National Security Minister Stuart Young says Government plans to set up an army base in Moruga, as intelligence-driven operations show the area is prone to human trafficking, smuggling, drug trafficking and gun running.
He made the comment during a tour of the area yesterday. After meeting with residents from Basse Terre and Gran Chemin, Young visited a possible location for the base. And during a press conference at the Moruga Police Station, he said the exploding socio-economic crisis in Venezuela had escalated the influx of Venezuelans to Trinidad.
“We are not burying our heads in the sand. We are not pretending we don’t have an immigrant flow. We are looking at establishing an army base in Moruga so that there will be more permanency,” Young explained.
He added that the Defence Force camp at La Romaine will also be upgraded.
“During my tour, I stopped at Camp La Romaine to get a first-hand understanding of camp La Romaine and I now intend to go and increase the infrastructure at Camp La Romaine,” Young said.
He noted that the La Romaine camp was established in 2006 and since then geopolitical dynamics had changed, bringing the need for more soldiers in the southern region.
“As time passed the southern coastline and operations in the south have become very important and we have to provide that support to the T&T Defence Force,” Young said.
He noted that soldiers needed suitable quarters from which to launch their operations and then return to base for rest and recuperation.
Young also revealed that military personnel from the United States Embassy were also working in the Moruga region.
Saying the teams will be in the area until Easter, Young said, “The Defence Force is not only here for law enforcement, they are here to assist with social programmes. They will be engaged in health facilities, sporting camps and assisting with Easter activities.”
He said the soldiers will also assist in sprucing up a number of schools.
“They will be working closely with the US Army in terms of offering humanitarian assistance,” he said.
He noted, however, that the main motive will be to engage in a collaborative crime eradication drive, adding that Government intends to pull back on criminals who have held T&T under siege.
While there has been no increase in manpower, Young said there is the strategic deployment of teams based on intelligence, which has proved successful in reducing illegal activity in the region. He also warned that people involved in extortion were being monitored.
“There are criminal elements who believe they can engage in extortion. We are very aware of it. Soon we will be engaging in intelligence-driven operations. We are not going to tolerate extortion and we will push back on criminal elements who are engaging in extortion,” Young said.
He did not give further details but said, “We know boats are coming in here with human trafficking, illegal arms and ammunition, illegal animals and narcotics.
“Since our crime initiatives began we have seen a great reduction in the number of boats and vessels coming inland or offshore. There is also a decrease in narcotics, arms and ammunition. As we tighten our borders, we are preventing stuff coming from the outside.” —RADHICA DE SILVA
Photo by Kristian De Silva.