|Hinds: Epidemic of crime |
CLINT CHAN TACK Saturday, July 15 2017
HOURS after the police and other law enforcement agencies held an exercise on Dock Road in Port-of-Spain, resulting in the arrest of one man and the seizure of over $7000 in marijuana, members of the Parliament’s National Security Joint Select Committee (JSC) expressed grave concern that the nearby Port-of- Spain port remains vulnerable to criminal elements shipping illegal drugs, guns and other contraband through it and into TT.
Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Fitzgerald Hinds (the JSC’s chairman) and other committee members voiced their concerns as they conducted a site visit of the port with officials from the Port Authority, Customs and Excise Division and Port Authority Police.
Hinds was particularly concerned when JSC members toured a fixed mobile scanner which was commissioned in 2014 under the then People’s Partnership (PP) government but was never operationalised.
Port officials said there is a $1.5 million facility to ensure the scanner is maintained.
JSC members were told by Port officials that the main reason why the scanner is not operational because of claims raised by the Public Services Association (PSA) about unsafe radiation at the facility. The officials said the Health Ministry has already certified that the scanner poses no risk to anyone. “We are saying that the activities that you conduct here, cannot be business as usual.
You have to go beyond whatever you have been doing,” Hinds told them.
He said, “We do have an epidemic of illegal guns which are killing your staff members, wives, daughters, neighbours and everybody in TT has had a trouble with crime.” Hinds was disappointed that this scanner was an initiative first articulated in 2005 but is yet to become a reality. At the Spectrum Yard of the port where new and foreign used vehicles are examined, the JSC members were shown that it was difficult to carry out detailed searches of the vehicle to see whether any contraband was concealed in the interior of the vehicles.
Hinds observed this is a situation where “security concerns are not adequately met.” Independent Senator Paul Richards was concerned that only 60 percent of the cargo entering the port was automatically scanned. He told port officials, “Looking under a vehicle is not a specialist operation.” Hinds said he was advised that people operating on the port, “receive instructions to expedite certain containers or set aside containers and leave them alone.” The minister added, An employee swore that to me.” Customs officer Glen Singh told Hinds this may be possible “as long as there are human beings involved.” On the issue of searching vehicles for contraband, Singh said, “In the case where we have evidence or even an inkling of something, a different approach will be taken.” He explained that to do the kind of search described by Hinds and other JSC members, it could result in vehicles never being delivered on time to their purchasers.
Hinds also told Singh there is the perception by some people in society that some customs officers “do very well” financially.
He said it would not be long before these people will be made to account for their wealth through civil asset forefeiture legislation which Government will be bringing to Parliament.