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It was no joke

Published: 
Thursday, February 15, 2018
PM: Legal hiccups in terror threat case
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley addresses the media during yesterday’s press conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.

It was no joke.

While there are legal challenges concerning the people detained in relation to the plot to disrupt Carnival, the plot was no joke Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has confirmed

Rowley spoke about the matter and the overall threat situation facing T&T - in very broad terms - at a media briefing following yesterday’s Cabinet retreat at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.

Police last week revealed they had credible information about a plot to disrupt Carnival and began detaining people. Thirteen have been detained so far.

On whether authorities were close to charging anyone, Rowley said he was aware there were legal challenges because citizens’ rights are being interfered with. He said he was leaving that to the “realm it belonged to.”

However, Rowley maintained authorities had and “still do have” serious security concerns about the safety of the state and operations are ongoing.

“There are some people who believed this was a joke or persecution. But T&T is free and in so far as claims of religious persecution is concerned, that holds no water regarding the security services responding to criminal conduct on the part of anyone,” he said.

Rowley said about a week ago it came to the attention of Government and monitoring agencies - local and international - that there were specific instances being contemplated for action against the Carnival parade.

“It would have been irresponsible on the Government’s part not to have intervened with that information,” he said.

Asked if it involved bombings, Rowley said he couldn’t go into it, “but we’re not the only state or the first which has acted on credible information.”

He hinted that T&T hadn’t faced “this particular level of activity” before, but said security agencies were prepared to respond.

“When the Government sees it necessary to indicate that we’re dealing with credible threats I just hope citizens take that phrase very seriously,” he said.

He explained, “As chairman of the National Security Council, we’ve had to monitor the activities of some of our citizens - a small minority - but we’d be putting our heads in the sand if we don’t acknowledge and accept that we, as a people, are part of the scourge of international unacceptable developments.

“This, moreso in recent times when some of our citizens have taken positions that are alien to us as a people and are detrimental to the well-being of our nation if their teachings and actions are allowed to go unobserved or unchecked.”

Rowley said it wasn’t news that some citizens have gone abroad, engaged in combat and accepted training “and attached themselves to ideologies elsewhere.” He said some of those “points of view form part of conversations within our borders - and some of the training poses a threat to us a a people.”

Rowley said he didn’t expect this would be the last time T&T would face these kind of challenges.

Asked if information shows further threats, he emphasised: “We must understand there are citizens in T&T who engaged themselves in and subscribe to ideologies and activities, which, if taken to their logical conclusion, can cause detriment to the people of T&T. We’d be burying our heads in the sand if we don’t accept that.”

Throughout Carnival, Rowley said he’d been engaged in ensuring what was happening was being monitored properly and he chose not to be away from that task. Consequently, he only came out on Carnival Tuesday.

On possible US role in the effort, Rowley said it was correct for US spokespeople to say they weren’t involved in T&T operations, since it was 100 per cent a local operation. But the gathering and sharing of information is a continuous process between T&T and the US, he said.

Amendments to the anti-terrorism law will be brought to Parliament, he added.

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