Friday, April 12, 2024

T&T: Curfew to remain


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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar said that the stae of emergency (SOE) and the five hour curfew which have been imposed here since August 21, will remain in force after indicating that law enforcement  officials informed her Cabinet that they needed more time to deal with the crime situation here.
The SOE was extended by three months to December 7 by Parliament, but Persad Bissessar hinted at the possibility of it being removed within the three month period.
She told reporters that the Cabinet was briefed on Thursday by security heads, Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs, Deputy Commissioner Mervyn Richardson, Brigadier General Kenrick Maharaj and other, on what has transpired so far since the state of emergency.
“They have said that they are able to achieve far more with the State of Emergency than prior to the State of Emergency. They see it as a valuable tool and weapon in the arsenal in the fight against crime.
“They have advised us that they want more time with the State of Emergency, and we have accepted as a Cabinet their recommendation that the SOE continues. They have advised that they need the curfew hours as they are…in the areas identified. So the State of Emergency would continue until we are advised otherwise by law enforcement officers,” the Prime Minister said.
She said Government would continue to review this decision from time to time.
The Prime Minister said the homicide rate for this year was currently the lowest in a decade. She said in the first month of the SOE, there were 15 murders, a 70 per cent reduction. She added that there was a similar reduction in serious offences.
Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said law enforcement was putting an exit strategy in place for when the SOE is over to try and contain criminal activity in the country.
She said one of the very good things that had come out of the SOE was the establishment of the National Security Operations Centre (NSOC), which had been pledged in the People’s Partnership manifesto.
“It puts all the various law enforcement agencies at the same table, so that they can share information. Brigadier General Maharaj said to the Cabinet …that previously, they, the army and police,could have had joint operations. But they didn’t have joint planning and joint sharing, so the NSOC is providing that platform for joint planning and for joint execution and joint implementation,” she said.
The announcement to keep the SOE in place came the same day that the courts here freed another group of 18 people, including  a footballer with the local professional club, W Connection, who were arrested and charged under the controversial Anti-Gang Act/.
Chief Magistrate Marcia Ayers-Caesar ordered the release of the men after State Prosecutor Hema Sundarsingh said that Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard had issued letters of discontinuance in the matters.
During the hearing, Sundarsingh said after perusing the respective files against the men, Gaspard was of the view that the prosecution could not proceed with the matters due to a lack of evidence.
Among those released was Keon Quow, who was about to start a professional contract with the club when he was picked up.
The men were charged with being members of two gangs. They are the second group of individuals charged under the Act to be released this week.
On Monday, seven people, including Cassius “Cass” Williams and Vaughn “Sandman” Mieres, who were described by police as being “major players”, were allowed to walk free following the intervention of the DPP.
Since the proclamation of the Anti-Gang legislation in August,  236 people have been charged with being gang members, with a total of 80 thus far eventually being released due to a lack of evidence.
Gaspard has said he has written to Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs requesting that completed files against persons arrested under the Act be forwarded to him for perusal before those persons are charged and taken before a magistrate. He said this was necessary and could prevent all parties involved from suffering embarrassment.
Since their release, a number of individuals who had been charged under the legislation have issued pre-action protocol letters to the Ministry of the Attorney General, stating that they would be taking civil action against the State for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.
But on Thursday, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan warned people who plan to sue the State for malicious prosecution and false imprisonment not to expect to become multimillionaires at taxpayers’ expense.
Ramlogan stressed he would be vigorously contesting their claims in the court.


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