Trinidadian pastor in ‘caged people’ case denies human trafficking claim

Pastor Glen Awong of the Transformed Life Ministry and Rehabilitation Centre in Trinidad. (Photos: Trinidad Express)

The founder of the church in Trinidad where 69 people were “rescued” by police Wednesday has denied any involvement in human trafficking.

The police had described the case as “the biggest situation pertaining to human trafficking in this country”.

Pastor Glen Awong told the Trinidad Express newspaper in an interview on Thursday that he believes the police raid on the Transformed Life Ministry and Rehabilitation Centre in Arouca could be linked to an ongoing court battle with the state for the non-payment of TT$1.4 million (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents).

‘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.’

— Pastor Glen Awong

“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 facility from where the people were ‘rescued’.

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. Most were in cages and some were handcuffed. Police Commissioner Gary Griffith told reporters outside the church Wednesday that some of those rescued said that they have been at the facility for a few years.

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, drug-addicts and the mentally ill.

People bring their relatives by me because their relatives want to chop them up, beat them up and burn down the house.

— Pastor Glen Awong

“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.

Some people were being held in cages.

“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.