Long-standing conflict between Trinidad community and police erupts again

A police vehicle drives through a group of Beetham Gardens residents during protests in the area last week



PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — Last week, residents of the Beetham community in Trinidad dragged debris and threw items at oncoming vehicles as they protested again at what they claimed as neglect and a lack of jobs, although the majority of protests in recent years have been due to some type of conflict with police.

Such protests have mostly stemmed from incidents where police shot or killed members of the community, or police arrested a member of the community, the Trinidad Guardian reported.

In response to the latest protest, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley addressed the nation on Friday, and said he had instructed Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams and the Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon to do what was necessary to enforce the law.

In Parliament, also on Friday, replying to opposition questions in Parliament on the protest, Dillon said the plan to treat with such incidents was more community outreach.

Dillon, in a written statement, later detailed measures the ministry intends to implement in order to increase the level of trust and confidence between the police and citizens.

“This will be achieved through the continuation of the following initiatives of the TTPS [Trinidad and Tobago Police Service]: Prosecute and discipline errant officers, engage directly with community members through town meetings, Station Action Councils, neighbourhood watch groups. It also involves the continuation of Community Policing initiatives and increased participation in Police Youth Clubs.”


Police intend to remove kid gloves

While Rowley and Dillon provide policy and instructions, the person in charge of the Port-of-Spain Division of the TTPS, Senior Superintendent Floris Hodge-Griffith, said her officers were prepared to remove the kid gloves they used to treat the community, the Guardian reported.

Meanwhile, residents said they had not heard from or seen Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds since the incident. While Hinds was present in Parliament on Friday, he did not answer calls from the newspaper or respond to a text message sent to his phone.

Former Housing Development Corporation (HDC) managing director Jearlean John came out in defence of the Beetham community, saying the residents were not bandits but people looking for hope.

Speaking at a United National Congress (UNC) rally on Friday night, John said it was common knowledge that “if you touch anybody in those communities right away you know they come together in protest”.

John said it may appear to some that these communities are depressed or even dysfunctional, but they have a real and true spirit of community. “I am not romanticising it, it is true. They are people also. Today I was told that a Member of Parliament on the government benches called them bandits said.”

Reminding supporters that, when the Colour Me Orange programme was launched by the People’s National Movement (PNM) government under then prime minister Patrick Manning, it was feeding bandits.

She said the PNM wants the population to believe the programme was started under the People’s Partnership government and was not well thought out.



by Barry Randall, editor of Caribbean News Now

November 27, 2017

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