By Kamla Persad-Bissessar
So, let me tell you. All of us trundled, bundled and journeyed to the Hyatt. It is a beautiful place, by the way. But it is so out of touch with the reality of the ordinary people of Trinidad and Tobago.
And so I want to talk a little bit about that explosion of violent crime under Keith Rowley’s government. Every time the PNM is in power, crime rises. Every, every, every single time. And as Anita told us – they have been in government for the longest time in our country.
And so [today], across our country, we are living in fear. Our nation is under siege. Under the last PNM government, Moonilal told you – all the serious crimes in the country – bad as that was then it became a new kind of wave of kidnappings. Now under Rowley, in addition to all the serious crimes – Trinidad and Tobago is facing rampant home invasions! They didn’t talk about that today but I am going to talk about it tonight and share with you some of our thoughts.
So, what a horrifying place we are now. Rampant home invasions.
[This morning], Rowley was busy fighting crime – the way he knows how to fight crime – talk, talk and more talk. [Tomorrow] there will be talking, talk and more talk. And going on eight years, all they have been doing is talk, talk, talk. But I want to tell you we will not only talk the talk, the UNC will walk the walk to deal with crime in Trinidad and Tobago.
Imagine the whole of the CARICOM – and we welcome our Caricom neighbours, we have no disrespect for them and we wish them good luck to come up with something actionable – an action plan with targets, and timelines. We hope that they can do this.
But what did Rowley talk about? Some of you probably did not listen – maybe a few listen. But I can refresh your memories for those who may not have listened.
He came and he talked about the cost of surgeries for gunshot wounds!!! So when you get held up by a bandit somewhere – you go by Dr Tim for panadol? You go by Dr Rishi for lidocaine for your teeth? And you go by Dr Bodoe, I wouldn’t tell you for what. You see how ridiculous it is when you think about it.
The violence in Trinidad and Tobago is just not a health issue. What does it do? It causes health issues. But what is really wrong? We listened to Ravi, Arnold, Roody and others. When you listen to Ratiram – they have closed down all the training opportunities.
When you listen to Anita – all the schools closed down, all the job opportunities. When you do that what is going to happen? You think you need panadol? Yes. You don’t have a job. But what is really wrong? It is what we call a socio-economic problem. But I do not think they understand those kinds of words. That is why our society is in decay. That is why our economy has collapsed. And their way to fight it – is to bring all these people here after eight years and not give us one idea.
I listened then and after because they were carrying it live. At the end of the day, not one plan, not one policy. Total incompetence.
And so, that fancy symposium propaganda to take us away from remembering their incompetence, their inability to govern.
So, while they talk and talk and talk, people are under siege, the nation is under siege. Today Rowley wasted everybody’s time, because what did he do? What was the second thing he did? So one was to talk about how much it cost you to go for surgery. You know what he talked about again? He really went there to defend sleepy-head Hinds.
That’s what he did. Waste of time. the whole of CARICOM he told “Oh you had several ministers…change of ministers, that doesn’t make a difference, it’s musical chairs” he says, because the partnership, we had changed ministers and I make no regret about that. We changed you if you not working, move! Go Hinds! Go! If you not working, go!
In front of CARICOM members, ministers, all these people there, he one, must distract, propaganda, but the other was to defend Hinds. Look, if you’re running a business and you have a manager and that business going bust, year by year by year by year, every year you bust, you going to keep that manager there Rowley?
Because you don’t want to play musical chairs? What do we say? Fire Hinds! And when you fire Hinds, fire yourself! They must all go, they must all go!
And what did he do again? What did he do? The next thing he did was to blame USA manufacturers, saying is them making guns. Let me ask you something, are these manufacturers making motorcars too? Don’t motorcars kill people? What you will do? Ban these manufacturers?
What about a cutlass and knife? What about gramoxone? You see how ridiculous it is that you’ve blamed the US when you cannot lock down your own borders. You cannot prevent these things from coming in, that’s your job! What you want the US to do?
And those same manufacturers will sell you guns for your police service, your protective services and so on. So it is totally ridiculous. So three points I have hit Rowley on and we have many more.
