MINISTER of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds reacted to angry street protests in Port of Spain on Monday by saying the first focus must be on maintaining order on the nation's roads, while investigations could be made afterwards into the sources of discontent that fuelled the disruption.
He spoke to Newsday just after 1 pm about road blockages in about three places, even as clouds of grey smoke rose over the southern end of the capital.
"I'm aware that there are these upheavals and disturbances in the city - people setting fires and trying to block the pathways and so on.
"I just had contact with the commissioner of police, the senior supt in charge of Port of Spain division as well, and the Chief of Defence Staff. I'm aware as well that we have troops out there as well – police officers, of course, and we have soldiers in support. They have largely put an end to some of the disturbances that are being encouraged by some of the people out there."
Newsday asked if the reasons for the disturbances were going to be addressed.
"Well right now I am just in touch with the leaders of the police service (and) the defence force to ensure that law and order, peace and safety is maintained in the city.
"People have been blocking the road, lighting tyres and other things. The fire service is out there to clean up these things as quickly as possible, and put an end to that kind of disruption, so that the people of this city and the society can go about their lawful business.
"Those other matters that you are now raising with me, they are being addressed, they have been addressed and they will continue to be addressed."
Newsday asked about reports linking the protests to an alleged police shooting of three men including a 17-year-old on Saturday in the heart of Port of Spain.
Hinds replied, "I've heard that as well, but as a law-abiding citizen of the country and as the minister of national security, I am aware that this matter and other kinds of matters are going to be under investigation either by the police or by the Police Complaints Authority where appropriate, and they will be investigated and we will get to the bottom of it.
"The investigations will reveal what the real issue was or is.
"Therefore, with that in mind, I still have to focus and support law enforcement who are out there to make sure that the roads are passable and people are able to go about their business in peace and safety."
Newsday asked if he had any message for the protesters.
Hinds said, "Of course they must be aware that these kind of actions are disruptive. It traumatises people who are not engaged in them. It utilises the resources of law enforcement when they could have been otherwise deployed.
"I would urge citizens that if you have issues, there are processes if you have a problem with some police action.
"They know full well that they must utilise the processes to make a report to the Police Complaints Authority, to take matters to the court. But disrupting the society in the way that some people choose to is not the way to do it. Once you do that, you now engage in lawbreaking and so law enforcement are obliged to deal with it and you.
"But, of course, we as a Government and as a society are prepared to listen to any concerns and any complaints that people might have and try to see how best we can resolve them.
"But in the meantime, once you get involved in that kind of activity, we have the obligation to make the place safe, so people can use the roadways and go about their lawful business."