PORT OF SPAIN – Prime minister Dr Keith Rowley is expressing a sense of frustration with the country’s crime problem admitting to telling his wife, Sharon Rowley, that: “it’s a hell of a thing I have a job where I am responsible for things I have absolutely no involvement in or control over.” He also admitted to a sense of frustration over the process for the selection of a police commissioner.
Speaking on Power 102FM’s breakfast programme yesterday, Rowley admitted to a link between the crime scourge and the economic saying “there is absolutely no doubt that crime and the fear of crime is having an effect on economic activity.”
He is of the view that “if people can go out and utilize spaces and places more without fear of crime, more people will do that and that in itself will generate economic activity.”
The PM said everyone has been affected “whether you are a shop keeper a taxi driver or whatever, we have just been saddled with this chronic and violent crime”.
The country at this time, he said, is averaging two murders a day, with 48 murders recorded up to yesterday it prompted his remarks to his wife, observing that criminal activity is now well organized he said “crime is not an incidental thing”, it is he said “now an organized arrangement and a way of life for some of our citizens who plan and execute it”.
Rowley said the police service is the agency charged with those who choose a life of crime, “so we have to keep working with the police service to improve its ability to identify, to intervene, to execute, to detect and to try and eliminate this feature from our land”.
While the police boast of the number of guns being seized Rowley admitted said, “It has not impacted on the fall in the number of murders.”
As head of the National Security Council he expressed concern that firearms are coming in “straight through the port”.
He said, “We know there are people who attempt to bring arms and ammunition through the normal legal ports of entry and to detect the presence of those items you know you have to have scanners.”
Rowley said attempts to make the scanners at the port operational have been stymied by the president of the Public Services Association Watson Duke whom he said had gone on record as saying that the union was opposed to the scanners “because they will affect the scrotum of the officers who work there. These things are used worldwide!” Rowley said in frustration.
The prime minister said, “I have to be blamed for everybody who get murdered in this country and then I have to listen to that damn nonsense while guns and ammunition are coming through the port, straight through the open door, because we cannot put the scanners in force because the government does not have the authority to do it without the say so of somebody else.”
Rowley said there are people in the country “who are protecting the status quo because it works for them”, but he said it was “really frustrating to be held responsible for the outcome if you don’t have the wherewithal to say get on with it”.
He said there are “some systems here which are completely upside down,” because the people who are “responsible for the outcome”, don’t have the authority to “make the decision to do what has to be done”.
Asked whether he knew who was on the short list for commissioner of police, he responded “ I as prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago I am the person who knows the least about that and that is part of the stupidness that going on in this country.”
He said the parliament had changed the process for the veto of the prime minister, but the change is a “rigmarole that ends up in a more political situation than that”.
Rowley lamented that after all this “carrying on and millions of dollars”, a recommendation will be made to the parliament and the “majority team in the Parliament, which is the PM’s team will then select that person”. The procedure now he said is “far more political than before” when the prime minister in his own jurisdiction interacting with the service commission selected the commissioner of police. “Now” he said “it is all the politicians in the Parliament.
The prime minister said the first time he will see the recommendation is when it comes to the parliament. For now he said “I am just sitting here as prime minister listening to the rumours about who apply and who is doing what.”
The consultancy firm KPMG and the Police Service Commission (PSC) have been doing their evaluations of the candidates. The PSC will submit the recommendation to the President who will then pass the recommendation to the Parliament.
Rowley said and after millions of dollars spent on the process “the joke about that is that at that stage the parliament say yes or no, so what’s the point, all of that cost millions of dollars eh and is now five years since 2012 we have a vacancy. This is the height of a failed process”.