So, what next? I want to make it very clear on behalf of the United National Congress, the UNC and on our own behalf and all of you, we do not blame the US for the incompetence of Rowley to stop the guns coming into our borders. We don’t blame them. Why you want to make enemies with the US? Again, Man remember, blame Kamla, blame the UNC, come back and blame Kamla, and now what you want to do? Blame the US. I will have no part of that, that is your job.
So, this crime health crisis that they are talking about. What does it mean? Is it that they going to use the public health regulations to deal with crime? Remember when they use the public health regulations during covid what happened? They lock down all of you.
If you’re driving in your car with your own family and you don’t have a mask you have to pay fines.
Public health regulations – is that your answer?
If you’ve termed it this public health issue then you are telling me go by Dr Tim for panadol, and go by Dr Rishi for lidocaine. They shut down your businesses. You lost your jobs, these public health regulations – it’s going to be worse.
This is not the first public health issue they have mismanaged. The last public health crisis that they mismanaged cost around 4,500 lives. So don’t talk to me about that.
Under Rowley only criminals are safe in Trinidad! They are protecting the criminals by refusing to give legal firearms to law-abiding citizens who want them. Remember the businessman recently – he was granted the firearm but they never delivered the licence and the man got killed. Maybe he could have saved his life.
Then we see Hinds saying that it’s not his job to create a Crime Plan. So what is his job? Under my government, we had crime plans. We brought serious crimes down to the lowest in 31 years because we had plans.
So the symposium there, the past seven years nothing.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the homicide rate in Trinidad and Tobago in 2019 was 29.3 per 100,000 inhabitants, which is higher than the global average of 6.1 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Only this past week, the World of Statistics placed Trinidad and Tobago in 6th position in their top seven in the “world’s most criminals countries list, stating that an incredible 71 crimes occur per every 100,000 persons.
Again, it’s important to remind people what Rowley kept saying about crime when he was opposition leader because it seems he doesn’t live by that code anymore.
I know we showed it last time, but it’s important to remind him.
What you saying now Rowley? The parents. Now want to blame parents. Hinds say now oh lord the parents have to do something – you all heard him? He can’t make any crime plan but the parents have to do something. But “if the government cannot deal with crime, the government is part of the crime problem.” And we must call him out for it.
I am proud that in 2020 the United National Congress produced our Economic Transformation Plan which linked economic growth and prosperity as the catalyst to break the cycle of violent crime in communities.
They have nothing for the economy, they have nothing for healthcare, they have nothing for education, and nothing to deal with crime.
And so they came today and when you look at the agenda it is ok what is the situation in Trinidad? What is the situation in the Bahamas? Well, we all know what it is! It is crime is out of control.
So what are some of our plans?
As I said we brought serious crimes down to the lowest in 31 years and we intend to do so again in our plan.
What are some of the things a new UNC government would do differently?
Rowley didn’t talk about home invasions but that’s the number one fear in the country. Home invasions. So I will speak about it.
We have taken painful note of the appalling incidence of what is well known as ‘home invasion’. This is occurring with monotonous frequency under the noses of law enforcement, the PNM, and, Keith Rowley is impotent and oblivious to even speaking about it or dealing with it.
And if you examine why you will find the answer. I will not give you that answer. It is because they do not care for the ordinary people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Its almost every day now. The TTPS has said that home invasions are on the rise. We know it. It is happening right next door, this is right down the road from where I live. This is in Dr Moonilal’s constituency, Debe junction, and Debe junction is a doubles junction. It’s a busy, busy place, on the main road.
Since this government came into power over fifteen thousand robberies and assaults in homes have taken place; and as I said the numbers are increasing.
So we have seen on these CCTV cameras, you could see sometimes seven men jump over your wall.
They invade the sanctity of your home, with guns, with cutlasses, with other weapons. They torture, they rob, they rape and then like rats jump off your house in rapid succession to proceed to a waiting car; to move to the next venue.
This can be psychologically devastating. Countless of our citizens consider migration to escape the barbaric criminal activities we see each day.
