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CoP identified gap in Beetham response—Dillon

Published: 
Saturday, November 25, 2017

Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams has identified “a gap” in terms of police response and the timeliness of that response to Thursday’s outbreak of violence at Beetham Gardens, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon said during yesterday’s Parliament sitting.

Dillon said police had attempted to arrest two people at Beetham and had been “on the ground” when the protests occurred. But he said they “had to call for reinforcement” and dealt with the matter as quickly as possible.

“With respect to the events that happened (Thursday), the T&T Police Service has had lessons learned (from this) and is well prepared to treat with any eventualities in the future,” Dillon added in response to questions from the Opposition.

Dillon said from a law enforcement perspective, the reason for the eruption of violence was directly based on police arresting two individuals in the Beetham and the reaction of the citizens (there) in support of those two.

He said “zero tolerance” was proposed for any type of behaviour affecting the public. He also said there was no comparison with the events of 1990, but security agencies had plans to treat with matters like 1990’s.

Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, as National Security Council chairman, had given Williams directions - at a meeting yesterday morning - to handle the Beetham matter.

Dillon said joint police/Defence Force and other security agencies’ activities would heighten over Christmas into Carnival 2018 at malls, shopping sites and on highways. There will also be increased DUI and speed testing and Customs officers will heighten services to deal with possible illegal goods entering T&T.

During his contribution, former housing Minister Roodal Moonilal said several crime hotspots were among Housing Development Corporation locations. He said the People’s Partnership Government had interacted with people in Beetham, Laventille and Morvant.

“We were there, we had refurbishing programmes, painting, grass cutting, light-bulbs were changed every Christmas,” he said, adding the PP had community programmes like “Colour Me Orange” and Hoop of Life” and people were mobilised and obtained opportunities for work.

“That helps to keep people together. In Beetham we brought (basket-baller) Shaquille O’Neal for the Hoop of Life programme, the former prime minister called it the Hope of Life Programme.” Moonilal criticised the Prime Minister’s initial reaction to the protests, noting he held a media briefing 24 hours later to “buff” Beetham.

But current Housing Minister rebutted Moonilal’s claims about using social programmes to fight crime.

“We now have information that when he (Moonilal) was minister he paid the ‘coward tax’ to keep a false sense of peace in East Port-of -Spain. All the Life Sport and ‘Hoop of Life’ and ‘Colour Me Orange’ programmes was payment to the criminal element and we’re now reaping the ‘rewards’ and the National Security Minister now has to deal with this!” Mitchell added to UNC MP’s denunciation.