The failure of the Government and the Opposition to come to a middle ground and extend the life of the Anti-Gang (Amendment) Bill 2020, could only lead to higher levels of crime in T&T, says Senior Counsel attorney Israel Khan.
“Crime will get worse. But the UNC will pay a high political price for not supporting that bill. The people who are not blinded by PNM or UNC, the intelligentsia in the country would not vote for a party that is indirectly supporting crime,” he told the Sunday Guardian during a telephone interview yesterday.
On Friday, following a debate in Parliament, the motion to extend the 2018 Anti-Gang Bill for an additional two-and-a-half-year was defeated after all 19 United National Congress MPs abstained from the vote.
The Government had presented an amendment to extend the life of the bill for another 30 months. It required a three-fifths majority of the 41 MPs for passage.
Khan called on politicians to carry out the work of the nation and not just represent their own narrow interests.
“I cry shame on the UNC for protecting their selfish, narrow interests. They believe that if crime exists and there is a disruption in society that will assist them in getting back in Government because people will be fed up with the present Government. That is a very selfish approach in the politics of this country.”
Senior Counsel Martin Daly told the Sunday Guardian that he is “disappointed” that there was a lack of any co-operation between the Government and the Opposition.
“I do not know whether that lack of co-operation is responsible for the failure of the bill. But I feel that a lot of work is going to waste because there is too much personal animosity. I am dissatisfied that we have as many murders as we do.”
When asked what should be the next legislative step of the Government, he said the idea of legislative tools was misplaced and the country needs better detection work.
Analyst: Crime does not only affect the PNM but everyone in T&T
Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath told the Sunday Guardian that he does not believe that the UNC would suffer any political repercussions at the moment for failing to support the Anti-Gang legislation.
“We are not going to an election. The Opposition knows that there is no election where they have to pander to the people any time soon. Apart from public pressure, there is very little that could be done at this point in time.”
As for the Government, he said all they can do is keep sending the message that it is the Opposition who is to be blamed for not supporting the bill.
Shane Mohammed, a political analyst told the Guardian that the Opposition which is part of the Parliament has a duty to ensure that their legacy contributes to T&T’s safety and security.
“Our society is deeply divided and is in need of hope…it is for the Opposition to show they are larger than that, they are classier than that, they are smarter than that, they are more mature than petty politics and they are able to come to Parliament with ideas. Crime does not only affect the PNM but everyone in T&T.”
Speaking from Tobago yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said, unfortunately, they did not have the votes to extend the legislation.
“During that period of time, the problem of gangs did not go away. The problem was still there. 19 parliamentarians said that it is not sufficiently important for that law to continue.”
Griffith: Gang leaders can advertise for members now
As a consequence of the failure to extend the Anti-Gang Bill, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith told the Sunday Guardian in a WhatsApp message that “gang leaders could advertise to have persons join gangs now.”
Griffith repeated what he said on Friday that petty politics took precedence over the interest of the country and that the Anti-Gang legislation had resulted in fewer murders in the country.
UNC Senator David Nakhid in a video circulating on social media defended the UNC’s decision to abstain from voting on the Anti-Gang Bill which prevented the bill from being extended.
He accused Griffith of playing politics. He said since Griffith’s tenure as Police Commissioner ends next year, whatever the Government was doing now “was holy and pure and you want to be hitting the Opposition now?”
“We supporting gangsters?”
“Mr Commissioner, I know you would jump out. You didn’t say anything about statistics all year with your megalomaniac self and you talking about politics. Who playing politics more than you? What we don’t want is for you to be referring to people as cockroaches. It is these same people you describe as cockroaches you working for them.”
Griffith on his Facebook page responded to Nakhid saying: “To the many expressing disgust and disappointment, having wasted three minutes of their life listening to the video of the wild rants of someone who is pleased that being a member of a gang is no longer a crime, you should not expect anything better from him.
“The latest rants from a senator expressing pleasure that being a gang member is no longer a crime should come as no surprise as just a few months ago, he stated that the police is the enemy. So we know where he stands.”