Hugh Graham, the People’s National Party (PNP) candidate in St Catherine North West, wants urgent structural changes aimed at lessening the unjustifiably lengthy detention of people during states of public emergency, including the one underway in the constituency he is seeking to represent in parliament.
He, in a statement last evening (December 14), called for legislative changes, as well as a properly functioning tribunal for review of cases of detention or restriction.
Graham argued: “Serious changes are to be made in order to protect the rights of citizens. In particular, considerations should be made at amending Section 30 of the Emergency Powers Regulations Act of 2018, which is the section of the bill that speaks to detainment of persons for up to seven days initially, and further for up to three months once authorized by a rank of no less than a Deputy Superintendent of Police.
“Subsection 5 states that a person may be detained for up to three months without being charged. These subsections, I consider arbitrary and anti-human rights, and should be amended forthwith to reflect the provisions in the constitution,” Graham said.
He wants the court to be the one deciding whether a detainee should be held for up to three months without charge – not a senior police officer as currently obtains.
“The purpose of the courts is to adjudicate and, where cause for detainment cannot be justified, then suspects should be sent to the courts and the matter dealt with there. Unilateral decisions by the police can risk excess use of force which is not conducive to a vibrant developing country,” added Graham, who also is the councillor for the Lluidas Vale Division of the St Catherine Municipal Corporation.
Three families in the Lluidas Vale Division, so far, have complained to The Beacon that their loved ones have been locked up for several days at Tamarind Farm detention facility without charge, without being allowed visits by relatives, and without relatives being given a reason for the respective detentions.
Graham, while not specifying any case, questioned the existence of a properly functioning tribunal to review detentions during the ongoing state of emergency, which covers the St Catherine North Police Division.
“The tribunal for review of cases of detention or restriction should be organized in a way to expedite the hearing of cases to prevent excesses and deal with matters expeditiously. Is it up and running? Can the public be informed of its location?” Graham said.