PM shocked over ‘criminals’ in politics

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Keith Rowley –

THE Prime Minister says he is shocked that criminal conduct is no longer seen by some people as debarring them from being politicians.

He made this comment while addressing the crime rate in a television interview on Thursday.

Dr Rowley said he remains prepared to work with the Opposition and other stakeholders to find ways to curb crime.

“I always make that overture. That’s why I lead the government.”

But he said since the PNM returned to office, the UNC refuses to co-operate with it to find bipartisan solutions to crime.

Some politicians, he continued, take the position there is “a season in the country where crime and criminality are the order and flavour of the day, and is good for their politics.”

Recalling that he first entered politics in 1974 as a members of the PNM, Rowley said he never thought he would be in the political arena with people “for whom criminal conduct is not a disqualifier.”

“I didn’t expect that I would be in a situation where I would see people who are emminently disqualifiable, by virture of their association with criminal conduct actually being lionised (by people) as saviours and heroes in the political arena.”

Without calling names, Rowley said he never thought he’d be in Parliament and looking across the aisle at people sitting there, “on $1 million bail.”

Observing that society has changed, he continued, “I wouldn’t expect a political party to be offering itself with officers, most of whom are of interest to the police for criminal conduct.”

Rowley also said no government could be efficiently run on the basis of “rampant populism.”

He said it had gotten to the point where certain politicians saw the country’s success as the government’s success, especially if they were in power.

Reiterating that Government continued to provide resources to law-enforcement agencies to fight crime, Rowley said addressing the flow of arms and ammunition into TT remained a priority for Government.

“We have an idea that some of it is coming in illegally.”

But he said, “What we are discovering now by the audit that is taking place in the police service, is that there is a great likelihood that a significant amount of the ammunition that comes into this country legally, ends up in the hands of criminals.”

Rowley, who is National Security Council (NSC) chairman said, “the police department that was meant to manage and control the availability of firearms in society, has become corrupted to the point where some facilitators, are another arm of the problem that we have to deal with.”

He added there were ongoing investigations and reports filed on the police’s firearms unit.

“It will make your hair stand on end, if you have hair, to discover the very people who were supposed to be guarding us from this outcome, have been and are facilitators of it.”

Rowley described the situation as frightening.

He said the disappointment of the people who know about this, is not shared by the population because population “does not know what has happened to us.”

At a PNM political meeting in San Fernando on July 15, Rowley proposed the creation of vetted units in the police to weed out rogue officers. He did not mention that issue during the interview.

Rowley said law enforcement continued to deal with the issue of violent crimes being planned from inside of the country’s prisons and that nearly 40 per cent of murders that are taking place are revenge killings.

With respect to the role of the Judiciary in dealing with crime, Rowley wondered if some judges were fully aware of the nature of the problem, in the course of making their decisions.

He disagreed with people who claimed that National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds accused some members of the Judiciary of being involved with criminals.

“That was not an original statement.”

Rowley was certain that Hinds’ comment would have been based on information in the public domain since 2013.

“Individuals should not take personal umbrage at that they are talking about ‘me’. We are talking about situations.”

Rowley remained optimistic that as law-enforcement agencies redouble their efforts, working in collaboration with other stakeholders, “we can look forward to and we must look forward to an improvement in situation.”

He was said it would be “a significant improvement to bring about a sense of greater safety and a feeling of security in the country.”