It is amazing how many of our self-appointed “independent political analysts” escape public scrutiny, simply because they occupy the commentator’s position, by virtue of their writings or commentaries in the media.
Take for example, Ralph Maraj’s column in the Sunday Express of October 9th, under the heading, “Kamla’s Return?” in which he praised the Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad Bissessar, for her response to the Minister of Finance’s Budget presentation.
His article clearly demonstrated that it was itself, nothing more than a professional public relations gimmick to boost the image of the Opposition Leader. The information in his article gave the impression that the Opposition Leader provided facts to illustrate how she achieved a great deal under her stewardship as Prime Minister, especially in the area of crime.
Maraj cited the National Operations Centre (NOC) as one of the new initiatives introduced by the United National Congress (UNC) regime, in addition to the National Security Training Academy (NSTA), Community Comfort Patrols, construction of Police Stations, buying four coastal patrol vessels and 12 Damien vessels, among other dubious “accomplishments”.
What Maraj failed to indicate in his column, is the fact that the UNC administration either changed the names of already-existing units, or simply completed projects started by the previous People’s National Movement (PNM), in the area of fighting crime?
For example, the NOC replaced Special Anti-Crime Unit of Trinidad and Tobago (SAUTT), the National Security Training Academy is the same unit as the Specialist Crime Academy, and the Community Comfort Patrol is really a duplicate of the Citizens’ Security Programme (CSP).
In the case of the construction of new Police Stations, when the PNM demitted office in 2010, two-and-a-half years after the general elections in 2007, five Police Stations and three Police Posts were completed. Additionally, 19 new Police Stations were earmarked for construction.
With respect to the purchase of vessels for the Coast Guard, Maraj praised Persad Bissessar for the patrol vessels, etc. However, the truth is as follows: Under the PNM, six 30-metre Fast Patrol Craft with speeds of over 40 knots, two 46-metre Coastal Patrol Vessels, and 14 Fast Interceptor Craft with speeds of up to 50 knots, were purchased between the period 2007 and 2010.
These facts are contained in the PNM’s manifesto for the 2010 general elections, where it was clearly stated: “This brings the total compliment of armed Coast Guard vessels to 28, a 300% increase from when we assumed office in 2001.”
But the most significant and major issue dealing with fighting crime was the PNM’s move to acquire three Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs). According to the manifesto it was the final piece in the naval arsenal, with each one having the capability to carry 100 men and stay out at sea for several weeks, with a range of several thousand miles.
The PNM had envisaged that the OPVs would have operated alongside the armed helicopters with all the sophisticated military vessels making Trinidad and Tobago virtually impenetrable to drug traffickers and gun smuggling.
These ambitious plans and programmes were crushed when the UNC government unilaterally cancelled the OPVs, effectively leaving our borders wide open to drugs, guns, and other armaments, with criminals virtually enjoying a free rein for five years and three months. The OPV’s were discredited by the UNC to justify their refusal to accept them. But the same OPVs rejected by Kamla Persad-Bissessar were bought by the Brazilian Navy (the fifth-largest in the world), who also purchased the rights to build the same in Brazil!
The Public Relations purchase of the 12 Damien vessels at the end of the UNC term in office, cannot be considered to be in the same category of the OPVs. In any event, they served no purpose to stem the flow of criminal activity which the country is now experiencing. Furthermore, in spite of the billions of dollars spent by the UNC administration, the present PNM Government is now left to pay for those vessels.
No one can fault Maraj’s anxiety to remake the Opposition Leader, but he must not do so by rewriting the facts and using the UNC hoax of changing titles, in a vain attempt to fool the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Maraj ought to know that there is no return of Kamla Persad-Bissessar to lead Trinidad and Tobago; however, there is his return to the UNC fold.