SENATOR THE HONOURABLE MARTIN JOSEPH
MINISTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY
ON THE OCCASION OF
THE PARLIAMENT SECURITY UNIT
PASSING OUT PARADE
PLACE: Police Academy, St James Barracks
DATE: 25th July 2009
TIME: 3:00 p.m.
President of the Senate,
the Honourable Danny Montano;
Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Honourable Barendra Sinanan,
Clerk of the House of Representative, Jacqui Sampson;
Specially Invited Guest;
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am pleased to take part in today’s passing out ceremony and to welcome and congratulate the 35 new Special Reserve Police Officers who now form part of the Parliament Security Unit.
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of addressing the passing out ceremony of 22 SRP officers comprising part of the Parliament Security Unit. With the graduation of these 35 trainees today the Office of the Parliament should therefore have on its establishment it full complement of 53 SRP Constables.
I want to commend you for committing to such a noble task to oversee the safety and security, not just of the Parliament Building of Trinidad and Tobago, but all the people who use that building.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we must never forget that the Parliament is one of the greatest symbols of democracy in this country, and it must be protected at all times. The role and functions of Parliament assume great significance in view of the basic principles and assumptions associated with parliamentary democracy.
A parliamentary form of Government acknowledges the fact that in this system, Parliament derives its power directly from the consent of the people expressed through periodic elections and that it exists to implement the will of the people.
It was felt that the Parliament, the supreme law-making body in the country should be safe and secure at all times. Apart from discussing and passing legislation, the Parliament is regarded as the proper place to debate issues of national concern.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the elected representatives of the people who meet to discuss and decide on matters of State, and the staff, as well as citizens and visitors, who use the precincts of the Parliament Building to conduct business, must feel protected. I wish to again underscore the importance of the Parliament Security Unit in achieving this goal.
Don’t for one minute believe that because you are SRPs you are of “lesser importance.” That is not the case at all. The decision to recruit SRPs for this Unit was to ensure that its members will not be used in other areas of police activities but will be dedicated to the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago.
Additionally, part of the justification for the establishment of the Parliament Security Unit is to relieve the regular police officers of this internal responsibility so that:
- They (Central Police) can focus on the other duties and responsibilities so as to effectively deal with the unacceptable levels of crime and violence across the country. In other words, this specialized Parliament Unit assists with manpower issues in the Police Service.
- It also allows the officers of the Parliament Security Unit to specialize in providing security for the members of parliament, visitors, staff and the building etc.
This Unit will operate under a hybrid arrangement where, while contracted to the Office of the Parliament and under the direct supervision of the Marshal of the Parliament, the Commissioner of Police will retain general command of the officers in accordance with the provisions of the Special Reserve Police Act Chapter 15:03 of the Laws of Trinidad and Tobago.
Ladies and Gentlemen there is no doubt that one of the greatest challenges facing this country is the unacceptable level of crime and in particular murders. As law enforcement officers, you have joined the Parliament Security Unit at a time when the Government is working steadfastly to achieve developed nation status on or before the year 2020. The fundamental objective of this vision is the improvement of the quality of life and the standard of living of all of our citizens towards that, which obtains in the developed societies of the world.
In moving towards this goal, five development priorities have been identified. These are:
- Nurturing a caring Society
- Developing innovative people
- Governing effectively
- Investing in sound infrastructure and environment
- Facilitating competitive business
The development priority to which the Ministry of National Security has primary responsibility is “Governing Effectively.” In that sub area, four concerns are identified. These are:
- Administrative of Justice
- Governance and Institional Structure for Development
- Law Administration and Legal Affairs
- National Security and Public Safety
The establishment of the Parliament Security Unit speaks directly to Government’s Vision to put institutional structures in place that will positively impact national security and public safety.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this Government has recognized that there is a need for strong law enforcement but to do that those brave men and women who serve in Trinidad and Tobago’s security forces must also have the legislative support as they fight this battle against the small minority who are bent on ensuring that they tarnish this country’s good name.
This is why Government will continue to bring legislation to the Parliament that will help the security forces in their fight, but also importantly, ensure that when the perpetrators of crime are found they can be taken before the Courts swiftly.
The role of Parliament is to make laws for the good governance of Trinidad and Tobago. That means that as MPs we have a solemn duty and as we bring measures to further assist in the battle against crime I feel confident that the population expects all of its representatives who sit in this Parliament, to join the fight against crime. I have said it time and again that crime is too important to play politics with.
I would like, at this point, to give a brief history of the establishment of this Unit, so that we can better understand the journey thus far.
It was in 2003, the Minister of National Security held discussions with the Commissioner of Police, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as, the Clerk of the House, about a possible security plan for the Parliament.
Following those consultations, the Ministry of National Security appointed a Task Force, under the Chairmanship of Commodore Garnet Best, Director of the Defence Transformation and Integration Secretariat, Ministry of National Security, to prepare an effective security plan for the Parliament.
The Task Force comprised officials of the Police Special Branch, Court and Process Branch, as well as the Clerk of the Senate. After its deliberations, the Task Force produced a comprehensive Report on the existing security arrangements at the Parliament and highlighted the weaknesses of that system.
Comparisons were made with several other Commonwealth Jurisdictions and the Report looked at three (3) security options. The decision was subsequently taken to create a Parliament Security Unit comprising sixty-five (65) Special Reserve Police Officers on contract.
It was felt that this arrangement would satisfy the immediate security needs of the Office of the Parliament and could almost immediately be implemented since there was already a pool of Special Reserve Officers available.
In November 2007, an Implementation Committee was established and an Action Plan, identifying all the security needs for the building, including security scanners, security of documents etc. were set in motion.
I am happy to say that today’s graduation of thirty-five (35) members of the Parliament Security Unit is one more major step in completing this action plan. I also would like to take this time to commend your instructors for the effective work done in preparing you, for your new roles
This is indeed a tremendous achievement not just for the Government of Trinidad and Tobago but for the citizens of this country, whose business we conduct in the Parliament Building. The Parliament Security Unit will continue to receive specialist training on an ongoing basis to keep up with the vulnerabilities and threats associated with the Parliament. This move is in keeping with what obtains in most developed countries.
In conclusion I urge all of you to carry out your duties with pride and dignity, professionalism, courtesy, respect and fairness. Above all, always be committed and dedicated in all that you do.
Once again, I congratulate all of you.
May God continue to bless all of us and our nation.
I thank you.