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I intend to focus on my job, says top cop

By Asha Javeed asha.javeed@trinidadexpress.com

Despite a call for him to go, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams says he intends to focus on his job and “will not be deterred in anyway by detractors”.

On Saturday, former president of the Law Association, Senior Counsel Martin Daly called for the top cop to go based on comments made by Williams in an interview with i95.5 FM with talk show host Dale Enoch. 

Williams had said: “There were a lot of statements and utterances made by Mr Bassant which have been very irresponsible on his part on things which are incorrect, which I know as a fact are incorrect, which I can’t just put in the public domain, based on the office I hold and the access to information I have. And some of that, I believe, may have triggered the issue of a threat being made against Mr Mark Bassant.”

Daly had described Williams’ comment as a “shocking utterance”.

“Mr Williams’ highly questionable utterance for a person holding his office can only serve as comfort to all those who wish to suppress the media.  It is clear that he does not believe in the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech unless he is an arbiter of what degree of freedom is to be allowed.  That of course is one hallmark of a police state,” he had said in a statement to the Express on Saturday.

For his part, Williams had deferred comment until he read the statement which the Express had forwarded to him and in turn, issued his own statement to the Express in response.

“I received the statement which you forwarded to me by e-mail. I wish to firstly state that I have great respect for Mr Martin Daly SC (MGD) in his capacity as an attorney at law. I have read the statement which has the endorsement MGD.  You have stated that it is from Mr Martin Daly. I agree that there is freedom of the press constitutionally guaranteed in Trinidad and Tobago and I will never do anything to interfere with such freedom. 

“I do hope that MGD had the opportunity to listen to the short interview conducted by Mr Dale Enoch with me on Friday morning. I also do hope that MGD did not write his statement on the basis of what he read in the daily newspapers on Saturday. During the short interview, I never said that the journalist Mark Basant “has looked for it by his irresponsibility” and I did not allude to that. I wonder whether MGD is aware of what exactly journalist Mark Basant reported to the police. I will not engage in a war of words with MGD or any one else as individuals are entitled to their personal opinions. However I will arrange for the publication of a transcript of what I said in the interview,” said Commissioner Williams.

Williams said any statement from the interview with Enoch must be considered contextually with the rest of the interview.

“ It requires a person to engage in mental gymnastics to jump from what I said to reach the conclusion that I effectively said that “television journalist, Mark Bassant has looked for it, namely by his irresponsibility”,” said Williams.

Drawing from statistics during his tenure, Williams said he wished to remind that Daly that “2013 has been the most successful year in policing in Trinidad and Tobago for many decades. We recorded a 26 per cent reduction in serious crimes over the 2012 annual total. It is the lowest annual total of Serious Crimes for last 29 years; we recorded a 30 per cent reduction in violent crimes (with the exception of Murders) ; there was a 14 per cent reduction in road traffic accidents and 21 per cent reduction in deaths on our roadways. The road deaths represented the lowest road fatality figure for the last 10 years. I can go on and on with the successes of 2013 under my leadership.”

“I believe freedom of the press allows MGD to express his opinion and provides me with the opportunity to refute what he has stated. I will continue to be responsible in all my public statements and will not be deterred in anyway by detractors. I will stay focused on the responsibility of leading the police service through a very challenging period where one of our exceptional citizens has been brutally murdered. 

Bassant was forced to flee the country after he received reports that death threats had been made against him, and that a hit with a starting price of $20,000 was ordered against him. 

Ag Police Commissioner Stephen Williams, “I will not engage in a war of words with MGD or any one else as individuals are entitled to their personal opinions. However I will arrange for the publication of a transcript of what I said in the interview.”

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