Port-of-Spain - Trinidad and Tobago is now under a limited state of emergency following an announcement by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. The President of the Republic, George Maxwell Richards, will declare a limited state of emergency in certain "hot spots" across the country as law enforcement officials seek to come to grips with an upsurge of murders in Trinidad and Tobago.

The prime minister declared that, "after much deliberation with the National Security Council and members of the Cabinet" in response to the "spate of murders over the past few days" certain trouble areas will be affected.

These areas include, Arima, Arouca, Beetham, Carenage, Cunupia, Diego Martin, Enterprise, Felicity, Gasparillo, Grand Couva, Hermitage, Icacos, Laventille, Maloney, Morvant, Sea Lots, Trincity, Pigeon Point, Crown Point.

The State of Emergency follows a spate of seven murders within a 24-hour period, which might be linked to a recent drug raid by police which netted large drug hauls with values in excess of twenty million dollars in just one raid.

Last Friday, Leader of Government business Dr Roodal Moonilal said citizens ought not to feel insecure following the recent upsurge in killings. Moonilal disagreed that there was a need for a State of Emergency with the killing of seven people on Friday night, taking the murder toll to 256. (TrinidadExpress)

In 2003, following a Ken Gordon Committee Report on Crime presented to the Cabinet in May of that year, The Patrick Manning administration had considered a State of Emergency. This consideration was made on the heels of six kidnappings which occured in one week of July of that year.

In 1995, a State of Emergeny occured when Speaker of the House Occah Seapaul was asked to resign but refused. Occah Seapaul was placed under house arrest. In a speech over the weekend, Prime Minister Patrick Manning accused Seapaul of being involved in a plot to overthrow the government.

The PM's statement:

The entire nation has been rocked with the recent tragic news of the spate of murders over the past few days. The situation has reached proportions which the government must respond to in the most definitive manner possible. I am advised that one of the causations for the spike in murders is ironically linked to the success by the police in the discovery of large drug hauls with values in excess of twenty million dollars in just one raid. These large sums of money simply do not disappear from the drug trade without consequences and in some of the cases now occurring, this is the result.

The question though isn't just what is causing it but how do we deal with it?

As you know, we have deployed more financial and human resources than any government in recent time in dealing with the scourge of crime and until this recent upsurge the nation had been encouraged by the decline shown by year to years statistics. But a problem of this nature that has been the result of years of neglect will not disappear overnight and we reassess day by day each strategy deployed and how effective it is in achieving short term and long term objectives in reducing crime.

But the current crime spree dictates that more must be done and stronger action has to be employed now. The situation cannot continue like this without a response commensurate with the wanton acts of violence and lawlessness; it must be a response as well that will halt the current spike in gang activity and crime in general in the shortest possible time.

After much deliberation with the National Security Council and members of the Cabinet it has been agreed that the government consider the imposition of a limited state of emergency in hot spots across the country. Such a consideration must of course have the agreement of the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency, George Maxwell Richards and I will be meeting with him to discuss this matter.

The limited state of emergency will allow us to achieve a number of things in relation to crime reduction which would not be prudent for me to disclose in advance of the action taken. We are aware that such a decision will have an impact on the daily lives of innocent, law abiding citizens in these areas but I feel confident that they will recognize and appreciate the need to protect them and bring the current crime surge affecting them under control.

We have the will to tackle the crime problem in Trinidad and Tobago and the commitment to place every resource at our disposal towards waging and winning this war on crime.

We will succeed. The nation will not be held to ransom by marauding groups of thugs bent on creating havoc on our society. The limited state of emergency in hot spots across Trinidad and Tobago is merely part of a larger aggressive reaction response by the government.
As these measures are being deployed using both out police and military we ask all citizens to bear with the inconveniences that may arise from time to time. This is in everyone's interest.

In fact, I intend to hold discussions with the Leader of the Opposition to seek his party's support with certain legislative matters in Parliament. Trinidad and Tobago comes first. Nothing is more important than the right of each citizen to be protected and to enjoy a life of peace and tranquility.

A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale for suspending rights and freedoms, even if guaranteed under the constitution. (wikipedia)