ROGUE police officers have actively helped to illegally kick people out of their homes for gangsters to move in, alleged Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal in the House of Representatives on Friday.
Under debate was the Trespass (Amendment) Bill 2019 piloted by Fitzgerald Hinds, minister in the Attorney General’s Office, that imposes a $100,000 fine and 15 years jail for home invasion, plus similar penalties for continued illegal occupancy. He said the offence was far more widespread than people realise, with police data citing 11 cases. “This goes largely unpunished,” Hinds said.
“Arson is used. Poor and defenceless people have been killed, burnt to death.”
He recalled a woman returning to her house after three months in the US, only to be chased out, plus a case of criminals taking over three houses on one street. “The absence of a criminal law made the police incapable of dealing with this situation.”
Moonilal claimed, “We have had complaints of police facilitating home invasion.” Alluding to this, he said people have been making reports to their local police station of home invasion, only to receive threatening phone-calls as they reached home. He urged Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to investigate.
Moonilal later told Newsday that from 2013-2014, the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) had received complaints of 10-15 home invasions/takeovers, in Port of Spain, Laventille and Sea Lots. Contacted for comment on Moonilal's claims, ACP Anti-Crime Jayson Forde said he was flabbergasted by the remarks. "This is the first time I am hearing this sir. This is breaking news. If this is brought to my attention I will certainly address it."
Moonilal also told the House that serving officers are being induced to “act in certain ways” by offers of future political careers.
Dubbing this a “diabolical and deadly cocktail,” he urged new laws to ban retiring police officers from taking up political posts, later telling Newsday this was similar to the existing ten-year ban on retiring judges returning to the bar. In his speech he reckoned new laws would do no good unless enforced at ground-level, saying the death penalty is not deterring people from murder. He hit the Government for having cut security at HDC sites, only to now in this bill to complain of lawlessness at such estates.“The passage of this bill will do little or nothing,” Moonilal warned.
Ministry of National Security parliamentary secretary Glenda Jennings-Smith later complained about Moonilal’s allegations of rogue officers.
Saying she has police blood in her, she told Opposition MPs, “I have all the information on every one of you on that side.”
Naparima MP Rodney Charles objected to that insinuation but was overruled by Deputy Speaker Esmond Ford.
Jennings-Smith said in some cases residents had been burnt out of their homes so as to create "a whole community of people involved in criminal activities."
As a senior supt of the Northern Division in 2013, she knew the hardship of a victim, often poor and elderly, being told by the police to bring a private lawsuit against the perpetrator. To fill that pre-existing gap in the law, she hailed the new bill that would let the police act in such cases.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said all elected MPs could attest to knowing of cases of home invasion in their own constituencies.
While most homes are privately owned, he said the bill’s ban on an invasion of someone’s home would also apply to people living on state land. “Squatters will have the benefit of this law also.” Replying to Moonilal’s derisive complaint that the bill did not change the parent Act’s requirement that occupants post up a “no trespassing” sign, the AG scoffed that such notification could not be done by a WhatsApp message.
At one stage in Al-Rawi’s speech, a cross-bench squabble broke out, upon which Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George made each offending voice rise to recant their insults, like a schoolmistress scolding her errant pupils. These were Al-Rawi, and the MPs for Naparima (Rodney Charles), Arouca/Maloney (Camille Robinson-Regis) and Princes Town (Barry Padarath.)