QUESTIONING the Government’s U-turn on patrols by security firms, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the covid19 pandemic is no reason to not hold the Government to account for its actions and spending.
“The Government’s flip flop on the move to hire private security firms to complement police patrols during the national shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability in all Government’s spending on measures aimed at mitigating covid19.
“In less than 24 hours of the decision being made public, the Government was forced to rescind it, following widespread criticism and concerns.”
Saying national security decisions must never be so ad hoc as to then be rescinded overnight, she said the Government must be transparent and accountable to citizens, as is usually sought by MPs in Parliament.
“A pandemic does not erode the need for these checks and balances in our democracy.”
Persad-Bissessar queried National Security Minister Stuart Young’s claim that “citizens feel safe” as the reason for the rescission of the patrols. “It is clear that no-one believes this is the reason for the about-turn.”
Persad-Bissessar said the plan for patrols had raised several concerns. She hit the non-transparency over funds in the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund (HSF) which she argued should be used to provide social, medical and financial assistance to those in need. Persad-Bissessar also called for a removal of bureaucracy from the relief grant process.
She mulled the role of the TT Defence Force and police alleging an under-use of the former. The plan for patrols raised the issue of the legal implications of any abuse of power against citizens, the lack of communication among key agencies after the Police Commissioner denied requesting them, and the use of the HSF for patrols not social support for citizens.
To remedy all this, she urged Cabinet to update citizens daily on the use of the $10 billion taken from the HSF and to consult widely on its planned emergency measures.
Persad-Bissessar said, “The citizens of TT must be commended for their vigilance in upholding our democracy at this crucial time in our nation’s life.”
She urged all to follow precautions to protect themselves and their families at this time.
“I also urge all to continue to support the police, army and the many essential public servants who are courageously and selflessly risking their own lives and safety to ensure that our country remains functioning at this time.”