Chamber backs Govt move to precept soldiers
...but TTTI urges caution
THE Trinidad and Tobago Chamber
of Industry and Commerce is supporting
the Government’s move to
give soldiers precept powers whilst
The Trinidad and Tobago Transparency
Institute (TTTI) is urging caution.
In a release, the Chamber stated
that this measure could “represent
an effective weapon in the crime
fighting arsenal at this time”.
“The Chamber believes that the
country is now at a critical juncture,
and cannot continue to depend solely
on traditional measures that have
been taken, if we are to reduce crime
to a level where we can all feel some
level of safety in our communities,
schools, places of work and homes,”
stated the release.
The Chamber noted that in the
past there were police-soldier patrols
to maintain law and order and this
has had some impact on crime.
“We believe that giving soldiers
the same powers, authorities, privileges
and immunities as are given
by law to members of the Police Service
and others can potentially have
a positive impact on the reduction of
crime,” stated the Chamber.
However, the Chamber noted that
there must be necessary controls,
checks and balances in place to ensure
that constitutional rights are
not breached, and, as noted by the
Law Association, “there remains ‘the
separation of powers and insulation
of certain elements of the public service—
in particular and law enforcement,
from political control”.
Noting further that the Bill proposes
a term of operation for two
years, the Chamber called on the
Government to publicly define how
it proposes to measure the success of
this initiative over that period.
“We do acknowledge that there
is a constraint in the resources in
the police service, and we hope that
alongside implementing this new
measure, immediate efforts are also
being made to deal with the current
inefficiencies in the service and also
to increase the numbers of policemen
and women on duty and available
for our crime fighting initiatives
on a daily basis,” stated the Chamber.
The Government, the Chamber
added, must also use this opportunity
to address the long-standing underlying
issues, such as public confidence
and terms and conditions of service
— which all affect the morale within
“The fight against crime is for
everyone — whether government,
individuals or corporations — and
the Chamber continues to pledge its
support without reservation,” the release
The TTTI stated that it was obvious
that all action must be taken to
“These actions however must be
balanced with the need to safeguard
the constitutional rights of citizens.
Powers of arrest and seizure can easily
be abused,” stated TTTI.
TTTI noted that the Defence Force
and the police operate under two distinct
pieces of legislation and their
objectives and administrative mechanisms
were completely different.
“Transparency is of the view that
these and other issues arising out of
the proposed amendment must be
clearly and properly addressed. Full
debate and consultation is required,
not only in the Parliament, but in forums
where citizens themselves can
articulate their sentiments,” stated
TTTI stated that there were some
pertinent questions to be answered
such as What is the administrative
machinery, the checks and balances
to manage this initiative? Who has
oversight and accountability for
the actions of the precepted officers?
Who can the public turn to for
redress? What is the process for taking
possession and storage of evidence?