Do not be beaten down by it.
This was Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s response, yesterday, to the latest United States Embassy which urged Americans to stay away from specific communities in and around Port-of-Spain because of crime and possible terrorist threats.
“We don’t have any control over what other countries think of us but we do indicate to them, our understanding of the situation and will expect that they will be understanding of our circumstances,” he told reporters after addressing the formal opening of the Carenage Homework Centre and Police Youth Club, Constabulary Street, Carenage.
Rowley said Trinidad and Tobago was not in the business of issuing advisories for other people’s countries.
On Friday, the embassy sought to ban its US government officials from venturing into parts of downtown Port of Spain, Laventille, Beetham, Sea Lots, Cocorite and the interior of the Queen’s Park Savannah given the country’s crime situation and recent terrorism alert.
The advisory also suggested to Americans that gang-activity was a common feature of narcotics trafficking and a major driver of crime.
Rowley, however, argued that in today’s world, no country was immune from crime and the prospect of terrorist activity.
“Wherever you are, there are concerns of one kind or another so let us not be beaten down by it.
“But the way we deal with that is working as we can with those persons so that they can be assured that we do everything possible to protect their citizens and the citizens within our borders 27-7.”
Asked if there was a new dimension to the terrorist threat which threatened to derail Carnival celebrations, Rowley said: “All states are always facing threats of one kind or another otherwise they would not have situated departments, officials’ secrets acts and things like that.
“These are ongoing things. But in our case, we dealt with Carnival. The investigations are ongoing and we are a country run by the rule of law and we are also a country where every creed and race find an equal place. And if we subscribe to those principles, all will be well.”
The PM also responded to questions about the recent violent confrontation between police and east Port-of-Spain residents over the killing of Akeem “Christmas” James.
He said measures were being implemented to soften the relationship between police and residents in high crime communities.
“The tension in communities and the tension between communities and police are of concern. But we have to try and ensure that people don’t see the Police Service or the police officers as their enemy because the police relies very heavily on the cooperation of the public to bring about effective policing.
“I can tell you one of the areas of focus that we have is to rebuild the trust between the citizenry and the Police Service.”
Rowley said, however, there will be times when the police will be called upon to act firmly “and, of course, we try to persuade communities that there is nothing to be gained by creating circumstances that further stigmatise themselves.”
“Because sometimes, acting in your own interest can be hurting your own interest. And these communities that from time to time have these flare ups, on the longer term they damage themselves by being stereotyped by addresses from which good does not come,” he added.
“And, we want to encourage people not to have that kind of label being placed indelibly on their own communities. So, we work with them and we are giving them the assurance that nobody wants in this country people that are so disadvantaged that they believe they are being left behind.”