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Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi moves the Second Reading of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in the Senate yesterday

The introduction of speed guns has brought about a change in the driving culture of T&T, Attorney General Faris Al Rawi told the Senate yesterday.

As he wound up debate on the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, the AG said the introduction fo the devices to enforce the country’s speed limit laws, had “changed the driving culture of Trinidad and Tobago as profoundly as the breathalyser and seat belt laws.”

He said the legislation will have the direct impact of saving lives.

The Bill, which amends the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act Chap. 48:502, provides for the implementation of an electronic registration system for all motor vehicles, as well as a speed-control enforcement system through the use of spot speed cameras.

It also gives the Licensing Authority the authority to assign a unique identification mark to be carried on the registration plates of a vehicle

Earlier in the debate, Opposition Senator Wade Mark expressed concern about “several dangerous and draconian measures” in the Bill.

He said some clauses appeared to be in conflict with parts of the Constitution, including the right to privacy and wondered whether it was not “laying the foundation of electronic surveillance of a police state.”

On the privacy issue, Al Rawi pointed out that radio-frequency identification (RFID) to be embedded in motor vehicle licenses is not a GPS tag.

He said there amendments facilitate due process and what had previously been criminal offences under the law will be converted to violations “of a civil standard.”

The AG said earlier legislation piloted by a UNC government for RFID and it was during Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s People’s Partnership administration that CCTV systems were rolled out across the country—enabling tracking of citizens daily —through the National Operations Centre.

Independent Senator Deoroop Teemal described the technology introduced through the Bill as a step in the right direction.

However, he wonders about the many businesses across the country involved in the making of vehicle licence plates.

“Is there going to be certification of such forms of business to continue to ply their trade as they currently do?’ he asked.

That concern was echoed by Opposition Senator Taharqa Obika who wondered about the livelihoods of workers currently involved in the making of licence plates and installing of tints.”

On the matter of implementation of the new system, he asked: “Will we now suffer from an inefficient system of distributing licence plates.”

The Bill was passed by the Senate with amendments.