PRIME MINISTER Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday outlined a three-step crime plan as she admitted that crime in this country was a “challenge” for her Government.
“Crime remains our greatest challenge. We have been working on a holistic way of fighting crime,” the Prime Minister said.
Emphasis, she said, will be placed on finding the criminals.
“… this area, it has to do with the law enforcement, the law enforcement agencies of the State, that is to say that you enforce the law, you find criminals,” Persad-Bissessar said.
She said while the murder toll was less than last year’s toll at this same period, it still was not cause for jubilation. The murder toll as of last evening, according to the Express’ count, stood at 473, 22 fewer than at the same period last year. Last year’s final murder toll was 509.
The Prime Minister was speaking at her Siparia constituency office, where she distributed National Self-help Grants to assist residents with minor home repairs.
She outlined the other stages of the crime plan, which includes poverty reduction in the most vulnerable areas.
“Those are the areas of primary concern, where we can nip the criminal before the criminal becomes a criminal,” Persad-Bissessar said.
She said this will be done by providing opportunities through education, social services delivery and community development.
The Prime Minister said this is already being done and the results will be seen in the long-term.
The second level, Persad-Bissessar said, is finding the criminal.
“Today I believe the secondary level is the most important and that secondary level has to be the higher visibility of police and law enforcement officers out there and the greater enforcement of the law itself … and so as we continue to work with law enforcement officers in each sector, there are specific details, some of them can be disclosed to the public, some will not be disclosed to the public,” she said.
Persad-Bissessar’s comment came as the country reels from the killings of five people between Sunday and Monday, two of them mothers.
Mother of four, Sandra Henry, 48, of Cocoyea Village, San Fernando, was killed by a stray bullet in Marabella as gunmen opened fire on Anton Jim Jones, 28, of St James Street, Marabella. Jones’s body ignited during the shooting. Police recovered more than two dozen spent shells at the scene.
Abdul Mason, 25, of Laventille, and Nathan Raymond, 20, of Santa Cruz, were also found shot dead close to their homes on Monday. And on Sunday night, Debbie Maloney, a mother of seven, was shot multiple times about her body at her La Horquetta home.
The third level of the crime plan, Persad-Bissessar said, is the Judiciary.
“ …. we have to go at the level of the Judiciary as well and give the support to the judiciary, such as is necessary to improve the administration of justice in Trinidad and Tobago,” she said.
Over the weekend, a NACTA poll showed that the public was unhappy with Government’s handling of crime. Polled on whether the protective services were getting a handle on crime, nine per cent of those polled said “yes” and 79 per cent said “no”.
Twelve per cent were not sure.
Courtesy Express Newspaper
Kamla leads flood relief action
Keeping the promise she made at her swearing-in ceremony, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar led a three-hour rescue mission yesterday to several communities that were badly affected by the floods on Wednesday.
She immediately made arrangements to have six families relocated from their homes which remained under flood waters even though the rains had eased yesterday.
“The forecast is for more rain over the weekend, so it is not going to get better right away. So all we can do is offer that immediate assistance relief in terms of food, drinking water and a dry place to sleep,” Persad-Bissessar told reporters, after meeting one of the families at Spring Village, Valsayn.
The Prime Minister began her day at 10 am with a briefing at the Office of the Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) in Trincity in preparation for a tour of the flooded communities.
She traded in the silk, lime green business suit which she wore to Knowsley Building, Port-of-Spain where she took the oath of office as Prime Minister, on Wednesday afternoon, for a pair of khaki pants, black construction boots and a fluorescent orange reflective vest to walk through water-soaked and muddy areas to meet the flood victims.
And as she had instructed in her speech after taking her prime ministerial oath, MPs Prakash Ramadhar, Jack Warner and Herbert Volney, hit the field with Persad-Bissessar, accompanying her on the tour. In other areas in south and central Trinidad, more of her MPs went out to help their constituents.
Persad-Bissessar also took chief executive officer of ODPM Colonel George Robinson and PS in the Office of the Prime Minister Sandra Marchack, who she met moments after her appointment as Prime Minister to begin organising relief efforts, along with her to tour Piarco, Caparo, Spring Village as well as Bamboo No 1 and No 3.
Members of the Ministry of Social Development and the Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation were also in tow, carrying food supplies and water to the affected residents of these areas.
At about 11.37 am, the Prime Minister and her entourage drove through a long, muddy track into Sheldon Trace, Piarco where residents, who seemed in awe of her, quickly told their stories.
One resident, Debra Rampersad told Persad-Bissessar that she and her family had lost almost everything in the floods.
Rampersad, a mother of six, said eight members of her household, including herself, needed to be relocated after the waters invaded their home on Wednesday.
“This is the worst I have ever seen in this area, me and my children have lost everything and I do not want them to be in this water because there might be snakes there and we also heard there was a caiman in the back of the house,” Rampersad said.
She said one of her children, 12-year-old Akash Rampersad, was diagnosed with cancer recently and has to undergo chemotherapy every week at the Eric Williams Medical Science Complex, Mt Hope and returns home every Friday for the weekend. “I don’t want him to come home with the house under water, he needs to be in a proper home,” she said. Persad-Bissessar told her she would be relocated until the waters go down while food and clothes would be provided to them.
At this time, Volney had gone off to another district, while Warner spoke to another resident at Sheldon Trace as Persad-Bissessar and Ramadhar listened to the Rampersad family.
The entourage then went to Spring Village, Valsayn where they met several more affected residents before going to meet farmers. While there, they came upon a bridge that was immersed where the surrounding farmland was completely under water. Persad-Bissessar then saw a family marooned in their home and began walking across the bridge toward the one-storey house but had to be stopped by her security detail out of concern for her safety.
Recognising that the family may not want to leave their house and their belongings, she instructed Robinson to organise a team to go through the floodwaters to carry supplies for the family.
Persad-Bissessar told reporters following her on the tour, that the flooding was an ongoing problem which really requires a plan for proper drainage but as a short-term measure they would provide relief where needed.
“What we are about is immediate relief in the short-term so we could see how we could assist those that are hardest hit.”“So we need to look at the drainage plan, look at the Mamoral Dam and Caparo River and those issues would certainly come on the front burner because we are going into the wet season so it would not get better,” she said.
After Spring Village, Persad-Bissessar made a stop in Carapo, and her entourage later regrouped, at about 2 pm, at Bamboo No 1, where residents cheered and, applauded as she arrived.
“We are proud of you,” and “we never see a prime minister in here before,” the grateful residents said. Persad-Bissessar stopped at a house where she gave out hampers, assisted by Ramadhar, to those in need.
By this time, Warner left the group to go to another community, while Volney rejoined Persad- Bissessar and Ramadhar at Bamboo No 3, at about 2.37 pm.
Although tired, Persad-Bissessar made a surprise visit to Bamboo Grove Presbyterian School, where she was greeted by cheering children and smiling teachers who tried to get as near as possible to her. The principal then had a group of students line up to meet her, and she hugged and kissed every one of them.
She then gave them a lesson on how to behave, and had them repeat after her, “be good, do good and good will follow you.” Tyler St Hill, a student, said he was excited to meet the Prime Minister. “This is the first time I every saw her in real life,” he told Newsday.
Persad-Bissessar described her first full day in office as a working one and sent a message to those she could not visit. “Keep strong, keep focussed. We would get the job done, it may take a little longer in some ways but we would get the job done,” she said.