Hinds knocks East PoS residents: Where is outrage against gangs?

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Police at the scene of shooting at Harpe Place, Obseratory Street, Port of Spain on March
16 where five people were killed and three injured. PHOTOS BY Angelo Marcelle

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, in the wake of Saturday’s deadly gang attack at Harpe Place in Port of Spain, says there appears to be no community desire to stop gang warfare in the area. In a lengthy post on Facebook, Hinds also asked the residents of Charford Court, Basilon Street and environs whether they would go through the rituals and be back to life and business as normal by Monday. He also asked whether these deaths would prompt “a call to sincerity and determined action from them.”

Hinds was addressing the murderous incident in which five people, including police sergeant Larry Phillip, were killed on Saturday. Rudolph James, Randy Graves, Pete Noray, and Devon Jack were also murdered. Three others – Richard Pierre, Wendell Primus, and Akina Thomas – were injured and hospitalized. In the aftermath of the murders, police and soldiers were deployed to the scene as angry residents hurled abuses at the officers.

In his post, Hinds said the murderous explosion of deadly violence that erupted at Harpe Place, Observatory Street, Port of Spain, has shocked and traumatized all. He said he knew three of the dead, including Phillips, and shared his condolences with the families and friends affected by the event.

“This community and its immediate environs have hosted countless explosions of such violence over decades. This bloody event took five lives, including my friend (everybody’s friend) Larry Phillips, a Sergeant of police/bandsman, who was ‘liming’ there as he usually did, including Pete, who I knew and interacted with over many years,” he said.

Hinds said many of these communities were doing well and have done well, but the “trajectory of violence” seemed non-ending. “The police have indicated that it is the result of the gang activity. The area is dominated by gangs. Thus far, the police have had only limited success in eradicating the gangs. It can be done, but it requires a multipronged approach, including all aspects of the state’s possible response; most of all, a genuine desire on the part of the non-gang residents and business owners in these communities.”

He added that it required not only a burning desire but a sincere, unselfish, non-deceitful, clean and courageous collective response on the people’s part. “The reaction and the behavior of elements of the community, revealed, even in the videos that flowed from yesterday’s event, show that the consciousness and sincerity, the understanding of the danger that we all face, at the madness of the gangsters, is simply not present and is a long way off, in coming.

“Will Harpe Place/Techier Terrace, Charford Court, Bath Street, Basilon Street and environs go through the rituals as we always do and go back to life and business as normal by tomorrow? Or will we use this ‘madness’ as a call to sincerity and determined action for the sake of our future generations?” he asked.

The Prime Minister also addressed the incident through the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago’s Facebook page. On Saturday, Dr. Rowley said that the latest outrage brought home the depth of the problem with which the Government was grappling. He said the ever-increasing, total, wanton disregard for human life was to be condemned in the soundest of ways.

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds – File photo by Grevic Alvarado

“My condolences go out to the families who are today experiencing the pain that traumatises the entire national community,” he said. Rowley said the presence of and frequent use of assault weapons in TT brought an added dimension of effectiveness to the “murderous lawlessness” plaguing the country.

“I want to give the nation the assurance that even as we experience today’s tragedy the state, through its lawful activities, will continue to identify and extract these weapons and their criminal owners and operators. The population can rest assured that the state agencies will not give up the fight to rid our streets and other places of the evil that is now widespread as a ‘gun culture’ in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.

New CCTV cameras installed in PoS

On Sunday, Newsday saw a large crew of workmen, accompanied by a police officer and a soldier, installing CCTV cameras in Port of Spain. One was installed at the corner of George and Duke, five at the corner of Duke and Henry, seven at the corner of Duke and Charlotte Street (although cameras were also on the building of the Carnival Museum) and two at the corner of Duke and Pembroke. There were also newly installed cameras on the corner of St. Vincent and Park Streets and on Duncan Street. The same crew was later seen installing cameras on St. Vincent Street.

When asked by Newsday, a police officer said the CCTV technicians were contracted by the Ministry of National Security. It remained unclear whether these installations were a response to the outburst of violence and murders in the capital. Newsday tried to contact Hinds for more details but there was no response to calls to his cellphone. Newsday also called Port of Spain mayor Chinua Alleyne but he did not respond.

Last year, Opposition MP Dr. Roodal Moonilal questioned the Government on the CCTV cameras, saying then that only 45 per cent of cameras around the country were working. In 2022, the Government said it planned to spend $80 million to install 2,500 cameras across the country. In March, a joint initiative in Tunapuna saw the installation of over 100 cameras as a response to growing gang violence in the area.

UNC’s David Nakhid: Fix the east/west corridor to fix TT

Opposition senator David Nakhid said he visited Harpe Place following Saturday’s shooting and murders. Nakhid said he was the only politician who went to see what happened. He said he was struck by how traumatized the society was and how many people were conditioned by the People’s National Movement (PNM) that these were not their people.

“We say these people and that community. We don’t refer to them. Let’s not be hypocritical about it, we don’t refer to them as our brothers and sisters, our children. So we don’t recognize that these are our people who died yesterday. We say those people and some of us even say, ‘They get what they vote for,’” Nakhid said.

He said these were very asinine and acerbic comments people had to move away from in the national community. Nakhid said it seemed like it was barely three weeks ago he stood in the same place and spoke to the murder of schoolboy Ezekiel Paria, 11. He said that the Opposition urged the Government to increase law enforcement patrols in these areas, and he repeated that call on Sunday. The Government was seeing its chickens coming home to roost.

“This is a Government that has cut all the indices that will lead these people in these communities, our brothers and sisters, our children who are dying daily to come out of that situation that they find themselves in,” he said. Nakhid said this had to do with the Government’s historical integrity. He said the PNM’s track record in these communities has been poor. He said these areas enjoyed the votes of these communities and unemployment was rife among young men in these communities, despite what Government says.

He said issues of education, health, and finances needed to be looked at in areas like Laventille, Beetham, and Harpe Place, among others. “In order to fix the country of Trinidad and Tobago, you have to fix the east/west corridor…we have to address the places that are hurting the most and hurting us the most,” he said.