Government critical of Opposition over defeat of Anti-Gang legislation

PM Rowley: “And we’re seeing an exponential rise in gang activity,”

 

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Dec 7, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago government Thursday blasted Opposition legislators after they failed to provide the necessary support for the Anti-Gang Legislation that the authorities said was needed to deal with the rising gang activities in the country.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley told a news conference that all objections to the bill had been addressed and amended before it was put to the vote and accused the Opposition of supporting criminality by objecting to the legislation that had required a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

At the end of it all…there was not a single impediment standing in their way…every single thing they raised including the (comments by the) Chief Whip (David Lee) (were addressed).

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley

“On December 7, 2017, in the wee hours of the morning, (Opposition) refused to use their vote to defend the lives of the people,” a visibly upset Rowley told reporters.”

“The business of Trinidad and Tobago was gutted and undermined. We have a scourge of gang activity in many if not most of our communities, there are thousands of families where the quality of life is being severely impacted by illegal activity.

“For some inexplicable reason, our colleagues in the Parliament found it difficult or impossible to convert the scourge of gang activity into an illegal activity,” he added.

The Anti-Gang Bill 2017 seeks to make provision for the maintenance of public safety and order through discouraging membership of criminal gangs and the suppression of criminal gang activity and for other related matters.

It seeks to make it an offence to be a member of a gang, to be in possession of a bullet-proof vest, to participate in, or contribute to, the activities of a gang, to support or invite support for a gang, or to harbour or conceal gang members or recruit persons to a gang.

The legislation also contains a ‘retaliatory clause’ which protects persons who have left gangs from retaliatory actions by gang members.

Opposition legislators voted against the bill that had first been introduced here during the term in office of the People’s Partnership government headed by Kamla Persad Bissessar.

Former Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar abstained when the vote was taken during the early hours of Thursday morning and has promised to outline his position at a news conference  on the weekend.

Rowley told reporters that he had spoken to the Lee seeking to determine the objections of the Opposition saying that the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) was seeking to benefit from the crime situation in order to attain power.

“Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her UNC gang and cabal voted to maintain that status quo….so that crime and criminality can remain a chronic state of affairs, so that those politicians can point to the crime and call Trinidad and Tobago a failed state and hope that you will be disgusted with those in office and put them in office

“That is the most cynical, wicked and pernicious act,” Rowley said, adding that citizens should hold their representatives to account.

“You put them in office and you have to get them to work for you, because right now they are working for themselves. I could not believe…I served with people who would do something like that.”

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who had earlier told legislators during the debate that between 2014 and this year, gangs in Trinidad and Tobago had increased 129 per cent and gang members have increased 60 per cent,

“And we’re seeing an exponential rise in gang activity,” he said, noting that in 2014 the acting Police Commissioner had said there were 92 gangs with 1,500 members.

“In 2016 it grew to 172 gangs and 2,358 members – today it’s 211 gangs and 2,458 members,” he said, adding that gang-related murders totalled 998 between 2010 and this year and the number of gang-related guns seized stands at 4,674.

According to Al-Rawi an estimated 1,195 firearms were seized since 2016 alone, reiterating that the number of gangs and their members in the nine police divisions ranging from 49 (Western) to nine (Eastern). There are also 221 members in the Witness Protection Programme, he noted.

Al- Rawi said that when the bill was first introduced here by the previous government, 463 were arrested under the law during the 2011 state of emergency (SoE).

Speaking at the news conference Al-Rawi said he was ‘shell-shocked’ by the Opposition’s behaviour, saying “we went over it bit by bit…when we came to take the final vote… all 21 PNM (People’s National Movement) members present voted yes. When we came to the vote from the Opposition it started with no…a big fat no.

“Suffice it to say it was shell-shocking to see what happened yesterday after 14 hours of work,” he said, telling reporters that he had observed that some Opposition legislators were in disagreement with the decision adopted by the Opposition Leader.

“I saw the look on the faces of those opposite me last night. I saw shock. I saw fear, I saw disgust. I saw a member of the UNC bench have some very heated words with his leader and storm out of the Parliament,” Al-Rawi added.

Prime Minister Rowley said his government would continue to seek to criminalise gang activity and will seek to use other laws in the interim in order to crack down on gang activity.

“I realised that Opposition was hell-bent on not making gang activity in Trinidad and Tobago an illegal act….we have one hell of a problem because Opposition has decided to come down in support of criminality in Trinidad and Tobago.”

