National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy says he will call out regimental police, naval police from the Coast Guard and military police from the Air Guard to pick up the slack if it comes to that, to ensure that revelers and patrons of the festivities are safe during their time of feting.
“We have already put in place a plan in the event that there is requirement for it to be put in place,” he said yesterday.
Police officers have requested a 40 percent increase in their salaries, following which, the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led administration had indicated that it cannot afford more than a 5 percent increase.
Some officers have protested, by staging a sickout, and have indicated that a 5 percent increase is far too little.
Soldiers had to be called in to guard the Parliament building on 16th February, as Senate sat, after more than half of the 51 members of the Guard and Emergency Branch failed to show up for work. The previous day, officers assigned to the residences of the President, Prime Minister and Attorney General, were also no-shows. Proceedings in the courts have also been affected by the industrial action.
Police officers have threatened to not perform usual extra duties for Carnival fetes or for Carnival Monday and Tuesday – 7th March and 8th – if their demands are not met but Sandy says if the officers don’t perform those duties, revelers will not be unprotected.
“We have contingency plans in place. I met with the Police Commissioner, the Chief of Defence Staff and I am meeting with them again (this) morning…and remember the Defence Force includes the Coast Guard and the Air Guard, so we are pulling all resources,” he said, although acknowledging that the backup plan would put strain on the Defence Force.
Meantime, the National Security Minister says he “feels for” the police officers and, if he could, he would pay them because “most of them work hard”. However, he did not condone their industrial action.
“I wish I could find a few billions to pay them,” he said. “I have been out there with them and I know they work hard, but I feel that there are other avenues, particularly if we take into consideration their motto to protect and serve with pride,” he said.
“I don’t know how the negotiations will eventually unfold, but at the same time I feel that when we look at the fact the policemen are part of the community and their friends and families are affected, I don’t think they want to go down that road,” Sandy added.
Opposition Senator Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, during the Senate sitting yesterday, urged the government to resolve the dispute urgently. “If we don’t do that everything is going to continue to be in chaos,” she cautioned.
Beckles-Robinson warned that the country could see incidents of vigilante justice becoming widespread if the police and government do not reach some agreement.
She made reference to an incident in the village of Barrackpore last week, when a 53-year-old chased two men who chopped and robbed his relatives, running them over with his car. One was knocked unconscious – and later died – and the other, who tried to escape, was beaten by villagers and tied to a van until police arrived.
(Content for this article was obtained from a Caribbean360 release)