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Rowley on escalating murder rate: Unacceptable

Saturday, February 27, 2016
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, right, greets former People’s National Movement leader and prime minister Patrick Manning during the funeral service for party stalwart Winston Moore at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in San Fernando, yesterday. (See page A6) Photo: KRISTIAN DE SILVA

Urgent action is being taken to deal with the unacceptable murder rate in Trinidad and Tobago, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday.

Rowley, who is also the chairman of the National Security Council, made the comment as he responded to questions put to him by Naparima MP and former Ambassador to the United Nations Rodney Charles in the House of Representatives yesterday.

Charles had asked Rowley if, given the high murder rate for the year-to-date in the country, he was satisfied with his government’s plans to reduce the murder rate. 

Rowley got up and said: “The answer is yes.” 

He then took his seat. 

The Opposition MP then asked Rowley if he agreed that the country was likely to have its highest annual murder rate this year and that there was need for urgent action to prevent that from becoming reality.

Rowley said: “The answer is that the trajectory is unacceptable and urgent action is being taken.”

He did not elaborate further.

There have been some 79 murders within the first 57 days of this year, among them 30-year-old Japanese pannist Asami Nagakiya, whose body was found under a tree in the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, on Ash Wednesday, and four teenage schoolboys—Denelson Smith, 17, and Mark Richards, 16, in Laventille (January 21), and Stephan Singh and Daniel Halls, both 16, in St Augustine on Tuesday of this week. 

Days after the killings of Smith and Richards, Rowley said joint army/police patrols would intensify in crime hotspots and remain in effect for as long as deemed necessary by the authorities. But the murders continue in Laventille and across the country.

Rowley arrived in the Parliament more than two-and-a-half hours after the scheduled 1.30 pm start of the sitting yesterday, after attending the funeral of a PNM stalwart in San Fernando. (See page A6) The questions to the PM were therefore deferred to shortly before the 4.30 pm tea break when he arrived in the Chamber.

Responding to another question on the Couva Children’s and Adult Hospital which was opened by the former government days before the September 7 general election last year, Rowley said the project was still under construction and was scheduled for completion at the end of March. 

He said consequently the defects liabilities provision will take effect from April this year. 

He said pending the completion of the hospital, Udecott would continue to provide oversight and have any defects identified and addressed by the contractor. Udecott will also ensure that the security of the facilities and equipment at the hospital was maintained, he added.

He said, however, that if the Government was unable to secure the equipment for the institution the former government would be held personally responsible for putting it there while the hospital was still under construction.

 Rowley added that the issue of providing staff to operate the hospital when completed remains a major issue. 

“Where will the staff come from?” he asked, adding that it was not his government’s intention to take staff from other hospitals with the risk of compromising the services at those facilities.

He said consideration was also being given to have the facility at Couva operate under a public/private sector partnership.

The Prime Minister also updated legislators on the number of people who have benefited from the Children’s Life Fund since September to date. 

The fund was established by the former People’s Partnership government to assist children in need of life-saving operations abroad. Rowley said since September 2015 to present, seven children were assisted at a cost of over $2 million. He said for the same period, 16 applicants were approved at a cost of over $4 million. He said for February 2016, six applications were received. 

He said since the PNM assumed office last September “we have received no complaint of money being stolen from the fund.”

The Prime Minister said the CSO had also informed the Government that the unemployment rate for the third quarter of last year was 3.4 per cent, in response to a question from Princes Town MP Barry Padarath.


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