Nadia Batson performs at Army Fete on February 2. National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds says the law against camouflage clothing is only broken when someone dresses in a way that could lead to him/her being mistaken for a soldier. – Jeff K. Mayers
MINISTER of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds said on Monday that female feters sporting camouflage shorts were not breaching the Defence Act, addressing a pre-Carnival briefing at his ministry on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain.
A reporter had asked about Army Fete patrons seen wearing camouflage outfits, to which Defence Force (TTDF) operations officer Col Colin Millington had replied, followed by Hinds giving a more detailed answer.
Millington said it was an age-old issue.
“The regulations state that the public is not supposed to wear anything that looks similar or is a direct representation of the defence force uniform. The defence force, customs and police continue to enforce the law in relation to this.”
Hinds read the act and said an offence was only committed by someone wearing camouflage clothing that could have him/her mistaken for a TTDF member.
He grinned and held up his left hand, with two inches between forefinger and thumb, to illustrate his point.
“So if she turned up in a real ‘sin shorts’ in the camouflage colour, and a white or a pink top, that does not exactly resemble the defence force.
“Therefore, it is in this regard that the colonel says they will enforce the law, they will make their own judgement, and they take the timing from the facts in front of them before the police decide whether they will prosecute or not.”
Hinds said otherwise the penalty was a $1,000 fine and 18 months in jail.
He said the Customs Act and Summary Offences Act referred to the matter, as did a 2021 High Court case, Isaiah Prince vs the AG.
“The bottom line,” he said, “as I understand it, is that the thing has to resemble.
“It has to be someone trying to pretend, or it might create confusion in the minds of a reasonable observer.
“But as I said, it excludes the question of pink camouflage print or yellow camouflage print or the handbag or the umbrella and that kind of thing.”
Hinds started the briefing by saying safety and security were the Government’s highest priority for Carnival.
Carnival gold commander ACP Kelvern Thompson said collaboration amongst many agencies was the key to safety and security while alternate gold commander ACP Winston Maharaj said the public must also play their part.
The head table called on the public to follow agreed rules towards an orderly and safe Carnival.
Hinds said, “We will see much more managed events.”
He said if the police and fete promoters had agreed beforehand for 6,000 people to enter a fete, if the number seemed set to exceed that, the fire service would intervene. Hinds hailed the police and defence force for well securing the Army Fete.
“We saw the system immaculately at work.”
Noting more personnel at events to help traffic flow, he said, “So we execute a safe and happy Carnival.”
Maharaj said the police had secured 68 events, all incident-free.
“The public must do their bit to ensure Carnival remains safe.”
He said glass bottles were once again banned for Carnival.
“Be mindful of the clear and present danger that a shattered glass bottle can cause to masqueraders, onlookers and the general citizenry, and try not to look for flimsy excuses to try to debunk something meant to improve the Carnival product.”
Maharaj urged bandleaders to stick to their agreed routes established after consultation supervised by the National Carnival Commission (NCC).
“The institutions of State have put together a response to adjust critical infrastructure simply to accommodate equipment like music trucks and whatnot, so music trucks would not have a person with a rod as part of their tools to move a (power) line when they want to pass.”
He urged all bands to stick to their agreed routes.
“Do not unnecessarily provide any kind of dangerous situation simply by trying to reach the savannah ahead of a rival band.”
Replying to a question, Maharaj viewed body cameras as a useful tool for police officers and said the police service had enough for its front-line officers.
Newsday asked if the police would heed complaints of noise pollution or write it off as “just Carnival.”
Maharaj replied, “It is a balancing act.”
“We have some meetings later this week to engage bar owners that operate in certain residential areas and whatnot, to appeal to these persons to exercise some kind of moderation when they conduct their business.”
Asked about the safety of beachgoers during Carnival, Hinds said lifeguards would be on duty.