Rowley rejects invitation to UNC crime talks

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. –

THE Prime Minister on Tuesday rejected a recent invitation from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to attend a series of public meetings hosted by the UNC to discuss the ongoing crime spate, addressing a briefing at Whitehall in Port of Spain.

“Do you think I have time to pappyshow myself around the country?” he responded when asked by a reporter to reply to Persad-Bissessar’s offer, made at a UNC cottage meeting on Monday in San Juan.

He then said the Opposition was expressing concerns about crime, but asked how it responded when he brought anti-crime proposals in the past.

“They are campaigning for the next election,” he said.

Reporters asked about the proposed Government-Opposition crime talks that President Christine Kangaloo had publicly urged.

He said he had proposed a team, but the Opposition had said he must be a part of it.

Rowley said he had never ruled himself out of the talks, but the Opposition was insisting he be present.

Pressed, he said at the appropriate time, he might be a part of the talks, but not now. Rowley said others could begin the talks and then progress it to the two party leaders.

“What is the story that if the Prime Minister is not part of the team, he doesn’t care about the criminals and families who are killed? That is nonsense!”

He said all over the Commonwealth, government and opposition teams meet daily, but only in TT was this seen as a problem.

Asked how he had responded to opposition concerns, he replied he had responded by waiting for them to name their team.

“Look at the offence they took by the fact I said the Attorney General (Reginald Armour, SC) would convene and chair it.

“Since you are asking me why I am not going, why don’t you spend some time asking the Opposition why they are not naming their team?

“All you afraid them? It is because I am in front of you all the time, and they are always in hiding?”

He questioned how many times in the past 15 years Persad-Bissessar had held press conferences to take questions from reporters.

Earlier, he said, “If the Opposition does not put a team, that suggests they are not interested.”

He complained that the Opposition had previously voted down the Government’s anti-gang legislation in Parliament.

Rowley otherwise said several US agencies were working with TT on anti-crime measures. He said the Delaware State Police were sharing information, training personnel and getting equipment to help the TTPS. The Crime Gun Intelligence Unit was helping TT by identifying buyers of illicit guns.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) were helping TT with institutional strengthening and tracking bad actors.

Newsday asked about his previous remarks that international criminals were “liking” TT, but he opted to say no more.

Asked about his promise of $100 million allocated to fight crime in hotspots, he said, “That is a programme we are working out.”

Rowley said a pool of resources will deal with certain specific problems. “Very soon, you will hear more about that.

“We will have the defence force involved.”

Newsday asked if the sum addresses the causes of crime, as urged by a report by the JSC on National Security.

“One of the things we hope to do in that programme is have people talk to people in the community like family members, households and so on, as to how they manage themselves and their children and their schooling and their own security and so on.

“Certain kinds of skills are required and that ($100 million) fund will provide support for that.”

Rowley expressed concern about “hits” ordered from behind prison walls plus an incident of an illegal item delivered by a drone.

Asked how he would spend Carnival, he replied he would not play mas but whispered his aspiration: “Stay away from covid.”