STORY by SUNSHINE TODAY REPORTER
There is a strong call by businessmen are saying that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley should now consider closing all malls in T&T in the same way as he has asked licensed bar owners, casino operators and restaurants to shut their doors a week ago.
In fact, there’s a rising body of thought that the malls should have been the very first to fall under Rowley’s sledgehammer announcement to close all entertainment places, including beaches and rivers.
One small businessman noted that malls are considered leisure places. However, it is a belief that the reason why PM Dr Rowley didn’t give the malls the axe is because those outlets are largely owned by the rich in society and the conglomerates, all of whom comprise Rowley’s one percenters! The small businessman lamented that fact, under Rowley’s government, there seems to be one law for the rich and another for the poor!
In a press release last week the Secretariat of the Supermarket Association of T&T stated that supermarkets are not limiting the number of persons in their stores at this time.
Dr Rowley had asked that crowds be limited to persons of 10 from the previous 25 as he had suggested earlier.
Attorney-at-Law and former High Court Judge Larry Lalla, in a social media post, said that there is a moral duty, as opposed to a legal duty, for persons to comply with the Prime Minister’s request.
Two weeks ago, in a bid to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus, Dr Rowley had called for the closure of bars and for the assembly of people in large numbers to be limited.
But some bar owners are asking under what law did Rowley order the closure of their businesses?
Justice Herbert Volney
Former High Court Judge Justice Herbert Volney also questioned the legal basis under which the Prime Minister ordered the closure of bars and casinos which are authorized by law to operate and for which licenses have been paid.
The former High Court Judge said, “If the Government wants to insist upon these measures it may only do so if it obtains constitutional permission to do so and the only way to do this is by invoking existing law or passing a new law with a special majority to encroach upon fundamental rights and freedoms not to be deprived thereof without due
Volney added, “If the withdrawal of a license is threatened casino and bar owners remain entitled to be opened until the process to revoke is started and completed and license withdrawn according to the law”.
However, he commended the Government for taking the lead to protect the citizens from the innocent spreading of the virus.
A Chaguanas bar owner complained last week that police confiscated and removed from the premises his newly-issued bar licence after the bar was found to be opened. This was blatantly wrong. “Trinidad & Tobago is not Cuba or some banana republic where a government can wake up just so and change the law or introduce a new law without going to Parliament, “the Chaguanas bar owner added.
A source said it is for the court to revoke the license of a bar, not the police.
There are reports that a few bar owners are seeking legal advice to file for judicial review for loss of earnings and compensation over the closure of their businesses which are their livelihood.
They want to sue Rowley in his personal capacity because he was the one who called a press briefing to make the announcement without probably getting a legal opinion from his AG.
Many are saying that the action taken by the Government in the COVID-19 situation only shows how it can deal with a crisis.
It is evident that this Government is using this unprecedented development to further infringe on the rights of citizens.