Letters to the Editor

There's a duty to satisfy the constitutional criteria

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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Dear Editor,

Thanks for publishing my article entitled 'State of Emergency, Zones of Special Operations and the Fundamental Rights of Individuals' on January 20, 2019 in the Sunday Observer. However, in the publication of January 22, 2019, the editorial makes a number of imputations against me to which I will not respond.

It asked the following specific question: “On what basis has he (that is I) determined that the SOEs [states of emergency) are no longer necessary when the leadership of the security forces has said otherwise?

This is not an accurate representation of what I wrote. What I stated very clearly is that the renewal of SOEs should be preceded by detailed statements of relevant data so as to guide the public and parliamentary debate. Those who propose the extension have the duty to satisfy the constitutional criteria which I set out. I expressed the view that this had not been done, hence the debate had been conducted without “the rational analysis which the situation demands”.

It is very dangerous to say, as your editorial implies, that the mere fact that the leadership of the security forces say that it is necessary is enough. This is the basis on which police states and military dictatorships operate. It is not what our constitution requires.

The reports imply that the security forces have not had in their possession sufficient evidence to charge any appreciable number of the SOE detainees with violent crimes. Some 75 per cent of detainees have been released within 48 hours, and those who had the opportunity to have their cases referred to the Review Tribunals have been ordered to be released. Against this background, all the commissioner of police has ventured to say is that most of these detainees were deserving of detention. The question then is, why were they released?

In the same newspaper (January 22), you reported that Dr Horace Chang, who is the minister responsible for national security, has assured the residents of St James that their security will not be compromised by the cessation of the SOE, as adequate presence of the security forces will be maintained. This confirms the views I expressed that the maintenance of high levels of the security forces in the troubled communities is an effective weapon in the suppression of violent crimes.

Contrary to your imputations, I am deeply concerned about and I am not ignoring the right to life. I did express concern about the threat to the fundamental right to life and indicated that stringent measures are justified, but that, as Minister Chang confirms, increased presence and responsiveness of the security forces can, without SOEs, protect this right.

Lloyd G Barnett



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