Chairman of the People's National Movement (PNM) Franklin Khan says Government has finally recognised the gravity of the crime situation in the country.He said a state of emergency was the ultimate step in fighting crime and the PNM was waiting "anxiously" to see whether it would have a positive impact on the crime situation. Khan said the decision to enforce a limited state of emergency was done "obviously" because of a written statement by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley on Saturday who expressed willingness to hold discussions with Government on the crime situation.
However, he said, the party was disappointed Government had not consulted with Rowley on the decision to implement the emergency. On Sunday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced the institution of a limited state of emergency from midnight in several areas deemed as crime hot spots. Khan said: "The PNM is disappointed that on such a serious national issue the Prime Minister did not see it fit to consult the Opposition leader before the decision was taken. "It is passing strange that the state of emergency was called after the Opposition leader indicated the gravity of the situation in the press release and he called for dialogue between the Opposition and the Government."
Khan was speaking at a news conference at Balisier House, Port-of-Spain, yesterday. He said the PNM was willing to assist in any way possible to bring the crime surge under control. He said crime should not be treated as a political matter. Khan said the PNM's position was if Government cannot deal with the situation then "pack your bags and walk." Khan said the decision for a state of emergency "was not well thought through" since a Sunday news report said deputy political leader of the United National Congress Dr Roodal Moonilal said there was no need for a state of emergency. "So ultimately, even though there is a state of emergency, it wasn't a long discourse and discussion that was well thought through.
"Something happened between Saturday and Sunday to cause this situation to arise and it is obviously Dr Rowley's letter because Dr Rowley did in fact indicate that this thing is getting too far," Khan said.
He said since Government assumed office it dismantled the national security apparatus, including the cancellation of the offshore patrol vessels contract; disbanding the Special Anti-Crime Unit of T&T and selling the airship. He said Government was yet to state its comprehensive crime plan.
He added: "Whether or not there were certain weaknesses in these institutions or apparatus were they dismantled solely for political reasons. "The Government has left a major vacuum in the crime prevention mechanism and this is what we are paying the price for today," Khan said. PNM vice chairman Camille Robinson-Regis said President George Maxwell Richards should have agreed with a state of emergency before the Prime Minister made the announcement on Sunday. She said it was unfortunate.