Minister of National Security Stuart Young yesterday accused the United National Congress (UNC) of aligning with criminal elements to gain political ground.
Young made the allegation at a media conference at his Port-of-Spain office yesterday in the wake of reports over the weekend that a National Security report had raised the issue of known gang leaders benefitting from lucrative state contracts as far back as 2014.
He pointed out, however, that the Opposition was guilty of seeking out suspected criminal elements to campaign for them. He noted a recent event where an individual was called onto the UNC’s political platform to address the youth of the nation.
Young said he made background checks on the young man and discovered he had criminal charges against him. Young said the individual was introduced to the public by deputy leader Jearlean John, who now seems to have taken on a disturbing mandate to do certain work in the east-west corridor.
“This is a very worrying turn of events and when one traces the history of the UNC, it seems as though this is coming straight from their playbook and today I am putting the population on notice to please keep an eye out for this type of activity and behaviour,” Young said.
“The UNC thinks that they have to get into bed with the criminal elements and in particular persons associated with gang activity in order to win elections and to make political mileage and to gain political ground.”
Young also spoke of the UNC’s LifeSport scandal, which he said funded criminals to the tune of $400 million from its initial $29 million funds.
Reminded about the fiasco involving former Housing Minister Marlene Mc Donald taking Sea Lots community activist Cedric “Burkie” Burke to a function at President’s House as her guest, and if he could say for sure that Mc Donald had severed all connection with Burke, Young replied: “Cedric Burke has never been a PNM candidate, local or otherwise. At the time when that incident took place, my cabinet colleague was sanctioned by the Prime Minister and we all know what happened she was removed from the cabinet as a result of that…I don’t think that this political party and the current Government is currently in favour of any criminal element. I will not condone that as Minister of National Security…No, I cannot say definitively.”
But in an immediate response, UNC MP Dr Roodal Moonilal said the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration had taken decisive and far-reaching decisions following allegations pertaining to LifeSport and had also facilitated an independent investigation. He said Young ought to get down to his job as National Security Minister and end the blame game.
“No amount of blame game with absolving the Government’s failure to deal with gang activities. They have a senator who is a convicted DUI still in the Senate,” Moonilal said.
“I believe that the Prime Minister ought to rein him in and explain to him the difference of speaking as a Government Minister and speaking as a propaganda artiste of the ruling party. ... I call on him to desist from this dangerous course of action of undermining the integrity of the State.”