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Soldiers on patrol threaten media

Friday, July 4, 2014
Heavily-armed soldiers patrol along St Paul Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, as the hunt for the killers of Lance Corporal Kayode Thomas continued in Laventille. Soldiers, travelling in convoys, locked down several hotspots in the city as they continued their search. PHOTO: MICHEAL BRUCE

National Security Minister Gary Griffith said yesterday he was concerned about reports made that members of the media had been threatened by soldiers who patrolled the St Paul Street, Port-of-Spain, area following the murder of Lance Corporal Kayode Thomas. In a telephone interview yesterday Griffith said if what happened was indeed true he apologised, adding that it would not happen again. Griffith said he would speak with the Chief of Defence Staff Major Gen Kenrick Maharaj to get further information on the deployment of the soldiers in the area. Griffith said the media was not the enemy and the soldiers ought to know that.


He said around the world the rule regarding the murder of a member of the protective services was that if you touched one you have touched all and the heavy presence of soldiers in the community was not irregular or isolated to Trinidad. He added that the law must do what was needed to suppress criminal activity and the patrols by soldiers without the assistance of police was not illegal. Yesterday masked members of the Regiment, claiming to be members of a special operations unit, were again deployed in east Port-of-Spain and again have been accused of beating residents. One masked officer is alleged to have pointed a loaded high-powered rifle at CNC3 reporter Samuel Mc Knight and told him if he was to record them he would be dealt with. 
The solders were at St Paul Street when the media was called following reports of abuse. 


When McKnight and his cameraman arrived they were told not to record the officers. Residents claim shortly before the media arrived the officers had assaulted them. The regiment officers were also seen patrolling McKai Lands, Belmont, yesterday following protest action by residents who demanded better roads, water, streetlights and jobs. The soldiers told the T&T Guardian if the Prime Minister was not going to do anything about the gangs in the country they would. They were seen questioning young men in the area about the whereabouts of a man identified as “Diamond”. The soldiers were heard telling one of the young men that he would return later in the evening for him.


Speaking with the T&T Guardian yesterday residents said they were thankful that the officers were there as they provided some level of safety but were upset that the officers were assaulting them. The residents said Thomas was killed by his own neighbours who they said used to benefit from him bringing guns, ammunition and camouflage uniforms for them. That claim, however, was not supported by police attached to the nearby Besson Street Police Station who said they never had cause to suspect the 32-year-old father of eight of any wrongdoing.


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