In the midst of a killing spree which saw 21 people being murdered in the first five days of December, an angry Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday warned that more will die especially since the Opposition failed to support the anti-gang bill in Parliament.
Speaking during a press conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s shortly before midday, Rowley described the United National Congress’ (UNC) stance as a cynical and wicked attack on national security.
“I will tell you something...more people will die as a result of the action of the UNC this morning. We appealed to them, if what we do stops only one gang leader or saves one life...they have virtually told us all to go to hell,” Rowley charged as he referred to the Opposition voting against the bill at 1 am yesterday, effectively defeating it since it needed a special majority to be passed.
“It is the UNC’s strategy, as discussed and agreed to, that the crime and criminality is largely in PNM constituencies and therefore it ought to be left like a cancer to fester, because their constituencies are largely safe. I did not believe that until I saw it this morning,” he added.
Rowley said there was no reason for the Opposition’s objection to the bill, as Government made several amendments to different features pertaining to arrest warrants, sedition and the inclusion of a sunset clause in response to issues raised by the Opposition.
Citing Wednesday’s $5 million heist at Piarco Airport, he said the Opposition was still stubborn about accepting the need to pass the legislation. “For some inexplicable reason, our colleagues in the Parliament found it difficult or impossible to provide the necessary support for the bill’s passing.
“Even as we were in the process of attempting to create this law last night, news came to us of the robbery at Piarco Airport done by a number of persons which we suspect might be a gang, because the law says two or more persons acting in concert qualifies as the definition of a gang. Even as the Parliament was seeking to make illegal such enterprises, that and all could not assist us.”
In addition to issues relating to the structure and organisation of the bill, Rowley added the Opposition also objected to the legislation’s proposed duration of five years and suggested alternatively that it should be enforced for 18 months.
Citing the failure of the previous anti-gang legislation to secure evidence and subsequent convictions during the 2011 State of Emergency, Rowley said the five-year period would be sufficient to establish and build evidence against suspected gang members.
Despite the failure to pass the bill, Rowley said Government remains committed to tackling rampant crime and said the experience has forced it to redouble its efforts in the fight against crime. He said it is Government’s intention is to return to Parliament in another attempt to pass the anti-gang bill.
“We will continue. We remain resolute to ensure that sometime, somehow this government will have to make gang activities illegal, because the gangs are not going to volunteer any respect to us.”