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Senator: Police protective gear similar to that used in war

By Julien Neaves

THE gear used by police officers during the protest in Sea Lots on Monday resembles what is used by security forces when a country is at war.

This was stated yesterday by Opposition Senator Pennelope Beckles-Robinson in her contribution on a private motion brought by Opposition Senator Fitzgerald Hinds, calling on Government to reaffirm its commitment to democracy, at the Senate sitting at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

Sea Lots residents on Monday blocked the Beetham Highway with debris as they protested the triple vehicular fatality of Hady Paul, 28, and her daughters, Akasha, eight, and Shakira, seven. The family were returning to their Sea Lots home from the Port of Spain Central Market on Sunday, when a car driven by an off-duty police officer mounted the pavement and collided with them, killing them instantly.

Three other people were injured in the accident.

Beckles-Robinson yesterday told the Senate of her personal connection to Paul, and expressed condolences to the family.

Noting that Paul was a client of hers, Beckles-Robinson—a practising attorney—said, "When I saw the picture on the papers on Monday, I was really in a lot of shock."

Beckles-Robinson, Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, also extended condolences to the people of Sea Lots. "Sometimes we forget that it's a community, and as a community they all reacted," she said.

She said on issues of democracy and reactions to these types of incidents she noted pictures of police officers who were on the scene on Monday.

"And I looked at what they were wearing. And you saw the helmets and the guards, and when I look at the television I think: the only time I see police officers looking like that is in countries where they have serious war taking place,"she said.

She continued: "People looking at the television footage and what was transpiring in Sea Lots are probably wondering what is really happening in Trinidad and Tobago."

She noted that from media reports she learned the police used rubber bullets and tear gas, but she also looked at the residents to see whether they had anything in their hands.

Beckles-Robinson said the population was concerned that the murder rate is about 76 for the year and most of the population would like the police "to use almost all that is at their disposal in a manner in which of course you protect the citizens, and in a manner in which Trinidadians and Tobagonians can feel a lot more safer (sic)."

She stressed: "One of the things that we have to be very careful about is the impression that is sometimes created that there are certain communities that seem to be the subject of different types of approaches by our police."

She expressed hope that the promise by National Security Minister Jack Warner to the residents that a walkover would be constructed in a month, which "quelled" the protests, would be fulfilled.

She recalled that due to the protest on Monday, some people took four hours to reach Port of Spain from the east and some maxi-taxis dropped people off short of their destinations.

She also noted that the Sea Lots residents had indicated they were going to protest and the police needed to take these types of threats seriously and put measures in place.

Beckles-Robinson noted the entire city was gridlocked, which showed a need to revisit the issue of an improved form of transportation.

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