The cries, the pain, the anguish. Can you imagine, you are in your house as you say your home is your castle, the place that you feel safest, and you just see a man jumping in over your gate and into your house?
How terrifying. For women it is terrifying. But I can think of a father and a husband, how helpless that person will be to watch wife and mother, children. That to me is one of the most terrifying experiences that you could ever imagine.
The cries, the pain the anguish, the anger, you will not wish this on your worst enemy. And so we have taken note of this unacceptable situation.
While Rowley spends two full days talking foolishness at the Hyatt with no plan, no policy, no program, the UNC will do the following to put an end to this devilish offence of home invasion.
I propose that our next UNC government will create a full offence.
This will involve increasing the sentences for larceny, burglary, serious assault, unlawful entry to your properties, whether it be your home or businesses and that you will be able to use force. They come in using force, firearms, weapons, cutlass whatever it may be.
And so we propose the specific offence. And we will create that offence with a penalty of 25 years in jail, 25 years in jail.
None shall escape
As Wade will tell us the barbarians are at our gates and we have to stop them, we have to protect our families. And so the notion of a dwelling home is already in part of our law.
It was in the Trespass Amendment Act that was passed.
But that was to prevent people going into – what was it Rudi – HDC houses and taking it over. These new home invaders are not coming to take your house and keep it.
So we have to create an offence specially for them.
Stand your ground laws. Let me explain that.
At the moment the law is a man invades your house or a woman invades your house, cutlass, weapon, gun, whatever it may be, and you have to use something called reasonable force.
Man coming with gun in your face and you must do nothing, nothing. I propose that we adopt the “stand your ground’” legal principle that will be inserted into our law. This means putting into our laws the legal principle that allows a person to use force in self-defence without retreating.
This principle is also called “castle doctrine’. Remember your home is your castle. The castle doctrine and it states that individuals have the right to use force, including deadly force, to protect themselves and their families from intruders.
The law will protect homeowners and occupiers when they use force, including deadly force, against any intruder who unlawfully and forcibly enters their residence.
Trinidad and Tobago, when we pass this law under the UNC will join over 28 states in the United States that have adopted this “make my day” law. You will not have to be afraid to use deadly force on your own property to protect yourself or your family anymore.
So when Rowley talking for two days and already spent almost eight years talking about violence as a health issue, we propose policy and fundamental and bold legal change to confront the barbarians at the gates.
Yet our stale detractors will say that we don’t talk about policy and plans. I’ve shared a lot of plans with you all. But they are not interested in our programs, only interested in promoting division and mischief.
Let us stay tight because we have to bring the change to have a better country. A UNC government will make legal firearms more accessible to law-abiding citizens.
I spoke to you about the businessman who applied and didn’t get through. Everything is under audit and under review.
I again make another call for the pepper spray.
Where is the pepper spray Faris, Rowley Hinds? Are you waiting for some friend or family to open a business to import pepper spray?
Is that what is happening that no one can walk into a store to buy pepper spray to protect themselves? Especially women. Faris was telling us yes it’s coming, pepper spray coming, and what happened? Faris is gone.
Why has the crime escalated? My previous speakers spoke about things they shut down, things they failed to do and all of that contributed.
Let me share with you the things that we did.
What happened to crime under us? Under the People’s Partnership government, the incidence of serious crime was significantly reduced. After consistent efforts and an unrelenting commitment to take back our communities, we reduced crime.
- Established the National Operations – This was to have a central overview so you can monitor anywhere in the country. Wes et up all the equipment in one place to have officers there 24/7 to monitor the country.
What the PNM did? They moved out and placed it under something called the SSA.
- Established the National Security Specialized Operations Group – a specialized group comprising members of various law enforcement agencies.
What did PNM do- shut it down
- We established the Energy Sector Security Initiative (ESSI), which looked into the protection of the Critical Energy Infrastructure. This was a critical initiative, established to ensure that our country would be prepared to prevent any possible sabotage, terrorist act or accident in our energy sector.
