Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi yesterday said he was surprised that St Augustine MP Prakash Ramadhar abstained from voting on the Anti-Gang Bill 2017. At a news conference on Saturday, Ramadhar sought to explain why he voted neither with the Government nor the Opposition on the bill. The legislation was defeated last Thursday in the House of Representatives, after 18 United National Congress (UNC) MPs voted against it, Ramadhar abstained and 21 Government MPs voted for it. Ramadhar also said there was no need for anti-gang legislation.
“You cannot blow hot and cold,” Al-Rawi told Newsday. He said Ramadhar was part of the former People’s Partnership government which fully supported the bill when it came to Parliament in 2011. He reiterated that Government was very careful in bringing this bill to the House and this is clearly reflected in the Hansard records.
Rejecting continued claims from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that the UNC was not to blame for the bill’s defeat, Al-Rawi said he clearly spelt out to Persad-Bissessar the reasons why a sunset clause of 18 months in the bill would be ineffective.
He said as a senior counsel, Persad-Bissessar would be aware these reasons had a nexus with the workings of the court. Al-Rawi said the Opposition failed to understand the real power of the Anti-Gang Bill was its “disruptive strength” in stopping people from joining criminal gangs. He reiterated that he told Persad-Bissessar during debate on the bill that intelligence available to the Government was that the recent heist at Piarco International Airport was gang-related.
Al-Rawi said a a former National Security Council chairman, Persad-Bissessar made one of the worst decisions by directing the Opposition to vote against the bill. The AG said he was contacted by some reporters yesterday. He said they told him they had spoken to certain people who were happy the bill was defeated and thankful to the UNC for it. Explaining that the bill cannot return to Parliament for six months under the Standing Orders, Al-Rawi said he would look at other measures to address the issue of criminal gangs in TT.
He called on the business community, Bankers Association, Law Association and other stakeholders to weigh in on the defeat of the bill. Al-Rawi said this matter has implications for all citizens and is not something which should reside only in private conversations.