Last update: 09-Dec-2013 11:04 am
Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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No police protection for Opposition Leader
The State has failed to provide security for Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley for the past three years. It has forced Rowley to churn out thousands of dollars to protect himself. However, Rowley is not the only opposition leader who was stripped of security by the State. Then leader of the United National Congress, Basdeo Panday, also had his security pulled by the People’s National Movement (PNM) while he served as opposition leader.
At the PNM’s final public by-election meeting in St Joseph on Friday, Rowley raised the issue about not being provided with security. Rowley explained that after the May 24, 2010, general election two police officers were assigned to provide him with security after he became Opposition Leader. “That was in June of 2010.” In November of 2010, Rowley said, “I was informed by the police that I don’t need security.”
Rowley said since then he has put in place his own security. He said in T&T where every shadow walks with a gun, this exposes him to risks. The PNM leader said while he was denied security, the Government has been giving their friends state security contracts. A PNM source revealed that Rowley has forked out more than $500,000 in the last three years to protect himself.
The source said Rowley has been spending on average $15,000 for the last two-and-a-half years. In recent months, with rising crime and election campaigns, he was forced to double security, sometimes averaging $30,000 a month. The source said this was unfair to Rowley since government ministers have been taking advantage of the “flashing blue lights” offered by the State to go from one night club to the next.
Griffith: It is irregular and inappropriate
Yesterday, National Security Minister Gary Griffith could not say why Rowley’s security was pulled. “I don’t know on what grounds that was done...if it was based on the police stating that they did not find it was warranted. I really don’t know. That happened when I was not minister.” However, Griffith said he would expect that people who hold public office, especially Rowley, be afforded security.
“I would fully endorse and support the fact that it should be mandatory...that someone who is the Leader of the Opposition should have that type of security... To me, based on my security training, it is natural that the person who is Leader of the Opposition, that can very well become the prime minister and you have a support base of less than half of the country of voters, that person should be provided with that type of security by the State. “But then again, that is all my personal view.”
Griffith said Special Branch officers would normally do a threat assessment of an individual in public life to ascertain whether or not security from the State was needed. “That is why the Attorney General, Chief Justice and President are provided state security.” Griffith said he would speak to Rowley after tomorrow’s by-election. “I will discuss it with him in his official capacity.” Griffith said when he was appointed minister, he spoke to Rowley unofficially about the issue.
Williams refuses comment
Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams said “unless I can verify what was said by the Opposition Leader I would not comment.”
Panday: A person like Rowley requires security
Panday admitted that the PNM had pulled his security while he served as opposition leader. “They never gave a reason and I never took it up. I simply ignored them.” Panday served as opposition leader four times, the last being from 2001 to 2010. “It might have been a burden to have security following me around. Right now I feel totally free.” He said if Rowley wants security, it should be given.
“I suppose he should request it, and the Government would decide if he should have it or not.” If Rowley’s request is turned down, Panday said, he would be owed an explanation. “I suppose a person like Rowley requires security. He is known for his fierceness.”
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