Amid calls from the public for his removal as the murder toll hit the 400 mark and talk of a Cabinet reshuffle swirling in recent weeks, embattled National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds yesterday admitted that his future was now entirely in the hands of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
Speaking to Guardian Media after the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s (TTPS) passing out parade for Batch One of 2022 at the Police Academy in St James, which was mere hours after a Cabinet retreat ended, Hinds appeared less confident than he usually is when asked about if he was concerned or worried that he would have to change office again.
“An experienced parliamentarian and an experienced minister like me will have understood from the day I approached this business that Cabinet appointments are always within the domain of one person and on this occasion, a very noble, dignified and sober person and that matter is altogether left to him (Prime Minister Rowley).”
Prime Minister Rowley had led a three-day working Cabinet retreat at CrewsInn, Chaguaramas, which culminated hours before Hinds attended the passing out parade.
Rumours of an impending Cabinet reshuffle resurfaced during the retreat. Sources told Guardian Media that the performance of ministers was a topic during the session.
But when pressed on what transpired at the retreat, Hinds said the business of Cabinet is confidential.
While addressing the 97 newly minted police officers during the passing-out parade, the National Security Minister admitted the country is currently under siege by the criminal element.
“At a time when we are besieged by the behaviour of some of our citizens and, in some cases visitors here, who take the opportunity to commit crimes and create mayhem, I am more than happy to know 97 other citizens of this country have decided not to just talk, not to just criticise, but to come forward and to take an oath and say ‘I will stand with Minister Hinds’ and the other people who have done that in the defence of the Constitution and the law and the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
Hinds also said the country is plagued by home invasions, organised crime and the easy accessibility of illegal drugs.
Additionally, he said the trade of legal guns in the country was also a concerning issue.
“Even in the trade of legal guns which we recently experienced in Trinidad and Tobago and which we estimate to have generated about $4.5 billion worth of business was carried on in this country, in our view, with little or no regard to considerations of national security ... a serious matter indeed that is gaining the attention of law enforcement.”
Hinds also urged the new officers to hold themselves accountable to the laws of the land whether they are in uniform or not, as he said the Police Academy has been able to survive rogue officers.
On the other hand, he applauded the TTPS for making strides in mitigating gang activities, especially within communities. He said officers have been arresting and charging people under the Anti-Gang law.
Hinds also expressed condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of officers Josette Marshall and Dwight Skeete, who died in a murder-suicide on Tuesday.
Saying everyone faces stress in life, Hinds said, “All it says to me is that police offices are first post human persons and we all face our stresses in life and I am not privy to the details around that and I think it will be imprudent for me to go further than to express my deep condolences to the police service, to their respective families and to you as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, because we lost two, not just citizens but two serving police officers in circumstances that are yet to be made clear to me.”
Also addressing new officers, Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher encouraged the new officers to build trust with the population, adapt to new technologies, prioritise mental and physical health, and never stop learning as they move on to the next chapter of their careers.