PM: Opposition using crime as political tool

 Then–acting DCP Erla Harewood-Christopher - Photo by Roger Jacob
Then–acting DCP Erla Harewood-Christopher - Photo by Roger Jacob

THE Prime Minister believes that opposition MPs are using crime as a political tool and have no interest in improving the country’s state of affairs.

Dr Rowley said if these MPs do not want to use their votes to fight crime in Parliament, they cannot use anything outside Parliament.

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?” He spoke at a press conference at Whitehall on Tuesday.

Rowley referred extensively to the 2017 Manpower Audit Committee findings into the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), chaired by criminologist Prof Ramesh Deosaran and included several people, including then–acting DCP Erla Harewood-Christopher.

The document, he emphasised, is extremely important because it guides the Government, and it ought to guide the country. Rowley said the Government sees national security as a priority.

In November 2017, the document was laid in the Parliament and was referred to a joint select committee on national security that same month.

Rowley said people find it easier to blame the Prime Minister and the National Security Minister for the state of crime and CoP’s selection process. He added that recommendations are sent to the Parliament for members to support or not.

“The only people who can rectify this are the 41 MPs, and MPs are required to function in Parliament,” Rowley said.

He recalled that the Government has agreed to bipartisan parliamentary discussion on crime. The Government and the Opposition had been at odds over the proposed crime discussion. Rowley said one of the issues the Government raised relates to the recommendation of a police inspectorate to oversee police work and job security. This would require special majority changes to the constitution. He knocked the “crime” meetings hosted by the Oppositions, saying, “I am sure most of them did not read it (findings) but are pretending now that they have some answers in their pockets. They are talking without facts and agendas that are not even hidden.” He quoted a few paragraphs from the executive summary saying the police service is in a very troubled and wounded state and that the disciplinary system is in utter disrepair partly due to the high level of bureaucracy involved.

He said, “The inconvenience of the Parliament having to approve an acting CoP if the CoP goes out of the country, the AG is currently instructed and would come to the Parliament in the next few days or weeks to change that regulation to try to prevent the Parliament to approve an acting body. That requires a special majority.”

Rowley said the number of officers on various leaves has resulted in limited patrols at a time when criminals are all over the country.

Giving a historical perspective on past CoPs, he said governments were having difficulties finding leadership within the service.

He recalled that under the People’s Partnership coalition government, Canadian-born Dwayne Gibbs was appointed CoP while his compatriot Jack Ewatski was deputy commissioner. He charged that millions of dollars were paid to send them back home in 2012. Former acting CoP Stephen Williams later held the acting position for six years.

“Meanwhile, the police service going to hell in a handbasket. Very few people want to confront that reality,” Rowley added. Without referring to Gary Griffith by name, Rowley said the Government appointed a non-policeman as CoP but somebody who had exposure to the Defence Force and government.

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