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.