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Judicial CP - April 2005

Corpun file 15569

Trinidad Express, Port of Spain, 24 April 2005

PM prepared to lock-down T&T

By Richard Lord


Prime Minister Patrick Manning (centre) shakes a supporter's hand after the PNM's public meeting

Noting that many people are "jumpy" following Thursday's daylight murder on Independence Square, Port of Spain, Prime Minister Patrick Manning says his Government is prepared to lock-down the entire country if necessary to deal with the crime problem.

The prime minister also announced that the Government would soon be seeking to re-introduce corporal punishment in the penal system.

"Who can't hear will feel," declared Manning. More than 100 people have been murdered here for the year so far, and Manning pointed to three areas of East Port of Spain where crime was prevalent.

He said: "In the first 58 days of this year there were 11 murders in those areas. We have put in the Inter-Agency Task Force (army and police) and for the last 50 days there have been one murder. The strategy has been successful but as we lock-down East Port of Spain we find the fellas (criminals) beginning to move out."

Manning added: "I will give Trinidad and Tobago the assurance tonight that in the same way we lock-down East Port of Spain, if we have to lock-down Tobago we will lock it down, if we have to lock-down Chaguanas we would lock it down, if we have to lock-down Cedros we would lock it down, and we would pursue them relentlessly wherever they go in Trinidad and Tobago. There shall be no rest for the wicked, the Government will be on your heels."

Manning outlined these measures to the approval of the large crowd which attended a PNM public meeting in Tunapuna on Friday night. The meeting was called to allow ministers to "report to the people", according to an advertisement. Earlier, the crowd heard party chairman, Works and Transport Minister Franklin Khan, hint that the next general election would be called "sooner than you think", as the PNM seeks to get at least 24 seats in Parliament. The man who will likely announce the next election date made no mention of that in his address. Manning said however that it was not easy to move from Opposition to Government and he dared UNC leader Basdeo Panday to try to win the next election.

Addressing the crime problem, Manning said criminals in this country, especially the young ones, saw no deterrents to criminal behaviour. He said they believed they would not be hanged, they could get bail, and -while in jail-they could get three meals a day, a cell phone and even a wife.

"The Government is determined to change that. The Cabinet is going to consider very shortly a proposal for the reintroduction of corporal punishment in the penal system in Trinidad and Tobago. They must get strokes and, after they get strokes once, they would not want any strokes again.

"To ensure corporal punishment is carried out, the PNM would do all in its power to ensure it is properly reintroduced. Who can't hear will feel. It is not good enough for a small criminal element in this country to hold the rest of us law-abiding citizens to ransom."


Meanwhile, a senior prison official told the Sunday Express that "except for one or two cases", the courts have generally not been including corporal punishment in their sentencing.

Asked whether corporal punishment had been officially stopped, he said "for the longest while the courts have not been awarding corporal punishment".

He added that while prison officers might have personal views on the subject, their duty was to abide by the dictates of the courts.

Corpun file 15568

Trinidad Express, Port of Spain, 25 April 2005

Doubtful proposal from desperate Govt


THE cheers which greeted the Prime Minister's reputed tough talking Friday night about how the Government proposes to intensify its war on escalating crime may well have been loud expressions of hope rather than outright support for what was heard.

Did Mr Manning say he was giving the country assurance about this or that measure which was still being contemplated? Whatever is meant by the "lockdown" of communities, the term now in vogue as the special anti-crime initiatives appear to be put in operation, no thinking or feeling person in this country will honestly say he or she possesses any sense of assurance that any of it is working. And, as the residents and business people in the Borough of Chaguanas told the police in the recently launched crime reduction programme there, they will reserve judgement until they see results.


On top of that, the Prime Minister introduces another rhetorical googly, in his declaration that the Cabinet is considering the reintroduction of corporal punishment in the penal system. The question is when was corporal punishment banned in prisons in the first place? And more importantly perhaps, is that the best place to introduce a system meant to change hearts and minds away from criminal activity?

Is the Government now moving away from its still embryonic commitment to embrace what it has referred to as a system of restorative justice as opposed to what it described pejoratively as the old system of punitive justice?

Mandatory strokes for prisoners is several steps backward for an administration that purports to be forward looking in its vision for the new society that it envisages. It is not in step with anybody's idea about prison reform, which is what this administration belatedly says it has embraced. It is an admission of failure beforehand, an indication of a sense of desperation among the political policy-makers, facing an ever advancing threat of popular discontent regarding one anti-crime initiative after another.

The very administration that has reiterated, to the disillusion of many disciplinarians in the society seeking ways to stem the galloping tide of youth and adolescent indiscipline, that corporal punishment in schools is inappropriate, now says that more of it, in a more violent form, is what is needed by those who go on to become certified law-breakers. It is an article of faith for us as a society to try this one on for size, while the debate ensues about just how it is deemed a workable solution.

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