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Friday 21 September 2018
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Letters to the Editor

Stop playing politics with anti-gang bill

THE EDITOR: Most in the public domain are unhappy with what can be perceived as a lack of patriotism displayed by members of the Opposition when they voted against the Anti-Gang Bill 2017. The Parliament belongs to the people and therefore must represent the collective will of the people.

The rapid increase in gang activity, moving from less than 1,000 gang members in 2011 to now having close to 2,500 gang members, is cause for serious concern. All lawful means geared towards the reduction of such activities must be made available to the police to promote safety and security by removing those that threaten our right to a peaceful existence.

The acting Commissioner of Police in an affidavit highlighted the chronic problem of gang violence. It is alarming to see how many gangs are now scattered and increased all across the country. It was noted that the southern division has the highest increase of gang activity.

The research also showed that 35 per cent of all murders are gang-related and 75 per cent of all murders involve the use of a firearm. The Police Service, Prison Service and business chamber are among the many institutions added to the wider citizenry who are all disappointed with the failure of the Anti-Gang Bill 2017.

The argument that the United National Congress (UNC) failed in its responsibility to the citizens of TT is justified. This is because in 2011 the UNC introduced the anti-gang legislation in the first place and received support from the then People’s National Movement (PNM) Opposition.

Many people charged during the first five years of anti-gang law were released due to lack of evidence but a significant 73 people are currently before the courts, which proves that the law works and will work even better with the new inclusion of the use of video evidence.

One of the cases still before the courts involves 12 people who are charged under the Anti-Gang Act in connection with the murder of Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal.

The sunset clause was agreed at five years in 2011 because the law was new and our justice system takes time to process matters. For the Opposition to turn around in 2017 and now demand a two-year sunset clause instead of the four-year compromise by the PNM is simply obstruction and political insensitivity.

The latest cry from Opposition members is that “the country does not need this anti-gang bill.” This is a true manifestation of how disconnected some politicians can get from the people they represent. A political agenda must never take priority over the people’s agenda.

In the words of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, “More will die as a result of the Opposition’s inaction.” We can only hope that the UNC Opposition members use this six-month requirement for bills to be returned to Parliament to heed the call of our concerned citizens and vote people over party on the next occasion, with a view to saving lives by voting for the Anti-Gang Bill.

RONALD HUGGINS, PNM senator

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