COMMENTARY: Rising Anxieties – Growing Fears



Consequent upon
the arrival to these shores of the ‘Dangerous Infectious Disease- Covid-19,’ amidst the restrictions,inconvenience, social and financial hardship have been the ‘daily rhetoric, lengthy queues, chaotic scenes, boisterous noises and confusing comments.’ More troubling to the citizenry and more particularly the residents in some of the more financially-depressed communities have been the daily horror stories of their experiences with a small minority of members of the ‘Security Forces.’ Consequent upon their behavior, personnel are seemingly now positioned to make their agencies the most feared ‘Non-Virus Disease,’ afflicting the populace, second only to the deadly ‘Coronavirus.’


This commentary looks carefully at an incident involving (a) ‘…an alleged Curfew violator and a Fire Brigade officer; (b) …Non-exercise of ‘Emergency Powers that allows for detention as contained in the Constitution [CO: 1981: Sections 16 & 17]; (c) …Generally, the questionable behavior of the Security Forces; and (d) …Criminalization of the citizenry.’


While the functions of the ‘Security Forces’ were not necessarily specific to ‘National Security,’ issues, it was of paramount importance that members’ ensured that citizens were compliant with ‘Health Regulations. Since the commencement of the‘State of Public Emergency’ and the ‘Dusk to dawn curfew,’ for the citizenry, life has not been the same. Though the restrictivemeasures implemented are not associated with a ‘coup-de-tat’or public disorder, stories emanating from enforced regulations have been said to be most frightening. There have been reports of atrocities that have been perpetrated against members of the lower strata of society.


The citizens have not only spoken of the ‘…hostile attitude and aggressive behavior,’ but also of verbal and physical abuses’ by some members of the ‘Security Forces.’ One such report had impelled Attorney General and Police Minister, Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin to offer through the electronic media a ‘Public Apology’ to an unidentified female motorist’ [Pointe FM].  Even as the citizenry, for the most part, have chosen to remain within the confines of their ‘respective places-of-abode,’ most now seemed to have been affected by an overriding sense of fear. Such fear is that of the ‘Excesses’ by a few members of the ‘Security Forces.’  These include, (i) …The Military; (ii)…Police; (iii) …ONDCP; and (iv) …Immigration personnel.’


None may deny that the ‘Threat to Health and Life,’ of the deadly virus necessitated the implementation of certain preventive measures. These include restrictions on freedom of movement by the citizens, assembly and socialization. The primary objectives being; (i) …Protecting the national health; and (ii) …Lessening the high rate of mortalility as seen in many nations within the global community.’ Governmental and Medical authorities’ have taken measures considered appropriate for; (a) ‘…Prevention; (b) …containment; and (c) …controlling its spread.’ Thus, through the proclamation of; (i) ‘…a State of Public Emergency; and (ii)Imposition of nation-wide Curfew, the restrictive regulations took immediate effect [March 26, 2020].


This has not only been a virus that has threatened Global Health,’ but also one of which that Global Populations’ have become most fearful. There have been three terrifying reasons; (i) …Its incurability; (ii) …its lethality; and (iii) …Its high rate of mortality.’ As global leaders could now be seen as taking queue from the ‘Gaston Browne-led administration,’ prudently acting upon the advice of medical professionals and ‘ministerial suggestions of Health Minister Molwyn Joseph, ‘State agencies’ were said to be showing contempt to the plight of the depressed and despairing citizens.


Conscious that the citizenry would be in dire need of ‘Essentialities,’ such as, (a) …food; (b) …pharmaceuticals;  and (c) …Medicare,’ the governing authorities have provided firstly a; five-hour period of time from 7am to 12pm’ for such purposes. When the virus showed no rapid spread across the nation and no increase rate in mortality, the policy-makers revisited the previous period. Thus, the time for acquisition of basic necessities was further extended ‘from ‘6am to 6pm.’ Extension of the time allowed the citizenry to access some goods and services, as well as for some businesses to conduct commercial activities. It also allows for the monotonous restrictions to ‘…porch; …gallery; and yard space’ to be lifted and open-air exercises to be done.  


Some security personnel appeared to have a different view and different approach to the way the ‘Eustace ‘Tiko’ Lake-led CBH Board’ may have seen the ‘Curfew Regulations.’ Now, as ‘curfewed residents, including some ‘stiff-necked ones, have been endeavoring to bring ‘Heaven’ to their lawfully allotted residential spaces, members of the ‘Security Forces’ were to be seen as seeking to bring ‘Hell’ into their homes. ‘In their daily lives, there have been ‘rising anxieties, deepening stress, as there have been growing fears’ over the behavior of some of their members. A case on point may have been the apparent reckless, senseless and brutal assault,’ allegedly inflicted upon an innocent victim peacefully relaxing at his apartment.


