Top soldier backs Govt, Opposition crime talks
By Janelle De Souza Friday, August 30 2013
COLONEL Rodney Smart, Commanding Officer of the TT Regiment, believes it is good that the Government and the Opposition are sitting down to discuss the crime situation in the country because it is necessary for them to find ways for citizens to work together.
“I don’t see Opposition and Government in a fight. I see citizens of TT. How can we as citizens of TT, regardless of what interests we have, come together to solve the problems we have? The challenges we face are so wide now and therefore the best people to solve our problems are Trinidadians and Tobagonians. That definitely is what I would like to see,” said Smart.
Smart was speaking to reporters at the National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA) yesterday after a seminar hosted by the William J Perry Centre for Hemispheric Defence Studies (CHDS) Trinidad and Tobago Alumni Association, entitled “Emerging Transnational Security Threats and their Impact on Small Island States.”
He noted that national security was no longer just about defence, but also encompassed intelligence, foreign policy, disaster/emergency management, transportation, energy, public health and other issues. Some of the key threats to the country he highlighted included transnational and local organised crime, illicit trading of weapons and explosives, HIV/AIDS, industrial pollution, and the destruction of wetlands and forests.
Also speaking at the event was Lt Commander Aldon Jasper, Ag Commander Operations of the TT Coast Guard. He told the audience that some of the issues experienced at the country’s borders were fisheries protection in Tobago, offshore installations in the East, as well as arms, drugs and human trafficking from South America in south Trinidad.
Jasper said, while the Coast Guard has been seeing positive results due to planning and cooperation, there was always room for improvement. He noted that during the period August 27, 2012 to August 13, 2013, there had been over 957 patrols, 217 joint patrols with the police, 388 contacts of interest, 266 solved cases, and 57 medical emergencies.
“For a small coast guard I think we are doing great. We are also the Risk Coordinating Centre for our region so therefore we would also assist other countries in terms of search and rescue or coordinate with Venezuela, US or Martinique in order to ensure that cases are resolved,” he said.
Kevin Newmeyer, Assistant Professor at the CHDS, addressed the topic of human trafficking. He said traffickers often take advantage of natural disasters to gain victims.
“One of the major concerns of the United Nations,” he said, “was the fact that criminal groups would exploit these situations to enter and pull out some of the population, namely children and women, which means they would go under the cover of taking these children in to an orphanage and they end up being trafficked.”
He noted that two to four million persons are trafficked annually for sexual exploitation and forced labour, but 99 percent of them are never rescued. Those elicited for the sex trade, he said, are forced to perform sex acts approximately 20 times per day, and the profits for each woman is US$250,000 per year on average.