POLITICAL LEADER of the People’s Empowerment Party (PEP) Phillip Edward Alexander on Friday condemned political rhetoric inciting violence, the day after four young people were killed and five people wounded in a massacre at a home in the Heights of Guanapo on Thursday.
“We said at the very start that something like this was gonna happen. I said during the local government elections (LGE) that it sounds heady to say, 'Lill this one and that one,' and, ‘Empty the clip,’ until those people’s gang members or friends and family come to return the favour,” Alexander said during a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Port of Spain.
Police said just after midnight on Thursday, gunmen armed with high-powered weapons stormed into a house at Guanapo Heights and opened fire on the residents.
In the aftermath, four youths – a ten-year-old girl identified as Faith Peterkin and three others aged 14, 17 and 19 – were dead and two children, 14 and 17, and three adults aged 18, 21 and 25, wounded.
While police are still searching for a motive for the killings, a post circulating on social media suggested they were a reprisal for a home invasion.
While on the campaign trail leading up to the August 14 LGE, opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar encouraged citizens to defend themselves against criminals.
“I’ll tell you in ‘Trinibad’ music language, you have to load up the ‘matic, pull it back, and knock it on them once, then knock it on them again,” she said.
She was speaking in terms of accessing firearms users’ licences.
On Friday, Alexander knocked politicians for using crime for political points.
Crime "should never have been politicised to this point,” he said. “Cheap PNM and UNC politics has to be in the rear-view mirror now. It is not helping, and those four little children that died should break our collective hearts. We should not accept this any longer.”
He called for an immediate and total shake-up of national security, starting with the removal of several officials.
“PEP firmly advocates for the immediate removal of key officials, namely Erla Christopher, Commissioner of Police; Fitzgerald Hinds, National Security Minister; the Comptroller of Customs; and the Commander of the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard. We assert that these individuals have failed in their respective roles and are no longer suitable to lead the efforts to secure our nation.
“Fitzgerald Hinds, in particular, has proven to be unfit for his position, as evidenced by his inadequate responses and insensitive remarks. Such behaviour should not be tolerated from a public servant who is accountable to the citizens,” he said.
He shared the PEP’s crime plan, which included deploying the Coast Guard, using existing vessels to establish a protective perimeter three miles off the coast, deploying the National Air Guard to the southern peninsula to support the Coast Guard, locking down customs inspections so that all containers leaving ports undergo examinations by Customs officials, and dispatching law enforcement, Customs, and Immigration officers to private ports, with the associated costs borne by these organisations.
“Customs cannot be excused if 50 per cent of the containers leave our ports unexamined,” he said. “The commander of the Coast Guard cannot continue to earn a salary when 140,000 people crossed into this country (illegally) from Venezuela. Ex-commissioners have said that legal ports of call have been the reasons guns come into the country. We have 40,000 guns in the country and nothing is being done.”
Roget: Stop giving government free pass on crime
OWTU president general Ancel Roget knocked the public for giving government a free pass, while crime continued to spiral.
“This government has failed over and over and over in their primary duty and responsibility for which they were hired, and which they are paid every month from taxes – to protect the lives of the citizens of this country.”
He made the statements during a press conference at the JTUM headquarters in Barataria on Friday.
He said Government’s main responsibility was to protect citizens from aggression and internal and external attacks. He added that government was also responsible for protecting the borders and ports of entry, where illegal guns pass unchecked.
“This government has failed miserably in that regard over and over and over and they continue to cast the blame on everybody else except themselves,” Roget said. “When you accept these excuses what you are in fact doing is making yourselves sitting ducks for the brutal home invasions, all of which are carried out with the use of high-powered weapons."