Leader of the Federation of Independent Trade Union and Non Governmental Organisations (FITUN) Joseph Remy at a news conference yesterday highlighted several "contradictions" in the Defence Force Amendment Bill. After calling for all independent senators to reject the debate last week, Remy said the amendment, which seeks to precept some army personnel could soon give way to all of the army having the powers of arrest.
"These far-reaching powers can effectively allow politicians to overstep the powers of the Chief of Defence Staff who has responsibilities for the operational use of the force," Remy said at the news conference at the Communications Workers Union (CWU) Hall on Henry Street, Port of Spain.
"The Leader of Government Business (Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal) along with all the other leaders of the Government continue to demonstrate a lack of knowledge on the role of the Defence Force," he said.
Remy said that lack of knowledge was exemplified by the fact that the Government said the Defence Force would only have the powers of arrest during joint patrols with the police officers.
"But if the police are with the soldiers, then why do we need to precept them? Are they suggesting that the police officers on those joint patrols are not arresting everyone they should and given that the soldiers would be able to arrest but not charge people, then on what grounds would they carry out their arrests?" he asked.
Remy said it was "untenable" for this Government to have such control over military powers.
"We fathom to think of what could become of those who express strong opposition to any minister and by extension the Government," he said.
Remy said any country that granted its military, police powers was deemed a "military state".
"There is no other name for it," he said.
In light of the groups' concerns, Remy once again called for all independent senators to "vote resoundingly against the Bill".