An example would have included the incident with the tragic death of the four divers. May they rest in peace.
What did PNM do? – they turned this into a virtual talk shop that cannot help anyone.
- We Launched the E999. The PNM only complaint was that the vehicles were yellow and blue.
What did PNM do – the E999 remains under the ministry of national security and instead of there being 10 switchboard operators on duty, you would get 2 or 3 on a good day, which is why when you dial 999, you are put on hold or get an automated message, all of this is what has caused crime to increase as the criminals know if you call 999, you are not going to get an immediate response.
I saw with the home invasion in Aranguez the victim said they were trying to call 911, and the police said call 999, and you call 999 and no answer why?
Because they cut down the resourcing of the switchboard operators to answer your calls.
What did the PNM do? Distorted and contorted to allow crime to continue.
- A heavy increase in law enforcement presence.
- The introduction of the Rapid Response Unit This worked together with E99 and the NOC.
They were so bitter when we established this, their sole complaint was the colour of the vehicles.
What did PNM do when they got in office – disbanded it. They shut it down! And you wonder why crime is escalating? And you wonder why when we were there crime was decreasing? It was because of our plans, policies and programmes. That is what we did.
- Established a Counter Human Trafficking Unit. As a result, Trinidad and Tobago moved from Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 2 on the USA report on human trafficking, this is due to our efforts in the area of Counter trafficking. The unit charged 10 persons with Human Trafficking and rescued 13 persons who were victims of Human Trafficking, most have been repatriated. – what happened when PNM got in office- they shut down several of the policies we put in place to combat human trafficking- end result- we got downgraded immediately back to Tier 2 WATCHLIST.
We moved TNT from Tier 2 watchlist to Tier 2, because we implemented initiatives such as:
* Establishment of the Child Protection Unit (CPU).
* Strengthening of the Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU) which spearheaded investigations and drafted standard operating procedures.
* Documentation of statements from most foreign victims prior to repatriation.
* Granting of temporary immigration relief to victims.
* Partnering with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for the repatriation of identified victims.
* Funding of NGOs that provide care for victims.
* Investigation of twenty-two (22) cases of human trafficking.
* Identification of an increased number of victims (trafficked for forced labour and sexual exploitation) and referred said victims for care.
* Charges being laid against a number of suspected offenders for the first time under the TIP Act of 2011.
* Provision of multiple specialized anti-trafficking training sessions throughout the year.
* Drafting of a plan for National Awareness Campaign in partnership with NGOs.
- Re-igniting the Security Cooperation agreement between TNT, Venezuela and Colombia.
- Initiated payment of a non-taxable Special Allowance of $1000 to all serving officers of the Protective Services. HOW DID WE DO THAT? PNM hired over 150 foreign used Brits in SAUTT- it was costing the taxpayer 20 million per month- yes 20 million per month- some had a monthly salary over 100000 TT per month. what did we do ?-
- When they were sent home as their achievement was the highest murder rate ever, and this same 20 million, we used to give $1,000 TT each to our law enforcement officers
- Take a look at your pay slip- you are still getting that thanks to UNC – almost 10 percent odd increase to most law enforcement officers
- Higher visibility of law enforcement officers on the nation’s roadways via the rebranding of the Highway Patrol Unit. The new livery of the Highway Patrol makes them a stand out for motorists on the nation’s highways. The rebranded Highway Patrols assisted many motorists who have unfortunately experienced some form of breakdown or malfunction while on the roadways. this, likewise to the Rapid Response Unit, provided high visibility and a raid response
- What did PNM do when they got in office-the Unit became virtually non-existent?
- Launched the Community Comfort Patrols which greatly assisted the TTPS in providing a level of comfort for the public in residential areas. The frequency of these patrols in such a confined area acted as a deterrent for the criminal. The CCP is also tied into the E999 system. The People’s Partnership Cabinet had approved the expansion of this programme to include a greater area for the CCP. this involved utilizing the Private security companies, which has 100’s of patrol vehicles to work in tandem with the TTPS, simply to provide eyes.
