Friday, January 19, 2018

Anti-crime rally today at noon

'The best chance we have of protecting ourselves'


National Security Minister Edmund Dillon is expected to attend today's anti-crime rally at the International Waterfront organised by civil society groups.

Citizens are expected to come out in their numbers and stand side by side with each other at the anti-crime rally in Port of Spain as the Parliament prepares to meet.

The united force will comprise civil society groups from across the nation which have partnered with Caribbean Communications Network (CCN), parent company of the Express and TV6.

Dillon told the Express he thinks it is a worthy initiative welcomed by the Government as an expression of citizen participation in the fight against crime. He said has no hesitation in attending this event and conveying remarks.

The idea for the rally, titled “Side By Side We Stand”, was born after a gathering of concerned citizens at the Lloyd Best Institute in Tunapuna on December 11, following the murder of 20-year-old bank employee Shannon Banfield. All interested groups and individuals have been extended an open invitation and asked to come out and lend support.

Convener of the meeting, journalist Sunity Maharaj, told the Express yesterday that she was heartened by the show of support from across the country.

She said the rally is not one where ideas will be proffered for decoration but a culmination of ideas from the groups and individuals who have proposals on how to curb crime.

Maharaj said the rally will begin at noon and for 90 minutes, representatives of various groups will be invited to speak for three to five minutes on crime and their recommendations.

The rally is expected to end at 1.30 p.m. as the Parliament session begins at this time.

She said all input from the civil society will be compiled into a document with added research.

National solidarity


Maharaj said some people will be talking about the education system, domestic abuse, community support and other core issues.

She said what has to be tackled is the sources of crime and these civil society groups are in the “trenches” and know first hand where the problems lie.

“This is why civil society is so important because it's the people who know where the trouble spots are developing and need the help to prevent it or they need the relationship with other agencies after they spot a potential problem,” said Maharaj.

She said people have a lot of ideas and experience and what they need is the facilitating mechanism to come together.

“What we want to create is a national solidarity involving all of the partners, it is not simply the police, or simply the Government or simply Parliament, it is all of us including civil society together, to me that is the best chance we have of protecting ourselves and turning the tide,” she said.

She said “Side by Side” has played the role of recognising there is this need and to bring all groups together and create an avenue for a collective source of proposals.

“The Shannon Banfield killing raised a lot of emotions and anger and people did not know where to put it and so this initiative has allowed people to put it some place, a place that wants to move towards organising the society for a response in dealing with the problem,” she said.

Mobilising MPs


All ideas, she said, will be massaged into a document with additional research and this will become civil society's agenda for dealing with crime.

“We really want to mobilise the members of Parliament to carry out their functions as the representatives of the people in terms of their own constituent interaction with the Police Service and other institutions of law, order and justice,” she added.

“It is not just a gathering of civil society but civil society reaching out its hand to the institutions and if the institutions understood the message we are putting there they will come and reciprocate by saying okay, we are willing to join,” said Maharaj.

“We have also been working on developing a civil society agenda on the basis of which we are hoping the various authorities and the police, prison, the judiciary and the Parliament and the Government will be willing to work with civil society in a meaningful way, not in a symbolic way or a decorative way to push the national agenda for reducing crime,” she said.

A number of organisations have pledged support to the initiative including the Women Institute for Alternative Development (WINAD), Working Women and Womantra, the Network of Non-Governmental Organisations, the Joint Consultative Council (JCC) for the Construction Industry, the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies, the Organisation for Abused and Battered Individuals, Commonwealth Youth Council, the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago among many others.