NATIONAL Security Minister Stuart Young yesterday expressed concern as he accused the Opposition UNC of consorting with criminals and reputed crime figures.
Speaking at a press conference at the ministry’s office in Port of Spain, Young said there was a “worrying” development in which members of the opposition were soliciting the support of criminals in order to gain public support in the upcoming general election.
He referred to an incident at a political rally last week, in which UNC deputy political leader Jearlean John reportedly invited a young man to speak at the event. Young described this as an “unholy alliance” between criminals and the UNC and that it was in keeping with that party’s track record.
He referred to the Life Sport programme, in which the former administration hired alleged gang leaders to guarantee votes.
“As the government we encourage the participation of the youth in the decision-making process, but upon further investigation we have now uncovered that this person who was brought onto a UNC political platform has had 22 criminal charges laid against him over a period of time.
“This is a very worrying turn of events, and when one traces the history of the UNC, it seems as though this is coming straight from their playbook. Today I am placing the public on notice: please be on the lookout for this type of behaviour and activity. They have put forward persons as candidates who have had serious criminal records.”
Asked if he could confirm whether any member of the opposition was being investigated by police for affiliation with criminals, Young said that was a question for the police to answer.
Asked about the close relationship between Port of Spain South MP Marlene McDonald and Sea Lots businessman and “community leader” Cedric “Burkie” Burke - who was arrested last week but released on the weekend, Young said Burke never appeared on a political platform for the PNM.
However, McDonald invited him to her swearing-in as Minister of Public Utilities at President’s House in 2017. McDonald was fired from the Cabinet as a result. Young said he could not definitively say whether members of the PNM had links with criminals.
He also said that while campaigning for his constituency in Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West for the 2015 general election, he was contacted by a gang leader in the community who promised him votes in exchange for political favours.
“He (the gangster) sent a message to me then that I needed to meet with him and garner his support to win the seat. I sent back a very short and curt response that in no uncertain terms that I would (not) meet with him. He threatened that he would go on to support the UNC.” Young called on the public to be vigilant as the screening for candidates for next year’s general election begins.