Pastor denies involvement in human trafficking

Friday, October 11, 2019

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — Founder of the church where nearly 70 people were “rescued” by police Wednesday, in what lawmen later described as “the biggest situations pertaining to human trafficking in this country”, has denied any involvement in human trafficking.

Pastor Glen Awong, in a telephone interview with the Trinidad Express newspaper yesterday, said he believes the police raid on the Transformed Life Ministry and Rehabilitation Centre in Arouca, east of here, could be linked to an ongoing court battle with the State for the non-payment of TT$1.4 million.

“I worked for the Government under the street dwellers programme with the Ministry of Social Development and they are owing me money.

“The information about human trafficking… that doesn't exist by me. They talk about fraud… that don't exist by me. But it seems as if it was something more they were looking for. I sued the Government and I have a case going on with them right now and I feel this is something that came from the head,” he told the newspaper.

The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS), in a statement, said that during a “sting operation” early Wednesday, law enforcement officials were able to rescue 69 citizens, including four women from the facility.

The statement said that those rescued range from ages 20 to 60s, all held captive, where most of them were in cages and some handcuffs.

Police Commissioner Gary Griffith, speaking to reporters outside the church Wednesday, said that “we have now cracked what is the biggest situations pertaining to human trafficking in this country”.

He said some of those rescued have said “they have been here for a few years” and that “we have to investigate each and every situation”.

Griffith said he would describe the scene at the church as being barbaric, when you are actually seeing persons in this modern time in cages.

“Persons have been handcuffed, persons have been tortured, I think we have Tasers and again this is a situation of modern day slavery…and we are liaising directly with the DPP,” he said.

National Security Minster Stuart Young, in a statement, said he was “shocked and disturbed at the circumstances under which humans were being held and I strongly condemn same. I remind persons that this is now an active and unfolding police investigation and I am certain that facts surrounding this disturbing matter will begin to be uncovered,” he added.

But Awong, an ex-prisoner, told the Trinidad Express that since opening his facility in 2000 he has helped thousands of people including ex-prisoners, street dwellers, the drug addicted and mentally ill.

“People bring their relatives by me because their relatives want to chop them up, beat them up and burn down the house. Up to yesterday, a client put some poisonous substance in a drink for a family member who ingested it. Thank God the family member did not die,” he added.

“I am recommended by doctors, health facilities, so all they are saying is not true. If it was true they had a right to lock me up and my staff yesterday,” Awong said, noting that he was never arrested by police following the raid.

“That was a lie. I was at home yesterday with the police interrogating me. Police were looking for documents. I was home with the police giving them all the information they needed,” he said.

He told the newspaper that some at the centre were kept in seclusion rooms and not cages as being reported.

“I deal with four women who would want to throw mess at one another, so they have to sleep in seclusion rooms. St Ann's Hospital has seclusion rooms. And we have to have seclusion rooms because if we don't then when clients trigger off and get violent on you will be in trouble. You have to restrain them and I'm not restraining them how the police will restrain them by shooting and killing them,” he said.

Awong said following a visit by officials from the Ministry of Health in June, he is still in the process of upgrading the facility, adding “ I am about to build to hospital status because I have professional people working with me like psychiatrists, nurses and so on.


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