Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 25th 2015 Contents A6
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Pedestrian traffic was heavy at City Gate, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, as they sought to leave the capital after
news spread of the jailbreak at the Port-of-Spain prison. PHOTO: ANDRE ALEXANDER
Even as Prime Minister Kamla Per-
sad-Bissessar, National Security Min-
ister Carl Alfonso and acting Police
Commissioner Stephen Williams were
yesterday holding a press conference
to assure the nation there was nothing
to fear or panic following the prison
escape, members of the public rushed
to buy groceries and stock up on emer-
The panic buying came even as secu-
rity forces made their presence felt
throughout the capital city and at police
stations across the country.
Although officials urged people not
to panic, as there was no chance of a
state of emergency---limited or other-
wise---being implemented, this did not
prevent people from grabbing extra gro-
Among the items being stocked were
bottled water, flour, rice, sugar, baby
supplies---including milk and pampers---
canned foods, butter, cheese, bread and
Earlier, around 2 pm yesterday, Massy
Stores in St. Augustine was deserted,
as only a handful of shoppers were seen
purchasing supplies. Many people could
be heard discussing the developments,
including cashiers and other staff who
expressed concern about what was hap-
pening in the city. A young female cashier
was also heard wishing that she could
leave work, as she voiced concern about
the availability of public transport.
Panic buying at groceries
As wailing sirens heralded blue
and white police vehicles in the
capital Port-of-Spain yesterday,
thousands of people who work
and live in the city rushed to board
buses, maxis and taxis to get to
safety, after a prison break resulted
in a shootout between police and
three convicts at noon.
The shootout left two dead, con-
victed criminal Allan "Scanny"
Martin and police officer Sherman
Some citizens, like a group of
women who had a distance of two
miles to travel between work in the
city and home in Belmont, walked.
While the Office of Disaster and
Preparedness Management (ODPM)
issued a release advising citizens
not to panic, as the country was
under no threat, the reality of busi-
nesses hastily closing presented a
different perspective yesterday.
"It s crazy but we were expecting
something like this to happen with
all the shootings recently," said Can-
dace Fraser, a 24-year-old office
"I was waiting on the taxi stand
to take a car but there are too many
people waiting on a car to go home
and my brother said it doesn t make
sense because there are too many
cars on the road."
The traffic in Port-of-Spain
started before 2 pm as commuters
rushed to leave the city. An hour
and a half later, the streets in the
city were clear of both vehicular
and pedestrian traffic.
Government ministries and pri-
vate businesses started sending staff
home at around 2 pm.
"I wasn t really in a panic but I
was glad when they sent us home.
We heard over the news that people
were shooting in the street. The
first thing I thought was that people
were going to panic and I was con-
cerned about reaching home so I
took my bag and came to City
Gate," one ministry worker said.
She wasn t the only one with
that idea. Lines of people snaked
around poles and benches at the
transportation hub as people waited
for PTSC buses to take them to
their destinations. Mothers hustled
their children across the street and
people could be heard on cellphones
giving anxious instructions to loved
ones to "stay away from town."
Sapphiya Abdullah, a sales clerk
at a Charlotte Street store, stood
outside her place of employment
as her manager placed a padlock
on the gate.
"We closed early. There are a lot
of people still on the streets but
when I heard what was happening
my heart started pumping. I just
want to go home."
Alfonso: Don t panic
In a brief telephone interview
yesterday, National Security Min-
ister Carl Alfonso, who was on his
way to a meeting at the National
Operations Centre (NOC) at the
time, said there was absolutely no
need to panic.
Asked about concerns that there
needed to be an evacuation plan
for the city, Alfonso said the issue
was being looked at by his ministry
and the NOC.
He said he understood that peo-
ple would be fearful after hearing
that there was a situation with
Muslims three days before the 25th
anniversary of the 1990 attempted
coup, which saw Jamaat-al-Mus-
limeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr and
his men attempt to overthrow the
Abu Bakr was detained on Mon-
day for questioning in relation to
the murder of Dana Seetahal, SC,
but was released two days later
without being charged.
"There is a disaster plan in place,"
A national disaster plan was one
of many recommendations in the
report of the Commission of
Enquiry into the coup attempt.
Following yesterday s daylight prison
break and subsequent shootouts in
Port-of-Spain, Prime Minister Kamla
Persad-Bissessar assured the nation
that she had no intention of shutting
down the country with a state of emer-
At the National Operations Centre in
Port-of-Spain, hours after the jailbreak
almost brought the capital to a standstill,
Persad-Bissessar met with her high-
powered security team before addressing
the nation on the matter.
"There is no need for a state of emer-
gency at this time. There is no uprising
in the country," Persad-Bissessar said.
Persad-Bissessar said one of the
escapees was linked to the murder of
businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Cool-
man, but his name has never been pub-
licly associated with the ongoing murder
"It is revealed that one of the persons,
by the name of Christopher Monster
Selby, is a co-accused in the murder of
businesswoman Vindra Naipaul-Cool-
man and the other escapee, Hasan
Atwell, has a string of outstanding
offences against him, including kidnap-
ping, possession of firearms, robbery
and sexual assault. The police have been
sending out advisories that these men
are deemed to be armed and dangerous,"
Persad-Bissessar also said that despite
the panic in uptown Port-of-Spain there
was "nothing to fear," as the Government
was in control and maintaining its zero
tolerance policy on criminals. She also
said the reserve police and army had
been called out on duty. She said on
Thursday, the National Security Council
met and decided to add the additional
manpower from now until Carnival 2016.
"Noting that this is an election season,
noting as well that the month of August,
historically there is a spike in the murder
rate, we discussed that at length, dis-
cussed measures to be put in place to
give safety and security to citizens
throughout the land," she said.
Also speaking at the briefing, acting
Police Commissioner Stephen Williams
said he could not respond to rampant
speculation about what occurred and
was only concerned with the facts.
"In matters like these we need to con-
firm facts before I could confirm and
share facts with you. The matter is now
being investigated," Williams said.
He said, however, that the investigators
had confirmed "key" aspects of what
took place, including that three prisoners
escaped and two were still "at large."
"One was shot and killed, those are
the facts. We are now proceeding to
continue the investigation," he said.
He also said that joint police and army
groups would be conducting searches
throughout the country.
No need for state
Bullets, mayhem after prison break
flee capital Chamber support
Yesterday, the business
community, through the T&T
Chamber of Commerce, came
out in support of the national
security forces' efforts.
In a release, the chamber
said in the wake of
disturbances yesterday it had
reinforced its unwavering
support and confidence in the
national security forces.
"We advise everyone to
remain calm, be alert and
proceed in accordance with
any official directives that
may be issued."
The chamber also
reaffirmed its commitment to
assist in any way possible as
the security services ensured
the continued respect for the
rule of law and social order in
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