UNC to Government: Bring Anti-Gang Legislation to Parliament at earliest opportunity; let’s get it passed
After weeks of negotiation, the Prime Minister finally accepted Leader of the Opposition, Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s proposal of a two and one-half year sunset clause for the Anti-Gang legislation yesterday. The bill failed in Parliament on December 7th, 2018, and it is only because of Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s timely interventions that the legislation will now move forward in a form agreeable to both Government and Opposition.
When the Anti-Gang Legislation failed in Parliament late last year, Keith Rowley and his cohorts got busy blaming the UNC. They announced that they would lay the legislation again in the next session of Parliament and indicated no plan to negotiate or work with the Opposition to try to come to consensus on the bill.
On the other hand, Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her team got to work and proposed that the bill be brought back to Parliament in a matter of weeks, if the parties could agree as to the way forward. It was the Leader of the Opposition who led the bipartisan approach by requesting a meeting with Keith Rowley to achieve a compromise in the shortest possible time.
During the bipartisan effort, the Opposition team offered several amendments which were accepted by the Government. These legislative suggestions will strengthen the legislation and prevent future constitutional challenges. It was the Opposition leader that proposed the two and one-half year sunset clause that has now been accepted by the Government.
The Opposition has been firm in its view that there must be a check and balance on the very draconian powers that are conferred by the agencies of law enforcement through the Anti-Gang Legislation. A two and one-half year sunset clause will guard against possible abuses of power, by requiring that law be brought back to Parliament for review at which time any abuse of power will receive Parliamentary scrutiny.
Again, during the bipartisan efforts, the Government played politics with the sunset clause – instead of hashing out the details through negotiation, senior Government Ministers took to the airwaves to attack the United National Congress. Despite the typical “blame the UNC” rhetoric of Government, the Opposition continued to display a willingness to work with the Government in the best interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Kamla Persad-Bissessar led Opposition has once again demonstrated the type of leadership that our country needs at this time. When the Government refused to accept the Opposition’s suggestions in Parliament, the Opposition searched for and found a way forward for the country. The Opposition led and initiated a bipartisan approach which has led to a consensus bill. The Opposition proposed a manner in which the House of Representatives Standing Orders could be used to re-introduce the legislation in a matter of weeks instead of months.
Even though agreement has now been reached as to the way forward with this Bill, the UNC warns the Government that the Anti-Gang Legislation alone will not solve Trinidad and Tobago’s crime problems. In addition to legislation, more needs to be done to resource law enforcement and ensure that they are provided with the appropriate training. The witness protection program needs to be properly funded and the criminal elements in the police service and prison service need to be removed.
The UNC notes that the most important requirement to wage a successful war on the criminal element is leadership that demonstrates the will, competence and ability to fight crime and criminality and that is where this Rowley-led administration has failed. The Government led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar utilized a “whole of government” approach to crime whereas under the Rowley administration we seem to have fallen to a “none of government” approach to crime.
In December of last year, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi claimed that the government knew the name of every gang member and their addresses. If what Faris Al-Rawi said is true, each further delay is one day too many and we expect that the agreed upon version of the Anti-Gang Legislation will be debated at the next sitting of the House of Representatives and Senate. The time has more than come for government to place priority on the safety and security of the people of our country.