Incidentally, a person who may give attestations to the ‘uncouth and impolite manner and aggressive behavior’ of a few members of the ‘Security Forces,’ would have been ‘Member of Parliament and Minister of Foreign Affairs, E. Paul ‘Chet’ Greene.’ As he hurriedly made his way home just into the ‘Curfew’ hour, he was reportedly pursued by ‘an unmarked and unidentified motor vehicle.’ He responded to a ‘flicking headlamp’ at the rear by stopping. Then he was reportedly accosted by three hostile officers who gruffly asked, ‘…Way you doing on the road? Tauntingly, if not snidely, he responded, ‘…Way you doing on the road?


Recognizing his ‘Voice and Ministerial Status, as to have immediately evoked their senses to awareness, the ‘grumpy’ officers drove away. This encounter speaks to two possibilities; (i) …Lack of knowledge of exemptions in the regulations for Parliamentarians; and (ii) …Gross lack of local knowledge of the person they had apparently ‘officiously’ challenged. The Regulations specifically states, ‘…The Curfew period shall not apply to the members of Parliament’ [SI: No 27 of 2020: Section 8 (r)]. Conversing with ‘Foreign Affairs Minister E. P. Chet Greene,’ he indicated that he has heard of many such stories, and just wanted to observe for himself what other citizens have been complaining about.


Instructively, if not ironically, the ‘Department of Immigration’ for which he has ministerial responsibility, is also part of the ‘Security Forces Curfew Mobile Patrol. Research has revealed a disturbing trend among these forces. This could have ‘Serious Implications’ for the ‘Security Forces,’ as may have been seen with the troubling case of the reported (i)…Detention of Falmouth resident Bruce Greenaway; (ii)…Disappearance; and (iii) …Subsequent discovery of his lifeless body at Indian Creek’ [April 9, 2020]. The most important question, however, in brining closure to the reported ‘suspicious incident’ is the investigative task of the high command of the Police Service and its Criminal Investigations Department (CID) is; Who kidnapped and killed Bruce Greenaway?


An apparent developing trend, if left unchecked, could very well be likened to that which a particular marine animal has often been blamed for attacks on humans veering too far off into their natural habitat. Invariably, the ‘Shark’ is blamed for most such attacks. This is seemingly due to its ‘vicious instinct.’ It was revealed that even when a member of the ‘Curfew patrol detail’ attired in an identifiable uniform ‘ONDCP,’ officers were presenting themselves as ‘Police officers.’ Naturally, when some ugly incidents were reported, the police, known for their ‘Ruffian Tactics and Roguish Behavior, were often apportioned innocent blame. That invariably happens to ‘Sharks’ as well.


Clearly not exercising ‘Emergency Powers,’ as allowed in these extraordinary situations and provided for when the ‘State of Public Emergency’ has been proclaimed and a ‘Dusk to Dawn Curfew imposed’ [CO: No. 1106 of 1981: Sections 20 & 17], members of the ‘Security Forces’ have been performing the role of ‘CBH Board’s Police’ [Statutory Instruments: Nos. 16 & 27 of 2020: Section 5 (1)  (c) (7)], regulations previously made by ‘Health Minister Molwyn Joseph’ [ March 20, 2020]. Even as the ‘Statutory Instruments’ provide ‘…no powers of arrest,’ Curfew violators are still being; (a) …Pursued, arrested, charged with, and prosecuted for offences allegedly committed under the ‘Principal Regulations’ previously and wrongly or ill-advisedly made by the ‘Health Minister.’


Most citizens know that power resides only with ‘elected Parliamentarians’ to; (i) …Table Bills; (ii) …Debate and pass Bills; and (iii) …Cause the Bills to be given Assent that they may become ‘Statute Law.’ Apart from ‘Common Law,’ most law enforces know that it is within such legislative framework ‘Powers of Arrest’ are provided to law enforcement officers. Moreover, the Constitution speaks specifically to ‘…the authority of a law ‘ENACTED’ by Parliament’ [CO: 1981: Section 16]. Nowhere in this particular Section, does it refer to ‘Statutory Instrumentsor Regulations made by Statutory Boards’ as they affect ‘…public emergency of measures that are reasonable and justifiable for dealing with the situation that exists in Antigua and Barbuda, during that period’ [Section 16].


It is instructive to note that only ‘Section 5A of the Principal Regulations’ that has been ‘repealed and replaced’ [Section 3: SI. No: 27 of 2020]. Yet not infrequently, people have been arrested and charged under ‘Section 5 (1) (c) & 7,’ the very regulations improperly made by Health Minister Molwyn Joseph [SI: No. 16 of 2020:]. Now, if power resides with a ‘Body Corporate’ [PHA: Chapter 353: CBH: Section 5 (1)], to make regulations that clothed the police with ‘Powers of Arrest,’ then there may be no need for members of the Legislature to attend ‘Parliament, or need for the ‘Police Act’ that provides powers to police officers acting in the executing of duty’ [Chapter 330: Sections 22 & 23]. In these provisions, there are no references to either (i) …The Military and ONDCP, or the …Immigration and Customs Departments.’ Jointly, however, these agencies must work together, particularly in times of crisis, as currently obtains.


