The declaration for the state of public emergency was as a direct result of credible intelligence gathered by members of the national security intelligence services. The statement from the Office the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago under section 9(1) of the Constitution sets out the specific grounds on which the decision to declare the existence of a state of public emergency were based on:
“..Our criminal intelligence gathered by national security agencies shows that the escalation in violent criminal activity is linked to recent success of the police in certain drug trafficking and interdiction exercises which led to the seizure of large quantities of drugs with a street value of several millions of dollars. Drugs with a street value in excess of twenty million dollars were seized in just one raid on 16 August 2011. There is the real risk of reprisal and retaliation by gangs that will compromise and can continue to compromise and endanger public safety, law and order. Innocent citizens going about their daily business have lost their lives as a result of the actions of these gangs merely being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The present unprecedented escalation in murders and other serious acts of violence and lawlessness warrants the adoption of more decisive and stronger action to ensure the safety of the public. There is urgent need to address this threat to public safety and the upsurge in violent crime in the shortest possible time. The majority of these murders are occurring in specified geographical areas across Trinidad and Tobago, often committed by members of criminal gangs or persons involved in the drug and arms trade. The statistics from the Police Service reveal that the murders are disproportionately occurring in certain geographical areas where these gangs are based. As a consequence of these events and facts, I am satisfied that the nature and extent of these events endangers public safety to an extent that warrants the declaration of a state of public emergency.”
Was the state of public emergency called as a measure to respond to the current crime situation?
The state of public emergency was declared in response to security intelligence that demonstrated a clear and present threat to the public safety. As a direct result of the state of public emergency, members of the Protective Services are now further equipped to enhance their response to the increased levels of crime. The present unprecedented escalation in murders and other serious acts of violence and lawlessness warrants the adoption of more decisive and stronger action to ensure the safety of the public.
What about the anti-gang legislation? Wasn’t this enough to respond to the current crime levels?
The Anti-Gang Act is exactly as it states – Anti-Gang. It was designed and enacted to treat with gang members. This state of public emergency affords members of the Protective Services additional authority in the response to the current crime spate of violent crimes, including but not limited to gang related issues. It also allows the state to utilize the services of the army to complement and support the police service.
Is the state of public emergency limited?
The state of public emergency is national in scope. However, the curfew is limited to the two cities of Port of Spain and San Fernando, the Boroughs of Arima and Chaguanas, and the Regional Corporations of Diego Martin, and San Juan / Laventille.
What are the curfew hours?
The curfew hours are from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. and only in Port of Spain, San Fernando, Arima, Chaguanas, Diego Martin, and San Juan/ Laventille.
What happens if I have an emergency at my home during curfew hours?
Persons with emergencies in areas that are subject to the curfew are advised to contact the nearest police station for guidance. If you are unable to reach a member of the Police Service, and have left for the nearest emergency facility during the curfew hours, you are advised to stop and inform the first police officer or soldier you encounter. Police officers and soldiers have been instructed to assist and escort genuine emergency cases. You should ensure that you have at least one form of photo identification.
How long would this state of public emergency last?
The state of public emergency will last for 15 days from 21 August, 2011, and if not extended, will come to an end after the 15 days. The extension of the state of public emergency is a matter for the National Security Council and the Parliament.
If I have information on criminals in my community, what should I do?
In addition to 999 and 800-TIPS (8477), National Hotlines have been established and members of the national community are advised to contact 800-0699 or 800-0700 if they would like to share information with members of the Protective Services. Members of the national community are advised that such information should be specifically related to the reporting of suspicious persons or activities.
If I need additional information or guidance, who should I call?
For additional information related to your movements or guidance during the state of public emergency, you are advised to contact your nearest Police Station.
If I am detained, how long can I be detained?
Ø At first you can be detained for up to 24 hours if you have committed or is committing or about to commit an offence against the Emergency Powers Regulations.
Ø You may be further detained up to 7 days on the authority of a Magistrate or a police officer not below the rank of Assistant Superintendent.
What is the Tribunal?
The Tribunal is an independent body to which you make a request to have your detention reviewed. The Tribunal is made up of three senior Attorneys-at-law and appointed by the Chief Justice.
Who can access the Tribunal?
Only persons detained by police officers under a detention order made by the Minister of National Security may apply to have their detention reviewed by the Tribunal.
If you are detained pursuant to a detention order, you still have the right to apply for habeas corpus to the High Court.
Persons arrested in the course of normal police investigations are subject to the normal criminal practice and procedure. They will therefore be arrested, charged and taken before a Magistrate promptly. There is no access to the Tribunal in such circumstances as the normal criminal law applies.
When can I access the Tribunal?
Upon your detention pursuant to a detention order, you may access the Tribunal at any time during your detention. But if you lose your review, you cannot bring another application for a review until 6 months after your last application to review.