Friday, August 23, 2002
Press Release : August 23rd 2002
The All Trinidad Sugar and General National Workers Trade Union issues a call for the immediate resignation of the Minister of Security, Mr. Howard Chin Lee. Months after his much-touted Crime Plan was unveiled, it has become painfully apparent that the Minister is clueless as to emergency remedial action that has become necessary following the alarming upsurge in criminal activity in the land. Most notable is the historic and monumental rise in kidnappings. At a time when Trinidad and Tobago has lost its world ranking amongst developing nations and as a rising Caribbean star, we now rank only in terms of having one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world. Today we read of businessmen being kidnapped daily, of kidnapped victims found with lethal bullet wounds to the head, of high tech 'kidnap boxes' and of banking and police connections in the kidnapping ring. Yet we have not heard one single arrest.
Instead we read conflicting reports of the retention of one Thomas A Clayton, an alleged kidnapping expert from the United States. On August 8th the Minister, in an address to the nation outlined the role of Mr. Clayton who he had introduced as a leading expert in counter terrorism who was to "share tactics and strategies while providing intense training to a specialized local unit." Not long afterwards Mr. Clayton himself suggested that he had merely given advice to the Cabinet and that he had no intentions of returning to Trinidad. Further, Mr. Clayton denied reports that he was paid or was to be paid $250,000. "We didn't expect to be paid", he said to reporters on his departure. When questioned about the apparent inconsistency, the Minister reported that the fee was being negotiated. The puzzling state of affairs has been further aggravated by the position adopted by the U.S. Embassy in Trinidad. The US Ambassador Dr. Roy Austin has gone on record as saying that he does not know of Mr. Clayton. On August 10th the Ambassador told the media that, he had "absolutely no idea how these people came here" and that the Minister did not consult with the Embassy on the matter.
The Union is of the view that these are grave inconsistencies and contradictions in a matter that is of mammoth national importance. The lives of all Trinbagonians are at stake so that any effort to remedy the tension must be as transparent as possible. The nation's purse is the source of Mr. Clayton's remuneration. We deserve to know the nature of his compensation package. The Government therefore, has a moral and spiritual obligation to give the facts. Who is Thomas Clayton? What is his organization? What is their expertise? What are the terms of reference of their employment with the State? Why wasn't the U.S. Embassy approached for assistance in sourcing professional aid in dealing with the "kidnapping dengue" that has engulfed the land? The Union's efforts to obtain information on the group via the Internet have proven futile. We publicly demand an explanation from the Prime Minister, who is the head of the National Security Council of Trinidad and Tobago. Mr. Clayton's concept of advisor does not fit hsrole as envisaged by Minister Chin Lee.
The Union feels that the Minister "did not come clean" with the nation. He deliberately or otherwise misled an entire population. The Ministry of National Security itself seems to have been kidnapped by criminal elements as the crime wave rockets to unprecedented heights. The Minister himself seems incapable of dealing with the situation. In the circumstances we feel that Minister Chin Lee must do the honourable thing and resign. Failing which, the Prime Minister may have no alternative but to relieve him of his duties.