Given the events surrounding the alleged merciless battering of ‘Jonathan Joseph 26, it has shown clear manifestations of ‘…cruel and inhuman treatment’ [CO: 1981: Section 7]. Put an ignorant man to do something, and then see what the end results may be. It is at this juncture that most people often come to the realization that ‘Ignorance’ is more costly than ‘Education.’ Apply these concepts to ‘Fire Brigade officer,’‘Fire Brigade Corporal Cave Baptiste, it may not be very difficult to discern what may have happened. In his case, for inexplicit reasons, the untrained law enforcement officer ‘self-elected’ to perform the duty of a professionally-trained police officer.’ Then, without; (a) …proper instructional briefing; (b) …professional guidance; and (c) …supervision, he proceeded on an almost fateful mission. The destructive elements of recklessness and stupidity’ would be difficult to ignore.


It is to be understood that persons detained by a law enforcement agency, have the ‘…Protection of Law as enshrined in the national Constitution [CO: 1981: Section 17], and moreover, by the person so detaining. Such protection was alsoguaranteed to Falmouth resident Bruce Greenaway’ who may have been snatched by the darn devil.’ Most people may have been rather lucky to have escaped consequences that may have been seen as ‘appropriate,’ yet some were fortunate to get away for actions that may have been deemed reckless and stupid. The Constitution has made it sufficiently clear that undera ‘State of Public Emergency,’ it is all about ‘detention of persons found in breach of specific restrictions emergency regulations.’


Most people know that there is a thin line between ‘Bravery and Stupidity.’ Not sure if a certain ‘Fire Brigade officer’ may have been ‘Joking or Smoking, but some darn thing went horribly wrong in the incident involving ‘an unarmed innocent man Jonathan Joseph 26 [March 29, 2020]. Those with professional training, knowledge and practical law enforcement experience, know that except for conducting dangerous reconnaissance, under a ‘State of Public Emergency and Curfew,’ no Police authority has ever deployed a ‘one-man mobile patrol officer in; (a) …Attired in short pants: (b)…Accompanied by unidentified females; (c) …Issued a collapsible metal baton; (d) …Given briefings to use it forcefully on the head of any citizen breaching or breaking the ‘CBH Board’s Curfew regulations.’


Likened to several reported and unreported ‘Incidents of Brutality; …intimidatory tactics and verbal abuse,’ allegedly perpetrated against the citizenry by these members,’ a living example of such experience was said to be that of a resident of a densely-populated area called ‘Spanish Town’ just outside the city limits. He was not only reported to have been ordered to vacate his limited but open-air verandah space in the clustered inner-community of St. Johnston Village, but also allegedly ‘Pulverized, then Criminalized by a member of the Fire Brigade Department [April 29, 2020]. The question that might be pondered over is simply this, ‘…Can a one-man mobile patroller apprehend a ‘Curfew violator and drive with the apprehended to a Police station?’


When the unsuspecting tenant of a populous suburban community of St. Johnston Village, called ‘Spanish Town’opted to be compliant with the ‘Central Board of Health (CBH) Regulations’ and nation-wide-imposed Curfew, little did he know that he would have experienced a ‘Harrowing Ordeal.’His apartment, in close proximity of neighbors in their rented apartments and is located a mere ‘6-foot 4 inches’ away of the private access road ‘landlord Ruth Spencer,’ has provided for her tenants. To all intents and purposes, ‘an off-duty Fire Brigade officer, Corporal Cave Baptiste’ reportedly left the narrow access road to trespass onto ‘Jonathan Joseph’s limited yard space, an allotment by his ‘Landlady Ruth Spencer.’


Conversing with tenancy friends from his ‘Yard Space’ as contained in the ‘Eustace ‘Tiko’ Lake-led Central Board of Health (CBH)’ Coronavirus Control Regulations,’ he had no inkling that he would have become the victim of a vicious ‘metal baton attack. He had not foreseen that he would have been spending the night at the ‘Mount St. John Medical Center (MSJMC) [March 29, 2020]. That still was not all. The victimhad no idea that he would have been ‘viciously attacked and brutally beaten with ‘an illegally-possessed (collapsible) metal baton,’ by an untrained person reportedly performing the functions of a police officer.


