Leader of the Opposition, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, has written to Prime Minister Keith Rowley, inviting him to meet to discuss the Miscellaneous Provisions (Anti-Gang and Bail) Bill 2016 and the burgeoning crime crisis in Trinidad and Tobago.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Persad-Bissessar called out the Government on its failure to engage and consult Members of Parliament on the Bill. The statement comes one week after Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of the Attorney General, Stuart Young said that he ‘hopes the Opposition will be responsible and support it’.
Young said the Cabinet approved pursuit of the extension of the current legislation brought by the People’s Partnership Administration. The Government intends to seek a two-year extension of the legislation.
The former Persad-Bissessar Administration brought the Miscellaneous Provisions (Anti-Gang and Bail) Bill in April 2015, and was opposed by the then PNM Opposition which expressed ‘grave concerns’ over issues of proportionality, and human rights in relation to the 120 days of no bail for persons committing specific offenses.
But in saying the Government intended to renew the legislation and ‘hoped for the Opposition’s’ support, Young was not aware of whether these issues of just over one year ago have been, or will be addressed in the 2016 Bill.
In the Leader of the Opposition’s letter, Persad-Bissessar said: “In recognition of the critical nature of the legislation in the fight against crime and the Government’s failure to engage the Opposition in any consultation to date on this Bill, I wish to hereby invite the Honourable Prime Minister and relevant Ministers of Government to meet with my team and I at a date, time and venue of mutual convenience.”
The media statement noted: “In one breath the Rowley-led Government is claiming to be against politicizing crime, but on the other hand they are making crime a public relations affair; talking about issues of Opposition support, but making absolutely no move to consult and partner with the Opposition for a full and comprehensive crime plan.”
“The Cabinet Spokesman harped on the issue of responsibility and Opposition support, but in one week has made neither verbal nor written contact engaging us in a participatory approach. So yes, the Government has failed in yet another very critical endeavor and rather than focusing on their failure, the Opposition will take up the issue responsibly.”
The former Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar said: “Our Shadow Cabinet Anti-Crime and Legislative Team stands ready to meet and cooperate with the Government so that we can arrive at a comprehensive plan to turn back the tides of crime. And we are calling on the Government to finally treat the issue of crime with urgency and work with us for a plan that will benefit all citizens.”