Soldiers are to return to the streets of T&T immediately to assist in searching and taking out criminals, and they will become a permanent fixture.
The decision came in the wake of the outrageous killing of two schoolboys on their way home in Laventille, on Thursday, by gunmen who dragged them out of a taxi and shot them dead.
Facing criticism over the surge in murders which now stand at 33 in 22 days, Prime Minister Keith Rowley announced at a media briefing in Parliament, yesterday, that soldiers would be assigned to patrol crime hotspots.
Rowley, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon and Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Stuart Young held a news conference at the Parliament yesterday to outline measures to combat the spate of murders.
Rowley said, yesterday, he had “instructed Dillon to instruct the Defence Force to operate in conditions determined by them, within the laws of T&T, virtually permanently, on the streets where criminals have armed themselves and have determined the population is in siege.”
Asked what will be different about this return of soldiers to the nation’s streets, Rowley said: “This time they will stay.”
He said the crime situation usually got worse when the soldiers were taken off the streets.
The PM said while he expected some citizens to complain about this initiative, he insisted he preferred to hear those complaints “than to watch your children being slaughtered in their school uniform.”
He said whenever there was a police killing in Laventille there would usually be criticism from the residents but after the slaughter of the schoolboys, “there is silence and nobody knows who did it.”
He said he wanted to tell the people of Laventille and the rest of the country that if citizens encouraged their family and others “to arm themselves, to hide among you and you provide them with care, then you are as unpatriotic as the ones who pull the trigger.”
Rowley said the police and other security services “had no idea who were the ones that would have done what was done yesterday (Thursday).”
He called on citizens to share information with the authorities to help solve and prevent such murders.
Rowley said the law provides for the Defence Force to operate “freely and unimpeded in the presence of the police,” and “given what we are facing in this escalation of lawlessness, that the appropriate response must be forthcoming and it must be forthwith.”
He insisted his PNM Government “will do what has to be done to bring safety to the people of T&T,” and said the criminals were engaging in unpatriotic, destructive action and not a war. He said a war does not involve “innocent school children.”
“So if there is anybody taking over the streets in Laventille, Enterprise, Tobago, Diego Martin, it will be security services of T&T,” Rowley said. Rowley said the soldiers would also be stationed in other communities.
Dillon said he met yesterday with the acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams, the Chief of Defence Staff Rodney Smart and Prisons Commissioner Sterling Steward “and I literally read the riot act to them because I strongly believe we have to change the way we do business.”
He said a strategy of offence and deterrence would be employed.
“We are going to take the fight to the criminals, those who feel that they can bear arms illegally in T&T,” he added.
Dillon said all his ministry’s available resources would be used in the fight to ensure citizens felt safer.
“It will be focussed and integrated, he said.
“All the forces will be mobilised,” he added.
In response to a question on his comment in Parliament days ago about there being no murder spike in the country, Dillon said it was not his responsibility to “create a state of panic and be alarmist in T&T because the fear of crime is worse than crime itself.”
Dillon said, in response to another question, “Wherever the criminals are we are going to search and take them out legally.”
Rowley and Dillon extended condolences to the family of the deceased students.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday warned people who used social media to make the “nastiest” comments about the schoolboys who were killed in Laventille on Thursday and other citizens that they might be in breach of the law.
Rowley said his Government is “not prepared to allow that kind of behaviour to go unnoticed and would respond appropriately as required.”
There has been widespread condemnation on social media over racist comments celebrating the murders of two Success Laventille Secondary School students on Thursday.
Two Facebook users, in particular, using the names Anita Persaud and Adrian Maharaj, came under heavy fire from other commentators for their comments on a post on the CNC3’s Facebook page.
Persaud posted “4 o’ clock in the morning and a dancing right now lol lol lol two less criminal on the street, god a happy KILL THEM (expletive) OUT.”
After another user condemned the comment, Persaud replied, “Kerlene Dacosta that would not happen because my boys is not drug dealer, but don’t I am praying, praying for more a them get KILL. them little black (expletive).”
And then, “OMG hahaha i am really surprise at the amount of reply and attention i received from my comment, first of all i would like to thank all of you for your reply please keep it coming, and second I still think the freedom of tought and speech still lies in our country, if not well well i just say what is in my mind like it or not, so please feel free to say what is on your mind too. after all every one has their own thinking and that’s it our rights, so don’t feel bad no one will snatch that from you all, just know if you are trying to make me feel bad you are all doing a very bad job, I still feel that it’s a good thing KILL THEM ALL, by the next two decades Trinidad will be crime free.”
After users shared screenshots of Persaud’s comments thousands of times, she took to Facebook to claim that her account was hacked.
She wrote “please people try to understand, I am not the one that write these things, someone had a feast with my acc last night I reported this to the Toronto police and they are looking into it, I tought was only one post but I am shock a you all to see these other post, I must let you guys know that I will the person/persons that is responsible for this, and everyone that share this post will be investigated, this is not fair some just damage my character while I was sleeping, do you people think we in Canada really have the time to get up 4 am to dance. ent”