An order, issued under Section 3(1) of the Emergency Powers Regulations 2011, was published in the Gazette, authorising the Commissioner of Police and the Chief of Defence Staff to “take possession of any scrap metal stored in Trinidad and Tobago”.
At a national security briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, Ramlogan repeated that the move was meant to deal with “a peculiar and particular problem which has implications and is driven by intelligence.”
He, however, did not disclose the nature of the “problem”.
Sources, however revealed that it is widely known that scrap metal stores may be a key source of material used in the manufacture of illicit firearms and ammunition.
The order, called The Emergency Powers (Seizure of Property) Order, 2011, defines scrap metal as “discarded metal suitable for reprocessing.”
Section 3 (1) of the order reads: “For the purpose of dealing with the circumstances of any situation arising or existing during the period of public emergency, the Commissioner of Police or the Chief of Defence Staff may seize and take possession of any scrap metal stored in Trinidad and Tobago.”
Such material may be “dealt with in any manner considered necessary during the period of public emergency.”
The order makes clear that compensation is to be paid to the owner of the scrap metal seized. The quantum of such payment is to be determined by consent of all parties. If no agreement is made, the owner may apply to court for payment. The order did not delimit how ownership of the scrap metal was to be established.
As of yesterday, 820 persons had been arrested during the state of emergency, including 298 persons tied to gang activity. Ramlogan said the State would not take the unusual step of publishing a list of names of persons held by the police and the Defence Force, noting that such action could result in defamation and trigger retaliatory actions from person tied to gangs.
Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs said between Sunday and Monday there were 31 arrests, five gang-related; six drug-related and 16 on other serious offences and two arrests on outstanding warrants.
Notably over the last two days the number of arrests of persons held for breaching curfew fell almost 94 percent, with only one person being arrested. (For the 24-period before, 16 had been arrested for this offence.) The decline may have reflected the Attorney General’s announcement of stiffer penalties for persons breaching curfews. The penalties of a $3,000 fine and six months jail were ordered on Saturday by the President and also published in the Gazette.
In relation to an internet video threat against Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Gibbs said, “we are still looking at it” and appropriate action will be taken in the matter. Yesterday the teenager involved in that incident surrendered to police in company with her lawyer and gave a statement.
Speaking at yesterday’s briefing, National Security Minister Brigadier John Sandy said he recommended the imposition of a state of emergency based on intelligence that reached him.
“I, as Minister of National Security, went to the Prime Minister and recommended that we at least consider a state of emergency,” he said.
He said the success of the action was not to be measured in the number of firearms seized or arrests made given that the measure was meant to avert a crisis.“The decision that we took has averted a major crisis in Trinidad and Tobago. Had we not gone down this route given what we saw what was about to happen, every citizen would have said that we were irresponsible,” Sandy said.
Ramlogan said the crisis averted posed an “imminent and clear and present threat and danger to our society.”
However, the Attorney General said the stability of the Government was never in question. Ramlogan said the 1990 insurrection was made possible by a failure of intelligence, something which he hinted was not the case here.
Both Ramlogan and Sandy said they would not elaborate for national security reasons.
At the same time, Ramlogan said the state of emergency has netted major breakthroughs.
“There have been some major breakthroughs and the operation has been an unqualified success,” Ramlogan said. “Of course there is room for improvement,” he added.
Ramlogan noted that while 15 firearms have been reported seized during the state of emergency, 231 firearms have already been seized for the year by the police under an intensification of police exercises. More crucially, he said, 4,356 rounds of ammunition had been seized before the state of emergency.
“We have made a significant dent for this year in the gun trade and taken guns off the street,” he said.
There was no word on the establishment of detention centres, but Ramlogan noted that many persons being held were going to court.
Sandy said the annual Independence Day parade, which has been staged each year for the last 49 years, will go forward tomorrow as planned, despite the state of emergency.