NATIONAL Security Minister Stuart Young said various protests on Tuesday were co-ordinated and pre-planned, involved criminal elements, and people were paid by an unspecified party.
"These orchestrated attempts are just that. Persons on the ground were contacted and paid to go out and create a disturbance."
He was speaking during a media conference on Tuesday morning at the National Security Ministry, Port of Spain.
"We were woken up today seeing certain disturbances in and around Port of Spain, East Port of Spain."
He said the "very disturbing" incidents began from 8 am at East Port of Spain, Besson Street, Abbatoir Road, Beetham and John John.
"This is not what we expect from law-abiding citizens."
He said people were using the opportunity to shoot at law enforcement officers in sporadic shootings but he had not received reports of any officer being injured.
He said he denounced the criminal elements who were using the opportunity of the protests to create disturbances.
"Who is stirring them up?"
Young said he understood peaceful protests and people being emotional, but it was "very obvious" from human and other intelligence that many incidents, including shooting at police, involved criminal elements.
"Who is behind the criminal elements? Who is paying people? Who stands to gain from the loss of peace and quiet in the City of Port of Spain?"
In January Young alleged that certain people were getting criminals to commit random shootings of innocent people so as to try to destabilise this society.
On Tuesday he said there are ways for law abiding citizens to voice their concerns and urged them not to be "used" by criminal elements. He added that those criminal elements were not always gang members.
Asked about the spread of Tuesday's protests to different areas, Young said that proved his point that they were orchestrated.
Asked about Rasta City and Muslim gang-controlled areas protesting together, Young said there was no report of them co-mingling, but again, it showed that there were criminal elements behind the incidents.
Young reported that he had spoken with the Chief of Defence Staff, and the Defence Force would provide support.
"We will protect all of our officers."
He reported Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith had raised the police service alert level to red,which included that all officers would be out and all leave suspended.
He also said Fire Services was providing assistance.
He reported that Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez told him corporation workers had expressed concern about removing debris from the protests.
He said he also received reports of a projectile hitting the third floor of the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs offices and the detention of New National Vision political leader Fuad Abu Bakr, reportedly for "stirring up disturbance" at Besson Street.
He said these disturbances pained him, as a few days ago, in his capacity as Port of Spain North/St Ann's West MP, he visited a number of East Port of Spain areas, including Quarry Street, and he was seeing the positive progress, what people have to offer and hadpledged to continue to work with them.
Asked if people were safe to leave Port of Spain, Young said the police were working assiduously and there would be some traffic and inconvenience. He pointed out that police had to block both the northern and southern lanes on the Beetham Highway.
He said that police will ensure that people can go about their business but he urged people to be careful and vigilant, not to take any unnecessary risks and not to panic.
"Don't go looking to see what happening."
He said on Saturday an incident took place in which three citizens (Joel Jacob, Noel Diamond and Israel Clinton) "ended up deceased" owing to the actions of the police. He added that shortly thereafter CoP Griffith said there would be a thorough police investigation, and he spoke with Griffith early Sunday morning on the incident.
Young said shortly thereafter, the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) said it would be launching its own investigation. He said he spoke to West and he told him that the police were fully complying with the process. Young stressed that he had faith in both Griffith and West to carry out the thorough investigations.
Young said he did not have all the facts on the incident and though he has seen one of the videos circulating, he would not give his personal opinion, as that could prejudice the investigations.
He urged anyone who has information that would be of use to come forward to the PCA, which has a very "robust process."
"It is not for us to play judge or jury and decide who is right or wrong."
Asked about ministry officials meeting with the dead men's families, Young said it was something he would suggest.
On the people gathering to protest despite covid19 restrictions, Young said the country was still in the middle of a covid19 pandemic and did not have community spread.
But, he warned, "This activity could lead to it."
He said people should be reasonable and abide by the law.