OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the Anti-Gang Bill 2000 is deficient and if government wants their support, they need to draft good law.
Speaking at a UNC virtual meeting on Monday night, Persad-Bissessar said she will be taking no blame for rising crime if the Opposition fails to support the continuation of the bill beyond the date they had insisted upon in the last debate.
She said that did not mean the Opposition would not support majority legislation recalling their support in the past had made anti-gang and FACTA law, so to the Bail Act 2019, Insurance Act, the Anti-Terrorism Amendment and The Tax Information Exchange Agreements (USA) Act, 2016 (FACTA).
Chaguanas West MP Dinesh Rambally said the UNC was not averse to supporting good legislation, but not before due diligence and proper ventilation of the issues so that the public can better understand the full import and implications of this bill. He said their specific concern was with the sunset clause which government wanted to extend for a further 30 months.
She said she was tempted to tell the Government, until it brings the procurement legislation, the UNC would not support the bill as she again brought the controversial sale of the Petrotrin refinery and alleged secret deals to the fore.
“Passing law does not address crime. With all the laws we support, when it comes to implementing them and using them to correct the social ills that exists, the PNM is still a failure.”
The bill is tabled for debate in the Parliament on Friday but Persad-Bissessar is insisting it is a failed piece of legislation which Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi is rushing because government has no solution to crime.
She questioned how many gangs have been dismantled in the last 30 months using this law and the likelihood of those charged being convicted.
Al-Rawi said the legislation has worked in recent times and he will present statistical evidence during the debate.
“Faris needs to spend less time as a landlord and more time drafting good law,” Persad-Bissessar said.
Persad-Bissessar said the legislation, which was originally passed by her government since 2011, was a test to determine if it had the ability to cause gang reduction.
She said the continuing murders with gangs being blamed is a sign the law is deficient.
She said the purpose of the sunset clause was to force government to return to the Parliament and say what it had done with the sweeping powers the law gave.
She said in the 30 months given, instead of tackling the issue of crime and gang violence, some government measures have caused young people to engage in gang life, such as disappearing jobs.
She said schools have closed without proper access to online learning for the most vulnerable, including half of the student population at Servol Life Centres and now government is cutting GATE and closing down the UTT campuses.
“The mismanagement of the economy, the shutting down of Point Lisas and so many of the small businesses that thrived in the oil belt all put people on the breadline and made gang life attractive to them.”
She said this kind of legislation is the last resort and must go hand in hand with social and economic programmes meant to curb the proliferation of gangs.
“Passing laws does not address crime. You need to invest in the children, create jobs, create opportunities.”
She noted that the offices of both the DPP and the TTPS were under-resourced, impacting on the ability to see investigations and court matters through.
“But you want the authority to send police to kick down people’s door without a warrant, rounds up every man, woman and child and detain them for 72 hours and even go ex-parte (that is without the person even knowing) and get and order from the court to keep them in jail without bail.
“How can you justify the use of such draconian law when you have done nothing to turn young men away from a life of crime, when you have not secured the borders and or done anything to prevent the influx of arms and ammunition and narcotics?”
Persad-Bissessar said gang life would only become more attractive to the young man who has a family to feed, “and no job, no salary relief grant, no access to GATE to improve his job prospects, no hope.”