Coast Guard Troubles | Editorial
The usually low-key Coast Guard has been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the past month.
First, the murder of a baby as he challenged a ship carrying illegal Venezuelan immigrants on the night of February 5. Just then, video began circulating of a Coast Guard-owned outrigger canoe sinking, later attributed to a faulty plug that raised questions about maintenance.
Two Fridays ago, when five divers working on an underwater project for Paria Fuel Trading were sucked into a pipeline, the Coast Guard emerged as a key figure in preventing volunteer divers from carrying out a rescue search. The latest incident occurred on Wednesday evening when the coastguard’s encounter with the crew of the Grenadian ship, Rainia, turned violent, sending a crew member to hospital.
Whatever the explanations for this series of events, the Commander-in-Chief, Captain Don Polo, should be concerned enough to look beyond the individual incidents to determine if there is something more deeply wrong within the Coast Guard and its management.
Each of these incidents requires internal and external investigations. If an internal investigation has been completed, no one except the Coast Guard itself and the Department of National Security will know since nothing but promises of investigations have been made. .
Even more than the police department, the Defense Force is careful to protect its internal disciplinary processes. The public is therefore almost never made aware of the details of the charges brought against Defense Force personnel and the hearings conducted by its courts regarding acts committed by personnel on the job.
Since all of these incidents happened on duty, the public may never have access to the details of any of the investigations or whether someone was hauled into court. The entire exercise can be conducted within the Defense Forces and without reference to the police. However, given the intense public interest, particularly in the baby’s murder, his alleged role in enforcing questionable decisions by Paria staff to block an attempt to rescue the trapped divers and, now, in the alleged assault by the Grenadian crew, the need for public accountability and transparency is vital.
In T&T, impunity is not only the prerogative of criminals but of authoritarian power systems that see no need to answer for their actions to anyone, let alone the public. However, this took a heavy toll in terms of public mistrust.
Captain Polo and those to whom he reports have a duty to be as transparent as necessary to convince the public that there is no cover-up in any of these cases. It has been a month since one-year-old toddler Yaelvis Santollo Sarabia was shot and killed by a member of the Coast Guard in disputed circumstances. Other than its initial press release on the incident, the Coast Guard has not provided the public with any official update on the matter, except to tell this newspaper last week that it continues to work closely with the TTPS. to ensure that the investigation is completed as quickly. as possible.