The Prime Minister Says “We Are Part of the Scourge of Internationally Unacceptable Developments”
By Peter Richards
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley Wednesday said that Trinidad and Tobago “still has very serious concerns about the security of the state” as law enforcement agencies continue their investigations into allegations of possible terrorist activities that were aimed at disrupting the Carnival celebrations that ended on Tuesday.
Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams said that 13 people have so far been detained as a result of the ongoing investigations that first became public last Thursday forcing the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to warn its citizens of a possible terrorist attack here.
“As chairman of the National Security Council, we did have and we still do have very serious concerns about the safety and security of the state and when the government sees it necessary to indicate that we are dealing with credible threats I just hope that citizens take that phrase very seriously,” the Prime Minister said.
“As chairman of the National Security Council I can tell you that we have had to monitor the activities of some of our citizens…(and) we would be putting our heads in the sand if we do not acknowledge and accept that we as a people are part of the scourge of internationally unacceptable developments mostly in recent times where some of our citizens have taken positions that are alien to us as a people and of course detrimental to the well-being of our nation,” Rowley said.
Rowley, who chaired a one-day retreat of his government Wednesday, told reporters that the country is aware that some citizens have gone overseas and engaged in combat elsewhere, “have accepted training elsewhere, have attached themselves to ideologies elsewhere and some of those points of view form part of the conversation within our borders.”
He acknowledged that “some of the training pose a threat to us” and it is against that background that from time to time the government has in the Parliament sought to allay the fears of the population by answering opposition questions on the measures to deal with the security threat posed by these individuals.
He said his administration in consultation with the various state agencies have been keeping on top of the situation “to ensure that we monitor what is happening within our borders so that in the event that persons take it upon themselves to harm the national interest the bet position would be for the state to intervene and fend off or disrupt these activities.
“I can tell you today without going into further details that about a week ago… it came to the government attention and our monitoring agencies, both local and international, that we did in fact come to the point where very credible information was available to us that there was specific inferences being contemplated for action against the Carnival parade.”
Rowley told reporters that “it would have been irresponsible on the part of the government not to have intervened at that stage, adding “this is not simply a local problem, it’s an international problem.
He said Trinidad and Tobago is required to preserve the safety and security of the population “and I think we have done so with the Carnival parade having been protected by intervening to respond to the credible threats that we faced.one week ago.
Rowley said he would not want to discuss the situation for any length of time “since the matter is in the hands of law enforcement and from here on in we expect that the law will take its course.
“We are a country run by the rule of law and the wider public interest ought to prevail within the confines of the rule of law of law. It is not for me to get into specific details but the Minister of National Security (Retired Brigadier Edmund Dillon) and other agencies are involved and the operations are ongoing”.
But Rowley did tell reporters that he expect legal action to come from those detained saying “ I am aware there are legal challenges because citizen’s rights are at stake, there will be legal issues.
“We have a structure in the country and the rule of law prevails,” he said.
He said while the government is aware of its obligation to inform the population about the ongoing investigations, it is also aware of having to walk ‘a very thin edge…so as to preserve our sources and methods and also to preserve the participation of our international partners who from time to time will assist in more ways than one.
“It is a balancing act and I think on this occasion we did get it right in that we did not panic the country but we were able to respond in a very comprehensive away and continue so to do,” Rowley said.
He warned that he does not expect the ongoing situation ‘to be the last time that we would face these kinds of challenges” adding “ I don’t know we have faced this particular level of activity” but that the security forces would have learned “and they were also prepared to respond”.
Rowley said that Carnival is an economic event in Trinidad and Tobago “and to have had it disrupted could have had far reaching consequences and we have to accept also that for persons for whom such kind of activity is attractive, Carnival itself provides the kind of target that we live with.
“But so far so good we leave it now to the law enforcement agencies and the courts if it comes to that and we continue to monitor, observe and respond if required,” he told reporters. – CMC