Perhaps the strongest indication that the Ministry of National Security was not engaged in business as usual was the news that two persons, described as being among Trinidad and Tobago's "biggest gang leaders," had been held at the Hyatt Hotel. The two alleged gang members, held along with a woman described as a "public relations officer" in a sophisticated criminal hierarchy described by the Government during a briefing on Friday, were not going out of their way to be incognito. The three were held after activities that would not be out of line with a sybaritic vacation. They had a procession of visitors and prostitutes at the presidential suites of the Hyatt. Did the arresting officers intercede in normal senior gang member activities or a curfew-induced vacation for the senior management of a criminal enterprise?
So many questions remain to be asked about that engagement, but none of the senior persons at the press table at Friday's press conference seemed aware of the Hyatt arrest. "We have a lot of operations in progress," explained Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs. Police spokesmen would later explain that the arrested persons were believed to be involved in extensive drug trafficking and gunrunning and the alleged leaders of a major gang operation in East Port-of-Spain. All was not obfuscation at the press conference, however, as Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, now clearly steeped in the architecture and language of local gangs, explained in some detail the threat that organised crime posed to law-abiding citizens in Trinidad and Tobago.
Steering media away from the notion of business-suited executives as the "big fish" being sought by the police, the Attorney General explained that the criminal leadership the police were after "don't wear jacket and tie, but they have more money than the man in jacket and tie." AG Ramlogan's presentation to the media on Friday offered more information about the architecture of local criminals and gang infrastructure than had been previously available for public consumption and may well reflect the acquisition of enriched intelligence about the criminals who have so successfully opposed the Police.
The public was invited by Mr Ramlogan to forget Nelson Street and the Plannings as headquarters for gang leaders and he described a new generation of criminals with multiple residences and a willingness to pay lavishly for services in "cash money," to quote the street savvy AG. These are gang bosses with a taste not just for the luxuries of the Hyatt. They have diversified into dancehalls and nightclubs, they promote fetes and concerts and sponsor community activities. The information emerging from the first week of anti-crime activity during the state of emergency and the curfew on declared hotspots remains spotty and disjointed and it's understandable that the Minister of National Security and the Attorney General cannot connect the intelligence dots more clearly for general understanding.
Incidents such as an alleged beating by soldiers at Forres Park are quickly countered by Government allegations of gangland incentives to "take a lash" for pay and show it off to media cameras. The unremitting effort to promote the seriousness of the campaign to disrupt and dismantle gangs was given sharper teeth by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as she handed out keys for a Clifton Street HDC housing project. "And for those bent on remaining in a life of criminality, we will take them out in one way or another," the Prime Minister announced at the ceremony.
The uncertainties of the present will demand more clarity and explanation when Trinidad and Tobago emerges from this enforced security lockdown and the demands of due process are enforced on the hundreds of arrests that have taken place over the last few days. This is when the quality of policework and evidence gathering done during the current state of emergency will make the difference between a temporary stay in cells at the Government's pleasure and solid, sustainable cases that will stand up in court and make a real difference in strikes on the elaborate gang infrastructures that the Attorney General described on Friday.