“HORRENDOUS, horrific and intolerable.”
This is how Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday described the current bloodbath taking place in Trinidad and Tobago.
Nineteen murders have been committed for the year to date, adding to the 407 lives lost last year.
As chairman of the National Security Council, Persad-Bissessar yesterday convened a “special, emergency” meeting of the council to address the problem.
The Prime Minister gave her first public response during the launch of the Police Service’s Rapid Response Unit at Knowsley building, Port of Spain.
“I want to pause... whilst it is there are a number of our families in our country who have not been enjoying or who will not see the hopes and happiness that many others are enjoying, for those families who are in the midst of tragedy and loss I want to say our thoughts, our prayers and indeed my heart is with all of you.
“Those of you who have been in loss, in agony and in sorrow, your loss and your agony is also mine and I stand with you in this time of sorrow,” Persad-Bissessar said.
“I also move to intensify measures to boost the national protective and security service. I know that is no comfort for families whose loved ones have gone, but I think we need to reiterate that we must intensify the war on crime and on criminals, and so I asked that we convene a special emergency National Security Council meeting.”
Persad-Bissessar said she reminisced on the words of one of the priests who officiated at the funeral service of media stalwart Therese Mills earlier in the day. The priest urged citizens not to give up hope. See Page 16.
“We are at a time we cannot give up hope and continue not to try. Together we can join hands, hearts and minds so we can continue to wage an intensified war on crime and criminals in our country,” the Prime Minister said.
She said the Rapid Response Unit would play a significant role in the fight against crime and criminality. “The launch of this unit represents an escalation on our war on crime and will be an important strategy, not only in helping to win that war, but also to help make our citizens feel safe again.
“Even as we proceed with our rapid-response strategy, I want to make it clear that my Government remains open to consultation with all stakeholders. Turning back the tide on criminality is the responsibility of no one person or one group.”
Persad-Bissessar said family is needed to help curb crime. “Indeed, as we have seen recently, crime can strike any time, any place and anywhere at the very heart of our families, endangering and putting at risk parents and innocent young lives. It is from there we must fight to force the criminals back, capture them, bring them to justice and ensure they are punished.
“Families are the cradles within which the children of our nation must feel safe, communities are the foundations on which families must stand securely and feel confident that they are safe and protected and my Government would not allow communities and families to be threatened.”
She said the “tragic” death of six-year-old Keyana Cumberbatch late last year was evidence of how the families in this country have become “broken”.
“A safe and secure society will only be achieved by tackling these very real problems. The tragic death of Keyana has shown how broken some families have become.”
Persad-Bissessar said all citizens can get on board to help prevent crime in this country. “Our strategies recognise that the war on crime does not only mean stopping crime today, but also deterring and preventing crime tomorrow. My Government takes its responsibility to keep the people of our nation safe very seriously and, as we take firm hold of this responsibility, I ask that each and every citizen will also do their part. We are a people with a very strong belief that we are our brothers and sisters’ keepers... let us walk that belief into the realm of action.”
Persad-Bissessar urged citizens to utilise the 999 and 911 emergency numbers when they suspect a crime is taking place or they are victims of crime.
“As we put this Rapid Response Unit to work, I say if you are a victim of crime, call 999 or 911, if your neighbour is a victim call 999 or 911, if you witness suspicious activity please call 999 or 911. If we each do our part as Government and as responsible citizens we can together make our country safe again,” she said.