Saturday 19 September, 2020

PM to protesters: Seek justice, but not revenge

File photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

File photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley

Following widespread protests in and around Port of Spain over the killings of three men by police, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has said there is a big difference between justice and revenge.

He made the comment while speaking at a media conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's on Thursday.

Dr Rowley began the conference by expressing condolences to the families of those killed by gunfire which led to the widespread protests over the last few days.

He said for justice to be served, there must be proper gathering of evidence.

Dr Rowley said those calling for justice are correct to do so, but warned against revenge.

"There's a big difference between justice and revenge. Justice requires that persons who have been wronged should be able to determine that there concerns are met and there is a certain amount of recompense."

The Prime Minister added that there is an "absence of confidence" in the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), the independent body tasked with investigating claims of misconduct against police officers.

The PCA has launched an investigation into shooting deaths of three men in Morvant by police officers on June 28.

It has also initiated a probe into the killing of 30-year-old Ornella Greaves, who was shot dead during protests on Tuesday along the Beetham Highway.

"We have a Police Compliants Authority (PCA) which has the duty to investigate the actions of police officers, particularly where the outcome has been one of such sadness generating such anger. But I would be less than honest with you if I just tell you (to) leave it to the PCA....It has not been functioning that way and that absence of confidence is there."

However, Dr Rowley stressed that there must be a proper and speedy investigation which can generate evidence.

The Prime Minister said he expects that evidence surrounding the police killings will be gathered, and that the evidence will determine who was responsible.

He said if the process does not result in a clear determination in who is culpable, then the next step of the process should be a full coroner's inquest.

"In this situation, to call for immediate action without the evidence is to call for revenge as against justice. I believe that all those persons who are calling for justice are completely correct, and I find common cause with them. Those who are demanding revenge, I warn against that approach."

He confirmed that intelligence was received that the widespread protests were organised.

The Prime Minister noted that many young people in society carry firearms.

However, Dr Rowley warned that once they carry firearms, they are putting themselves in harm's way.

He further expressed concern about gang activity in Trinidad and Tobago.

"Today, I'm appealing to young people of this country and saying to them when you take up arms for whatever reason, you are automatically putting yourselves in harms way with respect to law enforcement. The only response the state would provide in that situation on that moment is an armed contingent."

The Prime Minister also announced the establishment of a Community Recovery Programme for areas in Trinidad and Tobago requiring special attention. 

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