Opposition walks out as AG appeals for unity against crime

Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, during a media conference on June 22. Photo by Jeff K Mayers
Attorney General Reginald Armour, SC, during a media conference on June 22. Photo by Jeff K Mayers

THE Opposition UNC staged its ninth parliamentary walkout on Attorney General Reginald Armour SC on Monday as he appealed to all senators to be united in their resolve to protect the people of Trinidad and Tobago against a recent upsurge in crime.

These events played out as Armour opened debate on the Bail Amendment Bill 2022 in the Senate.

The Opposition has walked out on Armour in Parliament eight times between June 12 and 30. Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has publicly called call for Armour to resign or be fired by the Prime Minister. The issue is his disqualification from the almost two-decade-old Piarco Airport corruption case in a Miami court

As he stood to begin his contribution, opposition senators walked out of the chamber and made inaudible comments to government senators. Senate President Christine Kangaloo warned Opposition Senator Wade Mark and temporary Opposition Senator Marsha Walker as opposition senators left the chamber noisily.

"Leave the chamber in silence," she said.

Kangaloo told Mark he didn't need to make any announcements as he left.

She reminded all senators, "Anyone who wants to leave the chamber, you do this in silence."

Government senators thumped their desks as Armour expressed his pride to be serving TT as AG.

"It is my solemn responsibility to persuade this house (Senate) that in the changed and current circumstances of TT today. that (Bail) bill must be continued and extended.

The purpose of the bill is to extend the duration of the sunset clause contained in the Bail Act which will expire on August 5. The act came into force on August 5, 2019 and contained a sunset clause which permitted it to remain in force for a period of three years.

Should the bill be passed, it will extend the period of the sunset clause for one more year, ending on August 4, 2023. The bill provides for the circumstances in which bail may be denied to a person who is charged with a listed offence that is punishable for a term of imprisonment for ten years or more. These listed offences include, but are not limited to, trafficking in narcotics or possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking; possession and use of firearms or ammunition with intent to injure; rape; sexual intercourse with a female under fourteen; and buggery.

Armour recalled that in 2016, as Law Association president, he disagreed with the need for the bill.

But today, he said, "The circumstances have changed and I have the privilege and the honour and the solemn responsibility to look at this legislation, this bill, through the lens of an entirely different perspective."

Armour said the bill will help to preserve the safety of people who today live under siege from crime.

"This government appreciates the significance of the bill and appeals to the responsible members of the opposition bench and the well-known responsibility of the members of the Independent bench to support this legislation today."

Armour believed the bill struck an acceptable balance between "the rights and freedoms of individuals and the general interest of the community."

He cited some police statistics to support his argument.

From 2017 to 2022, there were 58,533 violent crimes and 17,401 were detected.

Armour said, "This means that a high percentage of reported crimes are in fact serious offences covered by the amendment which we ask this house to pronounce on today."

Acting Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob, he continued, recently said that 85 per cent of murders are committed "through the use of illicit firearms."

Between January and May, 42 firearms and 5,400 types of ammunition were seized by the police. Armour said most of the latter "could be used in high-powered weapons."

The number of unlawful firearm possession reports between 2017 and 2022 was 5,313.

Armour observed, "Simply keeping people in jail is not the answer to the challenges that we have. This is why all government ministries are working to develop better systems to improve the quality of life of people.

"We are speaking about a holistic approach to governance, and an approach that will allow us, while we continue to improve our systems and procedures, to keep the citizenry of this country safe."


"Opposition walks out as AG appeals for unity against crime"

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