The distressing crime situation calls for a new brand of politics, not the one witnessed this week when the Government’s proposed anti-gang legislation was defeated due to the Opposition’s strange position that it would not support it.
The failure of both sides to come to an agreement on this matter is a dismal development within our local political scene because it comes amid an upsurge in violent criminal activity. Such activity demands a unified front from our legislators, not partisan politics.
The Opposition is entitled to make informed decisions when it comes to the exercise of its vote. However, in this instance, its position that the legislation has not worked in the past and therefore will not work in the future is not credible.
It should be remembered that it was under the People’s Partnership and Kamla Persad-Bissessar that anti-gang legislation was introduced to our local jurisprudence in the first place. If that legislation failed, then the responsible thing to do is to identify the reasons why and suggest changes to suit.
None of the objections raised by the Opposition passed the litmus test: most if not all could have been addressed by way of simple amendments or, even if left unaddressed would have been subject to the normal checks and balances that apply. The Government had given an undertaking that any such matters would be taken up when the bill arrives in the Senate.
At the same time, it is deeply regrettable that the vote on this matter was taken in the early hours of Thursday morning. Important parliamentary matters are being dealt with in the dead of night, away from the scrutiny of members of the public who have a direct interest in the matters being debated, as well as in the quality of representation being afforded them in the legislature.
Worse, the row that has broken out between the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader is the last thing we need. With citizens dying daily, we need our politicians to come together and devise solutions. We do not need games during the committee stage of legislation, with amendments being supported by the Opposition and then the legislation being blanked overall. This could easily deepen public perception that this was all about politics and not the wider public interest.
Politics is about service. It is also about compromise. On all sides. The Opposition cannot expect to get each and every proposed amendment. And the Government cannot save deliberations on crucial amendments to the last hour, although the Government contends that it is not only this week it was communicating with the Opposition on the proposed legislation.
On a matter as crucial as crime, both must work together or else, as the frustrated Prime Minister put it, many more will die.