THE Prime Minister has not declared violence as a public health emergency.
National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds made this statement in response to a claim made by Opposition Senator Wade Mark in the Senate on Monday.
Addressing a news conference at the Piarco airport on July 3, before leaving to attend the 43rd regular meeting of the Caricom heads of government in Suriname, Dr Rowley said, "I think in TT the time has come for us to declare violence as a public health emergency, and we need to find solutions for treating with violence in our population.
He was responding to questions from reporters about a recent spate of violent crimes, including murders.
Hinds was blunt in response to Mark's claim that Rowley declared a public health emergency.
"I could not say whether it is mere ignorance, or anything a little more malicious than that, but the Prime Minister made no such declaration."
Hinds told senators he listened carefully to what Rowley said in his news conference and that conference was recorded.
"I understood the Prime Minister to have said that sometime in the near future, he considered that it might be a useful thing for Trinidad and Tobago to consider crime and violence being treated as public health issues."
This, Hinds continued, would be a matter for national conversation that requires buy-in from all stakeholders and the population. He reiterated, "No such declaration has been made. Then this question by the senator is, as usual, misguided and empty."
Asked by Mark about reports that there were no lifeguards at some beaches over the weekend, Hinds said he expected them to be at their posts.
While lifeguards fall under his ministry's remit, the beaches they operate on fall under the Tourism, Culture and the Arts ministry. Recalling a meeting he had with lifeguards in January, Hinds said he was aware of their concerns and his ministry continues to provide the resources the lifeguards need as best as they can.
He also remembered lifeguards walking off the job last December because of certain concerns they had.
"Lifeguards are employed by the Ministry of National Security. They are paid for by the Ministry of National Security. They are trained for their positions and they are provided with the resources that they need to do the job."
All of this is done to protect people who go to the beaches. Hinds recalled the last walk-off by lifeguards was resolved by all parties agreeing that lifeguards would not be paid if they take such action in future.
"So we encourage the lifeguards to come out, understand that this is TT. The citizens must not be the rope in anybody's tug of war." Hinds expected lifeguards will ensure the safety and security of all beachgoers.
"We expect they will stand in their offices and pursue the course of their duties in the protection and the safety of the people of TT."
Responding to a question from Mark about an incident in which a woman police trainee was allegedly subjected to an illegal strip search at the Police Training Academy in St James, Hinds said officers at the St Clair Police Station have been mandated to investigate any such allegations in the future.
The police service will also establish a committee to draft a policy to deal with such matters. While saying this committee will be established in the shortest possible time, Hinds could not give a specific time when this would happen.