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President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce Richie Sookhai.

RADHICA DE SILVA

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Describing as “unfortunate” the statements made by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley about prostitution in the Borough, president of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC) Richie Sookhai says such statements had the power to hurt people economically and should have been backed up by statistics.

In an interview, Sookhai said Chaguanas is not the only area in the country where prostitution exists.

He said the CCIC and the business community in Chaguanas have collaborated with the Central Division to fight all criminal activity within the borough.

“While prostitution may be one of these illegal activities, statements concerning the pervasiveness of unlawful activities in particular regions should be accompanied by statistics,” Sookhai contended.

He added, “There has been talk of this type of activity in different areas of T&T for years – it is not a new phenomenon. Singling out one area, especially without concrete evidence can be detrimental to economic development in that area.”

He noted, “As a country, if the authorities know, and have collected evidence of such activities taking place in certain areas – they should act on it.”

Sookhai said if migrants are coming into T&T to perpetrate such acts questions should be raised about how were they entering T&T.

“Moreover, a critical question that should be asked is: ‘If T&T is so attractive to the migrant community, why are mechanisms not in place for the prospective migrants to register for a work permit and be granted decent work at a fair wage?” Sookhai added.

He said the CCIC will continue to work with the TTPS to fight all crime in the Borough so that citizens can feel safe and migrants can be protected.

Meanwhile, former crimefighter, retired Senior Supt of Central Division Johnny Abraham said when he left the TTPS in 2015, prostitution was not rampant in the Borough.

“I am out now but when I was there, these kinds of things were not happening. Yes, we had raids by Rich Gold but that was never prevalent. I don’t know if prostitution is prevalent in the Borough as the Prime Minister. If this is happening, I don’t know,” Abraham said.

Several NGOs including the Living Water Community declined to comment on the Prime Minister’s statements.

But former Commissioner Gary Griffith said Chaguanas was not the only place where pornography flourished.

He said under his tenure the TTPS was aware of child prostitution and this was why he set up systems in place to protect minors.

“This was confirmed not just in Chaguanas but throughout the country, That was why SORT was instrumental in many raids and they shut down many of these institutions and several people were arrested because of SORT. It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister as the chair of the National Security Council has the audacity to tell the Opposition to deal with it. It is his responsibility as Prime Minister,” Griffith said.

He added, “Child pornography, child prostitution, violence against women, all of that we were dealing with. Many young girls under the age of 18. The difficulty is when they were arrested, the ladies would not say they were prostitutes and the men who operated the establishment would say they were just hanging around so it was difficult.”

He noted “I had many things in place including the Covert Operations Unit through SORT. But again, if the priority now is to shut down and dismantle all criminal activities will increase as we are seeing at this time.”