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Rowley welcomes crime talks with Kamla, warns: Collaboration key to success

He also welcomed talks with Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on the issues, saying he hopes it will not be used to score political points.

Rowley said the police needed to improve on their response time to crime, while a deeper trust between the T&T Police Service and the public needed to be fostered and a substantive commissioner of police who we can be held accountable must be appointed.

The PM made the comment in response to the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) and Chaguanas Chamber’s recent criticism of his Government’s failure to bring the rising crime scourge, and in particular murders, under control.

Speaking at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, Rowley said the fight against crime was not simple but a multi-faceted issue which had implications within our borders and externally.

“Today, I am hearing that the current Opposition wants to meet with the Prime Minister and Government. I welcome that. I hope out of it will come the collaboration that is required to allow us as a Government and a people to treat with crime outside of the attempts of scoring political points,” he said.

Rowley said although he had not received any correspondence from Persad-Bissessar, he hoped there were suggestions, which they could all agree on.

“If there is anything the Government can do to improve the situation we have no problem,” he added.

Yesterday, Persad Bissessar, in a press release, asked for an urgent meeting with Government and members of the national security teams to engage in a non-partisan dialogue on a way forward to combat the serious crime situation which had gripped the country.

Rowley said the frequency of violent crimes resulting in the lost of life was unacceptable.

“This is nothing new. And the responsibility of the Government to do everything possible to minimise and eliminate these outcomes remains as is.

“Nobody in this country is comfortable seeing a nine-year-old gunned down in Trinidad and Tobago because criminals have taken action in that outcome,” he said.

The PM assured that “the structure of State to respond to the criminal element remains intact, is vigorous and is on the frontburner. Crime-fighting in Trinidad and Tobago is at the forefront of the efforts of this Government. There is no switch that we can click and change or turn around the issue. But turn around we must,” he said.

Rowley said while certain quarters were making demands, it was important that the population understood how they have been approaching this problem. He appealed to those who were encouraging crime to desist.

As chair of the National Security Council (NSC), Rowley responded to DOMA, who called on him to take charge of the crime situation. He said as PM he had taken charge of the NSC “and the council is functioning and we are in fact providing all the support that is required for the agencies whose responsibility it is to treat with the violent crime scourge in this country.”

He said the NSC comprised heads of security agencies who meet on a regular basis to monitor and review what the national security services were doing, how they were functioning, using resources available and treating with violent crime. Every Tuesday, Rowley said the NSC met and the outcome was withheld from the public.

He said the Police Service Commission is also pursuing the matter for a CoP without Government interference.

“That is the area… crime or no crime, where our parliamentary colleagues have hung their hats in not supporting our efforts. People are fearful of governmental interference in what should be an independent service commission,” he added.

Rowley said the Government’s decision to host a $9 million international crime conference in Port-of- Spain, which had been condemned by the Chaguanas Chamber and other organisations, was already sanctioned by the former government when they assumed office last September. Initially, he said the budget for the conference was $16.5 million, which was reduced to $9 million.

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