Seven prison officers, including an assistant superintendent, are all expected to be charged in connection with last Friday’s daring prison break.
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Gary knocks US video on crime in T&T
National Security Minister Gary Griffith has knocked a documentary produced by a US online news organisation, saying it does not give a true sense of Trinidad. Vice News has produced a 23-minute documentary, titled Corruption, Cocaine and Murder in Trinidad. The video is online at https://news.vice.com/video/murder-and-corruption-in-trinidad. It has been shared and viewed thousands of times via social media.
Griffith, who said he had seen the video, said it gave a sense of gloom and doom when that was not the case.
“It focused specifically on a small percentage which is causing fear among the 90 per cent of the law-abiding citizens. Serious crimes, including woundings and shootings, have gone down dramatically,” Griffith said. He admitted murders still posed a challenge to the police but assured they were doing all they could to hunt down criminals and bring them to justice.
He added: “The police have been doing an excellent job and on a daily basis have been recovering a large number of illegal arms and ammunition. We still have to crack the murders and go straight to the source. He said he intended to “rip out the fangs” of gang leaders who have access to state funding as they were using the money only to fuel gang violence and the drug trade.
“There are a small number who continue to call themselves community leaders and the best way to deal with them is to cut their financial access to state funding as this affects the whole criminal justice system. "They are using this money to purchase more weapons and to pay youths to carry out their nefarious activities. I am not turning a blind eye to anyone,” Griffith added.
On the issue of bribes being taken by the Coast Guard, as alleged in the video, Lieut Commander Kirk Jean-Baptiste said the organisation did not condone that.
Urging anyone with such information to go to the police, Jean-Baptiste added: “We trust they will do this in the best interest of national security so the allegations could be properly investigated, as opposed to just making blanket statements.”
Video paints T&T’s darkness—PNM
PNM’s public relations officer Faris Al-Rawi said the video showed a “darknesss” which was felt by many citizens. He also questioned the role of the police in the video and demanded answers as to how its presenter, US citizen Daniel Gold, was allowed “easy access” to handle exhibits, such as a gun, when the local media were not afforded such an opportunity.
“Very importantly the video brings to the immediate fore a critical issue which this government hopes will never come to light, which is the connection that this government has been feeding criminal elements through state work. “The most silent Prime Minister continues to be resolutely defiant to the needs of the citizens. All talk and no action have resulted in the destruction of the psyche of T&T,” Al-Rawi added.
What’s in the video
A description of the documentary posted with the video said Vice News visited depressed communities of Port-of-Spain and spoke with the police, activists, community leaders and gangsters to understand Trinidad’s decade-plus-long spike in killings. It added: “Many of the murders are attributed to ruthless and politically connected street gangs which control territories that are sometimes no larger than a city block. The gangs fight over lucrative government contracts meant to provide social services and combat unemployment.
“But gang violence is merely a symptom of a bigger problem. Trinidad has become an important stop for drugs headed to West Africa and the US. “Many observers point to ‘the big fish’, the nameless political and business elites who are behind drug trafficking and the culture of endemic corruption and murder that comes with it.” The description also mentioned the assassination of prominent Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal on May 4.
The video features interviews with self-proclaimed Beetham community activist Kenneth “Spanish” Rodriguez; a gang leader, who wears a bandanna to hide his face; and Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr, who says crime spiralled after 1990 because he was no longer keeping it under control. Insp Roger Alexander and other police officers are seen patrolling Laventille. Community activist Hal Greaves and commentators Renee Cummings and Daurius Figueira also appear.
Apart from Cummings, the interviewees’ comments are sub-titled.