Friday, March 2nd, 2012

On February 14, two weeks ago today, this newspaper called for the Commissioner of Police, Dwayne Gibbs to resign immediately.

Our call was in response to Gibbs’ letter to us in the wake of our objection to a raid by police officers on our newsroom and at the home of our reporter Andre Bagoo.

This is what we said then, “We expect Government to demand the immediate resignation of Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs, a guest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago whose generous salary is paid by the people of Trinidad and Tobago and under whose watch two media houses have been raided. It is of no surprise that police feel free to trample on press freedom and to continue to persecute Mr Bagoo when their Commissioner shows he has no understanding of the implications of his men’s conduct for the future of press freedom and democracy in TT. Mr Gibbs may not have known about Thursday’s raid but he is remorseless about the violation of media rights and property that has taken place and he has made it clear he views the media and the reports we publish in the public interest, as criminal and he is inclined to treat us as criminals.

“Mr Gibbs has sought to defend the indefensible conduct of what he calls in meaningless management jargon, his ‘peace officers’, by slanderously likening the reports and reporters of an established and respected newspaper of Trinidad and Tobago to “individuals and groups, who constantly attempt, through illegal, unethical and nefarious means, to destroy the very underpinnings and basic tenets of our society — bullies, the manipulators and intimidators.”

According to him, police action such as last week’s raid are necessary for “people who purposefully initiate violence and malificence and contrive to attain only for their own self-interest and benefit, usually at the expense of others and society as a whole, people who don’t respect our nation’s freedoms nor do their actions demonstrate respect and concern for others.”

“It is simply intolerable for Mr Gibbs, a Canadian, to place the TT media in the same category as criminals and terrorists and to suggest that his ‘peace officers’ were required to restore order in an environment disrupted by violence or disorder. He is talking about a news report, not a bomb and many would argue that the actions of the police have upset the peace in TT, when Newsday’s original report would have done no more than to create buzz about the Commission. Further, this newspaper reserves the right to decline constitutional lectures from an outsider, when under Mr Gibbs’ watch, freedom of the press is in peril.

“High handedness from police may be acceptable in Canada, in cities such as Toronto where hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against police for their violation of demonstrators’ civil liberties during the 2010 G20 summit, but this country respects its media’s and it citizens’ rights and does not need a foreigner to teach it about either.

TT police are not in the habit of raiding press offices and reporters’ houses on a minor complaint from any authority or parking their vehicles outside their family homes.

“During this ‘probe,’ the police have used force and not a single modern investigative skill, and Mr Gibbs’ justification of coercion and abuse of authority heaps insult on injury.

“This newspaper supported his appointment in the cause of crime reduction, but we recognise that Mr Gibbs has injected a dangerous alien culture of brute force into TT policing. He must resign immediately or be dismissed.”

We now repeat our call and for a second reason: In view of the very strong dissatisfaction with his work, stated on Friday last by the Police Service Commissioners to the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee whose chairman, Dr Ramesh Deosaran, described Gibbs’ responses to the Commission as disrespectful, we cannot see Mr Gibbs continuing in office.

Mr Gibbs should step aside voluntarily and retain what dignity he has left. The PSC’s acknowledgement that they are only retaining him until they can find cause to fire him is all the more reason why he should resign now, and he should leave.

JUNE 23-26, 2012
Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers
PO Bag 560
Trinidad and Tobago
Phone: (868) 474 5770
Wesley Gibbings, President: (868) 680-3452
Peter Richards, First Vice-President: (868)764-5745 Byron Buckley, Second Vice-President:(876)440-8393 Nicole Best, General Secretary:
Clive Bacchus, Asst. General Secretary
Bert Wilkinson
Jewel Forde

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