PM to Opposition: Why announce patrol ships are down?

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Keith Rowley

THE Prime Minister lamented the Opposition publicly announcing to the world that two Coast Guard patrol ships were out of operation by the fact of him having to reply to queries in the Parliament.

Dr Rowley made the complaint during Prime Minister’s Questions on Friday in the House of Representatives, after being asked about repairs/maintenance to vessels CG-41 and CG-42.

“CG-41 is currently awaiting dry docking for its maintenance and servicing and repairs. CG-42 will be serviceable and operational within a matter of days.”

Couva North MP Ravi Ratiram, in a supplemental question, asked if TT has sufficient border protection without those two vessels.

Rowley chided, “That is precisely why you asked the question, so we can answer and tell the world that our two vessels are not available.”

Flinging open his arms in exasperation, he said, “I answered your question. What’s the outcome of that?

“We’ve told the whole world that none of them are in the sea. That’s what you do all the time.

“If I told you I’m not going to answer the question, you’d call me arrogant. Answering questions about assets might be useful inside the Parliament, but it does not help with border security.”

Naparima MP Rodney Charles, in a fresh question, asked what the PM was doing to ensure enough scanners for TT’s ports of entry.

Rowley replied that the Port of Port of Spain has a fully operational fixed scanner that was eight years old and still fit for purpose.

“The mobile scanners donated by the US to TT in 2018 and installed at Point Lisas were not new.

“They were 16 years old at the time they were given to us and they are now deemed to be obsolete.”

He said procurement of new scanners was initiated recently, and tenders for new mobile scanners were expected to be received by February 23.

Rowley said 17 per cent of all containers in TT were scanned, while 20 per cent were physically inspected.

“The world average for scanning is six per cent, and physical inspection two per cent.

“So insofar as model of inspection is concerned, we are inspecting above average because we do have a pressing problem of criminal intent and criminal penetration of our authorised ports.”

Charles asked if Rowley was satisfied, given acting Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacobs’ recent remarks about many illegal guns entering TT at the ports.

Rowley replied, “There is nobody in this country who is satisfied with the situation with respect to the entry of illegal firearms.

“That’s why we’re making efforts to impede the illegal importation of firearms.