Gun dealer Towfeek Ali challenges new FUL policy

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Attorney Nyree Alfonso who is among several lawyers representing her husband, firearms dealer Towfeek Ali. FILE PHOTO – SUREASH CHOLAI

Firearms dealer Towfeek Ali has joined the complaints over the new policy for the renewal of firearm user’s licences (FULs).

Ali’s attorneys Anand Beharrylal, KC, Kiel Taklalsingh and his wife, Nyree Alfonso wrote to the commissioner on January 24.

Alfonso, the holder of a FUL, previously wrote to Police Commissioner Erla Harewood–Christopher about the recent changes and has again questioned the legality of the move.

She has written twice, calling on the commissioner to hold her hand on the new renewal policy.

At the start of the year, the CoP announced that all FUL holders had to renew their permits, including those who were issued FULs before 2004, when the Firearms Act was amended.

Alfonso pointed to Section 17(6) of the Firearms (Amendment) Act, which says FULs granted before the passage of the legislation in 2004 will remain valid unless terminated or revoked.

The police service asked for more time to respond to the concerns raised by Alfonso.

On January 24, Alfonso again wrote on Ali’s behalf. He is the managing director of Firearms Training Institute of which Alfonso is a director.

“If Parliament intended the legislation to have retroactive effect on the FULs issued before the year 2004, then it would have had to plainly say so and in any event would have needed to use specific and express language to achieve that effect,” Alfonso said.

“There can be no doubt that FULs were issued before the year 2004 nor can it be doubted that, when issued, the rights vested by these FULs could only cease to exist if the FULs were terminated and/or revoked. The law presumes that Parliament does not intend legislation to operate retrospectively and therefore the 2004 amendment cannot be construed as requiring pre-2004 FUL holders who

obtained their licenses before that year to be subjected to a renewal process.”

Alfonso also complained the process for renewals, introduced by the new notices, was “unduly burdensome” and could create administrative chaos and unlawful delay as has been pronounced on by the courts in other legal challenges.

“In the face of such delay, your decision to introduce a fresh bureaucratic system is absurd, disproportionate and prejudicial towards existing firearm holders.

“…. It is neither reasonable, rational nor lawful for the Commissioner of Police to take unto herself powers she does not have, especially action to arbitrarily and unfairly take away rights of FUL holders, which are constitutionally deemed to be property, and more significantly, perhaps their only the means of self-defence at a time of unprecedented gun crime against the law-abiding citizenry of Trinidad and Tobago.

“Further, to publicly proclaim these unlawful mandates, as has been done, can only serve to embolden criminals who have armed themselves with seemingly easily accessible unlicensed and unregulated firearms and copious amounts of ammunition, and further to telegraph to them that the intention is to disarm the lawful FUL holders and thereby render them even more vulnerable to the machinations of the uncontrolled criminal activity that currently prevails in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Alfonso asked for the commissioner’s reasons for implementing the new policy.

The commissioner has until February 1 to respond to Ali’s complaints on the new renewal process.