The Attorney General said the declaration of a state of emergency by President George Maxwell Richards was “in response to intelligence received by security agencies.” As he sought to address concerns over the basis and impact of the state of emergency at a press briefing at the headquarters of the Special Anti-Crime Unit (SAUTT), Ramlogan said an entire drug-trafficking ring was stopped.
“The declaration by His Excellency was in response to intelligence received by security agencies which I cannot share with you but which I can assure you averted a crisis,” Ramlogan said at the briefing held at the sixth floor of the Riverside Plaza, Port-of-Spain. He said emergency measures came after “a major drug bust” by the State which net $22 million in illegal narcotics but warned that the operation had deeper implications.
“By making that discovery is to stop an entire drug trafficking operation that used Trinidad and Tobago as a route and trans-shipment point,” Ramlogan said. “It is not that it is only $22 million involved. We would have prevented a future $100 million that would have come in on a weekly basis.”
In an update, Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs also told reporters at the briefing that between 6 pm on Tuesday and 8 am yesterday there were 117 arrests, with 56 relating to gang offences and 48 relating to drug offences.
Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Kenrick Maharaj said four persons were detained by the Defence Force, 26 army patrols were conducted and two joint police patrols, all in the areas of: Arima, Chaguanas, San Fernando, Port-of-Spain and Maraval. Additionally, an operation was conducted at the Tomato Trace area of Diego Martin “based on some strong intelligence that we received up there.”
Maharaj said the Coast Guard has intensified its maritime operations and that the Air Guard has increased patrols across eastern and northern Trinidad. He said there was concern about “activities” in areas not under curfew.
National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy indicated that the Cabinet will go forward with its weekly meeting today, amid the state of emergency. A special briefing by the National Security Council will once more be held.
Told there was a perception that the state of emergency will not affect high-ranking criminals, and will only impact low-ranking subordinates, Sandy said, “In the not too distant future that perception will change.” He noted that some gang leaders have already been arrested.
Sandy addressed reports of industrial action on ports across the country from Point Lisas to Port-of-Spain’s waterfront, but warned that laws are in place to deal with unauthorised strike action. Ramlogan said there were “contingency plans” in place to deal with any industrial action and issued a warning to labour officials intent on intimidating workers.
“This is not the time for anyone in the trade union movement to intimidate workers who wish to attend work,” he said. “That is a matter that cannot be tolerated in the state of emergency.”
Under the Emergency Powers Regulations 2011, public assemblies, meetings and marches are banned unless approved by the Commissioner of Police or unless of a religious, educational or entertainment nature. Once more, the Attorney General made an appeal to citizens to come forward and give information about criminal activities but warned that prank reports will not be dealt with lightly. “Those who wish to provide false information to send us on wild goose chases, rest assured you will be dealt with,” he said. He noted there was one false report of a bus being overturned and looted but said, “by and large we have had responsible citizens.”
Sandy made an appeal to criminals and to parents.
“It is not to late to turn away from a life of crime,” he said. Sandy said while some of the citizens Constitutional rights had been taken away under the state of emergency, the aim is ultimately to make the country a safer place.
“The intent is to make you more comfortable. I want to make that clear. Officers are out there on the streets to assist law-abiding citizens,” he said.