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Stakeholders: T&T needs anti-gang law

Published: 
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Pastor Clive Dottin

There is a view the criminals now believe they have the upper hand and are exploiting divisions in society following the failure to pass the Anti-Gang Bill in the House of Representatives.

Some stakeholders say the Government and Opposition should have discussed their differences behind closed doors but ultimately come to a unified position in the interest of the country. The legislation is viewed as a key component in the fight against criminal gangs

Princes Town MP Barry Padarath, defended the Opposition’s vote against the legislation, saying the Opposition was not prepared to give the Government “four years to experiment with legislation. He said they suggested two years with a sunset clause to “review the legislation, its limitations, successes and statistics.”

However, Pastor Clive Dottin, who works in communities where gang warfare is prevalent, said: “This was not the time to try to score cheap points.” The outspoken Seventh Day Adventist minister urged the two sides to meet and come up with a legislative package that would benefit the country

‘The bandits are laughing at us and exploiting the divisions in the society,” he said.

“It is a case of unite now or perish later. The gangs believe they are winning the battle.”

Even more tragic, Dottin said, is that citizens believe the protective services are losing the battle.

Manager and founder of the St James Police Youth Club Officer Derrick Sharbodie said it was unfortunate that the legislation was not passed.

“Sometimes you have to agree to disagree but you need to look at the greater good,” he said.

Sharbodie said the legislation was critical to send a message to gang leaders that the police and the security forces are being given the power to “destroy, dismember and ensure that gangs in the country do not blossom.” He said passage of the legislation would have sent a message to gang members that the country’s legislators mean business.

It would have also shown that they can come together in a collective effort to make a statement, he said.

“Unfortunately that statement was not made,” Sharbodie said.

Criminal defence attorney Israel Khan SC said the anti-gang laws are of extreme importance but requires the Opposition and Government working together.

Khan said by voting against the legislation the Opposition “inadvertently played into the hands of the Government.”

He warned that they could face a backlash. “If the Opposition was saying to change certain clauses they could have postponed the discussion in Parliament and get behind closed doors and agree to a common position,” he said.

Khan said the legislation by itself will not solve the crime problem as it relates to gang activity.

“There will continue to be criminal elements in the country because the basis of crime is that the wealth of the country is not being distributed for the common good of all,” he said.

“Even if the Opposition had supported the legislation, when you lock up one gang member another one will come. What you need to do is wean them away from crime and get some proper training and programmes for them to get them away from crime,” he said.

Former head of the National Operations Centre Garvin Heerah said the delay in passing the bill should not be viewed as a failure, but must be taken in “positive stride of optimism that must now challenge the strategists and the decision-makers to explore workable solutions and not lose focus of the end game.”

He said law enforcement will have to explore the laws that exist and “escalate a high visibility to ensure that all existing threats and challenges are brought under control.”Heerah said there is need to address weak points in socio-economic sectors, reach out to young people and work closely with international partners to foster relations that could be results-based and measured over time.

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