(Trinidad Express) From yesterday the curfew hours have been relaxed to 11 pm to 4 am, giving members of the national community three more hours on the streets.
In announcing the new hours, which coincide with the start of the school term, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said on Sunday: “I have been advised that this would assist us with children going to school, and others who have raised concerns in the business community, to give a little extra time in the evening.”
She added that the government would certainly revise the time, if it is so advised by the security forces.
For the last 14 days (since August 22), a 9 pm to 5 am curfew had been imposed in two cities and four municipal corporations along with a State of Emergency which applied throughout the country from August 21.
Persad-Bissessar acknowledged that the curfew had brought some inconvenience, but asked the population not to lose sight of the bigger potential gain. She said no one could say that they didn’t feel safer today than in the last ten years.
She was winding up a historic debate which saw the House of Representatives approving a motion to extend the State of Emergency by three months. It is the first time in living memory that the Parliament has met on the Sabbath. (In the past the House has met on a Saturday on a number of occasions).
At 2.45 pm on Sunday, some nine hours before the State of Emergency was due to expire, House Speaker Wade Mark recorded that there were 29 votes for/ten against the motion. All government MPs were present but absent from the Parliament on Sunday were PNM MPs, former prime minister Patrick Manning and Patricia McIntosh (who is on vacation overseas). Manning chose not speak in the debate on either the President’s statement setting out the basis for the declaration of the State of Emergency or the motion to extend it. Manning however was very much part of the debate as his name was called frequently by every government speaker as bearing a huge responsibility for “plunging the nation in a state of turmoil and lawlessness”.
Persad-Bissessar, in a solid contribution, examined the genesis of the crime situation and concluded that it was Manning’s befriending of gang leaders which laid the foundation. She cited his promise to give Abu Bakr land; the Muslimeen campaigning for the PNM “while terrorising supporters of the Opposition in Tunapuna and San Fernando”; the billions spent in URP and CEPEP to fund ghost gangs and the contracts that gang leaders received through the PNM.
“The political support (of the Muslimeen) for the PNM had come at a price and this nation is still today paying for it,” the Prime Minister declared. She said the “unholy partnership” meant that state resources were distributed to the people via gang leaders, who became the de facto councillors and representatives of the people. As the PNM Government “incredibly” conferred the title of ‘community leaders’ on gang leaders, Manning, when one of the gang leaders died, dubbed him a national hero, she noted. Recalling the meeting between Manning and gang leaders at a fancy hotel, she said it signalled the “surrender and transfer of state power to gangsters and bandits”.
“We do not negotiate and wine and dine with gang leaders at hotels, as that last administration did… just to stay in power,” the Prime Minister stated.
“The moment the PNM government of the day took the decision to negotiate with criminal elements in exchange for political support, that set off a dangerous course of events from which this country is still reeling today,” Persad-Bissessar opined. “He (Manning) knew who Mr Big was and left him out there and today you (PNM MPs) want to come here, and talk about guabine and sardine and anchovies and fry dry,” the Prime Minister thundered, dismissing the PNM’s argument that the current dragnet had not caught any big fish.
The Prime Minister asserted that every murderer was a big fish, as was every gang leader and every bandit who terrorised innocent citizens. The gangs were the spine of the drug trade, she added.