Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley on Tuesday acknowledged that gangsters continue to get government contracts, arguing in the process that the problem was a perennial one encounter by successive governments and not easy to solve.
PM Rowley insists it started with ghost gangs in the Unemployment Relief Programme and in an effort to reduce that corruption, successive governments have moved to contracts for small infrastructure projects.
The PM declared that this was analogous to the country moving from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. He insisted that the problem was well known to his Government and that it was working on dealing with a problem that is structural.
This newspaper broke the story of a Special Branch report that showed $6 million of taxpayers’ money funded projects that benefited well-known gangsters. It also revealed that in some of the projects there was not even evidence of the work being done.
In addition, the Member of Parliament for Moruga/Tabeland Dr Lovell Francis has complained about his life being threatened by thugs who are demanding part of a $176 million road construction project.
The PM went on to criticise those who have raised concerns about his administration’s performance in dealing with the issue, saying those who are being critical of the Government are merely trying to score political points.
It is unfortunate, however, that the Prime Minister has sought to politicise crime and corruption. Dr Rowley must by now know that four years after being appointed to the Head of the Cabinet, he is, in fact, Prime Minister of the country.
As Prime Minister, citizens demand leadership at a time when fear is gripping T&T because of unbridled crime.
All right-thinking citizens must be concerned about criminals being funded through government contracts, resources which they then use to buy more guns to unleash their terror on the citizens of T&T.
The promise by the Prime Minister to work towards fixing the problems without giving a time-line or offering a path to its elimination, at best, rings hollow.
Mr Prime Minister, no one doubts that the challenges faced by the country are as myriad as they are complex but it is why the country elected you and your team to fix them.
Thus, to say that this is an old problem and that those who criticise you for it are trying to score political points does the country a disservice. The current Government knew of this when it campaigned on the platform, berated the then government for facilitating such acts and promised to clean it all up if given the chance. For years later, citizens are deserving of much better than the crime chaos they are waking up to on almost a daily basis now.