The Sunday Express has reported on the growing force of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen in Carapo under Imam Hassan Ali and his son, Rajaee Ali.
Imam Ali acknowledged that his followers comprised criminals and former prisoners.
In Part II yesterday, the Express reported on how the Jamaat was able to set up a base in Carapo by squatting on State lands and being funded through the Ministry of Sport’s Life Sport Programme.
Today, the Express looks at the relationship between this perceived criminal group and the police.
The Carapo-based Jamaat operates with its own laws.
According to Imam Hassan Ali, the Jamaat has its own intelligence, is respected among different community leaders, mediates between the warring gangs and runs its own justice system.
Furthermore, Imam Ali said the Jamaat actually assists the police with intelligence and has helped the police retrieve guns when they have gone missing from the stations.
“It has been so a while on the grounds of Trinidad and Tobago and people don’t pay attention or they don’t know, that rather than go to the police you go to Jamaat-al-Muslimeen. You come and see the Imam and he would rectify. The police don’t like that, they hate that with a passion,” he said in an interview with the Express last Friday at the Carapo mosque after the traditional Jummah prayer.
“Any problem,” he said in response to what exactly the Jamaat assists with.
“People hear about the work we do and we help. Daughter missing. Son missing. We send brothers to look for them. We help,” he said.
“Now more than ever they come to resolve issues. We intervene,” he said.
He did not divulge how the Jamaat was rewarded for its help.
To illustrate his point, Hassan explained that even the police sought his help.
“A gun went missing in the police station. Twice. Officer send word to us to see if we find his gun on the streets. Now you don’t want to betray them. We go and find the gun and pay for it and give them back in the station. Twice,” he said.
He declined to explain to the Express how he would gather the intelligence to find the weapon, the name of the officer or to which station he was attached.
He just said, “we know through our networks” in response to further questions on the issue.
Express: “So you are very resourceful?”
Hassan Ali: “We have to be. We learn with nothing.”
While he “strives to help” the police, he said there are rogue elements within the Police Service.
“We living it here. The police came. They are abusive and disrespectful. Some are professional and cordial and we could work with them. We could help them with anything. But there are those who, I don’t know…” he trailed off.
He claimed that an 18 year-old member was beaten by police for no reason about a month ago.
During the interview, he sent a member of the mosque to retrieve the boy who had already left the masjid following the Friday midday Jummah prayer.
The boy, who did not want his real name to be used because he wants to join the Coast Guard and fears victimisation, told the Express that police had pulled up alongside him and started to harass him.
He said there were two police officers in front and two soldiers in the back of the van. He said he was doing nothing and the law officials beat him up.
Hassan Ali said he took the boy to the Arima hospital and intends to file a report to the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) about the incident.
For Hassan and his men, the PCA is the option for them with regard to abuses they say are dealt to them by the police.
“I heard Gillian Lucky convey my sentiments yesterday for a while now. It is hard to get evidence against the police. Put cameras on the police.
“There are rogue elements in the Police Service who do not understand their role, who feel their role with us is confrontational because of 1990 without understanding what the cause is. No Muslim in his right mind want to take over this country. That was retaliation,” he said.
In Hassan’s view, the 1990 attempted coup can be summed up in one word: cause.
“The coup is-you provoke a people and they respond. It’s simple as that.
They don’t want to study cause at all. You must take oppression, take provocation, take aggravation and do not retaliate? Excuse the expression. That is what they do.... in the plantation and they’ve been doing that for a very long time. That’s not…come on, you know the word,” he told the Express.
Does his men have cause now?
Imam Ali said the police abuse is intolerable.
“There are rouge elements which still exist and I feel they want them there. It have gangsters in the Police Service too. We don’t have to take that. I am sensing they’re provoking confrontation. They want a confrontation,” he said.
Express: “So what do you do to prevent confrontation?”
Hassan Ali: “I reason.”
Ali explained that while he is able to reason with the police and his men, it’s not always he can prevent them from being angry.
Furthermore, he’s not always at the Carapo base.
“Police are violating the detention order. Walk up here. Take anybody they want. Lock them up. Keep them for three days. What kind of behaviour is that?” he asked.
Rajaee Ali’s growing power with gangs
Questioned on how he felt about his growing power, Hassan replied: “You know what power is in this society? Chamber of Commerce. Syrian Lebanese community. We are glad to because that is service to Allah and God Almighty.”
Express: “Well, you do wield power? From your loyalists?”
Hassan Ali: “People I help reform, they would be loyal to me. Hence the talk of being in charge of 200 men.”
“When these brothers come, you talk about power but it’s love and patience and helping each other. And I know how it looks. And it’s sad for people to see it so because they expect a congregation of parents to look like the congregation church or the Hindu mandir. But these are different people. They walk and move, their body language is basically one way,” he explained.
He pointed to his son Rajaee Ali and attempted to explain his growing power and influence. Hassan explained that R Ali was able to walk the streets of Malabar and Maloney and unite the groups.
R Ali’s growing power has not gone unnoticed by the police who arrested him on Friday May 9 for gang activities. However, with no evidence to charge him, he was released after two days.
Imam Ali said that within the last few months, R Ali has been bringing the gangs to order, which the police do not acknowledge or appreciate.
Express: “Is there gang activity?”
Hassan Ali: “No.”
Express: “What is gang activity?”
Hassan Ali: “They are defining gang. When you look at gang you have to look at North America and South America. Who they claiming is gang don’t really call themselves gang now. That’s another story. The legislation is a mad piece of legislation which really setting people up. But they don’t want to hear that from me.”
Imam Ali said he’s now about bringing his men to order and training them.
“I have to select from among us, those who I feel have the ability to serve like that. It has to happen. They need help to resolve the crime in the ground,” he said.
Contacted yesterday on whether the police had used the Jamaat’s help, Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams reserved comment until he had read the story in today’s paper.