National Security Minister Jack Warner has confirmed that a representative was sent from his Ministry to hold talks with gang leaders in Laventille yesterday.
Warner said he has not turned his back on these persons and if their demands were within the law, they would be met.
The three-hour meeting, which took place at the St Paul's Street Multipurpose Facility, Laventille, began at 10 a.m. and ended at 1 p.m.
TV6 News reported last night that persons coming out of the meeting, including trade union leader Watson Duke, were tight-lipped and refused to comment on the closed-door talks.
Duke continued to remain mum on the matter last night when contacted by the Express, repeatedly saying "no comment" when pressed with questions on the meeting.
Warner was questioned on the meeting yesterday by the media when he attended the National Security Ministry's Military Tattoo at Woodford Square, Port of Spain.
He said the meeting with the gang leaders was one at their request and he did not attend, but sent chairman of the Office of Law Enforcement Policy of the Ministry of National Security Keith Renaud to meet with the group.
Warner refused to make any further comment on the issue, saying he would prefer to do so after reading the report on the outcome of the meeting.
"I told him (Renaud) to go and see what they wanted, and if what they wanted was within the law then we would do it, and I asked him to go and see. But I haven't turned my back on them. When the report comes, through the AG, through the Ministry of Justice and through Cabinet, we would look at it," said Warner.
Laventille East/Morvant MP Donna Cox told the Express last night she had heard about the meeting days before from people in her constituency.
"I really don't know what was the purpose of the meeting, but I know he (Warner) ducked out of the meeting because people went there expecting to meet him," said Cox.
"I don't know if he (Warner) was advised not to go because of all that was said before about the PNM (People's National Movement)... as usual they continue to take things and twist it to suit themselves to make the PNM look bad,'' said Cox.
She was referring to the criticisms by the former United National Congress (UNC) opposition of a meeting former prime minister Patrick Manning held with "community leaders'' at the Crowne Plaza hotel in September 2006.
The meeting was called to sign a peace accord to stop murders that were taking place along the East-West Corridor during that time. Most of the "community leaders" who had attended that meeting are now deceased.
Cox said although she was not around at that time, Manning's meeting was aimed at peace and was an avenue to call a truce among rival gang members.
She said these people needed a neutral force in order for them to "kiss and make up" and the then UNC Opposition twisted it to make it seem as though Manning was in bed with the criminals.
"I guess that's the reason he ducked out of the meeting, he probably was advised not to go because they fear what would be said about it," said Cox.
Lamenting the criminal activity taking place in her constituency and the country at large, Cox said she tries herself to lend counsel and advise people to turn away from the life of crime.
"My real problem is how they are influencing the youth as this will allow a vicious cycle to continue," she said.
Another concern, she claimed, was that CEPEP and URP contracts were being awarded to known criminal elements.
"This is a dangerous path we are going down, is it an attempt to stop crime or for them to buy more guns?" she asked.
Cox said any meeting that is geared to bring about peace should be welcomed and if Warner had given his word to meet with these gang leaders then he should have.
In November last year, during a sitting of the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced that her Government would spend $300 million for the "Colour Me Orange" programme to create jobs in "hot spot" areas.
Persad-Bissessar had said her Government would engage the youth and most vulnerable members of the community in a massive job-creation programme.
"May I state categorically that we will not be meeting or engaging the services of so-called community leaders. We left that behind us on May 24, 2010, with the last administration.
"On the contrary, we will engage communities using existing and proven village councils, residents, tenants associations and action committees," the Prime Minister had said.
—with reporting by
Renuka Singh and Jabari Fraser