Renee on the State of Emergency and more.
Text of Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar’s statement made this evening.
Subject: press statement: Limited state of emergency
Good evening members of the media.
The entire nation has been rocked with the recent tragic news of the spate of murders over the past few days. The situation has reached proportions which the government must respond to in the most definitive manner possible.
I am advised that one of the causations for the spike in murders is ironically linked to the success by the police in the discovery of large drug hauls with values in excess of twenty million dollars in just one raid. These large sums of money simply do not disappear from the drug trade without consequences and in some of the cases now occurring, this is the result .The question though isn’t just what is causing it but how do we deal with it?
As you know, we have deployed more financial and human resources than any government in recent time in dealing with the scourge of crime and until this recent upsurge the nation had been encouraged by the decline shown by year to years statistics. But a problem of this nature that has been the result of years of neglect will not disappear overnight and we reassess day by day each strategy deployed and how effective it is in achieving short term and long term objectives in reducing crime. But the current crime spree dictates that more must be done and stronger action has to be employed now.
The situation cannot continue like this without a response commensurate with the wanton acts of violence and lawlessness; it must be a response as well that will halt the current spike in gang activity and crime in general in the shortest possible time.
After much deliberation with the National Security Council and members of the Cabinet it has been agreed that the government consider the imposition of a limited state of emergency in hot spots across the country. Such a consideration must of course have the agreement of the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency, George Maxwell Richards and I will be meeting with him to discuss this matter.
The limited state of emergency will allow us to achieve a number of things in relation to crime reduction which would not be prudent for me to disclose in advance of the action taken.
We are aware that such a decision will have an impact on the daily lives of innocent, law abiding citizens in these areas but I feel confident that they will recognise and appreciate the need to protect them and bring the current crime surge affecting them under control. We have the will to tackle the crime problem in Trinidad and Tobago and the commitment to place every resource at our disposal towards waging and winning this war on crime. We will succeed. We will succeed. The nation will not be held to ransom by marauding groups of thugs bent on creating havoc on our society. The limited state of emergency in hot spots across Trinidad and Tobago is merely part of a larger aggressive reaction response by the government.
As these measures are being deployed using both out police and military we ask all citizens to bear with the inconveniences that may arise from time to time. This is in everyone’s interest. In fact, I intend to hold discussions with the Leader of the Opposition to seek his party’s support with certain legislative matters in Parliament. Trinidad and Tobago comes first.
Nothing is more important than the right of each citizen to be protected and to enjoy a life of peace and tranquility.
Though I know and have interviewed many politicians I generally hold them in fairly low regard. I have told veteran and aspiring politicians alike that to me all politicians are either crooks or crooks in training. Cynical, I know, but really not too far from my actual view.
Trinidad & Tobago got a new government in May of 2010. They were swept into power promising change and turning away from the real or perceived profligate spending of the previous regime. After entering office the public was told that the treasury was low in funds and there would need to be a very careful approach to spending in the years ahead. All was okay, however, as we were told that “we are all in this together.” Again, fair enough.
While public servants and other quarters were calling for increased wages they were told that they should think of the national good and wait for the economy to recover. Not unreasonable when put into the context of the aforementioned national belt-tightening - then things started to change.
To appeal to heaven knows what electorate the prize money for cultural shows such as Soca Monarch, Chutney Soca Monarch and Calypso Monarch was suddenly increased to $2 million TT each. Did this money benefit the general population? Nope. Just the winners. Now, however, comes a development that is even more egregious a waste of those allegedly diminished tax dollars – not because of scale but because it is not widely reported and is an example of ‘do as I say but not as I do’.
The Prime Minister has been out of the country on a several trips for economic, cultural and political reasons. During those trips ( including one to accept an award from Glamor magazine) she has been spotted in various upscale and fashionable ensembles. Not a problem really; she says she is promoting local fashion designers. Naturally, these outfits need serious hair and makeup as well. Here I was thinking that the PM had learned some makeup tricks and was making use of the salons in the hotels she was staying in. Turns out I was wrong – as I discovered following her recent trip to London to handle some Commonwealth business ( she is currently the head of that exceedingly useless organization filled with innumerable miscreants).
