Gov’t intends to purchase water cannons to disperse rioters

Example of water cannon being used during anti-government protests in Thailand (photo: Sky News)
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By Latrishka Thomas

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The Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda may soon have another method of controlling crowds of rioters or protestors.

National Security Minister and Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin told Observer that the acquisition and use of water cannons will soon be taken before the Cabinet for approval.

This comes just a week after a number of ‘Freedom Fighters’ and innocent bystanders were doused with tear gas and shot with rubber bullets during a protest on August 8.

Benjamin said that a debriefing took place after the event “and it was thought proper to make it available to the police so there can be a different option rather than tear gassing and the using of rubber bullets”.

“The government therefore has decided to make sure that immediately be put on order an application for the acquisition of an appropriate vehicle which can use water, rather than tear gas or rubber bullets,” he disclosed.

However, Benjamin said that he hopes that the police will not need to disseminate protestors who are peacefully exercising their rights.

“We are hoping, however, that this will not be necessary in the future because our democracy is a mature one, a very conservative one, and we believe that demonstrations are permitted provided that they are not accompanied by violence.

“People must be able to express their views. That is their constitutional right and we respect that, but laws of the land must be complied with and orders by the police must always be followed,” he stated.

According to Benjamin, Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney is collating all of the details to take before the Cabinet but “whatever the cost, the cost will not stop us from providing another means of crowd control and the use of tear gas”.

And notwithstanding the aftermath of the protest, the security minister said he is pleased with the police’s execution of their duties.

He said, “I want to congratulate the police and our law enforcement agencies for their extremely well positioned jobs and decisions that they’ve made in the recent past. They have exercised a lot of patience and I am satisfied that had they had that particular equipment that would have been used instead of tear gas and rubber bullets.”

Benjamin concluded by asserting that the reputation of Antigua and Barbuda as “being a very safe and secure society” and “a very law-abiding society” must be maintained.

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