Before Ramlogan made this disclosure at the daily security briefing at the Ministry of National Security at Temple Court, Port-of-Spain, a large contingent of soldiers from the Regiment’s Engineering Battalion was spotted clearing piles of scrap iron off the Beetham Highway close to Beetham Gardens.
Residents looked on as some soldiers driving backhoes and trucks removed the scrap iron, while other heavily armed soldiers kept a watchful eye on the operation. Speaking on condition of anonymity, some residents said they earned a living from the scrap iron yards, and felt the actions of the security forces in removing the scrap-iron were unfair and hoped that Government would compensate them.
At the briefing at Temple Court, Ramlogan said: “You would have seen today (yesterday) that we have embarked on an operation with respect to certain areas and certain types of activity relevant to scrap-iron yards. More will be disclosed about that tomorrow (today) and why we are about it. Suffice it to say that we have credible intelligence that leads us in that direction with respect to the scrap iron yards.” Asked whether the information Government received suggested that scrap iron from these yards were being used to manufacture firearms, Ramlogan replied, “No comment.”
However, he added, “What I do wish to say to those who are in charge of those scrap iron heaps is that you will in fact be compensated for your scrap iron provided you have lawful right, claim and ownership to the scrap iron.”
He explained that these persons would also be compensated provided they have “the appropriate permission, authorisation and licence from the State to be operating that scrap iron heap. We will in fact ensure that the procedural safeguards are there, but for now it is a matter of national security that we in fact intervene in those areas, in that type of business and it is not only confined to the six areas.”
Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs said a total of 15 firearms have been seized since the state of emergency was implemented.
Asked if this level of seizure was considered satisfactory, Gibbs replied, “In terms of seizures, any gun off the road, any gun out of the bad guys’ hands is a success. That is one less weapon that can be used for violence and illegal purposes.”
Gibbs added, “So we start small and continue to work to eliminate as many of the illegal and legal weapons that have been used in firearm-related offences.”
Responding to the same question, National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy’s answer was “totally not.”
However, Sandy said Government remains certain that the objectives of the state of emergency would be achieved. Ramlogan said while firearm seizures were important, one firearm rotates between gang members to commit different crimes.
“The real crux of it is the ammunition. To date we have rounded up almost 1,000 rounds of ammunition and that is potentially 1,000 lives that we have saved,” Ramlogan declared.