HIGH-TECH PLANS: Housing Development Corporation’s managing director Jearlean John gives an overview of the building plan for the Duncan Street Police post during a press conference at the HDC’s office on South Quay, Port of Spain yesterday.
—Photo: AYANNA KINSALE
Jearlean: Name the gang leaders
Irene Medina Associate Editor
Managing Director of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC)Jearlean John is calling on acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams to publish the names and photos of all gang leaders in the country and to make such a list available to the HDC.
John made the call yesterday at a media conference at her HDC, South Quay Office, Port of Spain, where she categorically denied the corporation had hired alleged gang leader Kenneth “Spanish” Rodriguez to refurbish the Duncan Street Police Post.
“It is untrue. This gentleman never had a contract to construct or refurbish the Duncan Street facility. HDC does not hire people to work. It is also untrue that he is a sub-contractor with the HDC,” John said, adding that it is possible that he was hired by the contractor to work on the site.
Responding to yesterday’s Guardian front page article linking Rodriguez to an HDC contract, John said she was shocked to see the report since she was questioned on the issue and her denial was carried in a front page article on the same newspaper, last Saturday.
“Clearly these media workers don’t read their own papers,” John said, as she pointed to the differing articles.
As to the COP’s claims that Rodriguez’s name was among his list of gang leaders, John is calling on Williams to share the information.
“I need for the commissioner or whoever the authority is, to give me a list of who these gang leaders are. I want their names and a picture.”
John said the issue of gang leaders is not a matter for the HDC, but for the police.
“They are the ones…they should put it in the papers. Why am I not seeing any pull-out in the papers? I should see names scrolling up on television saying these are the gang people but there must also be legislations which says you can’t hire them, otherwise we could be discriminating against them.”
John said following the claim made in the Parliament by Opposition senator Pennelope Beckles last week, she and other HDC officials met for three hours with a team from the Special Branch to discuss the issue.
“They never shared any information with us. So if there was a list of undesirables, then they should make that list known,” she added.
John said the HDC was not about “brokering peace” between warring factions but about providing legitimate work to citizens of the country.
“If we have legitimate substantive work there are communities whose needs we have to serve. We cannot pick and choose where we work,” she said, adding that the Duncan Street facility has had no “incidents” and the 60 people employed were working very hard to complete the project.
“It begs the question whether it’s because it is Duncan Street that gang membership is being ascribed to the people who are working there. If it were in another location would people have been so quick to jump to conclusions?” John asked.
She said Williams by his very admission said he has facts but no evidence about Rodriguez.
“I think that’s an oxymoron. Facts by their very nature are facts. Is either you know or you don’t know…”
Asked whether he would accede to John’s call for the names and photos of all gang leaders, Williams said he needs to focus on dealing with crime and nothing else.
“Miss John has her responsibilities and she has to fulfil them and I have my responsibilities. I am not into this bacchanal business. I have my job to do and she has hers,” he said.
John meanwhile described the police post as a high-tech, smart building, comprising 360 vantage point monitoring devices, generators, solar power, and was designed to ensure residents feel safe in their community,. It also includes a mediation room, and home work centre for children .