There was evidence in Tuesday’s protests in Port-of-Spain of people with political ambitions associating with criminal elements - and what was anticipated by protest organisers was a far worse situation than what occurred. However, police did their job to prevent organisers from perpetrating a worse situation.
This was the word from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday.
During a press conference called specifically to address the protests, Rowley said what was seen was spontaneous and sporadic fires and an “in your face” response to police, which was all organised.
However, he said prior to Tuesday security forces had gathered information that the situation was being organised by people known to police. He said while there’s a difference between information and evidence, the information they had made them aware of what was being organised and who was organising it.
“I trust that information will evolve into evidence so that people who threatened national safety and well being will be brought to justice—sometime, somewhere,” Rowley said.
Whether it was due to political involvement, he said, “I don’t want to speak for police but what I can say is, in this situation and prior ones, there’s evidence of people with political ambitions associating with criminal elements. That evidence exists. How it’s used is another story, how successful they are is another story and who they are is a matter for the police.”
He said he’d obtained information from state agencies which shared it with him.
“In this case, there was some prior information and it turned out the information was correct,” he said.
Rowley said he’d been in Tobago on Monday for the funeral of his best friend (PNM’s Neil Wilson). Monday was also his 35th wedding anniversary “to the same woman.” But he said he returned to Trinidad on Monday night and was monitoring the situation on Tuesday, present all along. He said he allowed the National Security Minister and Police Commissioner to speak on the protests. He met with security heads on Tuesday night but didn’t “run out in the first hour and try to talk.”
Rowley also recalled the 2004 attempt by the PNM government to have a plan for underperforming inner-city youths who could fall prey to criminal elements. But he said it was halted due to perception of favouring some. He noted people like UNC’s Wade Mark and others had spoken out against the plan for black youths. He said even some of his own colleagues in Budget debate on the issue had claimed it was a mistake on a document page.
The PM said he defended the programme but was accused of being racist and defending black people. He said it wasn’t fashionable then to have such a plan and there was no Black Lives Matter lobby or people talking about George Floyd’s murder in the US. Therefore, he said when the UNC’s leader recently criticised about what the PNM had done in constituencies, he wanted to remind her of the criticism her colleague Mark had delivered 16 years ago on the PNM’s plan for such areas.