300 SAUTT officers on breadline
More than 300 members of the Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT) have been placed on the breadline after their contracts ended yesterday.
Minister of National Security Jack Warner confirmed that the contracts of the highly-trained SAUTT members ended and there was nowhere to place them.
"I have asked the Permanent Secretary to give each of them an ex-gratia payment of three months' salary, which takes them into January when they would have enough time to look for jobs," said Warner.
The Special Anti-Crime Unit was established under the previous People's National Movement (PNM) government and, under that regime, more than $3 billion has been spent to train and outfit the crime-fighting group.
SAUTT soon became a bone of contention between the PNM and the People's Partnership Government when Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced her intention to disband the unit after taking office in May 2010.
"If there are vacancies which open up in the revitalised and restructured NSOC (National Security Operations Centre), contracted jobs of course, but generally speaking from January they will have to find alternative accommodations," said Warner.
Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams said he could not comment on Warner's statements.
"I cannot speak on that," he said, adding that he could only comment on issues relating to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
When asked if there was a place in the Police Service for 300 people, he replied: "I am not sure."
But Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi cried shame on the Government for displacing this highly-skilled group.
At several security-centred debates in Parliament, including the anti-kidnapping and bail amendment debates, Al-Rawi often called for more explanations on the plan to disband the group at the centre of the PNM's crime-fighting initiative.
"This Government is not serious about tackling crime," he said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Al-Rawi said the Government claimed SAUTT was illegal and that prompted them to disband it.
"Despite them saying SAUTT was illegal, there was never a single case that SAUTT brought that was challenged. Not a single arrested person. That allegation was scurrilous."
He said the Government was once again repackaging a PNM initiative by utilising joint patrols to curb crime.
"Isn't that the same illegal mechanism that they had a problem with in SAUTT?" he asked.