“[…] As has been repeatedly stated by the Prime Minister, ‘Stay at Home’ is an appeal to the good sense of citizens to do the right thing. However, it is not a legal requirement. The TTPS therefore cannot stop anyone from being in their car or force anyone to turn around and go back home.
“The roadblocks are therefore having a greater negative effect. The roadblocks are causing those essential workers who are on their way to work or who are actually doing their jobs to lose valuable time in massive traffic jams…”
The following press statement on the use of roadblocks by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) was submitted to Wired868 by David Abdulah, the political leader for the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), and rebutted by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith:
The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) is of the view that the strategy of major roadblocks adopted by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service in an effort to minimise the spread of Covid-19 is more of a nuisance than anything else.
Firstly, it must be noted that the Public Health Regulations now in force do NOT prohibit persons from leaving their homes or using their vehicles. The Regulations prohibit certain activities such as non essential businesses; the congregating of persons in groups of more than five; the visiting of beaches, rivers etc.
The ‘Stay at Home’ requirement is not now a legally enforceable one. It is an exhortation by the Government. The MSJ supports this exhortation as it is absolutely necessary for the minimising of the spread of the virus. As has been repeatedly stated by the Prime Minister, ‘Stay at Home’ is an appeal to the good sense of citizens to do the right thing.
However, it is not a legal requirement. The TTPS therefore cannot stop anyone from being in their car or force anyone to turn around and go back home.
The roadblocks are therefore having a greater negative effect. The roadblocks are causing those essential workers who are on their way to work or who are actually doing their jobs to lose valuable time in massive traffic jams. This is counter-productive at a time when we need maximum productivity by the essential workers given that many of the businesses that they are in have limited work hours. It may also not be the best use of police resources.
The TTPS needs to be more creative in ensuring that people do not violate the legal regulations. It is notable that the Police did not charge one prominent cloth store owner in downtown Port of Spain for violating the law when that store was open last week.
In addition to ensuring that criminal activities are being tackled by the TTPS, it may be useful for the logistical resources of the T&T Defence Force to be used for distributing food to families that are in great need at this time. Hampers organised by NGOs, the purchase of food produced by farmers and purchased by the state, and meals prepared through the traditional school feeding programme—are but some of the food needs of persons without an income that could be distributed by the TTDF.
The MSJ calls on the people of Trinidad and Tobago who are not essential workers to ‘stay at home’ and as you go out to do what is necessary and legally allowed—purchasing food or medicines—please do so responsibly and observe physical distancing, wear a mask and sanitise and/or wash your hands.
Voluntary compliance is far better than an enforced stay at home by way of a state of emergency.
(Response from Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith)
What some see as a ‘problem’, I see as something that is a powerful tool to save lives. The TTPS is not causing the problem. We want to reduce the problem.
Then those who are being irresponsible and immature by not adhering to a basic policy, should simply do what is required and stay at home. If that is done, and only those employed in essential services, or going to acquire goods and services go out, then there would be no traffic ‘problems’.
But this is about persons being selfish. They are insisting that they have constitutional rights to go where and when they please.
To those, I say: “You are correct. It is your constitutional right to be selfish and irresponsible. It is your constitutional right to travel wherever you want that can lead to your death. It is your constitutional right to use your car to go elsewhere when it is not essential that can cause the death of others.
“It is your constitutional right to be a transporter of the virus by getting it where you go, then give it to your loved ones when you return home.”
I would ensure that the Police would not infringe on those who demand on having those constitutional rights to harm themselves or others. But I would not give you the green light to go about doing it.
If what I do provides a deterrent to save lives, I would so do. It is not my responsibility to make popular decisions. It is my responsibility to make decisions to preserve lives whilst not affecting constitutional rights. What some see as a problem, I see as a solution.