Minister of National Security Stuart Young will have the opportunity to explain his statement that there are certain persons promoting crime in order to create fear and panic, which they hope would lead to the destabilisation of the society.
Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on National Security, Fitzgerald Hinds, responding to the call from the two Opposition members on the committee, Roodal Moonilal and Senator Saddam Hosein, has convened a meeting for January 29 (next Wednesday).
Hinds has proposed a “reconfiguration” of the agenda to give precedence to an enquiry into the crime situation and the Minister of National Security’s assessment of it.
In a letter dated January 20, 2020, sent on behalf of the committee’s chairman to JSC members, chairman Hinds proposed a change from the original agenda, which was the continuation of the committee’s enquiry into prison security.
Hinds proposed a deferral of this matter and instead the holding of an enquiry into “Crime, Security, Safety and Protection of Citizens”.
Hinds further recommended that this enquiry “commence with the appearance before the committee of the Minister of National Security and (officials of) the relevant national security agencies”.
JSC members were asked to confirm their agreement with the proposed agenda change.
The letter also stated the meeting will be held at a new venue, in one of the committee rooms in the refurbished Cabildo Building, at the Parliamentary Complex on St Vincent Street, Port of Spain.
Moonilal’s and Hosein’s call for a meeting was carried in the Sunday Express.
Almost immediately, Young had indicated by a news release on Sunday that he was “ready and prepared to appear before the JSC on National Security. I will provide the committee with the information that has been provided to me by, amongst others, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) in support of my very carefully spoken words”.
Moonilal: January 29 too late
Moonilal, in response to Hinds’s proposed January 29 meeting, told the Express yesterday that while he was happy Young was being summoned and a meeting scheduled, the Opposition would have preferred the meeting to be held “much earlier than January 29”.
“By keeping a January 29 date, it suggests that the Government is callous and not mindful of the seriousness of the crime wave that has taken hold of the country.
“Once again the Government treats a serious matter with a degree of flippancy. This is an issue requiring urgent attention and if we are to go by the outlandish statement of the Minister of National Security, untold damage could be wreaked on the population by the ‘unknown forces’ which are alleged promoting crime,” he said.
Moonilal said the Opposition had requested a meeting be convened as “quickly as possible so the allegations made by Stuart Young could be dealt with expeditiously”.
“You can’t hold an emergency meeting nine days from the day you asked for it,” he added.
However, he stated: “The Government has succumbed to the demand of the Opposition members and Minister Young has relented under pressure from the Opposition, the media and the wider population to explain his outlandish and reckless statements.”
Addressing a post-Cabinet news conference on Thursday, January 16, Young pointed to a new and disturbing trend of random shootings at persons not known to be involved in criminal activity towards the end of last year and he cited two recent incidents.
“And I put down a marker — why is it suddenly people are driving along certain main roads and are being shot at? Police officers who were shot at. And there is absolutely no intelligence or link of them to anything (criminal activity).
“We then began to put certain pieces of the puzzle together — that there are certain people in the society who want to create the impression and create a sense of fear and panic in T&T about what they call runaway crime,” said the minister.
He wondered aloud who stood to derive the most benefit from this fear and anxiety.
“The law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies are conducting the necessary investigation and are looking into the links that are taking place between certain persons in our society and criminal elements, and progress is being made in that direction,” said Young.
He added that at the appropriate time, he was certain the TTPS would provide the information.
Since the minister’s statement, a number of persons have called on him to provide the evidence to substantiate his allegations.