The Opposition Leader says the Prime Minister’s latest media conference has once again failed to offer a multi-disciplinary approach to deal with the violent crime crisis that has overwhelmed the country.
“Instead, he directed irrational blame at the bureaucratic system, which by the way, is the same system that has existed for many years while the country was much safer and better,” a statement from Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, said on Tuesday afternoon.
“He ignored the fact that he has been Prime Minister for almost nine years and in 2015, he promised national safety and security through a whole government approach. He opted for evasion and hedging instead of replacing the wretched Fitzgerald Hinds as Minister of National Security.”
Earlier in the day, Dr Keith Rowley hosted a press conference at Whitehall and said Commissioner of Police (CoP) Erla Harewood-Christopher has the Government’s full support.
“His government also continues to support a CoP who has not met the minimum standard of performance in any aspect of her important duties. No responsible leader who witnessed Harewood-Christopher’s national security joint select committee appearance would support her remaining in the office of CoP,” Persad-Bissessar said.
“After spending millions of dollars, instituting various enquiries, hosting a Caricom conference, and terming crime a public health issue, he is still presiding over a deteriorating security state.”
The Siparia MP said the UNC has supported over 35 pieces of legislation in the last nine years and accused Rowley of ignoring this “when trying to craft his false narrative that the UNC does not support the Government's legislative agenda in Parliament.
“I am on record inside and outside the Parliament saying that the Opposition will always support good law, and I stand by that. Where we are today has nothing to do with any lack of support from the UNC, civil society, or the protective services,” she said.
“This government is unable to operationalise and implement passed legislation due to incompetent personnel at the highest levels in the National Security Ministry and at the National Security Council.”
At Rowley’s press conference, he accused the Opposition of using crime as a political tool, adding that the party had no interest in improving the country's state of affairs.
He charged that the Opposition does not genuinely want to help the country's situation “because they do not want to give up the continuous rah-rah.”
Rowley added, “You think they want to see crime go down, to lose their election campaign?”
In response, Persad-Bissessar said: “The saying: ‘A poor carpenter blames his tools’ clearly applies to Rowley’s presentation as he continues to blame me, the UNC, the police, the former police commissioner, the citizens, parents and now the bureaucracy.
“It is my respectful view that he should refer to his own statement as Opposition Leader in 2012 when he said: ‘If the Government can’t deal with it (crime) then the government itself is part of the problem.’”
She invited the Prime Minister to join her at the Opposition’s anti-crime town hall meetings, which she said were a non-political platform.
She added that he could give the population his view on crime on the platform, challenge her views directly to her face, hear the feedback from people in real time and answer their burning questions.
At his press conference, the Prime Minister rejected Persad-Bissessar's invitation, which she had previously made at a meeting in San Juan on Monday night.
Rowley has repeatedly said the Government would agree to bipartisan parliamentary discussion on crime.
Rowley also accused the Opposition of talking without facts and having agendas that were not even hidden.