POLICE TO PROBE 'FLYING SQUAD'
By Clint Chan Tack Saturday, March 2 2013
PRIME MINISTER Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday said that a police probe will be launched into reports that a new or revived “Flying Squad” has been established to curb the rising tide of crime. In making this announcement, she also distanced herself and all members of her Cabinet, including National Security Minister Jack Warner, from having any knowledge of or involvement in the setting up of this squad.
Speaking in the House of Representatives, 24 hours after the National Security Council (NSC) held extensive discussions at her office in St Clair on the controversial issue, Persad-Bissessar declared, “I wish to report that after full discussions and careful deliberations, the NSC took the decision to refer the said reports to the (Acting) Commissioner of Police (Stephen Williams) for investigation into any alleged wrongdoings, unlawful conduct and/or action by any or all persons reported to be involved in this matter.”
“As chairman of the NSC, I wish to emphasise that this course of action was taken at the very first meeting of the NSC upon receipt of the reports from relevant officials. Therefore, I again repeat, there has been no direct or applied approval, ever given by the NSC or the Cabinet for the establishment of any such unit.” She reminded all MPs that she was kept abreast of all developments in TT while she was at the Caricom Inter-Sessional Heads of Government Conference in Haiti and on her return home on February 21, directed Warner to give her a report on the Flying Squad issue.
The Prime Minister said during Thursday’s NSC meeting, “amongst the several matters discussed was the issue of the alleged Flying Squad and establishment of same.”
“The Council has before it the report I requested from the Minister of National Security. Mr Warner has consistently denied he was instrumental in establishing any new Flying Squad. His report to the NSC reflected this,” Persad-Bissessar stated.
She indicated that Warner, “also had a report from Garvin Heerah”, former strategic adviser at the Ministry of National Security and the person whom it is alleged, provided interface with persons desirous of reintroducing such a squad to help combat crime.
While the Prime Minister described Heerah in this manner as “former director”, Newsday was reliably informed by senior government and national security officials that Heerah has not been fired from his current post as National Security Operations Centre (NSOC) Director in the wake of the “Flying Squad” issue.
Before the House, Persad-Bissessar reiterated, “I have no knowledge of any such alleged activity and I want to make it very clear that these are allegations and this is why the Security Council took the decision to refer it to the (Acting) Commissioner of Police for investigation.”
She then declared, “I also state unequivocally that as Prime Minister any initiative considered by my Cabinet to combating crime will always be fully within the laws and the Constitution and under the jurisdiction, where approved, by the Commissioner of Police.”
Persad-Bissessar said since this issue entered the public domain within the last month, “it has been attracting widespread public comment, including speculation and generating misleading conclusions by some.”
Persad-Bissessar’s first comment on this issue was reported in Newsday on June 27, shortly after she reshuffled her Cabinet for the second time and appointed Warner National Security Minister in that reshuffle.
Questioned by reporters on Warner’s statement on June 26, 2012, that he was considering whether the Flying Squad could be reintroduced, the Prime Minister at that time said, “It is a proposal he has put out. I am sure he will meet with his heads of division of his ministry, and they will consider it before any final decision is made.”
Warner’s first comments on the Flying Squad issue were reported in a Newsday story on June 26, 2012. “There were some good elements in the Flying Squad. Of course, they did some very wrong things which have to change. Let us go back and see what worked well in the past. Whatever worked well, let’s do (it again),” Warner told reporters on June 25.
For his part, Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams has denied any knowledge of formation of a Flying Squad in the Police Service.