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AG to respond to UNC in writing on anti-gang talks

Published: 
Saturday, January 20, 2018

Attorney General Faris Al Rawi is expected to give a “fulsome” response in writing to the Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on her request for a meeting with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley with respect to the Anti-Gang legislation.

Al Rawi was responding to Persad-Bissessar’s complaint that since she has sent the letter she is yet to be given a response, even as much less, an acknowledgement.“I am disturbed in having seen reports and watch an expose on National Geographic of the Isis fighters from T&T. This is a very urgent matter and we have nothing in place, no law in place, in addition, to the Anti-Gang legislation I have asked that we consider two pieces of legislation, two Bills - yet we have no law in place,” Persad-Bissessar said.The Opposition Leader called for a meeting between Government and Opposition aimed at a “bipartisan legislative approach in the fight against crime and the criminal element” and suggested they start with the Anti-Gang Bill and the Anti-Terrorism Amendment Bill.In similar nature to the collaborative effort her party had with the Government in electing the country’s first female President, Persad-Bissessar said there should be the same level of collaborative effort with respect to the two Bills.

“Look how wonderful it turned out today (yesterday and referring to the Electoral College of the Parliament)…that is what the country needs again with these two pieces of legislation.”

However, Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, in an immediate response to the Opposition Leader’s letter said the PM have asked the Attorney General to respond “in its entirety.”

She stressed on the fact that on many occasions they have met with the Opposition on several issues over the past two years and said that they are left in awe that when those said issues are brought to the Parliament floor there is “an about turn” by the Opposition. “That is why a fulsome response is better for us to put everything in writing,” Robinson-Regis said.

Al Rawi said that too many times T&T has witnessed a “he say, she say” between political parties and because of that reason the government has now adopted the approach to put its position in writing, “to avoid that…there can be no debate. The approach is in a measured way and we will respond in a fulsome way and treat with full transparency in the public’s eye.”

With respect to the disagreement on the sunset clause, Al Rawi did not say whether or not the period could be negotiated but did recognise the fact other stakeholders input, including the T&T Police Service wanted a longer period.

During the consideration of the Bill, several issues were discussed and compromises reached. In fact, the inclusion of a sunset clause as a proposed Government amendment was a result of the initiative of the Prime Minister. The question on the inclusion of a sunset clause for a period of four years was suggested by the Government, however, the Opposition disagreed saying that it wanted a shorter period, of two years.

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On December 7, the Bill failed to get the required three-fifths majority. Although 21 Government MPs supported the legislation, 12 Opposition MP’s voted against it and there was one abstention.

The Anti-Gang Bill 2017 seeks to maintain public safety and order by discouraging membership n criminal gangs, suppressing criminal gang activity and other related matters. It makes it an offence to be a member of a gang, be in possession of a bullet-proof vest, participate in, or contribute to, gang activities, support or invite support for a gang, or harbour or conceal gang members, or recruit persons to a gang.

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