T&T Government: No comment
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago government Tuesday hinted at extending the so called ‘hot spots” under the five hour curfew, but has refrained from commenting on an opposition claim that Colombian drug dealers may have been behind the decision to impose the state of emergency.
National Security Minister retired Brigadier John Sandy told the daily news briefing that the authorities were looking at extending the six areas designated as “hot spots” that have also been under the 11.00pm to 4.00 am (local time) curfew..
“We are looking at some other areas from which current activity emanates and you will be advised once we decide to go there…if we don’t you will also be advised,” he said.
Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs said that 1, 477 people had been detained since the state of emergency was declared on August 21, with 422 of the suspects being gang members.
But he could not tell reporters how many of those detained had been charged.
“I don’t have the exact information with me, certainly we are looking at the gang related charges, gang related arrests, those will be all associated charges as we go,” he told reporters, adding that he was also not in a position to disclose how many detainees had been released.
The government has also been moving to quell reports of overcrowding at the jails here and the Commissioner of Prisons, John Rougier said that there is no cause for concern.
“We along with the government are dealing with the existing situation as it relates to the state of emergency as was indicated by the minister, a facility was designated a prison and work is going on at this point in time for accommodation of inmates.
“At this point in time that facility is at the point where roughly 650 persons could be accommodated and they will be accommodated sometime before the end of the week,” Rougier said, adding that the facility could easily house up to 1, 000 people “so that there would not be any undue overcrowding problems within the general prison system”.
Rougier said that the Kamla Persad Bissessar administration has provided over two million dollars (US$333,300) to the prison service to upgrade the facility.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley, speaking on a local radio talk show on Tuesday, claimed he had been informed by “government spokespersons” that the reason behind the state of emergency had to do with a possible bloodbath involving Colombian gangs.
He said the spokespeople, whom he did not name “had quietly sought to tell the opposition that the reason why they could not tell the country what the problem is, because the problem as they is a matter of national security.
“The information is that the drugs that were intercepted at Piarco International Airport belonged to some Colombian gang which hired a Trinidad gang securing it for export and the Trinidad gang allowed it to fall into the hands of the authorities”.
Rowley said the opposition was told that the “Colombian gang was seeking a reprisal against Trinidad gang and coming or are present here to create bloodshed and mayhem against this Trinidad gang that lost two suitcases of cocaine,” he said.
During the debate to extend the state of emergency by three months last weekend, both Prime Minister Persad Bissessar and the National Security Minister said that while the crisis had been averted with Sandy indicating that the bloodshed would have the failed coup against the ANR Robinson government in 1990 in which several people including a legislator had been killed “ look like a Christmas party”.
Rowley said if the information provided to him is correct, then the government may also be protecting a drug gang.
“We find that quite ridiculous because immediately the question is if the government has that kind of information to want to put the whole country under a state of emergency, then the government should have enough information to at least identify elements of the local drug gang.
“We have heard no such thing from the government. In fact if that is true then the government failed to tell that is the scenario they were dealing with and if it is true it simply points to the fact that the government called a state of emergency to protect a drug gang in Trinidad and Tobago from a drug gang from Colombia,” Rowley said, adding “we find that hilarious”.
But the National Security Minister questioned by reporters gave a cautious response.
“I did not hear the Opposition Leader, I did not know who told him that. I would rather not comment on that at this time,” he added.