ADDRESS BY THE HON. KAMLA PERSAD-BISSESSAR, PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO AT THE SOD TURNING CEREMONY TO MARK THE COMMENCEMENT OF CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW POLICE STATION IN ARIMA
WEDNESDAY 24TH AUGUST 2011
Over the past eight years or so Trinidad and Tobago has seen an erosion of its safety and security. I could succumb to the temptation of tracing the genesis of this and how it all came about but as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and particularly now during this period, no one wants to hear how it all began but the way the government intends to stop it. Crime prevention and control are placed as one of my foremost concerns from the moment I took office. We have sought to address the problem in a way that will have an immediate impact while others will occur over the long term.
We have redirected a lot of funds from large scale mega construction projects into the Ministry of National Security where it is deployed into recruitment of more law enforcement officers who are better equipped and trained, we have implemented the use of modern crime fighting techniques and technology, we have sought to look at the top management of the Police Service and devise ways to improve the efficiency and communication down through the ranks and when necessary such as the decision to impose a state of emergency and limited curfew we have not shied away from making those tough calls. The situation requires decisive leadership and I intend to provide just that. I will not stand idly by while the nation is held to ransom by those bent on creating havoc and mayhem sometimes with the support of those with their own devious agendas. Let there be no mistake, while we are a kinder, gentler and more compassionate government with the people’s interest always at heart, I intend to take the strongest, most aggressive approach possible to rid this country of the criminal elements and any of those who direct, fund, influence or otherwise support these nefarious activities. No one will be exempt from the action we take at any level of the society. I have committed myself and the government I lead towards the objective of cleaning up the streets and the offices from those involved in illegal activity. Lawlessness must become a thing of the past. We need to become a more disciplined society, traditional values must be restored, respect for authority starting in the schools must be rekindled. But it isn’t just the government’s responsibility to do so, it is yours as a parent, as a mentor, as business leader, as a member of your community, in every sphere of life you are accountable to the society that you are a part of and what this country becomes depends largely upon your behaviour, your own moral standards, your own convictions, your own desire to see the country in which you live become the place you want it to be once more.
Yesterday, twenty two gang members and gang leaders were detained under the state of emergency conditions. Weapons were seized and in a gun battle with law enforcement units, three bandits were killed. Do you have any idea what it means when these elements are no longer a threat to innocent citizens? I watched a video of the police carrying out the raids and I cannot adequately express the pride I felt in the manner in which they carried out their duties. There was a firm, well measured response to the situation they found wherever they went; nothing got out of hand, under pressure and in dangerous environments they carried out their duties with a level of professionalism that made us all proud. Wear those uniforms with greater pride today, hold your heads high, all members of our joint forces are out there in defense of our future. I salute you all.This government recognizes the tough conditions under which you operate and while I recognize that we don’t always agree on what we can afford to pay under the strict local and global economic constraints we operate, we are trying our best with the one thousand dollars allowances and the increases which our nation can afford at this time. None of what we offer nor what you get is at all a measure of the service you provide. Everyone recognizes that yours is a selfless, dedicated, patriotic service to the nation and we will always be indebted to you.
And we are painfully aware of the poor conditions under which our police officers and fire service officers are forced to operate. In some instances it is inhumane. Yet you are required to perform. That has to change. And today, this sod turning ceremony marks the first of 18 new police stations which will be constructed over the next two and a half years across the country. These new police stations are long overdue and the communities they will serve can feel a great sense of comfort. So I say, congratulations to all those who looked for these changes and now can expect it…Oropuche, congratulations. La Brea, congratulations. Maracas Bay, congratulations. St Joseph, congratulations. St Clair, congratulations. Roxborough, congratulations. Piarco, congratulations. Moruga, congratulations. Matura, congratulations. Matelot, congratulations. Maracas, St Joseph, congratulations. Manzanilla, congratulations. Maloney, congratulations. Cumuto, congratulations. Brasso, congratulations. Besson Street, congratulations and here in Arima, Arima congratulations. Your cries have been heard, help has arrived. Police officers and fire officers can feel a sense of relief that finally someone has acknowledged their need and the resources you require are on their way.
So you see the crime initiatives are not just playing out at one level, we are doing everything possible in several different ways. We have remodeled the social programmes with greater accountability and measured success, developed new initiatives for youth, launched mentoring programmes drawing from experiences around the world, and we have responded to the expressed needs of law enforcement through providing the necessary resources.
But the government isn’t stopping there. Udecott has been instructed to send out a tender at the end of this month for an Air Guard facility and to construct 13 new fire stations. That is the level of commitment we have, that is how best we feel public funds should be spent. There are no more wasteful blimps in the sky, no more grandiose tall empty structures, they have all been replaced by investments in resources and facilities that directly improve the lives of communities across Trinidad and Tobago.
So here we are in the midst of an aggressive, decisive response to the crime surge fixing the other end of the problem. Simply put, we get it. The results will show. We will win this war on crime with your support. And on that note I wish to thank the nation for recognizing what has to be done. For every illegal firearm removed, for every gang leader apprehended, for every bit of information gleaned, for every youth saved, for every new recruit to a gang redirected, for each citizen that now sleeps easier, for every measure of better control on the criminal elements achieved, the nation is safer and better off and the sacrifice well worth it. And for those who speak of concerns for our foreign image, I say I am more concerned by the images of people dying, of mothers crying, of innocent citizens cowering in fear, of orphaned children, those are the images that concern me now. We cannot pretend away this problem, but we can take the tough decisions to bring about a solution and I will not shirk my responsibility to protect the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
May God bless you all.