The government continues to deny Opposition charges of an official
death squad in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. This denial
follows United National Congress Opposition charges in Parliament last
week that 21 people had been killed by the police in 2004.
The most recent killings were those of four youths,
all of Felicity in central Trinidad — Prem Narad, 15, of Pingla
Street; Dennis Roopchand, 20, of Phillip Street; Ravi Boodoo, 16, of
Union Village, and Kevin Singh, 16, of Cacandee Road, on October 19.
Police said taxi-driver Jairam Ragoo, 48, of 127
Main Road, Felicity, was operating his vehicle for hire around 7.30
p.m. when he picked up a woman, Krishendaye Kissoon, 32, of Enterprise
Street, Chaguanas.Ragoo, who lives close to the home of Singh, also
picked up the four. They proceeded to attack, chop and beat him with a
gun. Ragoo said his hand was cut when he struggled to hold back a
cutlass held by one of his attackers. He told police that he was
stuffed into the trunk of his Nissan Laurel Medalist as the young men
escaped with his car. Kissoon was released and called the police.
Ragoo later escaped in the area of the Waterloo cremation site in
Carapichaima. When the car slowed down, he managed to open his trunk
and ran into the sea.
Members of the Guard and Emergency Branch spotted
the car at St Mary’s Junction shortly after 9 p.m. and pursued it.
In their effort to escape, the men hit a Nissan B12 Sentra after
breaking a traffic light, injuring an unidentified man and his two
children. They were taken to hospital. Police officers in a station
wagon blocked the stolen vehicle from behind. The young men began
shooting at police, who returned fire, it was reported.
The shooting death by the police of robbery suspect
Sherman Monsegue, 17, of Schuller Street, Carenage, on October 13 has
also raised concerns. Police said that Monsegue shot at them when they
identified themselves. Following the death of Monsegue, who police
said belonged to a gang known as "Baby Face," enraged
residents of Carenage in west Trinidad staged a protest, calling for
justice. They set old debris afire, put up barricades and dragged old
drums and pieces of wood across the Carenage Main Road.
Police and soldiers had to be called out to quell
the residents’ rowdy behaviour. Monsegue’s mother, Deborah, said
while she knew people were hurting, residents should stay out of
Prime Minister Patrick Manning referred to killings
by the police on October 24 when he said there was a need for balance
in law enforcement. Speaking at the People’s National Movement Women’s
League 38th annual conference at the Fyzabad Composite school, Manning
said it was unacceptable for citizens to be gunned down in cold blood.
Manning, who is also head of the National Security
Council, expressed concern at the September beating death of
Ignatius Owen, who was detained at the Golden Grove Prison in Arouca
on a child maintenance warrant.
"It is also unacceptable that somebody should
be sent into a remand yard in the prison for not paying maintenance
and end up dead in days," he said. While commending hardworking
police officers, Manning said he understood the pressures under which
they had to work and that were it not for them, the crime situation
would be worse.
National Security Minister Martin Joseph has also
denied the Opposition’s claims of a death squad in the Trinidad and
Tobago Police Service. Replying to the UNC’s charges in Parliament,
Joseph said he had been approached by some prominent citizens who
suggested that the government should put something in place to
"take some people out."
"I told them that we cannot even think about
that. I told them that there is a country (Guyana) which is being
scrutinised for allegedly being engaged in such action," Joseph
"I said we are going to deal with crime and
criminal activity in this country in which, at the end of the day, we
will be able to hold our head high." Joseph admitted that the
number of police killings had increased from 12 in 2003 to 21 this
"There is no death squad existing in the
Police Service," Joseph declared, "and no such arrangement
will ever be tolerated in this country. In most instances, it’s a
small group of persons who are bringing the Service into disrepute and
we need to put measures in place to deal with that."
Opposition leader Basdeo Panday has joined the
relatives of those killed in their call for an investigation into the
number of police killings. Speaking at the Waterloo community centre
on October 26, Panday, who admitted that police officers under attack
must defend themselves, said there were glaring discrepancies between
the police reports of these killings and those of eyewitnesses.
"Government has unleashed brutality under the
guise of fighting crime," Panday alleged. Police Commissioner
Trevor Paul on October 27 said that investigations into six of the 21
killings (in 14 incidents) are completed and the other eight are 90
percent complete. Paul said seven of those reports were sent to either
the Clerk of the Peace or the coroner for an inquest.