Government’s Anti-Gang Bill was defeated in the House of Representatives on Wednesday evening.
Government failed to get the required three-fifths majority. When the vote was taken, there were 21 votes for, 12 against, and one abstention.
So Attorney General, Faris Al Rawi, and the Government would have to return to the drawing board and come up with something else to combat the increasing presence of gangs in Trinidad and Tobago.
Barry Padarath, MP for Princes Town, said the Opposition went into Parliament with an open mind. He said the Opposition was prepared to support the bill. He said the Government did not want a sunset clause in the bill. Padarath said the Opposition proposed a two-year sunset clause, but the Government refused.
During the debate on Wednesday, Al Rawi said between 2014 and 2017, gangs in this country have increased 129 per cent and gang members have increased 60 per cent.
Al-Rawi said he was angry at the Opposition’s reported refusal to support the bill when crime is at an all time high.
“And we’ re seeing an exponential rise in gang activity.”
He said 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.”
Gang-related murders totalled 998 between 2010 and 2017 and the number of gang-related guns seized stands at 4,674. Al-Rawi said 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.
In the bill’s first incarnation during the People’s Partnership Government’s tenure, he said 463 were arrested under the law during the 2011 state of emergency (SoE). But 213 were released by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and 142 received gang-related charges. There are still 33 cases in the Magistrate’s Court and 40 in the High Court.
Al Rawi said the 18-clause bill was largely repeats of clauses from the last Anti-Gang legislation, save one. Under that, it will be an offence to have retaliatory action by gangs against a person.
FARIS AL RAWI