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Caribbean Islands

 
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Caribbean Islands

NATIONAL SECURITY

The national security forces of Trinidad and Tobago in late 1987 included the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force and the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, both of which were under the Ministry of National Security. The Defence Force consisted of approximately 2,130 personnel distributed among the army, the coast guard, and the air force; the Police Service included about 3,000 members, divided among the police and the fire and ambulance services.

Recruitment was voluntary, and many of the officers had been trained in Britain. In 1986 the army, the ground forces arm of the Defence Force, had 1,500 personnel organized into one infantry battalion, one reserve battalion, and one support battalion. The army had no heavy equipment or armored vehicles, and its rifles and machine guns were all of British origin. The coast guard, which was the naval arm of the Defence Force, had about 580 personnel and 13 patrol craft in 1986. The larger naval vessels included two 200-ton Swedish patrol vessels and four 100-ton Swedish Vosper patrol craft. The air force became a separate branch of the Defence Force in 1977; by 1986 it had about fifty personnel, one Cessna 402, and six helicopters, operating from bases at Piarco International Airport and Crown Point Airport.

Newspaper articles in 1986 and 1987 indicated that equipment in the armed forces was deteriorating and poorly maintained. Very few of the 150 vehicles in the Defence Force were believed to be operational in early 1987. In late 1986, four coast guard vessels were said to be inoperable, and three of the five customs and excise launches were reported to be down, with repairs delayed indefinitely because of lack of funds. At the same time, there were reports of large-scale arms smuggling into Trinidad and Tobago from Grenada, Barbados, Venezuela, Colombia, and the United States. A group of highly sophisticated "special operations" weapons-- including the Israeli Uzi, the Soviet AK-47, the 9mm semiautomatic and automatic Beretta--and even sniper rifles with an infrared lens were being sold in Trinidad and Tobago. Most households had a gun, and there was a ready market for small arms, but the final destination of the sophisticated weapons was not known.

Although the Police Service has existed since colonial times, it was not until 1943 that a local man was appointed a commissioned police officer from the ranks. In the mid-1980s, the Police Service was divided between the police and the fire and ambulance services. In 1986 the police had eight divisions--seven on Trinidad and one on Tobago. Branches included a riot control unit (called the Police Mobile Force), units for highway control and crime investigation, and a court and process unit, which was responsible for preparing court cases up to committal proceedings. Although most police personnel were trained at the Police Training School, trainee constables were occasionally sent to Britain for additional training.

Approximately 14,000 serious crimes were reported to the police in 1985, a rise of 43 percent since 1976; nonetheless, prosecutions for these crimes only rose by 700 to 2,856, and convictions fell to 550, a drop of 531. There were ninety-nine reports of murder and twelve of manslaughter in 1985, compared with sixty-eight and fourteen for the same crimes in 1976. The only convictions obtained for any of the crimes just mentioned were four murder convictions in 1976. Despite a nearly fivefold increase in prison expenditures from 1976 to 1985, the daily average number of prisoners only grew from 1,048 in 1976 to 1,110 in 1985. The number of individuals committed to prison did expand to 4,231 in 1985, an increase of 81 percent over 1976.

Drug trafficking presented serious national security problems in 1987. In April 1984, the Chambers government appointed a commission to examine the drug problem. Two years later, the commission produced the Scott Drug Report, which was suppressed by Chambers and not released until the NAR took over the government in 1987. The Scott Drug Report described an explosive increase in the use of cocaine, attributing it to Trinidad and Tobago's location on the trade route between the producers in Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia and the main market in the United States. It implicated five cabinet officials in the PNM government, as well as customs officials, bank executives, and many policemen, some of whom held senior posts. Police Commissioner Randolph Burroughs, who had been tried and acquitted in 1986 on murder and drug-related charges, resigned a few days after the Scott Drug Report was published.

Promising a national crusade against drugs, Robinson suspended fifty-three police officers, four magistrates, and a customs official and asked for stronger legislation permitting confiscation of property acquired with drug profits. He named Louis Rodriguez, a former member of the commission that prepared the Scott Drug Report, as police commissioner. Rodriguez had been working with authorities at the airport to strengthen security at Piarco International Airport, cited by the Scott Drug Report as one of the main ports of entry for cocaine. A special police task force, set up by Robinson to deal with drug trafficking, was reported to have destroyed millions of marijuana plants throughout Trinidad and Tobago and conducted dozens of raids against cocaine dealers.

* * *

Bridget Brereton's A History of Modern Trinidad, 1783- 1962 gives a comprehensive discussion of events in Trinidad and Tobago until independence and is particularly useful on the rise of the PNM. Eric Williams's many books and speeches, especially his autobiography Inward Hunger, are invaluable in showing the thinking of the man who was the most important influence on independent Trinidad and Tobago. Jack Harewood's The Population of Trinidad and Tobago and Female Fertility and Family Planning in Trinidad and Tobago provide a good understanding of population trends. Information on health care is available in the Pan American Health Organization's Health Conditions in the Americas, 1981-1984. Supporting statistical evidence for health, education, and welfare may be found in Trinidad and Tobago's Annual Statistical Digest and Report on Education Statistics. Book-length studies on the economy of Trinidad and Tobago are few. Most research on the country appears in various academic journals. Likewise, there are few well-centralized sources of data on the economy, causing statistical variations. The best statistical and analytical annual publications on the economy are the government's Central Statistical Office's Review of the Economy and the Central Bank's Annual Report. Selwyn Ryan's many studies of politics and the electorate in Trinidad and Tobago give insight into events as seen contemporaneously. Paul Sutton's "Black Power in Trinidad and Tobago: The Crisis of 1970" describes the crisis from start to finish, and Scott B. MacDonald's Trinidad and Tobago is one of the few sources that covers the whole postindependence period. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of November 1987

Caribbean Islands - TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Section > TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO


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