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

PM Rowley: “And we’re seeing an exponential rise in gang activity,”

by STAFF WRITER
 

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Dec 7, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago government Thursday blasted Opposition legislators after they failed to provide the necessary support for the Anti-Gang Legislation that the authorities said was needed to deal with the rising gang activities in the country.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley told a news conference that all objections to the bill had been addressed and amended before it was put to the vote and accused the Opposition of supporting criminality by objecting to the legislation that had required a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

At the end of it all…there was not a single impediment standing in their way…every single thing they raised including the (comments by the) Chief Whip (David Lee) (were addressed).

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Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar and Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley

“On December 7, 2017, in the wee hours of the morning, (Opposition) refused to use their vote to defend the lives of the people,” a visibly upset Rowley told reporters.”

“The business of Trinidad and Tobago was gutted and undermined. We have a scourge of gang activity in many if not most of our communities, there are thousands of families where the quality of life is being severely impacted by illegal activity.

“For some inexplicable reason, our colleagues in the Parliament found it difficult or impossible to convert the scourge of gang activity into an illegal activity,” he added.

The Anti-Gang Bill 2017 seeks to make provision for the maintenance of public safety and order through discouraging membership of criminal gangs and the suppression of criminal gang activity and for other related matters.

It seeks to make it an offence to be a member of a gang, to be in possession of a bullet-proof vest, to participate in, or contribute to, the activities of a gang, to support or invite support for a gang, or to harbour or conceal gang members or recruit persons to a gang.

The legislation also contains a ‘retaliatory clause’ which protects persons who have left gangs from retaliatory actions by gang members.

Opposition legislators voted against the bill that had first been introduced here during the term in office of the People’s Partnership government headed by Kamla Persad Bissessar.

Former Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar abstained when the vote was taken during the early hours of Thursday morning and has promised to outline his position at a news conference  on the weekend.

Rowley told reporters that he had spoken to the Lee seeking to determine the objections of the Opposition saying that the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) was seeking to benefit from the crime situation in order to attain power.

“Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her UNC gang and cabal voted to maintain that status quo….so that crime and criminality can remain a chronic state of affairs, so that those politicians can point to the crime and call Trinidad and Tobago a failed state and hope that you will be disgusted with those in office and put them in office

“That is the most cynical, wicked and pernicious act,” Rowley said, adding that citizens should hold their representatives to account.

“You put them in office and you have to get them to work for you, because right now they are working for themselves. I could not believe…I served with people who would do something like that.”

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, who had earlier told legislators during the debate that between 2014 and this year, gangs in Trinidad and Tobago had increased 129 per cent and gang members have increased 60 per cent,

“And we’re seeing an exponential rise in gang activity,” he said, noting that in 2014 the acting Police Commissioner had said there were 92 gangs with 1,500 members.

“In 2016 it grew to 172 gangs and 2,358 members – today it’s 211 gangs and 2,458 members,” he said, adding that gang-related murders totalled 998 between 2010 and this year and the number of gang-related guns seized stands at 4,674.

According to Al-Rawi an estimated 1,195 firearms were seized since 2016 alone, reiterating that the number of gangs and their members in the nine police divisions ranging from 49 (Western) to nine (Eastern). There are also 221 members in the Witness Protection Programme, he noted.

Al- Rawi said that when the bill was first introduced here by the previous government, 463 were arrested under the law during the 2011 state of emergency (SoE).

Speaking at the news conference Al-Rawi said he was ‘shell-shocked’ by the Opposition’s behaviour, saying “we went over it bit by bit…when we came to take the final vote… all 21 PNM (People’s National Movement) members present voted yes. When we came to the vote from the Opposition it started with no…a big fat no.

“Suffice it to say it was shell-shocking to see what happened yesterday after 14 hours of work,” he said, telling reporters that he had observed that some Opposition legislators were in disagreement with the decision adopted by the Opposition Leader.

“I saw the look on the faces of those opposite me last night. I saw shock. I saw fear, I saw disgust. I saw a member of the UNC bench have some very heated words with his leader and storm out of the Parliament,” Al-Rawi added.

Prime Minister Rowley said his government would continue to seek to criminalise gang activity and will seek to use other laws in the interim in order to crack down on gang activity.

“I realised that Opposition was hell-bent on not making gang activity in Trinidad and Tobago an illegal act….we have one hell of a problem because Opposition has decided to come down in support of criminality in Trinidad and Tobago.”