UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar addresses a virtual meeting Monday night.

Gail Alexander

No procurement legislation, no Anti-Gang bill support!

“If you don’t bring the Procurement legislation, we’ll isolate you! We’ll not support you!” said UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar Monday night. Unbending in her firm declaration, she maintained the UNC’s trade-off position on the two pieces of legislation despite criticism and calls for the Opposition to work with Government and bring the Anti-Gang bill back to Parliament.

Calls arose last Friday and continued yesterday from business groups – after the Opposition blanked Government’s amendment to extend the Anti-Gang bill for 30 months.

At Monday night’s UNC meeting Persad-Bissessar said, “pro-PNM elements in the media” had a field day complaining about the outcome.

But she said it was a “total lie” that gangsters will go free because of the bill’s defeat and she noted the DPP had said cases wouldn’t collapse if the law wasn’t passed.

Persad-Bissessar said there are laws that cover offences listed in the Anti-Gang law: “Except for the offence of being a gang leader or member, you don’t need this law to lock up someone for murder, wounding, trafficking, robbery.”

“So police do your jobs and enforce the law as it stands, you don’t need this draconian law – it’s failed. Why should we support something that’s failed?!”

Persad-Bissessar said the procurement legislation was needed since the Police Commissioner had said last year, gangs were getting state contracts. She admitted in the COVID pandemic “not many contracts were going out”.

But she insisted the “procurement legislation was needed for fighting the gangs.”

She then spoke about the sale of the Guaracara refinery and planned sale of Petrotrin non-core assets and bungalows. She said “given PNM’s track record on property disposal,” procurement legislation was also needed for that.

Persad-Bissessar reiterated her concern on the 97 times she said Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and National Security Minister Stuart Young recused themselves from Cabinet meetings last term.

Listing property matters she alleged Al-Rawi recused himself for, she added it was wrong for Cabinet to sanction property matters linked to ministers even if they recused themselves.

“We say bring on the procurement legislation, it’ll deal with gangs and white-collar gangs and ‘friends and family’! No procurement law, no support for Anti-Gang law! We won’t allow for raiding of the Treasury!”

Throwing words on the UNC’s election, she also advised the “haters to get a life, do something nice, spend some time with your wife and children.”

PNM could use gang law against us – Moonilal

UNC Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal said the Opposition cannot give Government the authority of the Anti-Gang bill since he feels Government could use the law to “lock-up” Opposition politicians and other people, claiming they are gang members.

Slamming “unfair attacks” against the Opposition’s rejection of the bill, he said, “Many ganged up on UNC, some of those talking operate like a palm tree in a hurricane, swinging left to right, anyhow the breeze blow.”

“This has been the height of hypocrisy and dishonesty by people who wear jacket and tie – maybe a bow tie – but read nothing. If you ask them how many persons have been arrested under the anti-gang law – they don’t know. They don’t know how many were charged under that law or convicted.”

“Business community members out in full force condemning Opposition. Ask any of them if they have data on the workings of the law.”

Moonilal said, “We cannot give PNM this authority. Gary Griffith’s term will end, who will be the next Commissioner to implement this draconian law? What prevents a PNM CoP from locking up Opposition politicians, religious leaders and social activists as gang members or aiding and supporting a gang.”

“In recent times PNM used the Parliament to overthrow the constitution by giving the PNM controlled Parliament committees a power to disqualify an Opposition member from the service of the House because they say he conflicted. With no recourse of the full Parliament or the court.”

“They accused us of having links to gangs when one PNM MP and one PNM MP alone invited a reputed gang leader to have drinks at the President house.”

Moonilal said the UNC produced police statistics that showed the law wasn’t very effective.

“So why is the Opposition being castigated for not supporting this? Even the government admitted the legislation needed reviewing. We call for a fundamental review of the Anti-Gang legislation to find out why it’s not working as effectively as it should.”