ATTORNEY General (AG) Faris Al-Rawi said gang recruitment is taking place at the nation’s schools and places of worship, which definition he said included mosques and associated schools known as madrassas, in an interjection in yesterday’s Senate debate on the Anti-Gang Bill 2018. He rose to reply to a query by Independent Senator Stephen Creese as to why the bill creates a specific offence of gang activity at a place of worship or school, when the bill otherwise penalises any gang interfering with a child.
Saying TT’s gang problem is not limited to just physically-violent street gangs, Creese alluded to other types of gangs that threaten the society’s well-being.
He said the illicit cocaine trade can only be facilitated by people with access to millions of dollars accessible as United States dollars. Secondly, he suggested that locally there exist sex-rings and people somehow involved in child pornography, whom he said as a collective should be regarded as gangs. Thirdly, he alluded to some form of gang activity in the political arena as he urged a reform of the Representation of the People Act so as to reform political campaign financing. On street gangs, Creese urged a disruption of the seamless links between gang members inside and outside of prison.
Opposition Senator Anita Haynes pointed to existing overcrowding in the nation’s jails, at 157 per cent at the Golden Grove Remand Yard and 290 per cent at the Port of Spain jail, and asked how capable these facilities are of dealing with the upsurge in inmates after the bill’s enactment.
She feared that gang activity inside prisons could be promoted by having large numbers of men crowded into tight spaces and remaining idle.
Government temporary Senator Ronald Huggins said many gang members secretly support the bill. These people, he said, are being forcibly kept in gangs when they wish to leave and will be assisted by the provision that punishes anyone stopping a gang member leaving.