The trinity of heads involving national security finally presented a cohesive position on the legitimacy of soldier patrols to the public yesterday morning, with all agreeing the presence of soldiers in Laventille was at the command of none other than Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
This was confirmed yesterday at a special media briefing which involved National Security Minister Gary Griffith, Chief of Defence Staff Kenrick Maharaj and acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams.
“All ops (operations) in the Laventille area and environs are considered legitimate operations because they are in support of the police.
“There are no operations in Laventille and environs that are illegitimate or independent. There is a misnomer in this whole thing that there can be no independent operations,” Maharaj said.
That said, the Chief of Defence staff also noted his infantries can patrol with policemen two metres away or two kilometres away and “it’ll all be fine”.
The acting Police Commissioner explained that at the beginning of the year, when there were 19 murders in seven days, a very clear mandate for joint patrols was given and launched, heavily built around the areas where they were facing the greatest challenges, including the Laventille community. He then noted until such time as there was total control and serious reported crime was significantly lower, the operations were expected to continue.
However, Williams reiterated it was illegal for soldiers to wear masks while on patrol among civilians.
And while in the programme it was explained that soldiers wore masks to protect their identities on sensitive missions, it was confirmed a decision had been taken to stop this action in an effort to give a greater sense of comfort to members of the public.