Kamla seeks clarity from PM on proposed crime talks

In this file photo, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar speaks with her MPs in the Parliament Chamber after the Finance Minister's presentation of the national budget on October 2.  - Angelo Marcelle
In this file photo, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar speaks with her MPs in the Parliament Chamber after the Finance Minister's presentation of the national budget on October 2. - Angelo Marcelle

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is calling on the Prime Minister to stick with his original plans regarding proposed crime talks including the involvement of other stakeholders in the discussions.

In a letter to Dr Rowley on Saturday, Persad-Bissessar listed a number of issues arising from three letters sent to her by the PM dated September 16 and 26, and October 12, 2023.

“There is no advantage to be gained for the country by your moving of the goalposts regarding these important discussions and your unwillingness to include all stakeholders.

“This country belongs solely to neither the Government nor the Opposition, but to every law-abiding citizen. They must not be disrespected as silent onlookers, we must allow them to be contributors and participants in securing their future. We must listen and then lead.”

She said his last letter did not make it clear if he would be in attendance at the discussions especially as he was head of Government and chairman of the National Security Council, and asked him to clarify.

“This is not the time for the Prime Minister to take a back seat and make this initiative nothing more than a talk shop that can be perceived as designed to save face and do political damage control. I therefore urge you to lead the Government’s delegation at these critical talks.”

She also said, in his first letter, he proposed creating teams comprising four members of the Opposition and Government each, but his third letter said five Government and four Opposition parliamentarians. She asked if the changes were in error and, if not, asked for the reason for the unilateral change.

In his October 13 letter, the PM said the Government’s team will be chaired by Attorney General Reginald Armour and included National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, Energy Minister Stuart Young, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales and Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell.

Persad-Bissessar went on to quote the same letter which proposed the option of including the input of citizens by way of memoranda and/or consultation through a majority vote.

“If the change in government team number from four to five is not a drafting error, you have now effectively co-opted the majority vote and created a built-in government veto over the choice of stakeholders for collaboration. The possibility of stakeholder exclusion based on the Government's biases and/or emotional responses to criticisms is highly probable.

“Please clarify your basis for excluding stakeholder contributions from these initial discussions and your desire for veto power over selecting contributors, experts, and stakeholders. Respectfully, I disagree with this approach. I suggest that any and all stakeholders/ citizens be invited to contribute.”

She also asked if the government approached any of the stakeholders who publicly expressed their desire to attend the initial meetings.

Lastly, she said even though Rowley’s third letter said the government was ready to share its ideas, programmes and policies, the only proposals shared were legislative ones.

“Further legislation alone has not proven successful in the fight against crime, and there is an urgent need for a holistic approach.

“I remind you of at least 35 crime-fighting bills passed in the 11th and 12th Parliament led by your Government, some of which were passed with suggestions and/or amendments made by the Opposition to ensure the passage of good law.

“This is reflected in the Parliament’s record. Yet the violent crime crisis continues to spiral out of control because of ongoing implementation and operational deficits.”

She expressed her disappointment with his public criticisms and rejection of several initiatives proposed by the Opposition and hoped he would go into the discussions with an open mind.


"Kamla seeks clarity from PM on proposed crime talks"

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