National Security Minister Jack Warner continues to insist the fight against crime is a collective responsibility. Making his contribution to the budget debate in the Lower House yesterday, Warner sought to show that the Government inherited many problems in law enforcement from the PNM administration. When the People’s Partnership came into power, the T&T Regiment, the Coast Guard and the Police Service were demoralised, he said.
In 1995, former UNC prime minister Basdeo Panday established the Joint Operational Unit under Coast Guard commander Richard Kelshall to help look for drugs throughout the country and for leaks at the ports, he recalled. Between 1995 and 2001, the unit intercepted $14 billion in narcotics. When the PNM came into power, it dismantled the unit and set up the National Incidents Command Centre, Warner said.
Drugs came into the country like wildfire and it was the era of former drug lords Dole Chadee and Naim Naya, he told the House. On the issue of death threats received by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, Warner said he planned to keep his security, social and political distance from him. This was in response to Rowley’s command to him to “keep your distance,” he said.
Saying he could not understand this vitriolic posture from the Opposition Leader, Warner recalled his response to the threats Rowley received. He had said death threats were nothing new and former prime ministers Basdeo Panday, Arthur NR Robinson and Patrick Manning all received them, Warner told the House. He himself was the recipient of death threats, he said. “I said such threats ought not to deter any MP from doing national duties.
“He told me, ‘Keep your distance.’ I will keep my security and social distance. I will also keep my political distance. “This is not the way a prime minister behaves. He wants to be prime minister.”
On withholding funds from the national football team, Warner said nobody could do what he has done for football in this country. “At no time have I tried to make money off football in this country,” he said. Labour Minister Errol McLeod, during his contribution, caused some consternation among members of the Opposition when he referred to them as Beelzebub.
Port-of-Spain South MP Marlene Mc Donald shot to her feet. “Beelzebub?” she asked in disbelief. “That is the devil. I don’t consider myself the devil.” Speaker Wade Mark, forced to intervene, told Mc Leod the expression caused a lot of anger among Opposition members and asked him not to describe them in that manner. Mc Leod tried a different approach.”If they think they are righteousness, then we are blood brothers and sisters and cousins of Mother Teresa,” he said.