The governments of both the PNM and UNC have had dealings with criminals, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith told the joint select committee (JSC) on national security in January.
Griffith appeared before the JSC which was called after National Security Minister Stuart Young publicly stated he had information linking the Opposition to criminal elements.
Addressing the JSC, which was held in camera, Griffith said: “I have always spoken about the concern whereby we have seen governments come and go, inclusive of this one, where we have seen that (alleged collusion between criminals and politicians), and when we affiliate ourselves with criminal elements, there is going to be a price to pay.” His comments are contained in an interim report laid in the House of Representatives on Friday.
The committee, which included government members Randall Mitchell, Nicole Olivierre, Nigel De Freitas and Robert Le Hunte, Independent Senator Paul Richards, and opposition members Dr Roodal Moonilal and Saddam Hosein, was stopped after Young made allegations against Moonilal.
On Friday, the government-controlled House voted to evict Moonilal from the JSC. The Opposition said the move was unfair. The JSC can only reconvene when it is has all of the required members, including the Opposition’s. On Saturday, UNC deputy leader David Lee said a decision is still to be made on if to appointment someone to replace Moonilal.
In his statement, in January, Griffith said over the past 13 years the actions of governments have affected the Police Service.
He said, “...it demoralises us to say that the Government, the Opposition, the State, politicians, they want the police to deal with reducing crime, but you give them (criminals) more funds than us for them to purchase more sophisticated weapons, hire more persons, get more profit, pay more persons in the community to tip them off (when) we make a raid. We cannot get anything done, and then we now have to confront these same individuals who are actually profiting and benefiting and being, and at times, even protected by the State.” Young, when he appeared before the committee, said the police reported to him that the Opposition was meeting with criminals to gain a political advantage through increased crime.
Moonilal asked Young if he had any intelligence reports that suggested the Opposition was responsible for the increase in crime, and the minister said yes.
“I have been provided with information by the arms of national security, and I have read some of it and there has been that suggestion by the arms of national security to me as the Minister of National Security, yes.”
Young, in response to Moonilal, said he had no information that criminals attended PNM public meetings but would not be surprised if they did. He added that attending a meeting is different from being on a political platform, and said people with criminal records had appeared on the UNC platform, according to information he received from the police and national security arms.
Young, in response to Hosein, said he was not informed of any police investigation of a PNM member.
He told the committee, police informed him that the December 31 fatal shooting in Port of Spain was politically motivated. He said he was informed a gang leader gave orders for a shooting spree in the capital to take the murder toll to more than 550.
“...not only was I told but the National Security Council was told by the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service that in their opinion the instruction given by that gang leader was for the fulfilment of a political purpose.”
Hosein asked for whose political purpose and Young said: “The political purpose of the Opposition, the United National Congress.”
Young’s claim was denied by Griffith who said: “We (the police) do not have intelligence to verify who are the perpetrators, or who were the persons that would have influenced the individual or that gang to commit such an act.”
He said the matter is still being investigated, but added there was no evidence that the December 31 shooting had any political connection.On Friday, Moonilal, in a comment to Newsday on his expulsion, claimed Young had admitted he spied on the police.
In a statement on Saturday, Young denied this and said Moonilal was attempt to distract the public.