Prisons Commissioner Martin Martinez says he supports his officers' protest action over the murder and shooting of two of their colleagues in the past week.Martinez gave the comment in a telephone interview yesterday, in response to reports that officers of the Remand Yard facility at the Golden Grove prison in Arouca were engaged in a "go slow" protest.
"Whatever the circumstances, my officers will be indeed traumatised. One will not expect, therefore, that it will be business as usual," Martinez said.He said the action was not unreasonable as he thinks similar action would be take by other arms of the protective services in the same circumstances.Martinez also denied media reports from prisoners who claimed that they had not been fed since the protest began over the weekend.
"That is not true; the prisoners are being fed. We are not starving inmates at all. They are being taken care of," Martinez said.He said he believed that the recent violent acts against his officers were because of their efforts to instill discipline and strictly enforce rules at the nation's prisons.
"Prison officers have been marked for death by the criminal underworld because they bringing positive change to the Prisons Service and they stopping contraband from entering. They (the officers) are stopping the underworld economy in the prison and they (the prisoners) want to run their racket," Martinez said.
Last week Thursday, prisons officer Andy Rogers was shot 20 times at a construction site at Daniel Trace, Malabar, Arima. Police sources said that Roger's death may be as a result of a relationship he had with a prisoner's relative.On Monday, another officer, Krishna Merhair, of Tunapuna Road, Tunapuna, was shot near his home.He survived the attack.Commenting on Rodger's death, Martinez said whatever the circumstances behind it, it should not be trivialised.
"If people continue to trivialise these things, the prison would become ungovernable," Martinez warned.Martinez said that some time before his murder, Rogers began receiving death threats and was issued to a firearm for protection."I am convinced, as Prisons Commissioner, that his death arose directly as a result of the performance of his duties," Martinez said.
He said Rogers returned the firearm when he was going overseas. However, it was not given back to him when he returned because prisons authories were investigating reports of threats made to his female companion."We instructed that the officer not be allowed to retrieve his firearm until an investigation. That is why he (Rogers) was unarmed," Martinez said.
He said that he met with Minister of Justice Emmanuel George yesterday morning to help develop initiatives that will protect his officers. He said that he planned to meet with the Minister of National Security and Police Commissioner to discuss similar initiatives.
When contacted yesterday, president of the Prisons Officers Association Ceron Richards said his organisation agreed with Martinez's comments and would continue their protest action until the Government intervenes to address the health and safety concerns of the officers."The officers are not going to support the State if it has no interest in their health and safety," Richards said.
Richards explained that officers at the Golden Grove prison were reporting for duty but were refusing to enter the prison. He said all aspects of prison operations had been adversely affected, including prisoners' transport."It seems to me that the State is totally uninterested in meeting and treating with the plight of prisons officers." Richards said.