Business leaders warn Govt, Opposition to fix crime or else...

Curtis Rampersad

Friday, May 6th 2005

Trinidad and Tobago's private sector has had enough of crime.

Frustrated and fearful, the country's most powerful business groups have come together to demand that all 36 Members of Parliament cast aside their political differences to reduce crime and prevent what they call a national disaster.

If the political parties don't, the businesspeople have warned, they are prepared to up the ante and "increase the pressure" to get results.

For the first time in Trinidad and Tobago's corporate history, the heads of 16 business groups comprising the lion's share of wealth and employment in the country, sat side by side, in a united protest yesterday against the crime wave sweeping the country. While it was not the first time businessmen had called both on Government and the Opposition to address the escalating crime, it was the first time, they demanded action with a caution of increased action.

They are actually a group of 17, but a representative from the Bankers' Association could not attend a press briefing held at the Courtyard Marriott hotel at Invader's Bay in Port of Spain yesterday. Nonetheless, the 16 business group heads looked serious and impressive as they occupied almost an entire end of one of the hotel's meeting rooms. They displayed a formidable presence. Together the groups operate hundreds of companies, control billions of dollars in revenue and employ roughly 425,000 people living in this country.

Led by Chamber of Commerce president Christian Mouttet, the business heads sent the message that the 36 MPs were responsible for doing what was necessary to deal with crime.

"Every day we are confronted by a new murder. The citizens of this country are dying in record numbers. Kidnappings are at an all-time high," Mouttet read from a statement during a press briefing at the Courtyard Marriott hotel at Invader's Bay in Port of Spain.

Meanwhile, the country's law enforcement system is "ineffective, inconsistent and lacks accountability", Mouttet charged, adding: "The Police Service of Trinidad and Tobago has, quite simply, proven unable to discharge its responsibility to protect and serve the population."

Reform of the Police Service is necessary and the legislation must be debated, amendments made and the Bills passed, Mouttet said.

"However, fighting crime cannot wait the passage of legislation. The Government must act now. Prevention and detection of crime must be significantly improved," he added. The group agreed with Information Minister Dr Lenny Saith recently that it was Government's responsibility to deal with crime. They disagreed with National Security Minister Martin Joseph's recent assessment of crime, saying that the situation was worse.

Concrete solutions have been offered by organisations including the Ken Gordon Committee appointed by Prime Minister Patrick Manning, the groups said. "Many of these very sound and practical recommendations are not impeded by lack of legislation and can be implemented immediately," Mouttet said. "The Government must implement those recommendations forthwith."

But they didn't feel another crime plan had value but agreed to support that whatever action was necessary, even if it meant a lock-down of parts of the country. Yesterday's announcement was only a "first step", the groups insisted when pressed by the Daily Express that they had called for action before with no results.

Stressing they were independent and apolitical, Mouttet said they were prepared to "increase the pressure and up the ante" if the 36 MPs did not deliver in the war against crime. The groups refused to say exactly what this meant. They did not give a time-frame as to how soon they would react if crime was not reduced.

SOURCE: http://www.trinidadexpress.com/index...ws?id=76291120