Friday, April 12, 2024

Trinidad’s PM frowns on bomb threats at schools

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PORT OF SPAIN – Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley Friday described as a “wanton criminal action” the bomb threats that affected more than 100 schools, forcing the evacuation of buildings and the early closure of educational institutions across the oil-rich twin island republic.

“Today, many parents and our children were terrorised, and the education system disrupted by the wanton criminal action of one or a few who do not wish this country well,” Rowley said.

“This evil action of organised bomb threats only serves to demonstrate how vulnerable we all are to the wiles of those who would harm us,” he added.

Rowley said that while the authorities grapple with many challenges, “some beyond our control, it is wholly reprehensible that any person could see it fit to attack and traumatise our children in this or any similar way”.

“I condemn, in the strongest terms, these actions which are clearly meant to disrupt the country even as others set out to destabilise the society,” he added.

National Security Minister, Fitzgerald Hinds, told Parliament Friday that the threats were nationwide and that bomb disposal experts had visited the affected schools and that it was “abominable that some person or persons would have ventured to do what they did by sending this message of bomb threats across the nation’s schools”.

“I must agree it has caused some element of panic, most of which has now subsided. It has disrupted the school system . . . and therefore abominable indeed it is” he said.

Hinds noted that the Cyber Crime Unit and other units of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), “are engaged in another aspect of the inquiry that will determine the source”.

Hinds told legislators that the matter is under investigation and he would await the outcome of the police probe, as he answered a question by the opposition for international assistance to probe the matter.

Rowley said that the security agencies are fully engaged and will make every effort to locate the misguided terrorist miscreants.

“The state agencies will continue to monitor the situation and give the entire population the assurance that our professional staff in all agencies will do everything possible to protect them as we educate our children and make our country safer.

“Given that criminal conduct is fashionable for some of our citizens and others, I once again appeal to all citizens to assist the police if you think you have useful information which may be helpful in the furtherance of the national effort to control and eliminate criminal behaviour which so disrupts and damages our nation,” Rowley said.

Earlier, Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, told a news conference that she wanted to make a personal call “on behalf of our children asking those who are involved in this to understand the repercussions the destablisising of our education system have on our children”.

“I have a child out of school today . . . [and] this affects us all. So it takes a village to raise a child and we have to be more mindful of the effects of our actions on our children.

“I will just really in the strongest terms condemn what happened today and I would appeal to those involved to not do this again to our children,” she said, noting that more than 160 schools in various districts were affected, including some where students were doing examinations.

Several schools were evacuated as the threats were received at around 8 a.m. and police said at the time they had received ten reports of bomb threats of schools on both islands and that “preliminary reports indicate that these threats were sent to schools via email”.

In the messages sent to the schools, they were informed that “explosives are planted . . . on the buildings”.

The TTPS said it is “actively investigating all such reports, as these incidents are treated as high priority. Additionally, the matter is currently engaging the attention of the Cyber Crime Unit, the Special Branch, our bomb technicians and all Divisional Commanders where affected schools are located.

“The TTPS is also warning all persons who are responsible for these threats that these matters will be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators will be brought to justice,” the police warned.

President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), Martin Lum Kin, schools across the country have been dismissed as his members are not taking any chances.

“Schools would have taken the necessary steps in order to ensure the safety of the occupants,” he said, adding that “TTUTA condemns in the strongest terms, this attempt to disrupt the whole running and the psychological effect”.

The TTUTA president said he is hoping the relevant authorities can investigate the matter quickly “and something come out of it”.

Earlier, the Ministry of Education “strongly” condemned the bomb threats made to several. (CMC)

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