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Stuart Young, Minister of National Security and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister.

A Cyber Security Unit in the National Security Ministry will be tasked with securing Government’s Digitalisation thrust from hacking and other cyber dangers.

National Security Minister Stuart Young revealed this during Tuesday’s Standing Finance Committee meeting.

Young was grilled by Opposition MPs on the ministry spending of the $1.billion allocated to National Security for 2021.

A two -year plan for digitalisation in T&T—including wooing private sector approaches on this—was among highlights of the PNM Government’s 2021 Budget.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert recently said, “Everything, including Government tenders, will be digitised. In the absence of information in the Budget speech on how this new thrust in every government division will be safeguarded, concerns were expressed about the need for systems to prevent hacking which has been occurring in T&T.”

Young said the Cyber Security Unit work will involve firewalls systems and will handle renewal of licenses, maintaining generators and server upgrades.

Young also assured Government has done its part to be ready for start of the electronic bracelet monitoring programme for domestic violence offenders—and is waiting for the judiciary to start issuing orders.

The 300 bracelets are ready along with staff for the system—already being paid—and other infrastructure.

He also assured that Government’s freeze on public service hiring won’t prevent promotions which have been recommended.

Young confirmed the Forensic Science Centre is back to having two pathologists after having four previously.

He said there’s no backlog but the situation is of concern to Government. Young said recruitment is on and applications from some youths are being evaluated.

He said people weren’t rushing to be pathologists and remuneration wasn’t the issue. Government has given scholarships on this field.

The two pathologists, including an older lady currently employed, work according to demand, including if this requires a seven-day week. But he said their operational hours kept in line with conditions to ensure their work could be admissible in court.

He confirmed another anti-crime programme for hotspots—The Cure Violence programme used in Chicago and New York to halt potential violence situations. Work will be done by mediators with communities.

Efforts are also being made to reduce prison overtime costs. He added prison overtime claims will be paid after the sums are audited by the Finance Ministry.

Young got into a tiff with UNC MP Roodal Moonilal on a subject they’ve argued before—gang activity.

UNC’s Rodney Charles queried funding for intelligence agencies, Young said agencies had been working and people were being charged under Anti Gang laws.

Young said perhaps some UNC MPs could assist the state on gang members and “who went for drinks where….” He referred to Moonilal.

Young said there were “very disturbing” which he’d brought before Parliament’s National Security committee and, “The names of members opposite are in those reports” he added.