- Banned the use of cell phones while driving by amending the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Mobile Devices) Regulations.
- Established 13 surveillance bays on the Uriah Butler and Sir Solomon Highways. These surveillance bays will increase the police presence on the country’s major highway and will lend to enhanced management of road safety and detection of criminal activity.
- Increased the number of CCTVs by 500 cameras throughout Trinidad and Tobago to enhance law enforcement capabilities to detect, deter and respond to crime and other incidents that would otherwise go undetected.
- Launched the CCTV Center in Tobago over 180 cameras have been installed around the island and will also include areas frequented by visitors to the island. This system will be directly linked to the National CCTV Center located in the NOC.
- Opened the Duncan Street Police post and constructed modern Police Stations:
- La Brea
- Reestablishment of the Transnational Organized Crime Unit to deal with crime across the borders, this unit responsible for the seizure of over 300 Million USD worth of cocaine in Europe due to the sharing of intelligence. The ministry has been forging stronger communication links and collaboration with countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Venezuela, Colombia, China, France, Spain and Italy.
- Established the Private Security Network Commission (PSNC) to transmit relevant information for appropriate law enforcement action to the Police Service, through a dedicated communications network, consisting of more than 20,000 additional pairs of ‘eyes and ears’ from fourteen (14) accredited private security companies.
- For the very first time in the history of allocations in the Appropriation Bill in the police service was afforded the autonomy of its own budget, and the commissioner of police was appointed accounting officer of the police service.
- Established the National Security Training Academy. NSTA encompasses all Law Enforcement agencies and provides the type of training common to these agencies. this ensured that our officers in all arms would be properly trained.
- Training of Crime Scene Investigators was on-going. The National Security Training Academy trained several batches of Crime Scene Investigators to supplement the Homicide Investigations Bureau of the TTPS. These new CSIs contributed to a gradual improvement in the detection rate of serious crimes and a more professional approach in forensic recovery.
- Trinidad and Tobago Police Service vehicles were equipped with GPS Technology, in an effort to improve police response to calls for service. Body cameras for police officers were to be provided as evidence in the case of accusations by the public about excessive force being meted out by police officers. when PNM got in, this system to GPS track police vehicles ended and only resumed when Griffith took over as COP.
- The Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force, Trinidad and Tobago Police Service and Trinidad and Tobago Fire Service all gained an increase in force numbers with the passing out of recruit intakes. A concerted drive in recruitment has ensured that the units will be fully manned in the shortest possible time frame. it was in 2014 that TTPS reached the closest to its full establishment. and how? TTPS would lose 200 odd officers annually due to retirement etc. so if you only recruit 2 batches annually of 100 each, you can never reach your established strength if you are short by over 1,000.
- We moved the police recruiting training from the barracks as they could only hold 100 per batch to CDA in Chaguaramas and then we started getting batches of close to 250. That is the out of box thinking we did what? What did PNM do when they got in – shut that down and returned to the barracks and now you saw the latest news of TTPS being short 1,400 officers.
We have many other plans. I will save them for another night. My friends look at the state of our once beautiful nation under the PNM.
You are reduced to a prisoner in your own home. You’re Just going to sleep every night hoping that tonight the bandits don’t come to your doorstep.
Your children cannot even play outside. You must hurry home before it gets dark. Business owners cannot even stay open past sunset because they are almost guaranteed to be robbed.
Then we look at the widespread poverty and suffering. No jobs, no opportunities and no future under the PNM. Roads collapsing, flooding in the dry season and dry taps in the wet season, we can go on and on – on the myriad of issues.
You know them. High food prices, property tax, tire tax, and higher fuel prices. The list of problems can go on and on. However, the UNC stands ready. We have a track record. We did it before and we will do it again.
As Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Let us not lose hope in the face of adversity, but instead, let us come together to tackle this issue head-on.
We must work towards creating a society where our children can walk the streets without fear and where our elderly can live their lives in peace. It is not an easy task, but together we can achieve it.
We must continue to push for change and demand accountability from those in power. So, let us not lose hope, but instead, let us continue to fight for a better tomorrow.