It seems the PM, a la Oprah, travels on these trips with her own celebrity hairdresser from Trinidad – who normally caters to the rich and famous on the island. On the recent trip he closed up shop ( presumably losing a lot of money and requiring compensation) for a week and tagged along seeing to her coiffure needs. I can only presume this is being funded by taxpayers dollars ( unless she is willing to squander her own money for such a frivolous purpose). This reeks of hypocrisy.
I am sure her legions of supporters will say the hairdresser’s airfare, hotel accommodation, meals and compensation for losing a week at his business is justified because the PM needs to look good so that the country looks good. This would suggest they truly believe the PM is unable to find a decent hair or makeup artist in the backwoods places she visits like New York and London. Surely a hotel hairstylist could make the arduous trip up to the penthouse with straightening iron in hand?
When the Summit of the Americas was held in Trinidad, the US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ( not a head of state but infinitely more important than the PM of a small Caribbean island) made it her business to look for a hairdresser in Port of Spain to take care of her needs.
As columnist and accountant William Lucie-Smith recently wrote in the Trinidad Express:
“I am very surprised at how partisan so many people are, because I find it difficult to give continuous support to any political party. The truth is I believe the people of Trinidad and Tobago have been very badly represented by politicians in general and that a great deal of the wealth of our country has been squandered by venal politicians more interested in personal political mileage than the common good. No political party has shown much virtue in their management of our resources and the current government is no exception.”
When preaching fiscal restraint it is always a good example to lead by example.
Letter from the T&T Humanist Association on the current capital punishment debate in Trinidad & Tobago.
Revelations were made in T&T”s parliament today by Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar that extensive illegal wiretapping was taking place in the country by a semi-secret state organization that was put in place by the previous cabinet. I think the right to privacy is as fundamental a right as any and I am thus posting her statement here.
“WIRETAPPING NET CAST FAR AND WIDE
No one escaped this secret wire tapping operation as a net was inexplicably cast very far and wide.
Members of the judiciary,
Editors and journalists,
radio talk-show hosts,
persons in the entertainment industry,
former opposition MP’s,
in some cases, the children of such persons.
Such activity cannot be condoned as it represents a clear and present danger to our democracy.
Words cannot express the deep sense of personal outrage and hurt I feel about this matter.
Such an unwarranted and unjustified invasion of citizen’s privacy is a cause for alarm.
Why on earth would a government wish to engage in such unproductive illegal activity when the country was under siege as a result of criminal activity?”
Read the full document complete with names here.
The period before and after an election is is always the most exciting and challenging for journalists. After the recent election here in T&T it was fascinating looking at many of the younger reporters struggling to maintain their journalistic balance. I suppose at times like those it can be useful to have someone like me who has been around the block a few times to help them understand the dangers of charged words and of story placement in a newscast. Journalists have political views just like everyone else but the trick for us is being able to mouth off our views to our friends but not let that interfere with how we do our job. It surprised me also that many younger journalists understood the concepts fairly easily while some others who should have known better were less concerned about the appearance of balance.
Now we are faced with the post-election period in which a largely unpopular government was voted out in a landslide. Naturally, many of the journalists in the country are quite happy with the turn of events but that has also resulted in a problem. One thing that we as journalists cannot ever do is fawn over public officials and cut them too much slack. I have been seeing a lot of that lately. Part of the problem is the fact that this government has been very friendly and open with the media so far. The picture at the top of this entry is of the previously ultra-secret Prime Minister’s residence which I was actually able to tour on Thursday along with other members of the media. Now that may have been motivated by a desire to show the excess of the previous PM who commissioned it and lived in it but whatever the reason it was opened up for the public to see. Things like that are standard in developed countries and journalists take them for granted but here it seems to make some journalists feel beholden to the administration. Old cynics like me take it for what it is but it seems to make the less experienced feel embraced and all warm and fuzzy.
