Thursday, December 14, 2017

CURFEW ENDS!

...But State of Emergency stays, says PM

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JUBILATION: Patrons at D'Bocas restaurant on Independence Square, Port of Spain, react after watching the announcement of the removal of the curfew. —Photo: CURTIS CHASE

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Spontaneous celebration erupted across the nation last night as news spread that the curfew accompanying the State of Emergency had been lifted.

Patrons at a downtown Port of Spain bar danced, waved and shouted as they viewed the live televised announcement made by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Her announcement came one day after she returned from a two-week trip to Australia and a three-hour meeting of the National Security Council, attended by top law enforcement officials.

In her absence there had been mounting calls from the business community for the curfew to be lifted to once again breathe life into the economy crippled by the shutdown of night-life.

Five days ago, then acting Prime Minister Winston Dookeran said the State of Emergency and the curfew would continue because it had "a tremendous impact" on violent crime.

The tension and pent up frustration of the patrons was doused with quick succession of alcohol shots.

With Machel Montano's "Vibes cyar done" playing in the background, at the D'Bocas restaurant, on Independence Square, Port of Spain, patrons shouted in unison "Woi" as the news that the almost two-and-a-half-month-long curfew was no more.

It seemed that no-one cared that the State of Emergency remained in effect.

"We could real drink now," said one of the celebrating patrons who was being shoved about and hugged by a multitude of friends.

"That thing was real stress", said another patron as the now overwhelmed bartender struggled to keep up with the many demands of shots following the Prime Minister's announcement.

A bottle of Goldschlager and Jagermeister quickly left the bar shelf as some drinkers opted not to settle with the regular rum, puncheon or Scotch to celebrate the news.

"Is a Liquid Cocaine we want," said four patrons who had no problem forking out the $40 for the shot.

In her address, at the Office of the Prime Minister, in St Clair, Persad-Bissessar announced yesterday that the 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew, governing 17 crime hotspots across the nation and expanded to three nautical miles of the coastline will be lifted with immediate effect.

However, she said the State of Emergency will continue and be reviewed continuously.

The end of the curfew comes two months and 17 days after the Prime Minister on August 21, announced declaration of a State of Emergency and a 9 p.m, to 5 a.m. curfew in selected "hot spots" will be imposed on the country.

On September 4, the Parliament debated to extend the State of Emergency by three months (which expires on December 5) which was approved with Government's majority and a new 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew was implemented.

Persad-Bissessar said the many calls to end the State of Emergency and curfew "weighed heavily on my mind" and she did not wish to burden anyone one hour longer than necessary.

"I wish to advise that the National Security Council has recommended and the Government has agreed to remove the curfew on land, in Trinidad and Tobago. That means as of tonight the land and maritime curfew imposed on the identified crime hot spots will be lifted," she said.

The Prime Minister also made it clear that Government reserves the right to impose limited curfews where and when necessary as advised by the National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy.

Sandy, Commissioner of Police (CoP) Dwayne Gibbs and Chief of Defence Staff Brig Kenrick Maharaj were also present.

Although the country still remains in the dark as to what was the crisis that triggered the State of Emergency in the first place, the Prime Minister said that a crisis was averted and the primary reasons for the State of Emergency was achieved.

She said a war was waged against the criminals and now they are left trembling.

She paid tribute to the protective services for this saying they took this nation from a "brink of disorder and chaos" and restored law and order.

The Prime Minister said while a complete victory is not in order, the battle has been won to a large extent.

"When gang leaders tremble in fear, we have won. When the crime rate plummets, we have won. When guns and ammunition are removed from the streets that could have killed one more innocent man, woman or child, we have won. When one family can sleep better at night, we have won. When justice prevails, we have won. When illegal drugs are seized and destroyed and their operations shut down, we have won," said Persad-Bissessar.

She added that victory also lies when the business community and citizens can join hands and make the sacrifice required by enduring the State of Emergency and the curfew for the greater good.

She said several years of anti crime efforts had not removed the weaponry, drugs and criminals as this State of Emergency did.

With the State of Emergency still in effect, the joint patrols of army and police will continue.

Persad-Bissessar noted that prior to the State of Emergency there were 6,146 police officers deployed throughout the country. This was increased to 10,316 law enforcement personnel, boosted by members of the Regiment, Air Guard and Coast Guard.

The thousands of law enforcement will therefore continue to guard the nation as the State of Emergency continues.

The Prime Minister said the imposition of the State of Emergency was no easy decision but she stressed that this was a "weapon" that comes from our Constitution.

She also dismissed political commentators and the Opposition who had said from the on set that there was no need for a State of Emergency and the existing laws and security forces could have been used to do the very thing that was done during the State of Emergency.

"This is absolutely wrong and patently mischievous. It is unfortunate that we continue to be saddled by an Opposition which refuses to work with the Government in the national interest and apparently prefers instead to snipe and mislead citizens for narrow partisan reasons, even when the truth is already in the public domain," she said.

The Prime Minister added that 20,000 jobs in low income communities will be generated through an employment creation intervention.

"We started the fight against crime as soon as we entered office. We will continue now and tomorrow to wage war against criminals and the criminal element," said Persad-Bissessar.



—with reporting by Gyasi Gonzales