Suddenly, ‘Horror and Dismay’ had gripped residents of the pre-dominantly ‘Spanish-speaking’ community at St. Johnston Village.’ These resulted when the apparent overzealous officer had ‘Batonerized (new word) and Subdued’ a resident that research has shown was; (a) …Not in a Curfew- restricted area; and (b) …Not yet ready to retire to bed.’ The victim had no ideathat he would have been subjected to the wrath of this officer. The residents had witnessed the unfolding events that had provoked their spirit to anger and outrage.


They had seen a gaping head injury that surgically required some 11 Sutures (stitches), while he was fed intravenously.Blood reportedly flowed profusely, thereby drenching and discoloring his clothes. That which may have been seen as ‘Passing Strange, was that instead of summoning a ‘Police vehicle or the ever available ‘Emergency Medical Service (EMS)’ vehicle, he was placed at the back of a vehicle mysteriously appearing at the scene. Such vehicle was reportedly assigned and driven by ‘Military personnel.’ He was then rushed him to the ‘Mount St. John Medical Center (MSJMC).’ He was not as a person afflicted by a ‘Dangerous Infectious Disease,’ but a patient of the excesses of ‘Zeal and Insensitivity.’


The Scripture edifies every reader, particularly those who might be disposed to perpetrating evil against others. This practice comes with consequences. It warns that; ‘…There is no ‘Peace’ for the wicked’ [Isaiah 48: 22]. It was not clear who may not have had any ‘Peace’ whatsoever. When Police Press Liaison officer, often miscalled ‘Public Relations officer,’ informed the media that the defendant Jonathan Joseph had pleaded guilty to the charges; (i) …Breaking Curfew; (ii) …Battery on Police; (iii) …Resisting Arrest; (iv) …Indecent Language; and (v) …the Defendant had been remanded to Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP), know that had he been placed under Oath, he may have been cited for the crime of ‘Perjury.’


This can only be avoided when the ‘facts are properly martialled’ and the information is verified before communication or dissemination. The simple reason is that such media information would not have been consistent with the ‘Truth; …the Whole truth; and Nothing but the truth; …So help me, God.’ Moreover, if he had officially communicated such information to Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney, and he was acutely mindful of his responsibilities to communicate ‘factual and truthful information to the respective Ministers of; (a) …Public Safety (Attorney General Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin); and (b) …National Security’ (Prime Minister Gaston Browne),’ know that Inspector Frankie Thomas, with or without the ‘Help of God,’ would have to ‘…Tell the truth; and …Nothing but the truth’ at all material times.


Adding insult to the intelligence of citizens, seemingly ill-informed or not paying sufficient attention to detail, ‘Police Press Liaison officer Inspector Frankie Thomas confirmed that the officer was on patrol duty.’ If this was not mindboggling, then what is? The information was; (i) ‘…The officer was alone; (ii) …Operating under cover of darkness: (iii) …In a community where Angels fear to visit at nights; (iv) …Under a State of Public Emergency; and (v) …Under a dusk to dawn Curfew.’ Even more incredible, was that the officer had done so, when he was not so officially detailed to perform such duty and/or so supervised. Such information could only be disseminated by ‘popinjays.’


In the instant case, what might reasonably be expected of an adjudicator is to take ‘Judicial Notice’ of the defendant’scondition on his first appearance. For instance, when the defendant appeared before ‘Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh’with a heavily bandaged head, she could not have reasonably inferred that a ‘wild horse had kicked him on the head. Na-a-ah! She would have inferred that was subjected to the Force of Brutality.’ Incidentally, such is not a matter within ‘Magisterial Jurisdiction, but one of constitutionality and one for Justices of the High Court of Justice, where aggrieved persons may seek redress.


It has never been the case where ‘Magistrates and Judges’appeared publicly or silently outraged over allegations of ‘Police Brutality. However, in extreme cases of such atrocities, adjudicator’s often loathed ‘unsponsored State violence’ or ‘extra-judicial punishment,’ that was visited upon the innocent citizens. In the case of ‘Jonathan Joseph,’ logic dictates that if the condition in which the defendant was presented to the Magistrate’s Court speaks to the perpetration of ‘Extreme Violence,’ then it begs the question, ‘…Why the person so inflicting the injury to the defendant’s head not prosecuted?


Given these developments, it seems likely that the ‘Fire Brigade officer’ may encounter grave difficulties convincing the adjudicator that; (i) …The defendant was found outside his residence between ‘6pm and 6am; (ii) …That he had ordered him back to his residence; (iii) …That he had refused to leave the public place; and (iv) …He was in fact ‘Executing a lawful Duty.’ It has never the duty of any defendant to say that he knew the arresting officer was a police officer, but for the plainclothes officer to convince the Court that he had; (a) …Identified himself; (b) …Declared his office; and (c) …Stated his business to the defendant. In establishing his identity and authority, these have always been requirements and professionalapproach of every plainclothes police officer intervening to execute duties, which only the Court shall make determinations of ‘lawfulness or unlawfulness of his/her intervention.

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