Business groups on Sunday supported a call for immediate action to halt the out-of-control crime situation which left over 24 people dead last week as they responded to this newspaper front page editorial.
The contradictory positions of the Commissioner of Police, whose job it is to arrest criminals, and that of the Prime Minister, on the award of contracts to gang leaders, have resulted in part to an erosion of confidence in the Government’s stance in fighting crime.
Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce CEO, Gabriel Faria
Chief executive officer of the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Gabriel Faria, said he believed some kind of extreme action needed to be taken.
Faria said the Chamber was so concerned that it had called an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.
“We called a board meeting to discuss the matter because we believe that extreme action needs to taken to address the current crime situation in T&T,” Faria said.
He agreed with the editorial’s call for National Security Minister Stuart Young multiple portfolios to be reduced to just the National Security Ministry.
Faria revealed that over the past year, a group of private sector companies has partnered with the Chamber, the T&T Police Service (TTPS) and other interest groups come together to discuss the issue of crime and come up with viable solutions.
“The private sector is doing something, the Police Commissioner and his leadership are meeting with the private sector and we are working on things, however, it is clear that more needs to be done,” Faria said.
“While action is being taken, we agree that more needs to be done and based on this we are meeting to discuss it but recognise that the situation is continuing to deteriorate and in situations like this, extreme action must be taken.”
Faria said the current situation needs a response that is not “measured.”
“This is a time when a measured response is not going to deliver the results that are necessary, we need to take decisive action, the government needs to show its unwavering commitment to dealing with crime.”
He said while the Government cannot control all aspects of society, it does have control over certain elements that lead to crime.
“As an example, having alleged criminals getting contracts and having Government ministers that have relationships with criminal leaders, are simple matters where the Government has the power to take action.”
Nirad Tewarie, CEO AMCHAM T&T.
The American Chamber of Commerce of T&T (AMCHAM) chief executive officer, Nirad Tewarie, also weighed in on Sunday.
Saying crime has been affecting all sectors of society for several years, Tewarie called for an aggressive and systematic response to criminals who are holding the country to ransom.
“What we need is a systemic approach to arresting crime, so yes we need to do some things that lead to perpetrators being put behind bars but those perpetrators are not just the young boys on the street, they are the people who are facilitating money laundering, who are financing crime, and we have systemically and aggressively gone after those people as well, otherwise we are not going to get anything done. I think what we need is a much more targeted, intelligence-led forensically-supported approach to dismantling the structures that facilitate the crime.”
Tewarie said far too often when there are spikes in crime, there is a perception that police only target a particular kind of community.
“I think there is a legitimate perception that every time things are bad, you go after certain kinds of people in certain kinds of communities and the lack of trust in the country is also fuelling the crime in from the point of view that people feel that they have to fend for themselves. We have to put more resources into justice for the communities where we consider to be high crime and where the gangs are located, so that the vast majority who live there, who are good people not involved in crime, can help and feel safe to go about their daily activities and help with fighting against those elements that are destroying those communities.”
Gregory Aboud, DOMA president
The Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) president Gregory Aboud said this newspaper’s position was evidence of a nation crying out for help.
“There might be a concentration on the northern part of the island but I think it’s safe to say that nowhere is being spared from the scourge of those who think that they could as they want and never be caught,” Aboud said.
“I think the Guardian is well within its right to make an exclamation mark on the seriousness of the problem by publishing a front-page editorial and I hope it is taken in the right spirit by those who are in charge, by those who signed up for the responsibility of protecting our country and its citizens and they take that responsibility and that they take the commentary made in the front-page editorial for what it really is: a cry for help. The country is crying out for help at this time.”
Asked about his thoughts on a State of Emergency (SoE) as has been suggested by some stakeholders, Aboud said that requires an acknowledgment that the State has lost control of the situation.
“If we are going to think about declaring an SoE, I think we should at least accept that we are admitting that we have lost control, I don’t think that an SOE is the most optimal response. I think it places a lot of those who are already at a disadvantage in the country at a greater disadvantage, I think the restriction on movement and on time affects the lower end of our market and puts pressure on those who are already living borderline lives.”
He said instead, police should focus on exercising the powers they have now and enforcing the existing laws as he doesn’t believe that was being done effectively.
“In my opinion it gives the police latitude to do things that they would not ordinarily do under the law and if we want to say that we have lost control then we should at least try to enforce the existing law with the rights and privileges that the police already possess and if we do that and we fail then we could talk about an SoE but let us be very honest, the lawful authority of the police is not being brought to bear with enough strength against these episodes of repeated murders.”
He is calling on police to make arrests to restore public confidence because killers are operating more boldly and brazenly than ever.
“Murderers are killing under the glare of cameras, in plain sight, in public places, in places where crowds exist and it is beyond belief that we can’t see a killer in handcuffs, it is beyond belief that an arrest has not been made and this is not to say that is not an overwhelming task-21 murders in a week is a tremendous burden for any homicide division but choose one or two or three-choose the low-hanging fruit, pick something off the tree, make an arrest and tell us what the evidence is, charge the man and let the country know there is a consequence for killing people in many cases.”
He did not agree with the suggestion to reduce Young’s portfolio saying he believes Young simply needs help managing the ministry.