TIME FOR ACTION
By Andre Bagoo and Clint Chan Tack Friday, September 6 2013
GARY GRIFFITH, 48, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s national security adviser, was yesterday announced as the new Minister of National Security in the reshuffled Cabinet.
Griffith’s appointment ends the temporary four-month tenure of Emmanuel George, who was appointed to the crucial post in April in the wake of the resignation of the former minister Jack Warner for findings of fraud and corruption in relation to football affairs.
Griffith, a former Regiment captain, immediately pledged to take action.
“Enough talk it is time for action,” he said.
The new security appointment underlines continued concern over crime levels, concerns which have been deepened by a series of brutal murders in East Port-of-Spain, the recent deaths of young people who fell victim to gang activity, apparent drug trade hits as well as two beheadings in the space of one year.
Griffith is the fourth person to serve as National Security Minister in the People’s Partnership Government, following George, Warner and Brigadier General John Sandy.
The Prime Minister made the announcement as promised yesterday at the post-Cabinet press briefing held at the Office of the Prime Minister St Clair.
She also announced the introduction of two new faces: Gerald Hadeed as Minister of Communications; and Raziah Ahmed as a Minister of State in the Ministry of Gender, Youth & Child Development (a non-Cabinet post).
The appointment of Senator Christlyn Moore – the Minister of Justice who replaced Herbert Volney and whose one-year tenure saw a plan to abolish the preliminary inquiry stalled yet again – is to be revoked. So too is the Senate appointment of Jamal Mohammed, the outgoing Communications Minister. Persad-Bissessar said Griffith will be made a senator in place of Senate Vice-President Lyndira Oudit who quit last month.
The Prime Minister also announced several shifts in the portfolios of current ministers. Among them, George will now become Minister of Justice.
He wished the new National Security Minister good luck and called on the population to support him. “I think the new post-holder will need the support of the nation,” George told Newsday. Of his own tenure, he told reporters, “One never gets everything one wants to get done.”
He said his focus at the Ministry of Justice will be to accelerate ongoing programmes.
Griffith is married to Nicole Dyer-Griffith, the former Congress of the People Senator and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Communications. Dyer-Griffith last night said of her husband’s pending appointment, “I am very satisfied with his appointment. From an operational perspective he is competent, qualified and capable and I think he will do a fantastic job. I can assure you that as his wife I will be providing him with support. I will be his number one fan and also his most fierce critic.”
Griffith was two months ago reported to have quit his membership of the UNC and his party affiliation in the Senate – if any – remains unclear.
Speaking with reporters immediately after the announcement, Griffith said his 15 years in the Defence Force and his masters degree in criminology gave him a working knowledge of policing and law enforcement. He said, “I would focus more on primary crime prevention methods rather than the secondary methods.”
Vowing to ensure the Police Service and Defence Force get the tools they need to fight crime, Griffith said he will look at target hardening, intelligence and other strategies, that will make life difficult for persons who think they can commit crime and escape with impunity
While declining to say whether he will reintroduce the “Soldier Bill” which sought to give police powers to Defence Force personnel, Griffith welcomed the Government-Opposition crime talks.
“We need to understand that the enemy is not those on either side of the political/parliamentary bench. We must not politicise crime. We have to look at all individuals, circle the wagons and it is good versus evil.”
In making her Cabinet reshuffle announcement, the Prime Minister focused on the need to get the crime situation under control.
“Too many of our young people are dying through violence,” the Prime Minister said. “We must find a way to stop this! We have to return to the churches, temples, and mosques. Our teachers have a vital role to play from a child’s early upbringing.”
“We have to confront this problem from the home. We have to encourage parents to take control of their children’s lives from a very young age. It is only then, would we put a handle on the social problems affecting young people in our society,” Persad-Bissessar said.
The Prime Minister also took the opportunity to urge her ministers to perform and assured the nation that her newly reformulated Cabinet was not ready for “lift-off”.
“This ushers in a new era of my Government,” Persad-Bissessar said.
“I can assure you that no one will escape scrutiny of his or her performance and satisfaction of the public interest.
This is lift off time, the launch of the most aggressive development and progressive period of governance in our nation’s history. The groundwork has been laid, the foundation is there, now the transformation you elected us to achieve will occur and will do so at breathtaking pace.”
Gary Griffith, a graduate of St Mary’s College, began his career in the Defence Force on June 1, 1988 as a commissioned officer and obtained his training at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England. During his career, he held several levels of command and functions in the capacity of Platoon commander, Detachment commander, Adjutant and Company Second in Command.
Griffith served as the Administrative, Finance and Welfare Officer in Trinidad and Tobago’s first deployment of soldiers for the Caricom troops assigned to Haiti in the 1990s.
Griffith acted as Aide de Camp for President ANR Robinson in 1999 and was in 2000 appointed as the Comptroller of Household at the Prime Minister’s Residence under the administration of Basdeo Panday. In 2010, Griffith was made a special adviser to the Prime Minister and oversaw reforms at the Prime Minister’s Residence and Diplomatic Centre which saw several private staffers sacked amid concerns.
Between 1996 and 1999, Griffith also performed duties as Aide to Chiefs of Defence Staff Brigadier General Carl Alfonso and Commodore Anthony Franklin.