OPPOSITION MP Dinesh Rambally said the United National Congress (UNC) is not obstructionist and will support legislation which tackles crime, including white-collar crime and procurement legislation.
Responding to a call by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith for the Opposition to support the Anti-Gang Bill 2000,to be brought to the House of Representatives on Friday, Rambally said the Opposition is dedicated to scrutinising all proposed legislation to ensure it is in the best interest of the country and not just particular interest groups.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Griffith said failure to pass this law would be a big setback, as gang related activity is seen as a catalyst for serious crime. The legislation requires a three-fifths majority, in other words, opposition support for its passage.
Rambally said insufficient information has been provided on the use of the anti-gang laws to facilitate proper debate.
“It would have been nice if the government in laying the instant anti-gang bill, would have come forward and put in the public domain all of the information (including statistics, data) which it has in its possession so that the population and the Opposition could make an informed decision.”
Pointing out that the proposed legislation allows for a police officer to search premises without a warrant and that property can be forfeited in certain circumstances, he said it has the ability to trample the rights of citizens.
“The UNC will not sign away the rights of citizens without due diligence and proper ventilation of the issues so that the public can better understand the full import and implications of this bill.” He urged citizens not to believe Government’s propaganda that the Opposition is saying an outright “no from the get-go.”
“We are not averse to supporting good legislation,” he said. He observed that it has become “a Rowley-led PNM tradition to describe the UNC as being obstructionist whenever we decide to hold the government accountable on their legislative agenda. We expect no different with the upcoming proposed Anti-Gang Bill.”
Describing the legislation as “draconian,” he said the UNC had a specific concern with the sunset clause.
“If we simply agree to extend the sunset clause without detailed information being provided by the Government, there would be no proper analysis of the benefits of the legislation versus the constitutional rights of the public.
“It could very well lead to the Government abdicating their responsibility in terms of formulating proper policies to keep the nation safe and shifting the risk of blame or accountability to a later time.”
He said it is incumbent on the Attorney General and Minister of National Security to show the Opposition why this bill, “with all its draconian and constitutionally-sensitive provisions, should be given any resuscitation."