ATTORNEY General Anand Ramlogan's support and defence of the police-military operation demolition of the Highway Re-Route Movement's protest camp in Debe on Wednesday, is proof that Trinidad and Tobago is now a police state.
This was view yesterday of former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC, who called a press conference to announce plans to file lawsuits against the Government, as a result of the demolition instructed and supervised by National Security Minister Jack Warner and Minister in the Ministry of National Security Collin Partap.
Maharaj said Ramlogan apparently did not know that where there is a viable alternative route, the State could not acquire land for public purposes because the land is owned by private individuals.
Ramlogan, speaking at the post-Cabinet press briefing, at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, on Thursday said that if the matter was to go to court and the protest group won, the compensation would be minuscule as compared to what the country would have to pay out to OAS Constructora.
Maharaj said legal action may also be filed against Warner and Partap for misfeasance in public office.
Misfeasance in public office, Maharaj explained, is where a minister of government or a public official acts recklessly in the discharge of his duties.
Speaking at his law office at Irving Street, San Fernando, and flanked by Highway Re-Route members, Maharaj said, "If we are filing that, we will file against the ministers personally, or the police officers or the head of the army, depending on the circumstances when we get the full information."
Maharaj said the action would seek to claim punitive compensation, which is awarded by the court when the State acts recklessly and without the regard of individuals, and when the court believes an example has to be made, so the behaviour will not be repeated.
On Wednesday, Warner and Partap oversaw the demolition by a contingent of police and soldiers, of the camp at M2 Ring Road, to allow for the completion of the Golconda to Debe segment of the highway to Point Fortin.
The group's leader, environmentalist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, was detained for several hours before his release without charge.
Maharaj said he would also seek to convince Kublalsingh to file legal action against the Government for wrongful detention.
On Thursday, the Police Service Public Relations Department said Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs had no prior knowledge of the operation.
Warner said he contacted Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) South Fitzroy Frederick. Frederick later told the Express that it was not necessary for him to contact Gibbs on the issue.
Maharaj said Ramlogan has defended and endorsed the actions of Warner and Partap "exercising operational functions of the Police Service and of the army, which have resulted in politicising the police and army operations" at the protest group's camp.
He said, "The position, therefore, of the Government is that the Minister of National Security can exercise operational functions of the Police Service and of the army, and can subvert and undermine the authority of the CoP who has supreme command of the Police Service and of his Excellency the President who had supreme command of the army."
Maharaj said when Ramlogan spoke on Thursday defending the demolition and praising Warner, he never said that the actions of the Highway Re-Route Movement were unlawful.
He asked, "On what basis therefore, did the Minister of National Security decide to invade the camp? There was no basis. He had no power to determine whether a criminal act was being committed."
Maharaj said that Section 20 of the State Lands Act of Trinidad and Tobago Chapter 57:01 provided a procedure for the Government to remove persons who have unlawfully occupied State lands.
"The court has to order the demolition. And the court determines who are the people to supervise that demolition. Not the Minister, not the AG, not the Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago," said Maharaj.
He said the operation had set a precedent that the Police Service and army can become a tool of the People's Partnership instead of becoming a tool of Trinidad and Tobago.
"If it is this Government can use the end to justify the means then we do not have a democracy in Trinidad and Tobago. We have a police state," said Maharaj.
He said that if Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the Government had endorsed Warner's actions, it "sends a damaging signal" to the rest of the world, and "placed Trinidad and Tobago in the category of undemocratic governments".