Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal is concerned that resources are being wasted to investigate how law-abiding citizens are receiving firearms.
He was responding to official communication from the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) that it is investigating the reports surrounding the issuance of firearms licenses by the Commissioner of Police (CoP).
In a release over the weekend, Dr Moonilal stated:
“I am concerned that resources are being spent to investigate how law-abiding citizens received firearms but ignore how thousands of guns reach the hands of criminal elements.”
“This means that the Prime Minister appointed inquiry led by Ret Justice Stanley John is inquiring into the exact issue. This is not just duplication and a waste of resources, but serious concerns have been raised as to whether Justice John can undertake a lawful investigation into the conduct of police officers,” Dr Moonilal added, noting that the PCA has the legal authority and independence to undertake such an investigation.
He called on the Prime Minister to immediately indicate the terms of reference for the John inquiry.
“Also, the remuneration provided to the two-man inquirers Rear Admiral Pritchard and Ret Superintendent Arthur Barrington. The Prime Minister must lay in the Parliament a copy of their report that has to be investigated by Justice John. The Joint Select Committee (JSC) on National Security must receive the Pritchard/Barrington Report at once!”
Dr Moonilal also charged that National Security Minister Fitzgerald Ethelbert Hinds MP is guilty of what he says is “typical PNM hypocrisy, bad faith and irresponsibility in his shameless attack on State agencies of the protective services”. The Opposition MP says the minister should publicly apologise to the hard-working police officers.
“Without providing any evidence, Hinds has brutally assailed law enforcement agencies, claiming that only ‘40 percent of us do all the work’,” he said in his release on the matter.
Claiming that the PNM regime has grossly underfunded the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, Dr Moonilal said this has led to the inability to purchase vital equipment and to pay essential service providers.
“In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the Government assigned only $270 million of the budgetary allocation of $500 million to the Police Service. During the current fiscal year, the Police Service has been allotted even less and has been unable to have vehicles repaired, and to purchase camcorders, tasers, pepper sprays, and other basic crime-fighting devices,” he observed.
According to the Opposition MP, while the Government has been rebuilding the Prime Minister’s residence in Tobago and upgrading golf courses, it has not properly funded the primary law enforcement agency, which has 7,000 employees and 1,500 vehicles. He added that more than 800 CCTV surveillance cameras are still not working, and instead of having them repaired, the Government has been making excuses and indulging in its usual blame games.
“Boats that should be utilised in crucial border patrols remained anchored because of a stark absence of investment in manpower and lack of funding to purchase fuel. For spurious reasons, the PNM administration has kept helicopters of the Defence Force grounded and has opted to spend taxpayers’ money on non-essentials instead of securing citizens’ safety. Hinds’ remarks are the customary bluster and gripe of the non-performing PNM Government, which engages in barefaced politics and grandstanding instead of protecting the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” Dr Moonilal said.
He maintains the minister owes a public apology to the hard-working officers of the various protective services, and a commitment to providing adequate resources to the agencies. Dr Moonilal suggested that the minister concentrates on new policies and inspired leadership that will encourage members of the national security agencies to vaccinate urgently.
“This is an imperative since the vaccination rate among law enforcement officers is very low and they are indeed frontline and critical public officers in the fight against the COVID-19 virus. We have lost too many police officers to a preventable virus,” he added.