Wednesday, March 13, 2013

PM defends soldiers, denies charge of creating a military state

The Minister of National Security would not have control of soldiers who would have the power to arrest persons under the provisions of the Defence (Amendment) bill.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar told reporters Tuesday the soldiers would be under the command of their Chief of Defence Staff.

She made the comments following a tour of the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) at Aranguez. Persad-Bissessar said further amendments to the bill would be presented to Parliament on Wednesday that would address the issue of the Minister of National Security's authority over the Defence Force.

"We are contemplating a situation where, when the soldiers work alongside the police, that their reporting will be through their Chief of Defence Staff who is their commanding officer and at such times when they are on operational work," the Prime Minister said.

"Then they will report to CDS without the direction and control of the Minister of National Security. I think that was one of the concerns that was raised. We propose to bring an amendment tomorrow (Wednesday) to deal with that concern," Persad-Bissessar explained.

Persad-Bissessar said the government is also dealing with fears about possible abuse from members of the Defence Force.

"There was a concern about abuse and so on, first of all I do not hold the view that soldiers are more brutish than others. 

"I do believe that they are well trained officers of the State but even if there should be some stepping out of bounds we are amending the Police Complaints Act, for persons to get remedy and redress if when they are working as police officers they should step out of bounds," she said.

The PM said soldiers are subject to the justice system 
just like other citizens. She said soldiers and police have worked together and continue to do so without either division of the protective services having a problem. She said the bill is simply a means of "codifying" what is already in place.

"There are some who are attempting to vilify our soldiers and they are persons, they have served our country with great merit, as our police officers. It does not appear that the policemen and the soldiers have a problem working together, they have been doing it but they have been doing it without legislation," Persad-Bissessar said.
She said both the Chief of Defence Staff and the Commissioner of Police were consulted before the legislation was presented to the House. She said a stronger security system is necessary to win the war on crime.

"Yes we are in a state of war, it is the criminals who are waging war on us," she said. The Prime Minister added that the government has an obligation to "defend and protect our land and our citizens".

She said the best way to do it is to use all available personnel "and that gives us both the Defence Force and police officers and I am being told we spend over a billion dollars on the Defence Force per annum and therefore they themselves do not seem to have a problem in helping." 

The Prime Minister dismissed claims that the government wants to create a military state. "That is totally not true. To militarise the state you will have to have a host of other structures and systems which are not contemplated at all.

"There has been a military police training in the Defence Force so it is not that they are trained killing machines as it's being made out. They are just like us, they are trained, they are there, they are willing and able and therefore we will utilise their services," she said.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai