Using police statistics to buttress his case, National Security Minister John Sandy said yesterday that the majority of crimes in Trinidad and Tobago are committed by Afro-Trinidadians against other Afro-Trinidadians.
And this race also comprises the majority of the prison population, he said during the debate on the motion which asked the House of Representatives to take note of the President's statement which set out the specific grounds on which the decision to declare a State of Emergency was based.
Of the total of 2,307 persons murdered since 2006, 1,668 or 72.3 per cent were of African descent, Sandy said as he addressed allegations of race and racial profiling in the search, detention and arrest of persons.
Sandy said when one looked at the murdered victims, in 2006, of the 390 persons murdered, 228 were Afro-Trinidadians; in 2007, of 391 murdered, 308 were Afro-Trinidadians; in 2008, of 547 murdered, 427 were Afro-Trinidadians; in 2009, of the 506 murdered, 383 were Afro-Trinidadians; in 2010, of the 473 murdered, 320 were Afro-Trinidadians.
"We must recognise that it is people looking like me who are being murdered, mothers like my mother, God rest her soul, who are out there weeping more than any other race," he said.
"When we see the accused being led away, being led to court, in most instances, it is people who look like me with their heads bent, hiding from the cameras. We must stop that. This is why I am appealing to my brothers and sisters to stop that," Sandy said, as People's National Movement (PNM) MP Amery Browne shouted, "Shame!".
Sandy said when one looked at the prison population, of the 2,678 prisoners in 2006, 1,532 were Afro-Trinidadians (57 per cent); in 2007, of 2,726 prisoners, 1,464 were Afro-Trinidadians (54 per cent); in 2008, of 3,012 prisoners, 1,610 or 54 per cent were Afro-Trinidadians; in 2009, of a total of 1,886, 1,776 or 57 per cent were Afro-Trinidadians; in 2010, of 2,412 prisoners, 1,300 were Afro-Trinidadians; in 2011, of 1,734 prisoners, 890 or 51 per cent are Afro-Trinidadians.
Sandy said too many youngsters were dying, and there were too many fatherless children. He noted that in San Juan, one gang leader died, leaving 15 children behind.
Defending the declaration of the State of Emergency on August 21, Sandy said, "I remain confident that the decision was the correct one. Had we not taken that decision and averted what was about to happen...1990 would have been a Christmas party compared to what would have happened...the loss of life, the brutality and mayhem would have made 1990 (coup attempt) a garden party."
He said there were a number of drug busts, culminating in a $22 million drug seizure at Piarco Airport on August 16. He said these seizures initiated senseless killings, in which innocent, law-abiding people would have died.
"Together with this information was the receipt of information and the assimilation of intelligence from our national security forces around mid-Sunday, August 21, that prompted me to request of the Prime Minister that she convene a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) so that I might share the information in my possession," he said. He said there was extensive debate by the NSC before options were recommended by the NSC. He said later that evening, the Cabinet examined the options in further detail before seeking concurrence from the President that a State of Emergency should be declared.
Sandy said "no way in the world" would he consider such a "bold option" as the State of Emergency without tremendous thought and consideration.
He said the police had been "quietly" conducting an operation to rid the country of firearms prior to the State of Emergency being called. During that period, 231 arms were seized.
However, to the naysayers to use the numbers of arrests and seizures as a yardstick of success, Sandy stressed that he wanted to differ from their views.
"If the law enforcement agencies had made one arrest, confiscated one firearm, I would still proclaim that the State of Emergency was a resounding success when I consider the mayhem and bloodshed that could have attended a number of our law-abiding citizens, some of whom could easily have been close relatives to our friends on the other side. I remain confident that this Government took the right decision in declaring a State of Emergency as I am convinced that we prevented a crisis of unprecedented proportions," he said.
Sandy said on August 21, 2011, innocent persons were hiding from the criminals. "Two weeks later, the criminals are hiding from law enforcement officers," he said, adding that citizens were sleeping safely at night, there was a resurgence of family life and the fear of crime had subsided.
"That, Mr Speaker, is our objective, to take back our cities, streets, communities and our beloved nation from the criminals. Hard talk is not our strategy, hard action is," he said, to loud desk-thumping.