PORT OF SPAIN –– Government doesn’t have information that the particular recent message of a threat of an “ISIS” attack on malls is real, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said Wednesday. But real or otherwise, Rowley said it has the potential to destabilize the country.
The PM, head of the National Security Council, spoke on the issue at Wednesday’s post-Cabinet media conference, where he was asked about the voice messages recently circulated on social media.
These audio clips have warned of the threat of an ISIS attack on local malls between today and Sunday. Security forces have been on high alert investigating this.
On whether the source of the message had been identified, Rowley said the State had some capacity for that but he didn’t know if that capacity could deal with a source. He said what was known was that it had not been determined that it was something “that has an origin we can identify as being realistic.”
He added that Government also knew there were elements and entities whose interests would be served if Trinidad and Tobago was destabilised.
“And we take all threats seriously and we take careful note of all who want todestabilise us,” Rowley said. He declined to discuss security arrangements, personnel or stations, save “. . . to say we disregard no threat and will put T&T on a position to respond.”
The PM said Government also was not considering a state of emergency since that was tried and failed. He said it provided short respite and damaged the economy irreparably. However, he said, the security sector was stepping up its game against the criminal elements.
He said Trinidad and Tobdago was well served in involvements with UK/US partners on training and arrangements to improve security but he said there were concerns on some areas of T&T’s ability to handle and share information with the metropolitan countries — and that was a concern to Trinidad and Tobago which was being worked on.
He said the “blood bath” once associated with Laventille/East PoS was now coming from every quarter, including Tobago, and also warned of people who had committed murder being in the national community.
Rowley said that could not be allowed to continue and that started with a better response “from those whose job it is to deal with criminal elements.”
Rowley reiterated that the problem in Trinidad and Tobago “is the ineffectiveness of security services to respond to criminal elements, largely due to lack of pertinent information.
He said if they did not have information, detection levels would be low and those services would be “leaping in the dark” if starved for information. He promoted the amended Strategic Services Agency Bill as a solution addressing more serious crimes, not spying, and once in law would “make security services less blind.”
The PM said a lot of firearms, including automatic weapons, were believed to be coming in from South America. In the face of a crime wave that was not abating, he said Government had concerns about this unending supply and porous southern borders.
Also, he said the simmering situation in Venezuela could exacerbate that. He said Monday’s Trinidad and Tobago-Venezuela talks included tightening borders and Monday’s meeting of Security Ministers of both countries would hopefully put Trinidad and Tobago in a better position to confront its security issues.
Also addressing the ISIS threat Wednesday, Randy Seepersad, of UWI’s Criminology Division, said the messages should be taken seriously as he had sources who were “knowledgeable about these things”. He claimed ISIS had a recruiting arm in Trinidad and Tobago and training was taking place to send people “across” but refused to give details.
He said it was not necessarily that the messages may result in action, “but one couldn’t fully predict and precautions had to be taken”.
He said while ISIS and other groups don’t have the kind of political issues with Trinidad and Tobago as they did with other states, it did not seem logical for Trinidad and Tobago to be a target but added the messages should still be taken seriously.