ATTORNEYS representing social activist and media personality Barrington “Skippy” Thomas have written to the San Fernando mayor expressing concern over purported steps to stop the feeding of the homeless on the streets.
Attorneys Jagdeo Singh and Rhea Khan wrote to Mayor Junia Regrello advising him that the decision to enact a bye law to criminalise the feeding of the homeless would be outside the legal authority of the statutory provisions it was created under.
In the letter, Khan gave the mayor notice of intended legal action to challenge the lawfulness and constitutionality of the bye law, asking for an undertaking that the decision would not be enforced or that it would be repealed.
She also asked for a copy of the bye law, the reasons, justification and legal basis used for its enactment, the reasons for the decision to enact the bye law and the steps being used to enforce it.
“My client has become extremely concerned that a threat of police action is being used to fetter the exercise of his constitutionally protected rights to the freedom of expression and his freedom of conscience,” Khan said in the letter.
She also added that recent statements by the mayor on the decision, reflected “a potentially unlawful and/or unconstitutional position wherein a general power vested in the corporation to create bye laws” was being used to infringe the rights of her client.
“It is an axiom of constitutional law, otherwise known as the principle of legality, that general provisions of a statute cannot be used to curtail the constitutional rights of a citizen.”
Earlier this month, Regrello, during a walk through of Harris Promenade, said he was moving to enforce a council decision taken in 2019, to not grant permission to people to feed the homeless outside of designated centres.
He complained that homelessness was getting worse in the city. In 2019, Regrello said a bye law was passed prohibiting people from feeding the homeless on the streets. He said new measures were being put in place to allow street dwellers to be fed in a dignified and safe manner. One of them included the opening of the San Fernando Centre for Displaced Persons.
The mayor said, on afternoons food containers were scattered on the streets after the homeless were fed.