SADDAM HOSEIN, Barataria/San Juan MP, on Friday asked aloud what the Ministry of Youth Development and National Service (MYDNS) was doing to uplift youngsters, whom he later said were the majority of both victims and purveyors of gun violence.
He piloted a private motion in the House of Representatives chiding the Government for an “unacceptable and serious crime level.”
The motion alleged a governmental failure to manage organs of national security and law and order, an under-resourcing of the police service (TTPS), an astronomical murder toll, a failure to present an anti-crime plan, plus a neglect of education and training amid rising unemployment and a breakdown of the social safety net.
Hosein said unemployment was the driver of crime.
“Young people have no opportunity. They are hopeless. They are struggling at home.
“Are we as a House feeling any responsibility towards these young people?”
He lamented 40 murders since the Prime Minister’s October 31 meeting of the National Security Council and police top-brass, chiding Dr Rowley’s cricket commentary while citizens were being “bowled out.”
Hosein described as “totally unacceptable” the murder toll of 542 people so far for this year, 448 last year (with 49 solved), 393 in 2020 (with 57 solved), and 536 in 2018 (with 46 solved.)
The police service was short by 1,371 officers, he said (with 6,514 out of a 7,884 sanctioned strength), while 715 police vehicles were not working (with only 1,250 working in the 1,955 fleet.)
Lamenting the case of a corrupt officer in the Customs and Excise Division, he urged that unit by transferred to the Ministry of National Security from the Finance Ministry.
Citing the MYDNS, Hosein said, “Besides the odd, one-off intervention, what are they doing to approach the support of young people in a structured manner?
“It’s not about events and one-month programmes. It’s about changing systems that negatively affect young people.
“Did you hold focus groups with young people or did a thorough needs assessment to understand how they should be supported?”
Hosein said in 2013-2022 the police recovered 7,368 illegal firearms, of which he said shockingly 553 were rifles, machine guns or submachine guns.
Crucially, he said 645 youngsters aged 20-24 were arrested for illegal firearms, and 513 were youngsters aged 25-29.
“It shows a lot of young people who are in possession of these particular firearms and ammunition.”
Citing police data, he added, “Of the 2,343 individuals murdered, 2,012 were between the ages of 16 and 35, accounting for 52 per cent of all murder victims.
“So when I say the Government is failing our young people, the statistics are here to prove my statement.”
He said young people were dying from bullets whether they wore election jerseys coloured red (the PNM colour) or yellow (the UNC colour).
Hosein alleged a contrast between Rowley and Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds as to whether crime was to be considered a public health issue.
He lamented a backlog at the Forensic Science Centre of 42,000 ballistics reports and 32,784 DNA samples, plus a staffing of just two of the four required pathologists.
Of 144 criminal gangs and 1,462 gang members, Hosein claimed only one person had been charged under the Anti-Gang Act. Since the murders of Andrea Bharath and Ashanti Riley, despite legislation passed, no-one could yet get pepper spray for personal protection, he said.
“I cry shame on this Government!”
Despite passage of the Evidence Act, a state witness was gunned down, he related. Saying some 673 of the country’s 1,796 public CCTV cameras were not working, he challenged the Government’s plans to acquire 2,500 more.
He alleged Hinds was a waste of time, prompting Hinds to mutter something to which St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen rose to object, after which Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George restored order.
Recalling a video of Rose Hill RC Primary School pupils cowering from bullets, Hosein called for Hinds’ firing for his remarks on that matter and other issues.