In the last week, much has been made of justice needing to be seen to be done, not only done, in the case of the apparent errors committed by the current Attorney General.
I have no case to make, as it is not clear, at least from conflicting media reports, what exactly are the intentions and the strategy being employed by the AG with regard to his silence over the matter of his possible mishandling of the Piarco fraud case in the US courts.
However, I would say that it is a terrible shame that someone generally regarded as a person of integrity and who is highly respected in the legal fraternity finds himself in this position.
Reginald Armour, SC, like some, perhaps many, people who hold political office, would have made personal and professional sacrifices when deciding to serve the state, and he certainly did not need to be AG to prove anything to anyone.
Legal minds seem to agree that he is culpable and the price he will have to pay will prove a deterrent to civic-minded individuals contemplating serving the people in this very toxic political environment.
The tragedy is that our eyes have been turned away from the central issue, which is that the state believes that the people of this country were seriously defrauded by certain individuals who have withstood expensive efforts to get them their day in court.
This current debacle is highly damaging to all of us, adding to the lack of trust citizens have in their institutions and those who serve in them.
It also compounds the sense that those who enjoy power can tackle what they really want to and ignore the common man who cannot expect justice for matters of intense importance to them and their welfare.
Several letters have appeared in the press in the last week about the assault on the right to peace and quiet in the comfort of one’s home. It is not an insignificant matter, since it relates to one’s well being.
My neighbourhood WhatsApp group chat is buzzing with outrage over the Jam Naked pre-dawn party in the Queen's Park Savannah on Thursday that started at 3 am and ended at 9 am. Residents near the QPS and even 2.5 miles away were awakened or kept awake by the intense noise, which sounded like explosions. The elderly, the infirm, children, hotel guests and caged wild animals are all affected by severe noise pollution, which is intensifying in the Savannah area.
Who protects our rights as citizens was the nub of the poignant letter about noise pollution sent by a distressed resident of Lady Chancellor Road to this paper and published last week. It is a question worthy of being posed.
It is clear that the legislation regarding environmental damage is inadequate. The Environment Management Authority (EMA), established under the Environmental Management Act, has absolutely no power to prosecute infringements of the rules relating to noise, when the majority (41 per cent) of complaints it receives are about noise. Environmental degradation only represents ten per cent and air pollution just five.
Currently, the EMA can investigate instances of recurring noise with the assistance of the Environmental Police Unit (EPU) and the police to provide immediate relief from noise pollution. The police can use various pieces of legislation, including the Summary Offences Act and the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Regulations to address the situation immediately, but from various accounts the police’s dismissive attitude to complaints is part of the problem.
It may be that the TTPS in general is ignorant of the rights we have as citizens, because in March 2021, only 20 special reserve officers were on secondment to the EPU of the EMA for monitoring and responding to noise complaints, and four in Tobago, according to the Environmental News Network, Cari-Bois.
The rules are that from 8 pm-8 am “the continuous sound pressure level should not exceed three decibels above the background level, and the instantaneous sound pressure should not exceed 115 decibels.” Generally, the continuous sound pressure level should not exceed 60 decibels. If a private party or fete organiser wants to exceed that level, they can apply for permission to do so. The question is, are they doing that and are permissions being granted without care to the environment and its residents? Zoo animals have died and humans are stressed out by the noise levels.
We can complain about decisions made by the EMA, but subsidiary legislation is needed to make the law more comprehensive, eg to include noise from cars, and render the Noise Pollution Control Rules more effective, which the EMA is pursuing with the Minister of Planning and Development. In the meantime, I suggest citizens come together and press for any revised legislation to include direct citizens access to the courts if the EMA does not act to protect us.
And, of course, my angry neighbours could bring a civil action against the government and the EMA for damages – if they could find a lawyer with the imagination and social conscience to take on the case pro bono, that is.