ATTORNEY General Faris Al-Rawi said he was disappointed in a meeting with the Opposition on the anti-gang legislation and he believes their new calls for a Joint Select Committee (JSC) and national consultation to be a “dead end.”
He was speaking with the media yesterday in the lobby of the Parliament building.
Al-Rawi reported that he requested a meeting with Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and they have been engaged in correspondence since the Opposition’s failure to support the anti-gang legislation in December last year. He said since that time the Police Service has publicly called for the legislation. He reported they have engaged in several rounds of communication and wrote to the Opposition Leader a 12-page letter which included supporting material and statistics. He said the Opposition Leader replied and indicated that after full consideration there was one issue on the table - the sunset clause and the issues of witness protection and capacity for prosecution.
For the meeting yesterday Al-Rawi headed a Government team of Port of Spain North/St Ann’s West MP Stuart Young and Laventille West MP Fitzgerald Hinds while Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal headed an Opposition team of Naparima MP Rodney Charles, Senator Gerald Ramdeen and Senator Anita Haynes.
He said they confirmed three small and easy amendments which Ramdeen had suggested but when they came to the issue of the length of a sunset clause Moonilal “quite surprisingly” suggested they go to 18 months when the Opposition Leader had previously suggested two years. He also reported Moonilal suggested they go to a JSC with very wide consultations with the national community, which was not on the table at the Parliamentary debate.
He stressed that JSCs take a very long time, and when the last anti-gang law was in effect it was tied to a radical provision in the Bail Act which prevented the Judiciary from granting bail for 120 days or not at all, but that was not a feature of this current legislation.
“So you can even debate there is no need for a sunset clause or a Joint Select Committee.” He said they have both committed to reporting to their respective political leaders.
“But I am disappointed this is where we stand.”
He said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley was briefed on the meeting and he was also disappointed that politics seemed to be taking the lead with the Opposition.
“There is no logical reason for the lack of support.”