Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has called on citizens to apply pressure on members of the Opposition to reverse their decision not to support the Bail Amendment Bill.
Speaking at a press conference at his office in Port-of-Spain yesterday afternoon, Al-Rawi suggested that public outcry would be the only thing that may save the proposed legislation, which was again rejected by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her MPs, last Friday.
“The only way the population will obtain its protection is if there is a public outcry,” Al-Rawi said, as he claimed that similar action caused the Opposition to change its position in the past including with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA) and with legislation to abolish child marriages.
Al Rawi sought to question Persad-Bissessar’s object to the legislation, which seeks to deny bail for persons charged with firearm offences, as he pointed out that her government pioneered similar but more restrictive legislative initiatives on bail between 2011 and 2015.
“Where was the concern for set-up by police in her tenure?” Al-Rawi said.
He noted that under the amendment bill, which was passed by the Senate but stuck at the Committee Stage before the House of Representatives, still allowed people who are denied bail to approach a court for bail in exceptional circumstances.
Al-Rawi also pointed to the fact such legislation, which eventually expired after a change in government with the 2015 general elections, was applied during the 2011 State of Emergency while Persad-Bissessar served as prime minister.
He claimed that after citizens, who were affected by such legislation in 2011 sued the State, Persad-Bissessar, and former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC, refused to testify on behalf of the State.
“Neither of them was willing to give evidence to save the citizens from the damages and costs that came and have cost millions of dollars,” he said.
He also rejected her alleged claims that the legislation would target “poor black people” and would lead to political interference in the T&T Police Service (TTPS).
“The record shows that the TTPS has acted against people who have held or continue to hold political office on either side of the coin,” he said.
During the press conference, Al-Rawi repeatedly commended Griffith for advocating for the amendments, which he (Griffith) was confident would assist based on successes during his stint as National Security Minister during Persad-Bissessar’s tenure.
“You cannot watch a Commissioner of Police, who sat as National Security Minister, say what he said yesterday and not be deeply concerned about your fate,” Al-Rawi said.
He pointed to statistics that showed that there were 17,271 reports of firearm-related offences and 6,387 persons being charged between 2009 and last year. He noted that between 2015 and 2019, there were 1,619 murders committed with firearms, and of those 638 were classified gang-related.
He suggested that the legislation, coupled with radical improvements in the criminal justice system, introduced under his tenure, would greatly assist the Police Service in reducing crime.
“At least the police would have a better fighting chance,” Al-Rawi said.