Crime talks off on wrong foot

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar - Lincoln Holder
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar - Lincoln Holder

THE EDITOR: I am happy that Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has replied in the affirmative to the request by Prime Minister Rowley for crime talks.

However, it was my hope that in keeping with international best practice on such matters in vogue in the legislatures of mature democracies, and also the theory and practice of effective conflict-resolution strategies, there would have been no public disclosure of the particular suggestions of either side for consideration by the relevant committee comprising the two teams.

That is precisely what Persad-Bissessar has done by publicly disclosing to the news media a list of items she wants the committee to consider, including her pet peeve of "stand-your-ground" legislation.

In anticipation of these talks, I have addressed in detail, in a previous letter, why such public disclosures would have been a bad idea. I hope and pray that the Government side does not follow in this same vein.

To that extent, the crime talks have got off on the wrong foot. Nonetheless, Persad-Bissessar must be forgiven since the concept of such private talks has certainly not been a feature of our politics within recent times.

I am perhaps the eternal optimist, but I do not see this initial faux pas as fatal. In fact, I am highly appreciative of the contents of a recent letter by Opposition MP Rushton Paray on the need for collaboration and consensus by both sides.

He gave a sterling panoramic view of what are the international best practices adopted by other countries which have successfully addressed this global menace. He was at pains to point out, among other things, the potent deterrence in Singapore of the strict laws for major crimes. I have made that point repeatedly in many of my own letters.

I hope he is able to convince his parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take heed and adopt the Singaporean model. In this regard, as Singapore has demonstrated, murder ought not to be the only offence that attracts the death penalty.

Certainly, gun crimes and trafficking in illegal drugs beyond a certain specified amount ought to attract the death penalty. A gun is a lethal weapon. The purpose of assessing such an illegal weapon is to kill someone. A fine of $15,000 for such an offence is absurd. The message is clear.

In a previous letter, I had raised the issue of the teams availing themselves of a competent and acceptable mediator to assist in their deliberations. I hope that this idea is given some consideration. I also hope that the teams make use of the relevant research and expertise on this topic and, at the conclusion of their discussions, craft a comprehensive plan of action, based on the consensus achieved.

The Government and the Opposition must meet first, as a committee of the whole, by themselves with their experts. However, before any public statement is made detailing the outcome of those talks, the committee should meet privately with interest groups to get their views, following which the committee should review its work, including any worthwhile suggestions of the groups.

It is only then a public statement should be made about whatever consensus is achieved, and any areas of disagreement which still need to be addressed.

In my view, where there is a will there is a way. I do not want to hear nonsense about which government or commissioner of police is able to get violent crime down to 400 murders a year, and be happy with that statistic. There is no reason why, with proper measures in place, our murder toll cannot be less than 20 a year. Singapore with a population of 5.7 million had ten murders in 2021.

Our nation deserves better and our legislators must lead the way, with the divine guidance of God. Let us never forget that our national anthem specifically invokes the presence and support of Almighty God.


St Augustine


"Crime talks off on wrong foot"

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