As the PNM administration prepares to ask the population for a second term in office, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is asking that citizens not judge his administration solely on the out of control murder rate even though he admitted that his government has not been successful on crime.
Runaway crime has been one of the failings that have tarnished the PNM administration’s record of office with more than 2000 citizens being killed under their watch. Since the PNM took office in 2015, murders moved from 463 in 2016 to 538 in 2019. Last year’s figure represented the second highest murder toll in this country’s history. Although Dr Keith Rowley is optimistic that citizens will notice results in the coming weeks and months, he also believes the entire country is underestimating the challenge posed by criminals.
“It would not be fair to the government to be measured by this situation that didn’t arise overnight, and is not a feature of this administration,” Dr Rowley said.
“While we would not have eliminated or even reduced murders as we have embarked upon, there are a lot of other things that the government has been successful at, so I would hope that the population will judge us on the broader canvas than this chronic problem that we are grappling with,” said the prime minister.
That position contrasts that taken in the PNM’s 2015 manifesto where it criticised the UNC for a murder count that exceeded 400, lamenting that violent crime was “out of control.” When questioned on this, Dr Rowley credited that statement to an expression of optimism about the effort that his administration intended to make. But in a one-on-one interview at the Prime Minister’s office at Whitehall, he admitted that enthusiasm had not yet yielded the desired results.
“We have not made the level of progress that the citizens expect and demand and are entitled to,” the Prime Minister conceded in a noticeably calm tone. “We are in fact facing an ongoing crime wave.”
In the wide-ranging interview, Dr Rowley fielded questions on crime, the economy, marijuana decriminalisation, succession planning, among other topics. The interview request was accepted under the strict agreement that no topic or question would be off the table, Guardian Media would have complete control over the line of questioning, and that the interview would be aired without edits.
Despite the abysmal result, Dr Rowley has given National Security Minister Stuart Young his full support. “I don’t see a ministerial change as the response,” Dr Rowley asserted when questioned whether Young would continue in the national security post.