ATTORNEY GENERAL Faris Al-Rawi on Tuesday called on the citizens to speak up against the Opposition’s decision not to support the Bail Amendment Bill as the implantation of the law will redound to saving lives.
Speaking at the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Richmond Street on Tuesday, Al-Rawi said the Opposition’s failure to support amending the law relating to those held with guns was an “inconsistent position.” Al-Rawi said when the Opposition governed the country the PNM supported the amendment to the law that denied bail those charged with gun related offences for 120 days. He added that the law was good enough for the UNC between 2010 to 2015 and was flabbergasted why they were now against a less harsh provisions to the same bill.
Al-Rawi said the Government’s position was that anyone charged with possession of a gun and or ammunition will have to convince a court why they ought to be granted bail as opposed to an automatic denial of bail. Last Friday the opposition did not support the bill which had been previously passed by the Senate last November to curb possession of any “prohibited weapon” defined as "artillery or automatic firearm, or grenade, bomb or other like missile.”
Asked what will happen if the public pressure he asked for does not work, Al Rawi said: “You buy what you get. The only standing in the way of crushing crime seems to be the members of the opposition. There is no other explanation for it.”
Al-Rawi reiterated calls made by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith who, on Monday, had a media conference also calling for parliamentary support for bail amendments.
Griffith said then: "I am asking the public to stand fast on this one, it's not about red and yellow," he said, in a reference to party politics. We can reduce murders by 50 per cent. But when we arrest these people, we need to make sure they stay behind bars.”
The AG noted that there are several matters from 2019 to date of the number of people charged for gun related offences, the number of gang related shootings and murders committed with guns. These numbers he said were given to paint a picture of the need for bail amendments adding that it worked with reducing kidnappings for ransom.
Asked what assurances he can give that the amendment of the law will see a similar effect with gun related crimes, Al-Rawi said with improved policing and reduction of the case load for magistrates and a “revolutionary” overhaul of the criminal justice system, the amendment to the bail act will have the desired effect of reducing crime.
Speaking on Monday at the launch of Project Hope, a community-based agriculture project in Phase 7, La Horquetta, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar defended the decision not to support the bill saying it could be “weaponised.” She called on third time offenders only to face the “draconian” measures in the amendment. She said the bail package needs serious reform, “as it goes against poor black people,” and non-custodial measures such as the use of GPS bracelets for those who have not yet been convicted.
Al-Rawi rubbished her claim saying that under her leadership there were countless cases of gun offenders and the issue was never raised under her tenure. He said there needs to have a public outcry to force the opposition back to parliament for the betterment of the country.