Last update: 18-Dec-2013 7:04 am
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Griffith on ‘suspect’ contracts: I’ll pull the plug on them
Information on gang leaders is passed on to government officials. It was then up to government to treat with the information on those individuals as it saw fit, including deciding whether contracts should be awarded, acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams said yesterday. He was fielding questions from the media on the $2 million contract awarded to Kenneth “Spanish” Rodriguez.
Williams was speaking after the launch of an anti-bullying campaign at the Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain. Rodriguez was awarded a contract for a police post on Duncan Street, Port-of-Spain, which is expected to be opened later this month. However, during a tour of the post by Williams and then acting Prime Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal last week, Rodriguez denied he was a gang leader. He described himself as a “community leader.”
Yesterday, however, Williams admitted that while they had information on gang leaders, they had problems prosecuting them for illegal activity. He added: “We have information on all the gang leaders. “The challenge that we are facing is having evidence to establish by way of prosecuting these individuals as gang leaders. “This is challenging across the globe. It is not limited to Trinidad. It is a challenge to address gang leaders.”
Pressed on whether the information police had included Rodriguez, Williams said: “I am not being specific to any single individual in any point in time. “I am saying we have information about all gang leaders. In the city, out of the city—all.” Asked again whether this would include Rodriguez, Williams said: “Yes, it would include Mr Rodriguez. We have information on every said individual the media highlights.”
Williams then again distanced himself from the award of Rodriguez’s contract, asking: “Do I have control as to who is to be assigned a contract? I would say yes in relation to the Police Service. “And I want to give you the assurance that we give out contracts; I have given out in excess of 100 contracts and not a single gang leader or a gang member has been given out a contract by the Police Service.” He reiterated he had no control over contracts which were linked to gang members.
On whether the Government was aware of allegations about Rodriguez’s involvement in gang activity, Williams said the question the media ought to pose was who had control over governmental contracts, adding it was not he. “I would say I passed it on and that is as far as I am willing to go,” Williams added.
National Security Minister Gary Griffith again distanced himself from Rodriguez yesterday, insisting his ministry played no part in awarding the Duncan Street police post contract. He also vowed to “pull the plug” on those who gave contracts to criminals whether government ministers or not. When he assumed his ministerial portfolio, Griffith said, he had discovered there were “persons involved in criminal activity who had state contracts.”
Griffith said he could not speak on behalf of “government officials or others” who awarded the contract for the police post. “What I am in the position to do is ensure that any criminal gang leader, gang member or drug lord who wants to pretend that they are contractors and acquire state contracts, I intend to pursue vigorously to ensure these contracts are removed from these individuals,” he added.
Saying he would not turn a blind eye, Griffith said he would ensure that taxpayers’ money did not fall into the hands of criminals and he intended to ensure contracts, whether given by government ministers or not, were awarded properly. He said: “I certainly did not give any contract and if it is any government minister gave contacts to any criminals, I totally condemn that.
“What I intend to do is to make use of the watch list that the police are fully aware of, based on the intelligence, and it is confirmed that we know who the gang leaders are and we know what contracts they have, and I will pull the rug from under them and take away these contracts.” Asked to specify whether Rodriguez was one such gang leader, he declined to identify individuals. He said he would “definitely not call names or contracts,” but information was passed on to him from the police.
“But I can say I am fully aware of who the individuals are. What I need to do is liaise with the relevant government officials who have been giving out these contracts and to ensure it is not done. “I have no problem if any individual was previously in criminal activity and has turned over a new leaf and was awarded a contract.” he added. He said when he became the minister he “analysed the whole situation” of criminal activity which included gang-related activity.
Acknowledging there were “cold-blooded killers” who were using the guise of “community leaders” to acquire contracts, Griffith said: “This must not be a government that would consider cold-blooded murderers and call them community leaders.
“They are not community leaders. They are cold-blooded killers and they would be treated as such. I have no intention, as the Minister of National Security, to negotiate with criminal elements and have a soft approach and give them ‘fish’ in the hope that they would turn away from a life of crime.” He said his current focus was on the spate of killings in Malabar, Maloney and Arima, adding what was happening in those areas was “collateral damage.”
He said: “These two gangs having the audacity to be fighting over turf and to get the other’s contracts. They don’t understand they have been given an opportunity to turn away from a life of crime. “What I will do is take this opportunity away from them and ensure that they would not get any more contracts.”
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