Government to Pilot Anti-gang Legislation

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Faris Al-Rawi

Over 2,000 Gang Members in Trinidad and Tobago:
Attorney General Says

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Dec 1, CMC – The Trinidad and Tobago government is to table anti-gang legislation in the Parliament on Friday and is hoping for support from the opposition, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi has said.

He told reporters that the legislation to be presented is the same that had been in existence when the People’s Partnership government of then prime minister Kanla Persad Bissessar was in office between 2010-15.

Al-Rawi said the opposition now had no excuse for rejecting the anti-gang bill, which has driven by the demands of the police and the need for public safety.

“Nothing should stand in the way of passage. This bill was good enough for the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led government. It was the law for the entire period when she was there (in government)…until it expired in August 2016,” he said.

“We cannot allow situations as prevailed in Enterprise, and in the Beetham most recently, to rear its head in Trinidad and Tobago. We cannot continue to allow the circulation of videos across social media platforms where identifiable Trinidad and Tobago personnel are involved in what appears to be gang activity or gang recruitment. The broad spectrum of the anti-gang law can capture this behaviour,” Al-Rawi said, adding it would remedy cases where gangsters boasted online of their deeds, guns and gold chains, and would stymie unrest at hot spots such as Enterprise in Central Trinidad and the Beetham, east of here.

Al-Rawi said that he expects debate on the bill to begin next week after the Keith Rowley government lays the document in Parliament on Friday.

Al-Rawi said that the bill was supported by better insights into gangs, improved police intelligence, better witness protection, and proclamation of the Strategic Services Agency Act.

He said the government had given details of the legislation to the opposition but that they had been shifting the goal post by indicating that the legislation be brought to Parliament first before outlining their concerns.

“The country has got to say enough is enough. What has to happen as well, is an intolerance to goal-post shifting,” he added.

Earlier this week, the Attorney General told a news conference that there were approximately 2,459 suspected gang members island wide and their names, whereabouts and alleged activities are known to the authorities including the Organised Crime Intelligence Unit (OCIU).

He said the information would be used to root out criminal elements if the anti-gang legislation, which expired in August last year, is passed.

“What we added to the expired anti-gang law was a provision which allowed for the following of money or property where we suggested that gang members be subjected to the court and if they could not explain their wealth, let the court decide whether they should keep it or not.

“We cannot allow our country to be held hostage by criminals who routinely take to social media and advertise their gangs. What is Rasta City? What is Unruly ISIS? Each time they take to social media to express their gang affiliation is a confession of gang activity,” Al-Rawi said.

He said the government has also circulated for comment among the various stakeholders, the special zones law that would allow for limited states of emergency in specific areas, where police and other emergency authorities would be allowed to enter certain areas to carry out anti-crime exercises. – CMC

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