Eleven Maloney men, described by police as gang leaders and members, who were arrested during the state of emergency are claiming they were used as scapegoats to make the Government look good in its fight against crime. The men, who campaigned and voted for the People's Partnership Government in the May 24, 2010 general election, have vowed not to support Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar's regime again. "Not we and the People's Partnership again. Tell Kamla that! Is back to the PNM," said Jervon Monroe, one of the 11 arrested.
On Wednesday, a contingent of police officers accompanying sniffer dogs swooped down on Building 16 and arrested ten men ranging in ages 14 to 30. There are 21 buildings in Maloney. Kevin Moore, 21, who was also handcuffed, photographed and detained for 24 hours at the Arouca Police Station, said the police stated that the building had the "biggest and baddest gang leaders and guns," which they intended to wipe out. The police, Moore said, also searched the men for cocaine, ammunition and marijuana.
Police leave empty handed
Approximately 64 apartments were searched and ransacked, some doors were kicked down, Moore said, with the police coming up empty handed. "Miss, they ain't find one gun...not even a bullet, a five piece or an ounce of cocaine," Moore said. "It have no gang members in here. They looking in the wrong place. Miss, nobody here is involved in crime. We not disrespectful. You could ask anybody in the building." The men said they were not given an explanation as to why they were arrested.
"We were taken to the building's carpark where we were photographed by the police in full view of onlookers and tenants," said Monroe (Jervon). "They gave the impression that we were wanted by the law and finally nabbed." Moore said that the only thing they were guilty of was liming outside the building, rather than getting involved in criminal activities. At the station, Moore said they enquired why they were being detained, but they got no answer. Moore admitted that this was not the first time he had been arrested.
On Thursday, the men, who claimed they were manhandled and roughed up, were released without being charged. Moore said the police threatened to come after him, stressing that he was now a marked man. On Friday, the authorities said a total of 462 persons had been arrested, including two people described as the country's biggest leaders of well-known criminal gangs in Sea Lots, Port-of-Spain. The two gang leaders were arrested on Friday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
Used as scapegoats
Nicholas Samuel, who was spared from being arrested due to the fact that he was the only adult at home with his younger brothers, stated that the 11 detainees were used as scapegoats in the state of emergency. "The Government going after people in the ghetto to make it look like they weeding out gang leaders and they serious about crime. But innocent people falling prey to this. This is not right." Samuel said he had no problem with the police doing their work.
"I too want to see the criminals behind bars. They have this country under siege." Samuel questioned the reason for the lockdown, which he insisted was only a "pappyshow" to make the Government look good. Samuel admitted to supporting the People's Partnership Government, stating that he wanted change in the PNM stronghold area since unemployment and social programmes were sadly lacking. "All of we here campaigned for the Government. We even voted for them."
Back to the PNM
In light of the incident, which has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the men, Samuel vowed they will not be voting for the party again in 2015 general election. "Is back to the PNM." The men said it made no sense seeking legal representation on the matter, since they felt they would be victimised and hounded. David Phillip of Building 17, said he too was rounded up during the police crackdown because of his Rastafarian hairstyle. Luckily Phillip, 56, was released after one police officer recognised him.
State of emergency a smoke screen
Waving his United National Congress and Congress of the People party cards, Phillip said he was disenchanted with the Government's handling of the state of emergency. "I don't like what they doing," he said, venting his feelings. A well-known activist, Phillip said the PP were only going after the small man and people living in the ghetto, which angered him. "I tell you flat. I don't like what they doing. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander." Phillip said the Government called a state of emergency to divert the unions from shutting down the country. "It's a smoke screen. That is how I look at it."
Having worked his fingers to the bone to ensure the party got into Government, Phillip said he was still jobless, even though he was promised employment. Despite being interviewed for a handy man job at the Ministry of Health, Phillip said: "I am not going to beg them for anything. I will make sure they come out of office. I fed up with politicians." He complained that he was unable to pay his rent and was owing the Housing Development Corporation over $10,000 in arrears. Stuck on the front of his door were several yellow and white miniature COP and PP stickers, which are testimony to his allegiance to the parties. Phillip said in front of this very door, Works and Infrastructure Minister Jack Warner, Finance Minister Winston Dookeran and Sports Minister Anil Roberts visited prior to election.
"I bend over backwards campaigning for them. Everyday I mobilised people. They used to send maxi taxis in front of my house to pick up supporters from in here to go to political meetings. Most of the men who were arrested as gang members accompanied me to these meetings and even voted for the party." Phillip said the men were instrumental in making a life-size bristol board coffin carrying Patrick Manning, then prime minister and People's National Movement leader, during the final PP rally at the Aranguez Savannah. "We buried the PNM and Manning and if we have to do it for the PP, then so be it."