September 07, 2011
Newsday today continues an edited version of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s contribution to the debate on the motion to extend the state of emergency for three months in Parliament on Sunday. The motion was passed with 29 Government MPs voting for the extension and with ten votes against by the Opposition MPs.
The idea that certain sections of our society, communities, have being unfairly targeted by the state of emergency, is unfortunate. It is mischievous and designed to create division in our society.
Let us make this point first and foremost. When someone is killed, it does not matter what the colour of their skin is or the texture of their hair or the colour of their eyes, because the blood that flows on the soil is the same red blood, regardless of those things.
Criminals have no respect for the victim’s race, they have no respect of the victim’s religion, they have no respect of the victim’s colour, their illegal actives and murderous intensions affect all. The blood curling cry, Mr Speaker, and as a mother I know it, as a grandmother you know, the cry that that comes from your womb as a mother when you lose a child, it does not matter which race you come from, it does not matter. It comes from the depths of your womb when you cradle your lifeless son or daughter, it does not matter. A life lost is a life lost regardless of where the victim lives, regardless of their racial origin.
Our Constitution guarantees fundamental rights of equality, this means the State must not be discouraged or sidetracked in the pursuit of law and order by such extraneous issues. To do otherwise would be to fracture our Constitution that speaks to equal treatment, and more importantly the right to liberty security, enjoyment of property for all law-abiding citizens.
Mr Speaker, I would say rest assured this Government will be relentless in its pursuit of all criminals, we will not be deterred by such political mischief and to make that comment that you arresting because of ethnic profiling, is a direct and unfair attack on the police officers and the soldiers who have placed their on the line to defend our Constitution and innocent citizens of this nation.
No Government Minister selects which person are to be arrested or to be detained, they are not selected by any MP, that is the work and intelligence of the police and the soldiers who are out there on the streets that is based on their intelligence and police work.
Mr Speaker, we talk about the hot spots only in being in areas of the PNM, again not true. Arima, is the constituency of the People’s Partnership. Chaguanas Borough Corporation is the constituency of the People’s Partnership; San Fernando Borough Corporation is in the hands of the People’s Partnership; Diego Martin, People’s Partnership, Port-of-Spain that you speak of is partly People’s Partnership and PNM. How many seats in the Port-of-Spain Corporation? Is it 44? Okay—seats within Port-of-Spain also within the hands of the People’s Partnership. San Juan/Laventille is in the hands of the People’s Partnership and the PNM.
So, Mr Speaker, to say we targeted only PNM areas is totally false, and I think Mr Jack Warner—and I have the Speaker’s permission, again to display these hot spots that were the PNM’s hot spots, done by the PNM, Mr Speaker, and it the same except for Carrera and Sande Grande, the same that Mr Warner showed. Again, that allegation is totally false and misleading, baseless without foundation. And you have on your desk so that you could compare them.
So the idea that the hot spots are first of all only in PNM areas, is not true, and these hot spots were selected, identified long before our time, long before our time, Mr Speaker, by the police. I am glad that the Member for Laventille East/Morvant—under the PNM it was by the police but under us it is by us, it is not by the police. Member for Laventille East/Morvant no, but others have said the allegation that we have played with it in some way, so those hot spots are by the police.
Mr Speaker, a further allegation—again without foundation—is that we acted by vaps because we have no plan, a knee-jerk reaction to a surge in killings.
Mr Speaker, time and time again the Minister of National Security has spoken about the framework of the fight against crime, I have also spoken. These matters include an aggressive legislative agenda, so on the legislative front that is part of our plan.
It will not give me enough time to sit here and go through every piece of legislation because there are other matters—because you are Members of Parliament you would know—reforms to the criminal justice system undertaken by the honourable Minister of Justice and together with the AG. Social interventions—Ministry of the People and Social Development, Minister of Community Development. A programme of rehabilitation and of course law interventions which the Minister has been speaking of time and again. That is the framework of the crime plan.
And the raw statistical data from the police suggests that those strategies were indeed working to an extent. The homicide rate I am advised fell by ten percent in 2011 from the 2009 figure. In every quarter the murder rate was on the decline when compared to last year.
In fact, I am advised that even without the state of emergency, the murder rate may have fallen by 20 percent in this year, so, they were working to an extent, but that was the not the pace that would bring greater relief to citizens when viewed in absolute numbers.
And so, we are determined not to repeat the delusion of the former Minister of National Security to measure success by the decrease in the increase if you all recall that infamous statement.
Let me remind the nation that our crime strategy continues, during, after the state of emergency, the ones that work will be reinforced. Mr Speaker, I do have some of several measures at the time—time is going. I just want to mention one or two of the other arguments against the state of emergency before I get to those substantive planks in the crime-fighting strategy.
Major allegation, argument by members on the other side has been that we could have done what we are doing now by using the Anti-Gang Act, that had been repeated ad nauseam.
