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Police Association president: Acting CoP against precepting soldiers
Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams is reportedly in disagreement with Government’s proposal to precept soldiers. However, he seems unwilling to tell the Government how he feels about the bill, Police Service Social and Welfare Association president Sgt Anand Ramesar said yesterday.
He said that was the conclusion he and his members came to yesterday during a meeting with Williams at the Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain. However, hours later the Defence (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament. The association had previously met with National Security Minister Jack Warner and Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal, who refused to give way on the bill, which would give soldiers the power of arrest.
Ramesar said although Williams agreed with their argument that the move was ill-advised, he did not give a commitment to address the issue more strongly with Government. He said after the meeting: “He needs to go further and clearly needs to really reassure this membership that he understands how this is affecting our morale and affects the paradigm in which we exist.
“He must understand how this is going to change the Police Service that he currently heads and if there are going to be any repercussions. “We were clear in imparting to him how the membership feels about this particular legislation and challenges that are potentially there should this legislation come into effect. “Some of the things we stressed on is the opportunity for dysfunctionality and he agreed with us in a particular context.”
He added: “He is of the view that policing should stay with police officers and as acting Commissioner of Police he expressed some of his challenges. We are satisfied the commissioner is clear in his mind that policing should stay with police officers.” Ramesar said policemen would now go ahead with a planned vigil on Wednesday in protest against Government’s decision to go ahead with the Defence Amendment Bill.
The vigil will be held at the Brian Lara Promenade, Port-of-Spain, from 6 pm, with another one in Tobago at the same time. He said: “We will not relent in our position. We have a mandate to make it clear our members are not in support. “We have fears and concerns for the organisation. There are going to be problems in the Police Service and this bill, which will destroy the organisation, called the T&T Police Service.
“We have a mandate to avoid this as best as we can. Should the bill take its process, that is a legal process, the association can only do what it can in the parameters of the law.” He said in the absence of a strong stance from the acting CoP, policemen were hoping their persistence would send a message to the Government. “We have to do something that is strategic and take into consideration all the repercussions,” he said, noting that Williams had promised to issue a press release on the matter.
“He (Williams) can’t take the bill away from Parliament but we know he is sensitive to what is happening to the members of his organisation as leader and he aligns himself with our welfare,” he added. Contacted yesterday on the matter, deputy commissioner Mervyn Richardson refused to comment, except to say: “They agreed.”
Attempts to contact Williams were unsuccessful, as calls to his phone went unanswered. No press release was forthcoming up to last evening and when public affairs officer, Asst Supt Joanne Archie, was contacted, she said Williams did not wish to make a statement at this time.
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