'WE WILL WIN WAR'
By Andre Bagoo Wednesday, September 14 2011
TWENTY-THREE days after the state of emergency was declared, the National Security Council yesterday announced a massive expansion of the curfew areas.
The curfew will now apply to eleven new areas: Carli Bay, Couva; Cedros; Chase Village, Carapichaima; Claxton Bay, Pointe-a-Pierre; Dow Village, California; La Horquetta; McBean, Couva; Maloney; Moruga; Toco and Windy Hill in Arouca. The exact boundaries of these curfew areas, which will take effect from this evening, will be demarcated and announced in orders which are to be published.
The maritime boundary, three nautical miles from the coast, will now also fall, explicitly, under the curfew. The curfew hours remain 11 pm to 4 am.
The announcement of the expansion of the “hot-spot” areas was made at a national security briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair.
It came after a marathon meeting of the National Security Council which began at 10.30 am and ended at about 5.30 pm and which is understood to have addressed a wide range of issues, including the need to review curfew areas and the recent collapse of criminal cases against 21 men who were alleged to have been members of a Nelson Street, Port-of-Spain gang.
From the very day the curfew hours came into effect in an initial six crime “hot-spot” areas, there have been calls for them to be reviewed.
During a marathon debate of the state of emergency in Parliament, MPs called for curfews to be introduced in many of their constituencies. The original six curfew areas were:
Port-of-Spain, Diego Martin, Chaguanas, San Fernando, Arima and San Juan/Laventille.
Minister of National Security Brigadier John Sandy last month said the first curfew areas were drawn up in relation to police information and specific intelligence gathered by state agencies. MPs also produced evidence showing that the “hot-spots” have been long identified by the police, even from under the PNM.
However, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday said the decision was taken to expand the curfew areas “based on discussions we had at the National Security Council and intelligence that has been obtained.”
Yesterday’s briefing was scheduled to begin at 4 pm, but was delayed by almost two hours as the final decisions over the curfew areas were made by the council, which was chaired by the Prime Minister.
The briefing also saw the airing of CCTV video footage which appeared to show several persons caught in the act of committing crimes. Government officials yesterday asked the viewing public to see if they could recognise the persons pictured in the footage, one day after several gang offences were thrown out of court.
The footage showed persons along Nelson Street, Port-of-Spain, robbing cars caught in traffic, taking possession of what appear to be firearms and in one instance, shooting neighbourhood rivals. The Prime Minister, speaking to reporters before yesterday’s briefing, described the footage as disturbing.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson described the footage, which was broadcast on screens for the population to see.
“This is from the footage that we have recovered from Nelson Street,” Richardson said. “This is a sample of what is going on. This happened prior to the state of emergency.”
Describing the videos one by one as they played, Richard gave an analysis of what he was seeing in the footage.
“They are shooting at each other on Nelson Street in broad daylight,” he said of one graphic video. “We draw this to your attention so you can see what happens daily.”
Of another video, Richardson said, “There was a shooting. The guy who was standing on the road he was shot.” The footage showed the apparent murder which took place as pedestrians strolled past on Nelson Street. “That is on Nelson Street. That is a regular occurrence.”
Another video appeared to show a young male taking possession of a firearm, another was a graphic record of a robbery which took place in broad daylight.
“As the traffic comes to a stop they are robbing the people of their jewelry, of their cell-phones,” Richardson said of another video.
Persad-Bissessar explained that the footage was among the surveillance which was before the National Security Council when the decision was taken to call a state of emergency.
“We share this with you today so that you could have some idea of the information that was brought to the National Security Council,” she said. She noted that the videos, culled from CCTV systems across the country, was just a sample and that there was footage from other areas.
It is understood that there was disagreement over the decision to show the footage, with some members of the council adamant that the public, at this stage, see graphically the prevalence of criminal activity and others concerned over revealing surveillance capacities. Persad-Bissessar came out fighting at yesterday’s briefing warning that she will see the exercise of the state of emergency to the end.
“I want to tell you quite honestly, I intend to win this war. This is not just a fight between the Government and criminals, this is a fight between the people and the criminals,” she said. “We are all in this together and we will win this together.”
“As your Prime Minister, I give the assurance that I will not abandon this fight. I will pursue this course to the end,” Persad-Bissessar said.
Asked why the video footage was not used as the basis of criminal prosecutions, Persad-Bissessar and Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said they did not fulfill technical requirements of the law. For instance, Persad-Bissessar said, the video with the man apparently collecting a gun was not proof that the object held was, in fact, a firearm. Additionally, Richardson said the victims of the robberies were not willing to come forward to give evidence out of fear of reprisals.
“Lawyers will advise of the difficulties of prosecuting without a virtual complainant,” Persad-Bissessar said. Richardson also noted that the footage was taken prior to the date when the anti- gang legislation came into force, August 15.
Persad-Bissessar noted that the criminal justice system has not been perfect “for a long time” but said Monday’s dismissal of charges against persons held under the state of emergency was simply in accordance with the processes of the rule of law.
“There is a certain amount of slippage,” she said. “But it does not mean that we are totally handicapped. There will be areas where it can be utilised and when we put all of that together we will have (results).” She noted that about one-eighth of all persons held under the state of emergency were held for gang offences.
Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs, at yesterday’s briefing, said the total number of persons arrested to date was 2,043 with 1,146 of these on gang offences. He said while there was evidence against persons freed on Monday, “the evidence that was put forward was not enough to take it through the courts.”
Minister of National Security John Sandy urged the communities where the 21 persons were freed, to police themselves.
“While the law was exercised (Monday) we (hope) those people who were returned to them (residents) do not change the status quo,” he said. He noted there have been no homicides reported in the original “hot-spot” areas.
Prisons Commissioner John Rougier denied reports of mistreatment of prisoners. “The issue of inhumane treatment I can state, quite categorically, that that is not so,” he said.
11 pm-4 am curfew
(Princes Town Regional Corporation)
(Siparia Regional Corporation)
(Sangre Grande Regional Corporation)
* La Horquetta
* Windy Hill, Arouca
(Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation)
* Carli Bay, Couva
* Mc Bean, Couva
* Claxton Bay, Pointe-a-Pierre
* Dow Village, California
* Chase Village, Carapichaima
(Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation)
* 3 nautical miles at sea
Port-of-Spain City Corporation
San Fernando City Corporation
Arima Borough Corporation
Chaguanas Borough Corporation
San Juan Laventille Regional Corporation
Diego Martin Regional Corporation
* New districts