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Municipal police want more respect

...'We deserve $1,000 allowance, too'

By Aabida Allaham aabida.allaham@trinidadexpress.com

IN THE wake of their sickout action on Tuesday, the Trinidad and Tobago Municipal Police Service is again calling on the Government to treat them with the respect they deserve...and give them the same benefits afforded to their counterparts in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS).

During his 2012/2013 budget presentation, Finance Minister Larry Howai announced that Special Reserve Police (SRPs) would receive the monthly non-taxable $1,000 allowance granted to all members of the Protective Services. However, he made no mention of Municipal police officers receiving same, although they were promised this by Local Government Minister Surujrattan Rambachan last year.

Addressing a press conference at City Hall, Port of Spain, yesterday, attorney Cpl Aura Martin-Sealy dismissed claims by Rambachan that he never met with the officers saying:

"Meetings were held with the Minister of Local Government on July 17, 2011 and I have the minutes of that meeting before me where the discussion included a number of different issues, including the $1,000 service allowance."

According to Martin-Sealy, who is representing the officers, Municipal police were now feeling de-motivated because of the constant "bypassing" by Government administrations past and present.

"This is not a political issue, it has been going on for years...but we cannot allow it to continue and spread out," she said.

On Tuesday, the Municipal police officers fell ill to protest the State's failure to grant them the $1,000 special allowance, but Martin-Sealy said she expected that "their headaches will pass" and they would be out on Wednesday.

"We also want to make it clear that we are in no way against the SRPs getting it, we would have lobbied with them to get the $1,000 allowance. It is only fair because we work closely together, we work hand in hand with the regular police, there is no need for discrimination," she added.

Lending support to Municipal police officers was Port of Spain Mayor Louis Lee Sing, who said the recent budget was a clear indication by Minister of National Security Jack Warner and the National Security Council that the plans they have for Municipal police were not in sync with the promises made to them.

Lee Sing said he knew about Cabinet note LG87 of 2009, which gave instructions for the Municipal Police to receive all the benefits given to officers at the TTPS.

"That was back in 2009...these matters were subsequently raised by the present Minister of National Security when he came (into office), but it would appear that anything that was done by previous administration, this present administration is taking a position that it isn't good and that it must be thrown out the window," he said.

Lee Sing further questioned Warner's decision to recruit 5,000 SRPs, saying these people should instead be recruited to help create police clubs and home work centres.

"Are we creating a military society, not even in Cuba, if you check the population of Cuba and you check the armed forces, is it going to be as high as we have in Trinidad and Tobago in short while.

"Because 5,000 SRPs suggests to me that somebody is going to go to war...SRPs is the equivalent to your calling up troops. I don't know who he is going to war with but it must not be at the expense of these police officers here, give these police officers what is due to them," said the Mayor.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Rambachan said "the matter is being looked at by the Ministry of Finance" and he is making arrangements to meet with representatives this week to address their concerns.

However, he insisted he never said he did not meet with Municipal officers and "found that one to be very strange".

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