Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles says he has a commitment from Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi to consider whether an amendment to the existing Municipal Police Act is feasible so as to allow for a Tobago House of Assembly (THA) municipal police service.
Charles, responding to a question posed by Minority Leader Watson Duke at last Thursday’s plenary on the Tobago House of Assembly Bill 2003, said he was of the opinion that an alternative police service may be easier in theory than in practice.
The bill was first laid by then Leader of Assembly Business Hilton Sandy, and was passed by the assembly, but not in Parliament.
In his question, Duke had asked Charles to provide an update on the status of the bill and say why the current Executive Council was not pursuing the idea of a THA municipal police service to deal with crime in the constituencies for which it was responsible.
Charles explained: “Before 2003, the Executive Council had concluded that it was necessary to secure the island generally and in particular the physical assets of the THA.
“The advice given was to create an alternative police force, very much like the police in the city of Port of Spain, the city of San Fernando, city of Arima and the borough of Point Fortin, which are all now municipal corporations. or something that looked like the transit police, who has jurisdiction in the transportation hub of TT.”
Charles said a municipal police system required legislation, and the Executive Council resolved, and the Senior State Counsel produced a first draft, which was intended to take effect via the amendments to the current THA Act.
“The first draft was prepared, sanitised and laid before the Assembly Legislature in 2003. The THA Act provided rules for the procedure by which an assembly bill will reach Cabinet. The bill was drafted and laid before the THA and subsequently delivered to the Cabinet.
“There are rules providing for the procedures by which the bill is transmitted from Cabinet to the Parliament of TT – for example, the Parliament will seek the comments of the relevant interest groups, such as the Commissioner of Police, who has the overall responsibility for policing in this country.”
Saying it was a basic principle that a by-law, assembly law or other subsidiary legislation should not be in conflict with existing national legislation, he added:
“The Chief Parliamentary Counsel is the one, being the expert on legislative drafting, who would no doubt take control of this, and then after a bill will go before the Legislative Review Committee of the Cabinet.
“I am of the view that this bill traversed the processes and procedures necessary to be laid in Parliament. I can say further that from 2003 to current, this bill was seen by successive Ministers of National Security and their legal advisers or legislative advisers. This bill is in the purview of the central government… I daresay that the planting of an alternative police service may seem easier in theory, than in practice.”