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Minister promises to fix problems in Defence Force
National Security Minister Jack Warner says he will address issues affecting the Defence Force, including salaries. Warner was speaking yesterday at operation “Exercise Golden Ibis,” a brigade training exercise in Blanchisseuse on the north coast of Trinidad. The exercise involved training and manoeuvres on land, air and sea by members of the Air Guard, Regiment and Coast Guard.
“We are in a state in terms of preparedness and they have to go out to various ports and locations where we suspect there is drug and gun running...We want to be able to be sure we have everything in place and I wanted to see first-hand,” he said. “I was extremely impressed and the safety of this country is in good hands. The army has given me a sense of comfort and I want to commend them very highly.
“They are professional soldiers and they have some problems that I shall address and they shall go forward. I have given them the assurance they will get the tools to perform,” he said. He said other agencies such as the Fire Service and the Coast Guard who are part of national security will also receive attention.
“We cannot expect these people to fight crime effectively if they are uncomfortable. They need the tools to work with and they need the assurance that the minister and the Government is behind them and I have come to give them that assurance,” Warner said. He pointed out that the Defence Force is facing many challenges with regard to salaries. “The Defence Force has real issues and I want to deal with those issues to make them comfortable in the workplace,” he said.
“To whom much is given, much is expected and you cannot expect them to perform without the tools. The last salary increase was in 2007 and there are other issues we have to deal with. Just give us some time,” he said. During the exercise, 116 members of the Defence Force enacted an operation to intercept a “Cartel Trini” drug dealer and members of his organisation. The drug dealer, named “Mr Basset,” was played by members of the Defence Force.
Officers assigned to National Security Operations Centre (helicopters) shuttled the officers to Murphy’s Bay from the Blanchisseuse Government Primary School. They also gave air assistance as a fight ensued and Basset’s vessel was intercepted and he was taken into custody. Warner then visited the water purification unit where several members of the Defence Force were filtering water from a river. He drank the water that was given to him and said, “It tastes good.”
Sgt Marvin Mills said the WTC 500 unit can filter 500 litres of water in one hour and costs between $750,000 and $1 million. Lt Shawn Richards said the exercise was the second for the year and the next exercise will take place in Tobago. He said it was important that the officers remained resilient and always ready. The tour of the area ended at the Blanchisseuse Community Centre where the officers were repairing an adjacent changing room.
Minister in the Ministry of National Security Colin Partap, head of the T&T Regiment Colonel Phillip-Spencer, Majors Kelvin Sebastien and Roger McQueen, Captain Sheldon Doogan, and Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson, Comptroller of Customs, Fitzroy John, Commanding Officer of the Coast Guard, Captain Mark Williams, also attended.
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