Thus far I can say that the People’s Partnership has done a good job of being more open to the media than the previous one which approached us as if we were lepers with halitosis. It was a rare day that I managed to snag an interview with a PNM minister ( with a few rare exceptions like Conrad Enill who always came when I asked) and of course they all wanted to be on just before the election. Ironically, the only time the Information Minister ever agreed to come on my programme was right before the election – he lost his seat. Thus far I have had several of the new ministers on including a couple of first interviews in the local media such as Minister Mary King ( in her office no less) but that may be because I have been interviewing these guys in other capacities for years. I should have good reason to cut them a lot of slack but I can’t and I suspect they would lose any respect they might have for me if I did.
As journalists in a small and developing country we need to look at the new government with a critical eye so we can, in the words of Anderson Cooper, keep them honest ( which presumes they were in the first place). We have seen the good things like the PM wading into flood waters, the accessibility to the media, the choosing of a new Commissioner of Police and other good signs but there are things that bother me. Time now for a handy point list of a few of my concerns:
- Should the PM have gone back of her promise to move into the PM’s fancy residence when she vowed she would not move into the “Palace”?
- While opening up the Priority Bus Route to regular traffic may be a good experiment ( and I have said so for more than a decade) how can the Works Minister do that without changing the legislation? What are they going to charge people who have fewer than 3 people in the car with? Surely you can’t just change codified rules on the fly.
- The Life Fund to pay for overseas operations for kids is surely a good idea but shouldn’t a doctor be part of the process? I have been informed the transverse myelitis – which one of the kids who got $620,000 for her treatment has- was caused by a viral infection and she needs some rehab work to get her walking again. Why were we told she needed an operation? And if she needs physical therapy why does it require a Rolls Royce treatment centre when there are excellent ones in Miami, the UK and Canada? Also, why was the cheque made out to her family when it should have been made out to the institution?
There are many other questions but I just hope the media do what we are supposed to do and ask questions. If the public does not like us for that then so be it. One day they will thank us for it. It took us far too long to ask questions of the previous administration.
Our Parliament is never a place for the quiet and dignified exchange of ideas. It exists somewhere in the murky region between the UK Parliament and the Korean Parliament. We don’t actually have fisticuffs but we have been known to have the odd teacup tossing during the break. This past couple of weeks has been something of a thrill for political observers such as myself. It all began with the doze worthy laying of the 2008/2009 budget last week and has been a virtual amusement park ride ever since.
We had the opposition response presented rather well by the always animated Kamla Persad Bissessar and the subsequent debate. Basically the opposition ripped the budget apart and the government spent hours saying what a great job they are doing. Frankly, watching the National Security Minister standing up and lauding his accomplishments and the government’s vision in the face of a 400 plus murder toll was a bit too rich for my blood…but I am sure it had a certain macabre dramatic value.
The highlight of the week of parliamentary shenanigans was undoubtedly the stellar presentation of Dr. Keith Rowley, the maverick PNM member for Diego Martin West and former minister. As I mentioned in an entry way back when he fell out of favour with the PM and was cast into the political outhouse. He came out swinging on Monday with what amounts to one of the best moments I can remember in the Parliament for the past twenty years. Speaking from the government benches he called the PM to task for a lack of accountability and for questionable practices. It was gripping and resulted in surprising desk thumping from both sides of the house.
In his closing of the budget debate the PM lashed back yesterday. After convincing the Speaker to suspend the standing orders for him to speak for an unlimited time – unheard of and most peculiar – he went on to attack Dr. Rowley in what might best be described as unstatesmanlike and at worst as mean spirited. He even suggested that $10 million had gone missing from the Ministry of Housing under Dr. Rowley’s stewardship. Why he waited for over a year to make the accusation or how he failed to notice that as PM at the time he was also accountable I have no idea. I am looking forward to the fallout in the coming days.
I am now watching the finals of America’s Got Talent and as soon as either Eli Mattson or Nuttin’ but Stringz wins I will post the result and hit the publish button. If anyone else wins I will shake my head and wonder before pushing the publish button.
Ah well they picked Neil E Boyd..the one who breaks into tears every 3 minutes. God help them. Eli will get a recording contract in 2 seconds and much more than the million dollar prize.
Oh God…if they vote this way in the elections the world will shudder….oh right…Dubya got in with them too.