Paul, change begins with you
press conference given by Commissioner of Police Trevor
Paul on Friday on the explosion in downtown Port-of-Spain
two weeks ago was a disappointment.
Judging from the meagre results in terms of news reporting,
the purpose of it seemed to be to withhold rather than share
Mr Paul told reporters that 43 people had been interviewed
in connection with the incident, and that the explosive
device seemed to have been a low-powered one.
And that was it.
Minister of National Security Martin Joseph, although he
was slow off the mark himself, had offered far more new
information a week before Mr Pauls press conference,
when he spoke in Parliament during a brief debate on the
Not only was Mr Joseph more forthcoming with information,
but he also demonstrated a far greater willingness than
did Mr Paul to share whatever he knew with a population
that was naturally concerned and, in every sense of the
Indeed, it may be that it was only on Mr Josephs urging
that Mr Paul agreed even to go through the motions of holding
a press conference, for it was the minister, at the post-Cabinet
briefing the day before, who first announced that Mr Paul
was to give the press conference. If so, Mr Joseph discovered
the following day that you can lead a horse to water, but
you cant make him drink.
There are two possible explanations for the paucity of facts
and the grudging approach of Mr Paul. One is that the commissioner
fails to understand the purpose of a press conferenceor
possibly even his own role in relation to the public.
The other reason is that there is no new information to
The police and other emergency services appeared to do well
on July 11, arriving rapidly at the scene of the explosion,
closing it off to cars and passers-by, dealing with the
casualties and beginning forensic investigations on the
This momentum, however, appears to have slowed, with no
advances being announced since Mr Josephs report on
July 15. There have been no arrests, and the police have
been unable or unwilling to say whether they have any suspects.
Either way, the performance of the police in updating the
public on the investigation into the explosion is especially
unimpressive when compared to that of the Metropolitan Police
and their head, Sir David Blair, since the first London
bombings on July 7.
The London police, like other UK authorities, have not only
made a number of arrests, released photographs of other
suspects, and pursued leads at home and overseas, but have
taken the initiative in consistently offering ample new
information whenever new facts come to hand, and in recruiting
the help of the public in dealing with the terrorist threat.
Back at home, Mr Paul has spoken numerous times of the need
for the T&T police to improve their public image. Part
of the new approach required is that the police need to
treat members of the public, collectively and singly, as
allies and as employers, rather than regarding them with
suspicion and attempting to hide behind a cloak of official
secrecy. Mr Paul needs to understand that if any such change
is to be accomplished, it must begin with him.