THE PRIME Minister said people involved in crime will be removed from social support programmes.
He was speaking on Tuesday at the sod-turning ceremony for the new Carenage police station.
He said the social support programme in TT was better than anywhere else in the Caribbean
"You go through the islands–they don't get old-age pension, they don't get disability, they don't get social support make-work programmes. Even the make-work programmes themselves have turned into criminal empires. And on that score, we are working very assiduously to come up with an arrangement where persons who choose crime as a way of a life will find themselves outside of what the Government has to offer in the context of help to those who need help. We are not about fostering crime and criminality in our social support programmes."
His comments come after complaints by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith that gang leaders continued to receive state contracts and a Special Branch report on the issue for which Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein has reportedly promised an investigation.
Dr Rowley on Tuesday said payment for programmes like the Unemployment Relief Programme, the Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme and also under the Housing Development Corporation were previously made to individual workers and there were those who, either out of fear or complicity, would cash their cheques and give most of the money to criminals.
"That is what was happening. And if you didn't see that, you don't know your country."
He said this was changed to where contracts were awarded.
"Now the gang leader would represent the government and the individual would work for the gang leader."
He said, with previous system there was the problem of "ghost gangs" where people were paid by a clerk but had not worked either out of fear or "wotlessness."
"But at least that gang wasn't killing you. This one killing you. And then competition started for this largesse. So anybody here come telling you 'is this Government or this Prime Minister or this one so' they are simply trying to score points on a problem that we are aware of. It has been with us for quite some time and it will not be a simple problem to get rid of because it has worked into our administrative systems. And we have to work our way out of it. And we will certainly do so."
He continued: "I want to join the Commissioner of Police today to tell you and to tell all the criminals out there–the State of TT is far bigger than you. If it's about size–we bigger than you. If it's about guns–we have more than you. If it's about resolve then ours is deeper than yours."
He said evidence will be gathered utilising the Anti-Gang Act.
Rowley called on communities to report the criminals terrorising them and added he has never heard a single instance of someone who called Crime Stoppers and was exposed.
"If you do that, the life you save may be your own or your family."