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‘Griffith out of place’

By MIRANDA LA ROSE Wednesday, July 23 2014

NATIONAL Security Minister Gary Griffith is “out of place” to take to task retired Major General Ralph Brown who has questioned the legality of patrols by soldiers, without a police presence, in Laventille, says Independent Senator Helen Drayton.

“The Minister, as a junior to the retired Major (General) Ralph Brown was out of place and out of sync with a public reality. Such behaviour creates negative perceptions with respect to the criminal justice system,” Drayton said.

She made her remarks yesterday during debate on the bill to amend the Prisons Act, Criminal Offences Act and Mental Act in the Senate, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port-of- Spain.

Brown wrote a letter, published in the newspapers, questioning the legality of the soldiers-only patrols. If acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams said he did not request these independent patrols and Chief of Defence Staff Major General Kenrick Maharaj, is silent on the matter, Drayton said, “the public has every right to form their conclusions.”

If civilians are going to the media instead of the police or the rightful authority to lodge complaints, she added, “then that is an indictment of the criminal justice system.”

What struck her, Drayton said, was Griffith’s response in which he said he believes the criminal elements were causing the media to create a negative public perception of patrolling soldiers.

In another interview, she said, Griffith criticised Brown saying it appeared he (Brown) has a problem understanding the difference between an operation and an independent patrol. Quoting Griffith’s response to Brown, Drayton said, “He said as far as the patrols go there is nothing illegal about them and as such the statement made by Brown without any knowledge of what was taking place was irresponsibility to the highest degree. Thankfully he (Brown) does not hold any position of authority because if he did then he would have turned the situation into a big mess.

“With all due respect sir (referring to Griffith), if you did say that, you are highly disrespectful of a retired senior of the Defence Force who came to the rescue of this country in 1990 during the attempted coup and who served with courage, dignity and humility...a humility that is lacking in the Ministry of National Security.” There was no need, Drayton said, “to attack the integrity of this retired and honoured soldier. More so when he was right in his statement,” she claimed. She said the issue remains whether or not soldiers are acting within the law by going on independent patrols.

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