After a notable absence from the public, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley finally addressed the issues headlining national discourse over the past few weeks.
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All-out war over Laventille protest
The enemy lines are drawn. Police say they have declared war with protesting residents of Laventille. “As far as we are concerned, this is an all-out war. There is nothing to negotiate,” an angry Head of the North Eastern Division, Inspector Roger Alexander, told the Guardian yesterday. Using words like “enemy” to refer to the residents, he said police officers were shot at four times during patrols in different parts of Laventille yesterday, a major crime hot spot.
“Thankfully, no-one was injured but whole day they kept calling for back up.” Alexander said it was a statement by a resident to the media that caused the police to view the situation as a war. “He said on national television that the police have to sign off their firearms when they leave for home, meaning they don’t have to do that. “I take that as a deliberate threat.”
Alexander said police operations in the area have been intensified with a calibrated effort by officers from the Guard and Emergency Branch, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), the CCTV Unit, the North Eastern Division and the Defence Force. “I wouldn’t call it a lockdown but we have stepped up operations.” He said the police were informed that residents are planning major protest action today. They have been burning debris and engaging in protest action since the shooting of 19-year old Keshorn Daniel from the area.
Alexander said two people from the St Paul Street area were shot and killed by gang members yesterday but residents did not say a word. “They came down from the top of the hill and killed two people on the road. But nobody heard or saw this.” Asked if the killings were gang-related, he said, “Most situations are more or less gang-related.”
Alexander said he planned to ask acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams this morning to suspend the Hearts and Minds project the IATF has been engaged in with at-risk youth in Laventille. The unit comes under the IATF, which has spearheaded an effort to teach the youths of St Barb’s, one of the more volatile areas in Laventille, mathematics, English, computer literacy and other subjects. “You can’t go to people holding out your hand and they are shooting at it,” Alexander said.
He criticised commentators who he said sit in their ivory towers and talk about police injustice without fully understanding what was happening on the ground. Alexander said he asked officers to use their cell phones to get criminals shooting at the police on video. He also challenged detractors of the police to change their residences and go and live in Laventille.