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National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds in Parliament.

Renuka Singh

The Ministry of National Security will go ahead with the purchase of some 80 Sport Utility Vehicles for the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds attended yesterday’s Standing Finance Committee into his Ministry and briefly outlined the allocation for the vehicles.

“The plan is to purchase 100 vehicles, marked SUV’s, unmarked SUV’s, marked sedans, unmarked sedans,” Hinds said, adding that there is also a plan to purchase 12 vehicles for Tobago.

Hinds said the TTPS current fleet stands at 1,905 and of that some 1,181 are operational. The balance, 724 are out of service.

“Approximately 500 of those vehicles are considered to be sufficiently unserviceable to require disposal,” Hinds said,

Back in July during the opening of the Carenage Police Station, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said that a note was brought to Cabinet seeking approval to purchase some 80 SUV’s costing some $22 million and he immediately directed a revision of that figure. Rowley said then that the price was too high and those types of SUV’s were not necessary.

The recently launched Riverine and Coastal patrol unit under the TTPS was only allocated $29,000 for the next fiscal year.

Member of Parliament for Naparima, Rodney Charles questioned the lowly allocation.

“My understanding is that the problem is significant, you have endless reports of human trafficking, drugs, illegal immigrants etc. How many vessels are there in this Coastal and Riverine Patrol Unit, what are the optimal numbers of vehicles and is this figure in any way adequate,” he asked.

Hinds said there were currently two riverine vessels and two coastal patrol vessels.

“That has to be a joke,” Charles countered.

“Two vessels? and two others for all of T&T?” Charles said.

The meeting then devolved into a political one.

“Apparently the Member did not know that before the public chased them out of office,” Hinds said.

Hinds was again asked about the infrastructure for this unit and explained that the Coastal and Riverine Unit was only established to patrol and operate around the two-mile radius around the coast.

“This is a brand new, very powerful effort on the part of the police service to assist in the management and control of the affairs of our borders. We are now starting out,” Hinds said.

He said that the Unit was also staffed with 50 personnel.

Hinds also revealed that only three people have been fitted with electronic monitoring since the programme was finalised some two months ago.

The Electronic Monitoring System was pegged at $10 million in the last budget and was just $800,000 this year, a significantly smaller sum. That drop in allocation was raised at the Standing Finance Committee meeting yesterday to discuss the Ministry of National Security.

The Ministry received an overall allocation of over $2.2 billion.

Security Minister Fitzgerlad Hinds and Finance Minister Colm Imbert attending the session yesterday.

When Hinds announced the small number of people “wired up”, Oropouche East MP Dr Rooda Moonilal wanted more details.

“But the project itself involves much more than three persons? It was a rather expansive project,” Moonilal said.

Hinds said that thus far, only three people have been ordered by the court to be monitored electronically.

“The entire system is in place, up and functional. And it closed this country just about $10 million with no suggestion of any untoward behaviour,” Hinds said.