understand what conduct is expected of them, to enable our cherished police service to apply the law in an equitable fashion.”