Thursday, January 18, 2018

International help ‘on the cards’


Mark Fraser

International assistance in finding the killers of senior counsel and special prose­cutor Dana Seetahal is defi­nitely on the cards, National Security Minister Gary Griffith said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters during an interview at the start of yesterday’s sitting of the Senate at the Parliament building of the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, Griffith also stated while the jury was still out on whether the intelligence agencies fell short, he could give the assurance they (the agencies) were “way ahead of the game at this time in the investigative process”.

Griffith said the role and function of all investigation is under the Police Service. “However, we have spoken to the Commissioner of Police and my job is to protect the Police Service with the support that they require at any time, which also may include international assistance. “I have already spoken to the US authorities and they are more than willing and able and they are prepared to do so. But that is only if and when the Trinidad and Tobago Police see it fit that they can and should receive international assistance,” he said.

“So it is definitely on the cards. As at this time, I do not think it is necessary,” he said.

Asked whether he believed the credibility of the Police Service was at stake in terms of its ability to solve this murder, Griffith said: “Not at stake. Though it would definitely play a very big part in acting as a cata­lyst towards showing the professionalism of the Police Service.”

Griffith said people had complained about the low detection rate. He said the detection rate was low not because of the lack of electronic support or shortage of forensic testing or CSI (crime scene investigation) because the “same systems we had from SAUTT are now in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service” and the detection rate remains between 18 per cent and 23 per cent. 

He said it was only through human intelligence that the detection rate could increase. “And that is due to the failure of the whole system where citizens don’t trust the system, the police, and they do not want to give the information,” he said.

He said he was trying to bridge that gap by weeding out rogue elements in the Police Service and by providing opportunities for citizens to pass on information to law enforcement authorities in a discreet manner and in a way that would not cause them (the citizens) to have fear of victimisation and reprisal through the VIPO (system to give anony­mous tips via a website) and CrimeStoppers. He said this should increase the detection rate.

Asked whether the assassination of Seetahal represented a failure of intelligence, Griffith said: “Sometimes it is not a failure. If there is a plan between two to three people to kill someone... you cannot blame the intelligence agencies for not knowing that.”

Told this was a well-orchestrated and executed hit, Griffith said the jury was still out on how it was done and whether the intelligence agencies fell short on it, but the intelligence agencies were way ahead of the game in the investigation. He said because of the NSOC (National Security Operations Centre), the various agencies were able to work together immediately and make very big strides within 36 hours. 

Griffith said while he could not reveal what the investigation had uncovered, he was pleased with what has been achieved thus far. “But it is critical that the perpetrators are brought to justice as quickly as possible. And there is a reason for this and it is not about the perception of the (importance of the) individual. If it is that this incident was not associated with her position (as a prosecutor), people need to know that, and if it is that it (the murder) was linked to her job, it means that we need to ensure that no criminal feels that he can use acts of violence to affect the criminal justice system.”

He declined to comment on reports the hit emanated from within the walls of the prison on Frederick Street. 

Told the emphasis on the presence of CCTV cameras could be self-defeating because people would simply commit crimes in areas where there are no cameras, the minister stressed there were “covert and overt” cameras, so people should not feel that if they did not see a camera that they are not being monitored by one. “You never know (from) where Big Brother is watching you... If all the cameras are overt and people are fully aware of where they are, it would defeat the purpose of the exer­cise,” he said.

He said the ministry would be focusing more and more on the use of camer­as.