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Trinidad fires top cops

BERT WILKINSON Special to the AmNews | 8/3/2012, 11:40 a.m.

It was months in the making; anyone who had been monitoring the political situation in Trinidad would have seen the writing on the wall.

On Monday night, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar took to the airwaves to announce that her cabinet had decided to fire two highly paid Canadian policemen who had, since 2010, been functioning as the island's chief of police and most senior deputy, blaming them for the failure to curb a murder rate of one every 36 hours and continued violent crime.

Dwayne Gibbs and Jack Ewatski will show up for duty for the last time on Tuesday, Aug. 7. The prime minister thanked them for services to the oil- and gas-rich twin island republic with Tobago, the last of the Caribbean island chain.

The two had never been popular with critics in Port of Spain, the island's colonial capital, who blamed them for not totally understanding the local culture and political and criminal nuances of a country that records a murder every day and a half, in excess of 400 annually.

That they were earning super salaries with various allowances and other perks, way above local deputies, also caused some amount of friction. Persad-Bissessar said the time had come to end the charade.

"No measure will be spared against those who seek to terrorize and brutalize our elderly folk, our women, our children and our men. The national outrage has reached a stage where everyone agrees that stronger and more aggressive initiatives are required," she said, hinting at dissatisfaction with the two who were hired by the previous government. "Rest assured that all necessary resources will be placed at the disposal of those reposed with the authority and responsibility of getting the job done quickly and effectively.

"We must channel this sense of outrage into an army of resistance involving our law-abiding citizens. The battle lines are clearly drawn, we are confident that good will prevail over evil," she said.

It was known that the two's days were numbered once Jack Warner was moved from the works to the National Security Ministry in a controversial cabinet reshuffle a month ago. He had publicly signaled a disinterest in retaining their services for a day longer than necessary.

But it is not all sad news for the Canadians; they will smile all the way to the bank, as authorities have bought out their contracts and will pay them all salaries and allowances for the remaining period.

Trinidadian Deputy Chief Stephen Williams is likely to replace Gibbs as commissioner.

Though swimming in oil and gas dollars, easily the strongest economy in the 15-nation Caribbean trade group, the island has struggled with violent crime for decades. Among other problems, the country has endured a July 1990 coup attempt that claimed 24 lives, arson to parts of commercial Port of Spain and gunshot injuries to then-Prime Minister Ray Robinson.