Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says if he acts unfairly against individuals who have not been convicted of criminal activity he will be in breach of his oath of office.
Speaking to reporters in Moruga yesterday, Rowley said if such persons are engaging in crime the police must take action.
“At the end of the day, those of us who hold the post that I hold, we do something that none of you have to do in this country, except for Bar, those on the Judiciary, is to swear the oath of office: to act without fear or favour, without malice or ill will,” Rowley said.
“So if a person has a criminal record and I act against that person with ill will, I would be in breach of my oath of office. But if the person is engaging in criminal conduct, well that is a matter for this (police) officer and his staff. He will follow the law and the police will and must take action.”
Rowley said while he does not know who gets or who does not get a government contract, if there is impropriety the Government can identify it and act on it.
The PM’s comment came in the wake of a Sunday Guardian article which highlighted report compiled by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, while he was national security minister in the People’s Partnership government, which revealed criminal gang leaders were benefiting from state contracts. The 17-page report noted that the gang members, many of whom operated along the East-West Corridor, were using their influence to obtain lucrative contracts from the Housing Development Corporation, Unemployment Relief Programme, CEPEP and LifeSport programme.
Some of the gang leaders identified in Griffith’s report were held during last week’s anti-gang operation. While the operation has been applauded, there has been public concern over the suspects’ quick release from custody. Despite this, Rowley said it does not mean that the police’s process has not worked. He said the police had to follow a procedure, whereby they detain those suspected of a crime for up to 48 hours.
“You can be arrested for 48 hours and not be charged because of the strength of the evidence. It does not mean that you did not do anything wrong, but the strength of the evidence to get you successfully prosecuted might not be there… Under our laws, you can be arrested on suspicion.
“But if it is only suspicion that caused you to be arrested, the police has the authority to keep you for 48 hours or go to the court and ask for an extension. Your lawyer will come and argue against it. Because you have been arrested and you have been released, it does not mean that the process has not worked.”
Rowley also commended Griffith, saying he was a hard-working commissioner who was facing the reality of T&T’s situation. He said the morale of the police service was strengthening and policing was becoming more successful.
No PNM ties to criminals
On Sunday, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal said the lucrative contracts being given to gang leaders was undermining the police’s war against gangs. He called on Rowley to terminate contracts with gang leaders and take action against any minister who gave such contracts. He said Rowley continued to harbour senior government ministers with known links to people before the courts and other alleged gang leaders.
Asked about Moonilal’s claim yesterday, a visibly upset Rowley said if he is given evidence that shows any of his ministers having close ties with any gang leader he will take action.
When asked about the “close ties” between Minister of Public Administration Marlene McDonald and Sea Lots resident Cedric “Burkie” Burke, who was arrested during last week’s anti-gang operation, Rowley said he did not know what “close ties” meant. He said he knew McDonald was the MP for the community where Burke resides. He also said there were people in his Diego Martin West constituency who were of “great interest to the police.” He clarified that McDonald was not previously dismissed from his Cabinet for having close ties with a gang leader, but for being accompanied by Burke during a swearing-in function at President’s House.
The PM said the media was labelling all politicians as the same when the truth was that the People’s National Movement had a different track record to the United National Congress. He said MPs have all kinds of people within their constituencies, including criminals. But when a party chooses those people through a screening process and put them as candidates for government, there was something wrong. He said the records would show that kind of selection was not the PNM way.
- by Kevon Felmine