PM: We will overcome gang violence

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley receives a photo of Dr Eric Williams during his first days as this country’s prime minister from PNM stalwart Ferdinand “Ferdie” Ferreira, during reopening of Balisier House at Tranquility Street, Port of Spain on Saturday. – Photo by Roger Jacob

THE Prime Minister says the problem of crime, particularly gang violence, is an old one in Trinidad and Tobago and one day that challenge will be overcome.

Speaking at the commissioning of the newly refurbished Balisier House, Tranquility Street, Port of Spain, Dr Rowley said the country’s first prime minister Dr Eric Williams also had to deal with the problem of gangs during his tenure but he turned that challenge into a point of pride.

“The nation had the same challenge of having a requirement to steer our young people, like I was, away from admiring and falling prey to other people.”

He said there were steelpan gangs in Laventille, Belmont, Tunapuna, San Fernando and other areas. But young people were no longer fighting with razors, bolts and gas but with guns.

“Dr Williams came out and embraced the steelpan movement as our culture and asked the business community to provide sponsorship to steelbands.

“And that took PNM and Dr Williams understanding how to get from gang warfare into where we are today. It took time but it was based on an understanding.”

He said the steelpan was embraced and now it was revered as an instrument of pride and an integral part of Trinidad and Tobago’s culture.

Rowley also recalled that when he was between ten and 11 years old, still living in Mason Hall, in Tobago he looked up to a gang member who had returned to the village from Laventille. He said he wanted to walk and dress like the man.

He said by the time he entered secondary school his fascination with gangs had subsided and noted the man he once admired hanged for murder.

The refurbished party headquarters of the PNM, Balisier House, at Tranquility Street, Port of Spain,, which was opened to commemorate the party’s 68th anniversary on Saturday. – File photo by Roger Jacob

Making reference to Williams’s vision, Rowley said the PNM moved the country from collecting cents on a barrel of oil to controlling the country’s oil industry, it bought the sugar estates from Tate and Lyle and kept the sugar industry alive for 25 years, it got Chaguaramas back from the US forces, and planted the idea of no one being excluded from getting an education.

The history of Trinidad and Tobago was PNM’s history, he said.

Rowley also hinted about his retirement saying his wife Sharon retired at the end of 2023 and he was being pressured to go home and spend time with his family. Previous speakers deputy political leaders Colm Imbert and Rohan Sinanan spoke about Rowley leading the party to victory in the 2025 general election.

Rowley had previously announced this would be his final term as leader of the PNM and as prime minister.

“So when these fellas get up here and come talking about ‘next election’ and ‘2030,’ they not speaking for me eh? I spoke for myself already and I spoke in front of a parson and I signed for that.

“This (the refurbished building) is for the young people and the generations that are unborn. And what we have done here tonight is to create an iconic location, an iconic building symbolising the successful history of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”

Rowley spoke as there was an air of excitement as hundreds of PNM supporters wearing red gathered on a blocked-off Tranquillity Street.

After the speeches, several balisier plants were planted and a time capsule containing a letter from Rowley to the future PM and PNM memorabilia were buried on the eastern end of the property.

The party celebrated its 68th anniversary on January 24 and the building was formally reopened as part of that event.