Mr Speaker, with all the repetition no-one remains convinced that that one piece of legislation would have been sufficient in this fight against crime now. Yes, it is but one weapon in the arsenal of weapons at our disposal, and we are using it. I mentioned to you already the number of persons who have been detained under the anti-gang legislation. This argument then is misconceived, baseless, without foundation, and is indeed a type of deception to the public to keep repeating that that could have done the job.
Firstly, the threat to national security required immediate deployment of the full power and might of the State. The army does not have the powers of detention, arrest, search and seizure that they are given under the state of emergency, so if no state of emergency they would not have that jurisdiction—arrest, search and seizure.
The gangs do not possess a monopoly over criminal activity and hence the police and army needed to be legally equipped so that they could go after criminals in every form and fashion.
The power of the police as well, Mr Speaker, under Anti-Gang Act is limited when compared to the powers of the police under a state of emergency. The joint select committee, there was a suggestion of a joint select committee which considered the Anti-Gang Bill, shows the Anti-Gang Bill instead of a state of emergency, should that impression by created it is totally false. The joint select committee considering the Anti-Gang Bill never at any point in time discussed the merits or demerits of a state of emergency, again misleading the public to make such an allegation.
So, the Anti-Gang Act, Mr Speaker, as I said is on piece of legislation, there are hundreds of other pieces of legislation that one is being held up as a cure-all, Mr Speaker, could never be with foundation.Others have dealt with another allegation suppressing the rights of the trade unions, honourable Mr Mc Leod dealt with that and others, Mr Speaker, I want to say once again that is totally false to say that the state of emergency had to be with civil unrest or trade unions.
Another allegation, why did we not use normal policing to deal with the situation. Again, ill-conceived criticism, it ignores the fact that normal policing has not worked for the past decade—completely without foundation. Desperate times requires desperate measures. Inconvenience to the public is another allegation, yes, there is some inconvenience but several years ago when Singapore was named as one of the best places to live and work, an American living there asked by a US TV network if he did not miss the freedoms that he enjoyed in the US?
His reply was: “I do not mind giving up some minor freedoms in public in order to have the freedoms to walk down any street in middle of the night without the fear of being mugged.”
Mr Speaker, we will say without fear of being kidnapped, or raped or murdered. And so these inconveniences are necessary at this time, given the fight against crime and the effort to restore law and order in Trinidad and Tobago. Many have expressed the concern about international negativity and I think Minister Suruj Rambachan dealt with that and I think also Minister Cadiz and several other may have.
Mr Speaker, nothing will be more pretentious than to strut around the world stage, and looking good on the world stage—as if we have a paradise in the pristine blue Caribbean waters, when the inner sole of our country is being torn apart by crime and violence. That is why I have said, at time I am more concerned with the sons and daughters of our land, with the brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers, than I am about the international image that is why I said it.
The allegation of no big fish, well I think Members on this side have dealt with that extensively, I will just add to say that every murderer in my view is big fish, everyone.
Every gang member, every gang leader, every bandit is by definition a big fish because they hold our lives in their hands, and so for everyone else I endorse their arguments as we move on.
The argument also, Mr Speaker, again without basis—on that issue of big fish, we want to understand organogram of crime. The gangs in the same way taking out the small fish and the guabine and so on, the first of all I have said that everyone in my view is a big fish, but let us look at the organogram. These gangs and so on are the spine of the animal, they constitute the spine. The gangs are actively involved in the drug trade at the highest possible level, without them there will not be the possibility of transshipment and distribution. So, they are the spine that holds the head and feet of the evil animal together—the drug trade. So, to get the head requires regional and international corporation, and be assured that your Government is collaborating and sharing intelligence with international law enforcement agencies to catch even bigger fishes, but the level of organisations and sophistication of gangs in Trinidad and Tobago leave me with no doubt that they are big fishes. They operate like military units with a corporate structure and a very rigid, hierarchal change of command. The organogram is mind-boggling, the strategic plan is of illegal activities—precise and expansionist.
And, so, Mr Speaker, we say we will continue to gather intelligence on the power structure driving the drug trade and the drug trade, and we will make sure to uphold what we say all the time, no one is above the law and none shall escape unscathed—big, small, medium or otherwise.
We have been accused of police abuse, Mr Speaker, but I have heard so far the army and police have been professional, mature, and responsible in the discharge of their duties. The complaints have been few and far between and again I commend the soldiers and police officers.
But there is a remedy, Mr Speaker, should you feel that you have been in any way abused by the police or the soldiers, there is the Police Complaints Authority, it has a very vital role to play in this regard and has been very vocal about its jurisdiction—remember recently with the killings in Moruga the police complaints head did come forward to speak and deal with that matter. But I will say, you have remedy should there be any abuse, but I still call on our officers to exercise their powers in a responsible, fair, impartial and fearless manner in the interest of protecting and in serving our nation.
People have no rights, they say on this state of emergency, again totally without foundation of no merit whatsoever. Persons arrested, charged for criminal offences still enjoy the constitutional rights.
The right to counsel or legal representation, the right to be taken before a court promptly, access to legal aid to secure legal representation, an application for habeas corpus to have the accused brought before a judge in the High Court to ascertain the reasons for his continued detention, all these remain in place.