Griffith: It was not a safe Carnival

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Gary Griffith

Gary Griffith insists Carnival was much safer when he was Commissioner of Police in 2020.

Nonetheless, he commended the effort and dedication of those national-security personnel who worked amid the difficulty posed by the four per cent wage increase offer and acceptance.

In a media release, Griffith said, “We must face the reality that what occurred over the Carnival weekend, with the nine murders, the stabbings, shootings, even at police officers on patrol, and a foreign visitor, the brazen robberies, reports of rapes and other assaults; cannot be described as a ‘safe Carnival,’ just because someone says so, as the data clearly shows otherwise.”

Griffith said the police were not to blame, but rather, Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds, “who virtually abandoned his post to revel and play mas,” should be held accountable.

In the past 25 years, none of the serving security ministers from Joe Theodore, Howard Chin Lee, Martin Joseph, John Sandy, Jack Warner, Emmanuel George, Griffith himself, Carl Alfonso, Eddie Dillon and Stuart Young, he said, “would have been so irresponsible to shirk their responsibility on the two most difficult days for national security operations.” Newsday has not verifified this claim.

Griffith added, “This is Hinds clearly showing his inability to understand his role and function. This irresponsible behaviour also shows Hinds’ fundamental disregard for leadership by example.”

Griffith said the thousands of officers who worked for Carnival understood their role and function, in contrast to Hinds, who was enjoying himself in costume.

“This abandonment of post by Hinds during Carnival is similar to a general fighting a battle and telling his officers he doesn’t have to be there with them on the day of the battle, because they are already prepared. It is simply poor leadership.”

Griffith said this caused the failure of effective responses to potentially volatile situations. Events such as the annual raft-up, which takes place on Carnival Saturday, “Down the Islands,” where hundreds of boats converge, had not one police marine or coastguard vessel deployed.

Griffith said the buck must stop with the head of the National Security Council, the Prime Minister, alleging that Hinds’ masquerade “can only take place if it was endorsed by the same Keith Rowley.”

He recommended the Commissioner of Police should check again whether there was a full contingent of officers on duty, alleging it was far less than the 99.3 per cent turnout he cited for 2020.

He said the public would know for themselves, as there was a visible difference, in that two police officers were stationed at every street corner in Woodbrook and throughout Port of Spain. Griffith blamed not the officers, but poor co-ordination and the use of manpower.

Comparing his time as commissioner without murders and violent crime, Griffith said 2023 was very different from a “safe Carnival.”

He added that the 2020 Carnival was virtually traffic-free, in total contrast to this year.

“There was a total absence of a comprehensive traffic plan, as we witnessed gridlock throughout the country, and especially in areas around the Queen’s Park Savannah, and in roadways, in and out of the west.”

Lastly in campaign-like rhetoric, Griffith – the head of the National Transformation Alliance – said, “I want to assure the public that unlike Rowley, I will take full responsibility for the safety and security of citizens, and just as was done in 2020 and part of 2021, we will fix our crime problem again, and use the same approach in every aspect of governance to ensure a bright, safe, secure, and prosperous future.”