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That’s the info I have—Abraham

Published: 
Saturday, May 16, 2015
GEB behind ‘total policing’ action
National Security Minister Carl Alfonso, left, thanks Snr Supt Johnny Abraham for his participation in yesterday’s sitting of the Joint Select Committee on National Security at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port-of-Spain. Also in photo are Opposition Senator Faris Al-Rawi and Labour Minister Errol Mc Leod. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR

Head of the Central Division, Senior Supt Johnny Abraham, has identified the Guard and Emergency Branch (GEB) in the Police Service as instrumental in carrying out the “total policing” operation which crippled the country on March 23. 

On that morning officers at six police divisions conducted roadblocks simultaneously.

Abraham made the comment as he appeared before the Joint Select Committee (JSC), which was chaired by Independent Senator Rolph Balgobin, in Parliament yesterday.

Asked by People’s National Movement (PNM) Senator Faris Al-Rawi to identify who orchestrated the exercise, Abraham said, “Well this would be hearsay evidence now. From what I gather it was the Guard and Emergency Branch. I don’t know where they get the directive from but that is the information I have.

“We received a call for a day of rest and reflection but people didn’t heed to that call. That call came from the president of the association that people would get sick and stay home for two days. I didn’t suffer that fate in Central Division. Just about six persons got sick.”

A report by investigating officer ACP (North West) Vincel Edwards could not determine who specifically gave the ultimate directive for the operation. 

The Friday before the nationwide shutdown it was reported that the GEB had conducted a “dry run” along the Churchill Roosevelt Highway in Aranguez, San Juan.

Saying he had read parts of the report, Abraham recommended that in order to remedy the situation, divisional commanders must have the respect of their subordinates.

“They must be able to work on a daily basis for the betterment of the country. They must be able to take charge of all situations and more than that they must have information from the officers on the ground as to what is taking place,” he said.

“I always on the ground with my officers. I don’t look at the rank of senior superintendent and constables and once information comes to hand of any illegal activities, these officers have so much confidence in me they would come to my office and tell me what going on with the division. 

“So if something like this even think about happening in Central I would get word and I will put a stop to it,” Abraham added.

Asked if he believed the action was triggered by ongoing wage negotiations, he said he did not want to draw any conclusion, but said if that was the case then it was a “very sad day” in the Police Service.

Last Friday, president of the Police Service Social and Welfare Association, Insp Anand Ramesar, described the operation as a coincidence when he appeared before the committee.

Asked yesterday whether he believed the country should accept such an explanation, Abraham said, “I always look at it in the way to try as much as possible not to inconvenience the public. So I am totally against causing inconvenience to the public.”

He said after listening to the news and opinions from people on the ground, it appeared to him that the intention was to send a message which might have been linked to wage negotiations.

“I could only assume. I don’t know what information the officers may have had,” Abraham said.

He also said that at no time would he not be aware of any operation that might be pending in his division.

“They will take directive from me once I am in charge of Central and they will do as I tell them to do.”

The total policing action forced a major shutdown of the country. Apart from the traffic gridlock, businesses lost millions as they were forced to close their doors because employees could not report to work; flights at Piarco International Airport were also affected.

Alexander—It was not me

Head of the North-Eastern Division Task Force and Police Service Social and Welfare Association vice-president, Insp Roger Alexander, who also appeared before the JSC, yesterday denied he was the one who co-ordinated the operation.

“If somebody was to say that I pulled this thing together, then immediately after this statement was made they would stretch and ask if they just wake up from a dream because that would not be so,” Alexander said.

The report presented by ACP Edwards on the event had pointed to the breakdown of command and control on the day in question and also criticised Alexander for comments he made about the activity on the Beyond the Tape programme.

But yesterday, Alexander said there was also no evidence to support the claims made by Head of the Central Division, Senior Supt Johnny Abraham, that the operation was linked to wage negotiations.

“I have no information, not at all, even being the vice president, that that type of action was about to take place or was it co-ordinated from the association.

“I am the vice president but I am floating. I don’t even have an office, so at no time did any information like that ever come to me, so I cannot support anybody making that statement that the association would have had anything to do with that,” Alexander said.

Also contacted yesterday, the association’s secretary, Insp Michael Seales, reiterated the roadblocks were not linked to wage talks.

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