Wed | Jan 23, 2019

Letter of the Day | ZOSO powers sufficient to fight crime

Published:Friday | December 14, 2018 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The Opposition, in withdrawing its support for an extension of the current states of emergency, displayed tremendous courage given the circumstances and the anticipated political fallout.

Some will argue that the decision was one of political suicide. Time will tell.

Had they continued to support it, they could rightly be accused of being political hypocrites and opportunists. How can you continue to present strong arguments against its continuation and then vote to support it?

We have successfully conflated a state of emergency with the robust operational activities on the ground, such that it has become the view of many persons, probably a majority, and especially in the areas affected, that you cannot have one without the other. This is not the case.

The heavy presence of the security forces and their operational activities - patrols, raids, vehicle checkpoints, cordon and search, curfews, etc - are all tools that are available without the declaration of a state of emergency, i.e., under normal legislation.

The two advantages of the state of emergency is that soldiers would have the powers of a constable, and persons can be detained for extended periods without any requirement to be brought before a court.

If police powers for the military are needed as a force multiplier, this can be restored by declaring the operational areas as zones of special operations. Arrests can still be carried out and suspects questioned, but they would have to be brought before the courts and a credible case put forward to have the court order continued detention.

 

Preventive detention

 

The current detentions have all the makings of a programme of preventive detention. The loss of these tools will not be fatal to the objectives of the operations.

I was never in support of the declaration of the states of emergency, and I clearly articulated my case in a letter to the editor of this paper published on January 22, 2018, a mere four days after the declaration. In the same letter, I commended the security forces for their strong response to the situation in St James and the Government for their support of the security forces. These positions have not changed.

Leaders must lead and not necessarily be influenced by public opinion. Engaging in spin, and smoke and mirrors, from any quarter will only bring very short-term advantages.

The current situation presents a great opportunity for the Government and Opposition to forge some consensus going forward. Will they seize it?

HARDLEY LEWIN

Rear Admiral (Rtd)