Most Trinis support state of emergency

Dear Editor,

Regarding your news item `UN figures  contradicting (T&T) Govt claim’ (http://www.stabroeknews.com/ 2011/news/regional/10/10/un-figures-contradicting-go vt-claim-2/) ” (SN Oct 10), while the UN figures may be right, people are very  supportive of the state of emergency in Trinidad. People don’t care about the  reason for the state of emergency.  They just want the government to clamp down on crime and they feel crime  has been down with the SOE.

I conducted an opinion survey in Trinidad  almost two weeks ago for the North American Caribbean  Teachers Association.  People’s  views tend to diverge on the curfew hours with most people being supportive and  some calling to end the curfew altogether saying it had served its purpose and  is not as effective as during the initial period.  The people are supportive of any measure  that will bring down crime saying the SOE will allow the government to manage  crime to attract investments. It is felt that no ethnic group is targeted during  the curfew.  However, they don’t  feel there is need for a SOE in Tobago which is not seriously affected by crime  and the SOE is hurting tourism on the smaller sister island. The findings also  show the Prime Minister’s approval ratings holding strong while that of the  Opposition Leader is slipping because of his opposition to the  SOE.

The poll  interviewed 410 people at random reflecting the demographic composition of the  voting population with margin of error of  5%. Asked if they  supported the State of Emergency when it was declared in late August, 74% said  yes pointing out that it has served more good than harm providing people with a  sense of safety.  The overwhelming  majority say that the SOE has served as a deterrent to crime.  People indicate they had reached a  saturation point in tolerating crime especially homicides and applaud the  government for trying something to bring down the crime rate.

However, when  asked if they back the extension of the SOE through December, support slips to 64%  with young people saying it has affected their late liming.   Members of the business community  also complain that the curfew has impacted on business with their revenues  falling.  With regards to the curfew  hours, 43% prefer 11:00 P.M to 5:00 A.M with 24% saying they would like to  revert back to the 9 P.M to 5A.M hours, while others want the curfew  to end  altogether saying it is too disruptive to their lives.  The current curfew is 11 P.M to 4  A.M. Asked if they  feel safer with the SOE and the curfew, 71% answered in the affirmative.  Asked if they think crime is down  because of the SOE and the curfew, 72% answered positively with many saying they  were safer with the 9 to 5 curfew.  However, people expressed concerns about violations of rights especially of  those who were picked up, not charged and had to be released.

They say flaws in the anti-gang  legislation allow some of the accused to be freed and the law needs to be  fixed. Asked if they are  satisfied with the performance of the security forces, only 19% said yes with  many respondents linking elements in the police with criminals.  People complain there are police  informants working with the criminal underworld and they want the government to  deal with rogue police officers.

Asked if they  think the SOE was used as a pretext to thwart the trade unions’ plan to shut  down the country since August, only 13% said yes with the overwhelming majority  saying no.
The SOE and resulting drop in crime is  paying dividends to the P.M whose popularity is holding strong even though  people are complaining about the economy.

Yours  faithfully,
Vishnu  Bisram

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