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Govt seeks to buy 6 naval vessels from Colombia

By Camille Bethel camille.bethel@trinidadexpress.com

Government is seeking to purchase six naval vessels from the Colombian government because that country has been most successful in fighting crime, said Minister of National Security Jack Warner.

Speaking with the media after yesterday's launch of the Edinburgh Young Stars Police Youth Club, at Edinburgh 500 Recreation Ground, Chaguanas, Warner, who defended the People's Partnership Government's decision to go to the Colombians for naval vessels, said: "Colombia has the most successful programme in the fight against crime and drugs in particular.

"The Colombian president (Juan Manuel Santos) is one who is now being lauded and praised by even the US government. So there is something that he is doing right and if he is doing something right it is good for us to go and emulate what is happening. I see nothing wrong with that."

Warner said Trinidad and Tobago has much to learn from the Colombian government which is why that country's president and Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar have been in constant dialogue, for the purchase of three vessels in the first instance, but ultimately six, for use by the T&T Coast Guard.

"We have been in talks with them for the past two, three weeks and the Ambassador, in particular, he is going in there, led by Rear Admiral Richard Kelshall, and see what they are doing, what kind of ships they have and we are going to see what ways we can benefit from their experiences."

Quizzed on the type of vessels this country intends to purchase, Warner declined to give details, saying: "It's not prudent to do that now. I mean talks are in progress. What I will tell you is that they are not OPVs (offshore patrol vessels). I will tell you what they are not, but can't tell you what they are...it is not prudent to do that now but at the appropriate time we shall make the announcement and you shall see that we have benefited."

Warner also chided Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley for describing the outcome of the arbitration between the T&T Government and British Aerospace Engineering (BAE) Systems over the OPV contract as being "lucky" for Trinidad and Tobago.

"They committed so many offences, so many wrongs. What we have done is to right a wrong by getting some of our money back and he, as a leader, couldn't say congratulations, you know what he said we are lucky. Well, I'll tell you something, we will be lucky in 2015," said Warner.

He added that on land, crime-fighting initiatives for the upcoming Christmas season will include the installation of CCTV cameras in key locations.

And the deployment of 1,000 soldiers with full powers of arrest, participating in joint police patrols throughout the country, including Penal, Debe, San Fernando, Rio Claro and Chaguanas.

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