TT soldiers have police powers
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Legislators voted strictly along party lines last night as the Parliament gave the green light to the coalition People’s Partnership government’s crime fighting strategy allowing soldiers to have powers once the sole preserve of police officers.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar insisted that the Defence (Amendment) Bill 2013 does not violate the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution despite the opposition contention that the legislation “represents the first step in the “institutionalisation of the involvement of the military in matters of civilian government”.
Legislators voted by a margin of 29-11 to support the measure, with the only person not casting a vote being former prime minister Patrick Manning, who has not been to parliament since January last year while he recovers from a stroke that has left him partly paralysed.
The Persad Bissessar government said that the new legislation forms part of a string of legal measures it intends to bring to the parliament – including a bill to deny bail to people accused of bloody crimes – as it deals with the upsurge in murders in the oil rich twin island republic.
Persad Bissessar told legislators that the government had received legal advice from former independent legislator Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal and prominent Guyanese born jurist, Sir Fenton Ramsahoye that the legislation to give soldiers police powers is not in violation of the Constitution. (CMC)