Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young yesterday said the anti-gang bill 2017 could return to Parliament before June. Young expressed this view at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre. The bill was defeated last December in the House of Representatives when the Opposition refused to support it.
According to the Standing Orders of the House, failed legislation cannot return to Parliament for a period of six months. However, Young told reporters there is a possibility the bill could return before June. Young said his legal background tells him it is “probably possible” once parliamentarians want to abridge the time and come back to Parliament before the six month period, by passing a motion.
“At the end of the day, the standing orders, rules and procedures are to govern us as parliamentarians. So if we believe this is the proper way to go forward, I am sure we can get around that,” he stated. Looking at a copy of an unsigned letter which Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar sent to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Young said Persad-Bissessar expressed a similar sentiment.
Noting Persad-Bissessar wanted a meeting with Rowley on the anti-gang bill and amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act, Young said the latter is currently before Cabinet’s Finance and General Purposes Committee. “This Anti-Terrorism Amendment Bill again gives law enforcement and the State, the power to deal with some very focused phenomenon in the realm of counter terrorism,” he said.
Young said the circumstances which led to the bill’s defeat are now “water under the bridge.” The minister said he would not respond to comments made by Persad-Bissessar against Rowley after two murders in Morvant this week. He said if the Opposition wants to meet with Government on a bi-partisan approach to crime, “we will meet with them.”
Young reiterated that information about the need for anti-gang legislation came from the Police Service. He said it was interesting that a senior police officer shared Rowley’s views on the need for this legislation. He said in fight against criminal gangs is the ability of the police to gather intelligence which could be turned into evidence.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert agreed with Young. Imbert said criminal gangs are more dangerous than a lone criminal.
He explained it was for this reason that governments across the world have developed various tools and instruments to combat gangs. Young said the murders of 14 year old school boy Joshua Andrews and taxi driver Devon Hernandez were not discussed at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. He said if Andrews’ family was seeking assistance, there were agencies which they could approach in this regard.