Paranging the wrong house

“I AM PARANGING from ‘zesser’ house to ‘zesser’ house this year,” Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said on Sunday.

He was reacting to the prevalence of unsafe “zesser” fetes.

At the same time, Mr Griffith maintained there was no need to take a similar approach in relation to a wedding reception, held at Valsayn over three nights, at which some people reportedly did not wear masks.

Whereas the “zesser” parties over the weekend – like those in Caroni – took place on private property, itinerant people paid a cover charge for admission and they had a cash bar, the commissioner explained. This was not so at the wedding, which was a three-night invite-only affair on a “fantasy” theme.

The distinction befits the fantasy theme.

In some dreamland, focus has been lost when it comes to the aims of the health regulations. Those aims are about reducing the spread of the virus. In that regard, the distinction between “private” and “public” provides little immunity.

The commissioner should be shedding light on what controls, if any, were observed in Valsayn.

Nor does the distinction explain failure to act in cases where there is reasonable belief that a crime is being committed. On any premises.

The confusion is not entirely of Mr Griffith’s making, though. It reflects the position taken by the State, which is hesitant, it says, to trammel constitutional rights.

“Some countries have gone as far as a state of emergency,” Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said on Sunday. “We have not done that. Our advocacy is to urge people to exercise common sense.”

But common sense dictates the State should also be empowered to police “super-spreader” events.

Meanwhile, a police policy of enforcement hinging on fine distinctions such as whether a price is paid for a ticket needlessly results in allegations of bias.

Private versus public is the distinction Mr Griffith and his men see. But others see posh versus “community;” exclusive versus open-to-all; elite versus ghetto. Racism, classism, cronyism – such charges mount up once the response of the authorities fails to reflect properly the fact that all gatherings can have adverse public health repercussions.

“Congregation is the danger,” the Prime Minister said correctly on Saturday as he announced the civil service will not hold Christmas parties and, ironically, urged the private sector to follow suit.

Yet for all the criticism of the way the State has approached these matters, it remains the case that what is most disappointing is not what the police or politicians have done or not done.

All of the partygoers and wedding guests who continue to risk their lives and the lives of untold others – neighbours, loved ones, strangers – for the sake of a few hours of fun need to realise that because of their actions they may have blood on their hands.

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"Paranging the wrong house"

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