Health Minister: Party boat matter before DPP

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Terrence Deyalsingh

Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the interpretation of the safe-zone regulations as they relate to businessman Adrian Scoon and his boat the Ocean Pelican is before the Director of Public Prosecutions and the police, and they would clarify the matter.

He said Scoon told him that he would be running the Ocean Pelican as a floating restaurant.

Police reported on Monday that over 100 people aboard the Ocean Pelican were temporarily detained at the Anchorage in Chaguaramas for violating the regulations.

Deyalsingh said neither he nor his ministry gives permission or grants authorisation for a business to operate as a safe zone.

Speaking at the ministry’s virtual covid19 media conference on Wednesday, Deyalsingh said,

“The letter from Scoon did not seek permission, it informed me that they were doing this. The letter did not ask permission, the letter informed me that they were going to operate as a safe zone.

“Under Section 8 of the public health rules – and we said this when we launched the safe-zone initiative – that once you download the poster that you put up, that is all you need to do, and you have agreed to operate as a safe zone, and the minister does not need to be informed of such or seek authorisation or permission to operate as a safe zone.”

Section 4(1)(b) of the Public Health Regulations says it is an offence to operate a party boat, boat tour or nightclub.

Section 8(1) lists the following businesses as being eligible to be safe zones: restaurants; bars; a common gaming house, betting pool or office licensed under the Gambling and Betting Act; a cinema or theatre licensed under the Cinematograph Act; a private members’ club licensed under the Registration of Clubs Act; a theatre under the Theatres and Dancehalls Act; gyms and fitness studios; waterparks; and public swimming pools.

Deyalsingh said the regulations as they relate to the Ocean Pelican need interpretation.

“That is why I said the matter is before the DPP, and that is why I have been advised by the lawyers not to say too much, because it is before the DPP and the TTPS, and they will bring some level of clarity if there is clarity to be brought. I hope that brings some clarity to the issue, and let the DPP and the TTPS resolve the issue.”

He advised businesses who wanted to operate as safe zones to obtain legal counsel.

“I advise everyone to read Section 8 of the regulations for clarity, so that takes care of that.

“No one needs to apply to the minister to operate a safe zone, no one needs permission.

“I would advise anyone who wants to operate a safe zone, whether it is a party boat or not, to seek their own independent legal advice. If anyone who is in doubt as to what they need to do to comply with the safe-zone requirements, I also suggest they get legal advice to do just that.”

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has denied reports that he offered legal advice to Scoon. In a release, the AG said, “Mr Scoon offered his apology to the AG, specifically acknowledged that no legal advice was given by the AG and stated that he regretted the inconvenience caused.”