PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — Former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj on Monday called on the government to seek the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Britain’s Scotland Yard to help stem the crime situation that has so far resulted in more than 100 murders in Trinidad and Tobago this year.
“The government should immediately make efforts to obtain the help of the FBI and the Scotland Yard investigating team to work with this fully dedicated team of police officers to detect the 2017 murders and serious crimes. This in my view will send a signal to the criminal elements that they will be caught if they commit murders and serious crimes,” Maharaj said, insisting that he believes the police in Trinidad, with the adequate resources, are capable to undertaking the job to deal with the rising crime situation.
“It is a time that calls for immediate action…but the present problem which strikes at the root of the criminal justice system and the rule of law is that murder and serious crimes are not being detected. The government must therefore focus on what is urgent which if not is not redressed will subvert the rule of law,” Maharaj told a news conference.
He said that the Keith Rowley administration had to come to grips as quickly as possible with the crime situation and warned that the rule of law could be threatened.
“The grief of families is unbearable and all those in office and who occupy office has a duty to ensure that everything is done to improve the detection rate of murders,” Maharaj said, providing figures to show that over the period 2013, the detection arte has been below 20 per cent.
He said that if the institutions involved in the fight against crime are not properly resourced “then any plan which the government may have to fight crime will be doomed to fail.
“The fight against crime cannot be a knee-jerk reaction,” he said, adding “it appears there has been a complete breakdown of advanced strategic planning to combat crime in this country and therefore steps ought to be taken for there to be an advanced strategy in the fight against the different kinds of crime
“An examination of the detection of murder and serious crime in this country shows it is abysmal. It is too low in proportion to the number of murders and serious crimes which have been committed,” he said, warning that any plans to reform the criminal justice system would be useless if the detection rate does not improve.
“What is required to deal with the criminal justice system is not piecemeal tinkering with it, when such tinkering is done it does not solve the problem and it can in fact making the existing problem worse.”
Maharaj said that it was also important for the authorities to establish the DNA bank despite the legislation being passed since 2000.
“The time has come for the population to see and to feel that the government is declaring a war against the criminal elements and that it has taken steps to ensure that those who commit the murders and serious crimes will be caught”
Maharaj said that in the absence of an eyewitness, there must be circumstantial evidence, some forensic evidence to properly identify the criminal.
He also said he was not supportive of the idea to abolish the preliminary inquiries saying it would only clog up the judiciary more than before.
Maharaj, who served in the Basdeo Panday administration when the last execution of convicted murderers was carried out in 1999, also sought to give details regarding his decision to assist the present government in carrying out the death sentence.