Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday questioned whether a video circulated on social media before a riot on the Beetham Highway last month was linked to a recent spate of murders in the country. The protest occurred when Beetham residents objected to the arrests of two people by blocking the highway with debris and firing gunshots at police. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley condemned the protest.
In her contribution to debate on the Anti-Gang Bill 2017 in the House of Representatives, Persad-Bissessar asked, “Were any checks done?” She asked how many of the 21 murders which have taken place this month are gang related. Persad-Bissessar asked the Government how the bill will stop the murders and, “prevent another occurrence of what happened in Beetham.” She said citizens are becoming targets and statistics in their own homes.
Persad-Bissessar recalled Rowley as opposition leader once said that a government that cannot deal with crime, is part of the problem. She agreed with St Augustine MP Prakash Ramadhar’s concerns that people expressing anti-government sentiments could be arrested under the bill, on the grounds of sedition. Ramadhar in his earlier contribution claimed this would place political parties and trade unions, “in jeopardy.” Persad-Bissessar called for the removal of sedition from the bill and the inclusion of a sunset clause in the bill.
She argued the reason why the People’s National Movement supported the 2011 Anti-Gang bill brought by the People’s Partnership was because, “it was good law.” Persad-Bissessar wondered how the Government could not handle crime when it had three prime ministers, three national security ministers and three attorney generals in its ranks. Earlier in the sitting, Ramadhar said people posing with imitation guns and posting those videos on social media, cannot be charged with any offence.
Ramadhar called for the vote on the bill to be suspended until feedback could be obtained from certain stakeholders. Referring to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi’s earlier contribution, Ramadhar said it would be unfortunate if the Director of Public Prosecutions has not expressed a view on the bill. He warned the people asking for increased powers under the bill, are the same people who will ask for a state of emergency