Trinidad government removing Port of Spain street dwellers

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by Caribbean News Now Staff

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — The City Council of Port of Spain and the police are getting tough with street dwellers. Eighty-six of them were hauled before a special sitting of the Magistrate’s Court on Sunday.

The move has been criticised by some members of the public, but city mayor, Louis Lee-Sing, said that the critics "should stop talking and do something about it because we tend to plan ourselves into impotence."

The Trinidad Express reported that most of the street dwellers were arrested during sweeps that began on Thursday morning and ended Thursday night. The Express was told that they were taken in, bathed, clothed and fed.

The police’s Court and Process Branch were out in full force on Sunday to deal with the influx. Some wore white coveralls complete with respirator masks and gloves, while others wore masks.

Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar and Senior Magistrate Lucina Cardenas-Ragoonanan sat and listened to every explanation from those appearing before them.

Almost all of the street dwellers claimed not to be living where they were arrested. All of them also had legitimate addresses and jobs, but for one reason or the other said they chose be on Port of Spain’s streets.

Two attorneys, Rajiv Persad, and John Heath, appeared for the street dwellers on behalf of the Caribbean Centre for Human Rights.

Some of the defendants were reunited with their relatives, others were sent to the St Ann’s Hospital; among them was a man who claimed to be a "non practicing priest" who heard voices, others were remanded in custody until they could be traced, while a large number of them were discharged after they were found to be in a reasonable "state of mind". A few were also sent to prison after they pleaded guilty to having devices for smoking crack cocaine, as well as possession of knives.

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