Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley says moves to force police officers to charge people during the state of emergency was a very dangerous precedent. Rowley said Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs was "was quite prepared to play 'choirgirl' to this kind of development." He said the police don't appear to be operating under his direction in the state of emergency. "Clearly it is not, and the Commissioner of Police is to be held responsible for surrendering his authority to the politicians and for putting policemen at risk," Rowley said. He said the reputation of the police was being destroyed. He said the Government was handling the entire state of emergency badly. "It is the epitome of incompetence," he stressed.
Rowley said the police were disrespecting the office of Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). Rowley made the claim in an interview in the Red House yesterday. He was commenting on Tuesday's public showing of alleged CCTV recordings of violent attacks on Nelson Street, Port-of-Spain. The video showed people being robbed in the cars and others being murdered by residents of the street. The cases of 21 residents of Nelson Street were dismissed because DPP Roger Gaspard told the court he had insufficient evidence to prosecute them. The video was presented by Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson during a news conference, after a six-hour National Security Council meeting at the Office of the Prime Minister on Tuesday.
"Since when the police present evidence to the media that they couldn't present in court?" Rowley said. "What that police officer was doing was an affront to the DPP." Rowley said he wanted to know what conclusion should a citizen come to after the police showed the video in public after the independent DPP said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the 21 residents of Nelson Street. He said the police were being tarnished by the execution of the state of emergency. Rowley said the excuse that there was no witness to give evidence in the matters was a poor one. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and the police said on Tuesday that the Nelson Street residents were released because there were no witnesses to give supporting evidence in the matters.
"When this is all over, the T&T Police Service would have lost all credibility," Rowley said. He said how was the citizen to know the video footage was from Nelson Street. "The Police Service is being used by this Government to do what they thought was a PR bonanza...It is turning out to be a PR disaster and the quicker they end this state of emergency and release the state security from all of this, the better for all of us," the Opposition leader said. "I take serious offence to government spokespersons who say that if you object to these things you are unpatriotic." He was also critical of the high-powered team of attorneys, including Law Association president Dana Seetahal, SC, selected to prosecute people arrested during the state of emergency under the Anti-Gang Act.
"That to me was the most dangerous of all the developments," he said. Responding to questions on the list of new areas under curfew from last night, Rowley said he wanted to know why Penal/Siparia was not included in that list. "We still haven't touched Penal/Debe, her constituency (Siparia)..She (PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar) is playing favourites," he added.