RURAL Development and Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi questioned the seriousness and sincerity of the Opposition UNC in helping the Government to curbing crime.
Al-Rawi reflected on measures taken by the PNM over the last seven years to deal with crime.
In his contribution to debate on a private motion in he House of Representatives on Friday, Al-Rawi reminded all MPs that as elected representatives of the people and legislators, they had a primary job to discharge: "The primary job that we have to do here is to pass law."
In his almost 13 years in Parliament, from opposition in 2010 to government now, Al-Rawi said, "I can testify that statistical information (about crime and crime reduction) was absent from considerations until we came on deck."
He described opposition comments about Government having no crime plan as missing the mark.
"We deal with a plan to prevent crime. The members opposite could not tell you what a plan looks like."
A working justice system is an effective deterrent against crime, he said. Referring to his previous role as attorney general, Al-Rawi said the numbers of High Court judges and Court of Appeal judges had been increased from 36 to 64 and 12 to 15 respectively over the last seven years.
Referring to earlier comments from St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen about Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar's being an advocate for children's protection, Al-Rawi reminded the opposition that the Children's Court was born under the PNM.
"There was no advocacy on the part of the UNC."
The court was divided into civil, criminal and children's divisions over the last seven years.
Al-Rawi said, "None of that happened prior to this government."
He reminded MPs that the PNM amended domestic violence legislation to offer greater protection to victims. He said this included "getting a domestic violence order from a police station at midnight on Sunday night."
Under the PNM, a public defenders' department was created to help reduce the backlog of cases in the criminal justice system.
Before that department was created, Al-Rawi observed, "There were 20 lawyers controlling the criminal bar."
He added that 1,000 matters involving firearm offences have also progressed through the court.
"For Naparima (MP Rodney Charles), that might be a laughing matter, because I genuinely believe that the opposition does not want the government to succeed."
Al-Rawi did not understand why the opposition refused to support legislation on the interception of communications that would prevent calls being made from inside prisons to people outside to commit crimes.
He was also baffled that the opposition did not support the demonetisation of $100 cotton notes in 2021 as a means to combat fraud. Al-Rawi said in that exercise, half a billion dollars was not returned during the period when people were called on to turn in the $100 cotton notes for new $100 polymer notes.
This did not bother the UNC, Al-Rawi claimed,
"They just do not want the money to be found."
Hesaid, 'We did not in operationalising the amendments to the legislation (to abolish) preliminary inquiries, we didn't select Section 34.
"We did not provde a benefit that cost the taxpayers hundreds of man-hours, millions and millions of dollars in pursuing a claim at the Privy Council and back to strike it out."
Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein rejected Al-Rawi's claims that the criminal justice system was working. He said to date there has been one charge laid and no convictions under the anti-gang legislation.
Hosein also reiterated UNC claims that Government is under-resourcing the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
He claimed Government is quick to attribute every murder in TT to gang violence.
"This is not the reality of what this country used to be. They (government) have no plan for fighting crime."
Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales agreed with Al-Rawi.
"What is the difference between crime and the UNC?"
He scoffed at Ameen lecturing PNM MPs about good behaviou and claimed she was associated "with activities taking place in Carapo in East Trinidad."
Deputy Speaker Esmond Forde overruled opposition MPs' complaints about Gonzales' comments.
Gonzales said, "I am speaking to the people of Trinidad and Tobago."