Across the Caribbean, the COVID-19 pandemic has widened the gap in social inequality, including different treatment of citizens that violate safety regulations.
In Trinidad and Tobago, virus restrictions should apply to everyone, but there are recent examples that reveal a marked difference in how the Police regulate rapes depending on class and social status.
According to updated public health ordinances, the authorities prohibit public gatherings of more than cibco people and it is mandatory to wear a mask and maintain physical distance.
Despite these ordinances, at a birthday party with more than 20 guests in a community pool area in Bayside Towers, a luxury residential high-rise, no one wore a mask. The property managers repeatedly asked the guests to abide by the protocols, and since they refused, they called the police and reported the facts. When the police arrived, the few guests who had stayed were spared only with a warning, despite the fact that they had violated several provisions, such as being in a public swimming pool for recreational purposes, not wearing a mask and not respecting social distance.
Typically, violations of these protocols carry heavy fines and possible detention of up to three days.
The legal vacuum, according to Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, appeared to be that, although the meeting was held in a common area, the property itself is private, a reasoning that the users of social networks who accused the Police did not like. to continue to use double standards when applying COVID-19 regulations.
In April, under similar public health guidelines, Police detained 27 youths, including minors, gathered in a larger group than allowed in the low-income community of Sea Lots. A video went viral showing police making the group lie face down on a rocky beach and apologize to Griffith as they pointed guns at them.
To compound the situation, Griffith retracted his remarks made in April when he claimed that police had the authority to stop private house parties: The Bayside pool party, he said, was a “gray area,” which suggests that it is necessary to clarify what defines a private space and a public space.
Opposition MP Dinesh Rambally voiced his support for Griffith, calling the law “confusing, uncertain and imprecise.” He argued that this leads to an arbitrary and uneven application of the law.
Although the Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh, confirmed that there are regulations “they speak more or less of the public space”, he added that “we do not need a constitutional argument to tell people that the way they behave in private places will fail all the affair”.
In a post on Wired868, Lasana Liburd spoke about the hypocrisy of the matter:
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith tried to turn the table on persons critical of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service's handling of a pool party in Bayside Towers, by suggesting that they were the ones with a 'hang-up' on race and class — and not his lawmen. (…)
Nobody was charged, although the public health ordinance carries a TT $ 1,000 fine (US $ 148)) for failure to wear masks – even if it is in your own vehicle alongside a single family member.
To date, the TTPS has charged 179 persons for failure to wear masks. So (…) did the police choose not to hold someone accountable at Bayside Towers because it is an affluent neighborhood?
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith responded to critics of how the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) ran a Bayside Towers pool party, and suggested that it was they (the critics) who had a “problem” with race. and the class, and not its cops. (…)
No one was charged, despite the fact that the public health ordinance carries a fine of 1,000 Trinidadian dollars (about US $ 148) for not wearing masks, even if the person is in their own vehicle along with a single family member.
At the moment, the TTPS has sanctioned 179 people for not wearing masks. So (…) did the police choose not to blame anyone in Bayside Towers for being a privileged neighborhood?
Griffith noted that, under his leadership, the Trinidad and Tobago Police have conducted challenges in affluent neighborhoods as proof of their impartiality.
However, at a press conference, a journalist asked why there are no videos of the Bayside Police published on the TTPS social networks as happened with other challengers; Griffith admonished the media for “being picky.”
When members of the media insisted, Griffith replied that he did not have the details of what happened and that the investigations were ongoing. And he also said that some of the guests may not be Trinidadians and that the police would check their documents.
However, the Wired868 news agency scoffed at the attempt to rephrase the issue:
Griffith did not explain why the deportation of Venezuelan refugees – whose reason for being at the Bayside Towers event is uncertain – might be considered a suitable response to an arrogant, reckless Bayside resident’s failure to show due consideration to COVID-19 regulation.
Griffith did not explain why the deportation of the Venezuelan refugees, whose reason for being at the Bayside Towers party is uncertain, could be considered an appropriate response to the arrogant and reckless inability of a Bayside resident to show due regard for the regulations of COVID-19.
On Facebook, Ian Y. Dass expressed a similar sentiment:
So let me get this straight …
A party with 40 persons at Bayside Towers is not a breach of the public health ordinance because it's in private property. I'm pretty sure all these persons aren't living under the same roof. And I'm pretty sure they will be mingling with the public at some point in the near future.
Meanwhile, if a family who lives in the same house is seen in their PRIVATE vehicles not wearing masks, they get charged $ 1000 (inclusive of children over the age of 8).
Make. It. Make. Sense.
You see, I have no problem with there being laws in place to help reduce the spread of the virus. BUT… these laws should be ACROSS THE BOARD. I guess in sweet T&T, some are above the law. Injustice and unfairness in big daylight. Right in front we eyes.
But we like it so.
So let's see if I understand this …
A party with 40 people at Bayside Tower is not a violation of the public health ordinance because it was on private property. I'm pretty sure those people don't live under the same roof, I'm sure they'll blend in with the public at some point in the near future.
Meanwhile, if a family who lives in the same house is seen in their PRIVATE car without masks, they will be fined a thousand dollars (including children over 8 years old).
Do it. Makes sense.
You see, I have no problem with laws that help reduce the spread of the virus. BUT these laws SHOULD BE GENERAL. I guess in sweet Trinidad and Tobago, there are some who are above the law. Injustice and abuse in broad daylight. Right before our eyes.
But we like it that way.
The memes and taunts were not long in coming, but social media users were truly aware of the seriousness of the problem. This is demonstrated by another incident in which a young woman stated that the rule, which establishes that it is a crime to “be found on a beach (..) or body of water”, does not apply to her or her family since they are on her property “Private”. There are no private beaches in Trinidad and Tobago.
Although COVID-19 regulations change throughout the Caribbean, scenarios like these have played out in comparable ways.
In Jamaica, social media exploded after award-winning athlete Usain Bolt celebrated his birthday with a huge party on August 21. Videos from the party showed very little respect for Jamaica's COVID-19 protocols. Weeks later, the police confirmed that Bolt had received authorization. However, the authorities are still waiting to know if several high-profile guests who arrived from abroad to participate in the party, complied with the quarantine protocols required upon arrival.
The government has already said that Bolt will not receive any favorable treatment and that investigations into possible violations of the country's Quarantine Law are continuing.
Jamaica, like Trinidad and Tobago, is currently experiencing community transmission and government officials continue to review and update COVID-19 protocols as needed, through amendments to the Disaster Risk Management Act that are published in Parliament.
Three days after the party, Bolt tested positive for the virus, forcing many of his guests to self-quarantine.
Jamaica is a popular destination for celebrities. Popular pop star Madonna arrived with her entourage during her quarantine to celebrate her 62nd birthday. Videos and photos posted on social media showed that during the party, which was held outdoors, the guests did not maintain a safe distance and did not wear masks.
On the other hand, with cases on the rise, the Jamaica Police have detained several citizens for not wearing masks in public places. On September 1, several youths were arrested in Jamaica's busy Half Way Tree area, actions that some lawyers are challenging. Unlike Trinidad and Tobago, public safety measures, such as the use of masks, are not laws but recommendations.
However, Jamaica's Minister of Health and Welfare, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has made clear that fines of up to one million Jamaican dollars (just under $ 7,000) or six months in prison can be imposed on those who violate the protocols. of COVID-19.