‘Apparently T&T feels safe enough…’ Young ends state-funded neighbourhood watch, mum on procurement

National Security Minister Stuart Young’s initiative to put four security firms into residential areas across the country lasted barely 48 hours.

At a virtual press conference this morning, Young told the national community that the programme was cancelled due to public feedback. The four firms were: Allied Security Limited, Amalgamated Security Services Limited, Innovative Security Technologies Limited and Protective Agencies Limited.

Photo: National Security Minister and Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister and MP Stuart Young (right) has a word with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(Copyright Trinidad Newsday)

“It has become apparent in the last 12 to 24 hours that there are certain voices within the population of Trinidad and Tobago and taxpayers who believe that they currently feel safe enough,” said Young, “and there is no need to add any additional layer of security to what our police and Defence Force are doing…

“It is clear to us that many people already feel secure and they believe there is no need for this extra proactive measure that was designed and being implemented to give extra comfort to the population of Trinidad and Tobago […] that was not even going to cost a fraction of what other measures were costing.

“[…] The population has said they feel safe [and] secure. So the ministry of national security, after consultation with the prime minister, we have taken a position to immediately cancel this residential patrol system.”

Young’s suggestion that Trinidad and Tobago suddenly felt immune from crime was not reflected in the comments left on Wired868’s social media pages. Instead, members of the public were generally concerned about:

  1. Why the 5,000-strong Defence Force were not utilised in higher numbers to plug the policing gap;
  2. What neighbourhoods were identified for these private security firms to patrol, at taxpayers’ expense;
  3. What procurement policy was used to identify the four security firms.
Photo: Amalgamated Security director Dr Michael Aboud.

Young, who joined the press conference late, never offered any answer to the second and third points, which were not directly put to him. With regards to wringing more service from the Defence Force, he offered a lengthy list of duties being performed at present by our soldiers, air guard and coast guard.

Apart from land, sea and air patrols, Young said soldiers were also: helping to build facilities for the socially displaced, move beds at hospitals and transport quarantined and Covid-19 positive patients.

Did the National Security Minister believe it more sensible to use soldiers to move beds and build makeshift facilities while security guards—most unarmed—surveilled the country’s neighbourhoods?

Again, Young was not asked this directly nor did he clarify.

“At this time, I am going to be approaching the four security companies thanking them for stepping forward in a very short timeframe,” said Young, “because the first meeting took place last week Thursday and I asked them to be ready from Monday of this week.

“We moved heaven and earth to be able to provide that layer of comfort to us in Trinidad and Tobago. But having heard from the population and those with the voices, we have taken a decision after consultation with the prime minister to cancel this.”

Photo: National Security Minister Stuart shouts orders at Venezuelan migrants outside a registration centre at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain.

Had security guards already been deployed then? In what neighbourhoods? And what was the total cost incurred in the two days that they were presumably used?

The press conference ended without clarification on that point either.

Earlier, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh gave his usual global view of the pandemic and noted concern that, despite earlier assurances, there were now confirmed cases in New York of the novel coronavirus being transferred from humans to animals. Pets, it seems, may not be immune.

“This is a worrying trend,” said Deyalsingh. “[…] The thing is evolving.”

Deyalsingh repeated his call for persons to stay at home whenever possible and reiterated that the health ministry is trying to source extractors necessary to start conducting their own testing, which was initially promised to start on 27 March.

Deyalsingh was light on details about the lengthy delay for the equipment that he described as lightweight. He still did not have data with him on the number of persons tested in this country—as opposed to samples tested, which are over 900—or a target figure that the ministry hopes to test by 30 April.

“We test based on presentation [of symptoms],” said Deyalsingh. “You must be symptomatic.”

Photo: Testing for the coronavirus Covid-19.

Minister of Social Development and Family Services Camille Robinson-Regis was certainly well-armed with information, as she broke down how her ministry spent just over TT$46 million so far. The services provided by her ministry, which she suggested impacted directly on 75,600 families so far, included:

  • Food cards valued at $1,530, meant to cover a three month period, which were delivered to MPs in three batches of 50, 143 and 3,323;
  • Top ups of existing food cards to a value of TT$17,144,100;
  • Food support cards (8,077) for children in the School Feeding Programme, which were also distributed through MPs at a cost of TT$12,357,810;
  • Income support top up for three months to the 17,834 current recipients of public assistance, to the tune of TT$11,438,100;
  • Income support top up for adult and child recipients of disability grant—distributed by TT Post—which has so far benefited 24,627 persons, at a cost of TT$11,082,150.

At present, Robinson-Regis said there were approximately 4,000 applications for income and food support from persons who lost their jobs or suffered pay cuts as a result of Covid-19 measures.

The programme, she stressed, has also started its validation process with payments expected to start tomorrow. It is also open to self-employed persons or those who are employed but not registered in the NIB system.

Persons who find their employers unwilling to confirm their employment can still apply using two recommenders. The salary relief forms are available online or at police stations.

Photo: A satirical take on life during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The social development minister said MPs have generally distributed food cards via staggered appointments, so as to avoid crowds.

Health Ministry mental health director Dr Hazel Othello, gave today’s update on Covid-19 cases, in the absence of chief medical officer Dr Roshan Parasram.

At present, there are 98 hospitalised patients with 26 in Caura (all stable) and 72 in Couva (one in ICU and stable, three in HCU and 68 ambulatory with 17 of those identified to move to a ‘step-down’ facility).

Othello urged the public not to stigmatise persons who tested positive to the new coronavirus and to welcome them back home—minus the hugs and kisses.

On Monday, Parasram said the 22 persons quarantined in Balandra can be discharged by the end of the week if their results are negative. Wired868 understands that those persons will be re-tested on Thursday and, hopefully, will have their results by Saturday.

If anyone from the group tests positive, Parasram said that person will be transferred to Caura while the remaining members will start a fresh 14-day quarantine.

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One comment

  1. This article raises a number of questions:

    1) What are the terms of the contracts, and does the government have to ‘buy out’ those contracts now that they are cancelled? Just claiming that they are cancelled does not necessarily mean that the security firms are not being paid – basics of contract law.

    2) “Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh gave his usual global view of the pandemic and noted concern that, despite earlier assurances, there were now confirmed cases in New York of the novel coronavirus being transferred from humans to animals. Pets, it seems, may not be immune.

    “This is a worrying trend,” said Deyalsingh. “[…] The thing is evolving.””

    Our health minister is severely behind the times; this information was known since Wuhan way back in February.

    3) Why are the salary relief forms are available (only) at police stations? Does this not defeat the purpose of the government’s quarantine measures? Surely it encourages people – with or without Covid 19 – to break quarantine just to be able to access the forms. Which means mingling and interacting at police stations, using public transport, taxis et cetera to get there. Remember, not everyone has their own vehicle, especially those will need to access these forms.

    4) The same for food cards and other auxiliary relief measures being available at MPs offices. Aside from the interaction factor, the potential for corruption is staggering. And I say that without confidence in the MPs, just to make my point clear.

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