‘Threat to democracy’

Former minister in the Ministry of National Security Subhas Panday.

PORT OF SPAIN — Former minister in the Ministry of National Security Subhas Panday believes that giving powers of arrest to members of the Defence Force will create opportunity for widespread abuse.

Speaking to reporters during a press conference at his office in San Fernando yesterday, Panday said if soldiers had powers of arrest, T&T’s democracy would be undermined because the government could use the army to suppress its opponents, including members of the media.

He said under existing laws, the Defence Force has the power to protect the country during war, insurrection, hostility from external sources, emergencies and public state of emergencies.

Military state

However, because the law allowed the minister to promote high-ranking soldiers, there is possibility that T&T could become a dictatorship and military state.

He explained that Section 12, Chapter 14:01 of the Defence Act states: “The Minister of National Security, after consultation with the Prime Minister could advice the President on opportunities to promote soldiers above the rank of major or lieutenant.”

“Further the Chief of Defence Staff shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the minister after consultation with the Prime Minister,” Panday said. He said this part of the law created an opportunity for abuse.

“I am not saying that this is the intention of this minister or anyone now living who may become Minister of National Security but in the future when the politics gets rough you may never know if it may be used to stay in political office,” Panday said.

He added: “We may be creating a monster we cannot control.” (Guardian)

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