Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith said yesterday that when he suggested a gun amnesty for gang leaders on Tuesday, he did so sarcastically knowing they would neither turn in their weapons nor call any real truce.
“Gang members will never surrender their firearms and there was never a snowball chance in hell that they were eager to have an amnesty. I made the comment not expecting they would do so. It is a hypocrisy that they are calling a truce,” Griffith told Guardian Media yesterday, even as key gang leaders said they were not prepared to surrender their firearms to the police or embrace any gun amnesty.
“It seems the media misinterpreted the sarcasm when I made the comment,” Griffith added.
During his weekly media briefing on Tuesday, Griffith said he was glad to see rival gang members meeting over the weekend and declaring a truce and peace.
He declared then, “This is excellent news if it means that persons who have been involved in criminal activities that have been instrumental in and been the catalyst for the majority of the 5,000 murders in the last decade and they decide to say ‘let us form a truce’ because we want peace.”
But on hearing they had blanked the gun amnesty suggestion yesterday, Griffith said he expected nothing less from the criminal elements, accusing them of only coming together for one purpose. “They assemble as criminal elements to attack the state. By admittance, they will not even hand over a water gun, much less a rifle. It exposes a cosmetic arrangement by them, assembling as a unit to destabilise the country,” Griffith said.
“The truce is nothing more than the enemy of my enemy is my friend, they’re assembled as a unified body to fight the state.”
Asked about investigations into persons who were allegedly involved in the plot to destabilise the country following last Tuesday’s protests in Port-of-Spain, Griffith said they were continuing investigations and exploring other avenues.
“There are other laws that we are looking at for those persons of interest. And for those who have broken the law, if we cannot get you one way, we’ll get them another way,” he said.
Moments before Griffith spoke to Guardian Media, a senior gang member made it clear they had no intention of handing in their guns at this time.
“This is the alliance, it has no Muslim or Rasta City again. But Gary Griffith, we not putting down our guns just so. Why all yuh doh put down all yuh guns and all these unjust things going down in the place, that poor people going through and politicians playing games,” the member of the alliance who contacted Guardian Media yesterday said.
The gangs were accused of uniting to target police officers and certain members of the Government.
But while admitting to forming an alliance yesterday, the gang member said it was mainly to stop the killing amongst themselves.
“We now stop killing one another for guns, drugs and turf. But (government minister name called) look how much poor people bawling in the ghetto and still cyar (sic) get ah home and they cannot up to now get their salary grant relief and their back pay. Give the people their money this week,” the senior gang member said.
The underworld figure acknowledged that they had been part of the crime problem but said they had now changed their focus.
“We, as the so-called gang members, had a meeting, we had long talks, the bosses and them and now we come to fight for a cause. We put a stop to the senseless killing and the high crime rate, so we fighting for a cause.”
He claimed that they had now taken up the cause for the poor people in these depressed areas across Trinidad and Tobago and said he hopes businesses and businessmen were also taking note.
The gang activity of mainly Port-of-Spain-based gangs came under the microscope last week after they confirmed to Guardian Media that they had united following the protests over the police killings of Joel Jacobs, Israel Moses Clinton and Noel Diamond in Second Caledonia, Morvant. The car of a police officer was also firebombed at her Laventille home during the second day of protests over the killings.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has since set up a committee headed by psychologist Anthony Watkins to look into issues in East Port-of-Spain and other depressed communities.