Attorney calls on Kamla to address racial undertones in stand-your-ground proposal

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Attorney Martin George is asking the Opposition Leader to clarify her remarks on stand-your-ground legislation. – ROGER JACOB

ATTORNEY Martin George has advised Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to address concerns surrounding her proposed stand-your-ground legalisation and assure it is not tainted by racial bias.

He further called on her to clarify that this piece of law won’t negatively affect people based on their ethnicity.

He said without proper understanding and careful consideration, the implementation of stand-your-ground laws could create more problems than solutions, exacerbating existing societal issues.

In a video statement on Friday, George said it is crucial to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and justly by the law.

Earlier this week, Persad-Bissessar vowed to implement stand-your-ground legislation, giving citizens easier access to guns to defend themselves instead of seeking to escape from a potential threat.

Under this law, even if an individual has the option to retreat, they can choose to use excessive force if they feel their life is in danger.

In remarks at two political meetings, Persad-Bissessar declared if she returns to office she would bring such legislation, especially in response to home invasions.

“Light up the criminals. Empty the clip, reload,” she said unapologetically.

However, George said there is a fear that it could be misused and open the door to unnecessary violence.

George said the racial undertones of this cannot be ignored.

“In TT while we are of course all concerned, sometimes panicked by the fear of rising crime, we have to ensure that even in our propagation and promulgation of the stand-your-ground legislation here in TT, that there is not that racial undertone or racial sub context that is being put out there as a subliminal message.”

He said the recent comments made by a prominent religious leader, insinuating that crime has been racially profiled, is the main reason why there is the need for clarity and careful consideration.

He was referring to comments made in April by pundit Satyanand Maharaj that East Indians are being targeted and killed by criminals, mostly from the along the East-West Corridor. The population in this area is mostly Afro-Trinidadians.

George added: “She ought to make it very clear to the public, that there’s absolutely no hint or suggestion of any racial undertone in the unit proposals that she’s making. And that way we can now divorce ourselves from that aspect of it and be able to focus on the question of your rights to protect your home and what is reasonable force in the circumstances.

“The stand-your-gun legislation, however, does not require you to use reasonable force, it is one which allows you to use deadly force, even in the face of an attack which may not have been as serious as the response that you have given and it protects you in that regard. So, one can very well understand the position that has been put out there by senior members of the TTPS who have said, ‘You have to be careful because you can’t go overboard in your reaction. So it’s quite a touchy issue and interest issue.’”

Deputy Police Commissioner Curt Simon this week said the public has a right to self defence but any action taken must be within the law.