Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday called on Naparima MP Rodney Charles to apologise for misinforming the country about the cost of the Caricom Crime Symposium last week.
Rowley said he noted Charles telling the country at a recent United National Congress (UNC) media conference that the Government spent $15 million on the event. However, he said the actual cost was $1.5 million.
Last Thursday at the Office of the Opposition Leader, Charles labelled the Caricom crime symposium “a colossal waste of time, money, effort and talent.” He said the Government could have used the funding for much-needed items for protective services.
Yesterday, Charles asked Rowley: “Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the total cost to taxpayers of hosting the recently concluded two-day Regional Symposium on Violence as a Public Health Issue held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel?”
Rowley said he was happy for the opportunity to respond to Charles after seeing the media conference.
“I saw this member at a press conference of the Opposition telling the country, as usual, mischief and misinformation, that this symposium cost $15 million. Madame Speaker, that is not true, and the member must withdraw from doing that,” Rowley said.
He said Charles removed the decimal point and gave the wrong figure as if he knew something about the symposium.
“The member should get up and apologise now for spreading misinformation and lying to the public.”
However, Charles was unapologetic. He said he only asked a question. Instead, he said $1.5 million could have fixed every pothole in the Naparima, Princes Town and Moruga/Tableland constituencies.
Rowley quipped that his (Charles’) salary could do the same.
$8m in contraband
seized at prisons
National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds also said yesterday that the Prison Service has reported it seized almost $8 million in contraband items between 2021 and 2022, as it clamped down on criminals carrying out illegal activities.
He said his ministry had noted criminals carrying out illegal activities from within the prison. Given the implications for public safety, he said the Prison Service collaborated with other law enforcement agencies to treat the problem.
As a result, he said the Prison Service confiscated approximately 3,637 items with an estimated value of $1,043,951 in 2021 and 68,748 items estimated at $6,860,431 in 2022. Authorities also charged 96 inmates in 2021 and 82 in 2022, he added.
Hinds said the Prison Service also recorded a decrease in officers caught attempting to traffic contraband into prisons, with the figure moving from 15 officers in 2021 to eight in 2022. The Commissioner of Prison, Deopersad Ramoutar, attributed this to deploying the Prisons Surveillance Team.
“Given the Prison Services’ heightened security approaches, it has been recognised that even though contraband items are sometimes thrown over the prison walls, most of the time they are intercepted and confiscated before reaching the intended targets or inmates,” Hinds said.
The strategies included regular and impromptu searches, deploying prison interdiction teams with officers at major trafficking hubs, and live video surveillance. It also established a drone interdiction team and increased patrols of perimeter walls.