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Kamla speaks on Clause 34 today
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has promised to break her silence on the controversial Section 34 proclamation this afternoon and make a comprehensive statement after today’s Cabinet meeting. The PM made the revelation to reporters during a walkabout in Laventille yesterday, a day after Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley led a thousands-strong march from Port-of-Spain to President’s House in St Ann’s to present a petition containing 25,000 signatures and demanding the PM explain why the controversial section was proclaimed on August 31.
Members of civil society and former head of the Public Service, Reginald Dumas, have added their voices to the chorus of calls for the PM to make a public statement. Reporters were unsuccessful in initial attempts yesterday to have Persad-Bissessar answer questions on the issue. Moments after wishing the media a happy day, she said, “I’ll be making a full statement tomorrow after Cabinet... after Cabinet tomorrow.”
Persad-Bissessar has been under public pressure over the past few days after an exclusive Sunday Guardian article reported that the legislation was proclaimed. The proclamation provided people with the opportunity to apply to have their cases dismissed provided they were more than ten years old and had not yet been started. Among those who stood to benefit were Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh, two reputed financiers of the United National Congress party.
The United States Government has also expressed its concern about the latest development.
And in a statement issued late yesterday Persad-Bissessar said soon after Section 34 was proclaimed, the Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard expressed concerns to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan regarding the implications and consequences of the event.
She said Ramlogan sought an immediate audience with her and having examined the matter, she was satisfied that the consequences and far-reaching implications of the section were not consistent with Government policy. “In the circumstances, I gave instructions for the Parliament to be convened immediately to consider a Bill to repeal Section 34,” she said.
She said she then summoned the Cabinet to an emergency meeting to discuss the matter. “The Government therefore moved swiftly to successfully reverse the ill-effects and unintended consequences of this section,” Persad-Bissessar said. “Apart from taking immediate and necessary action to repeal Section 34, I chose to remain silent on the issue of its early proclamation because a premature commentary on the matter before all information became available to me would have been injudicious.
“Since then I have been personally enquiring into the circumstances that created the situation before us today and will be issuing a full statement on the matter tomorrow, Thursday 20th September after Cabinet is concluded.” Meanwhile a group of Laventille residents staged a demonstration during her visit to Laventille yesterday, claiming the Government was protecting criminals from having to face the court.
Persad-Bissessar led several government ministers, including National Security Minister Jack Warner, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Local Government Minister Dr Surujrattan Rambachan, Works and Infrastructure Minister Emmanuel George and Minister of the People and Social Development Glenn Ramadharsingh and PNM Councillor Ayesha Wells through the depressed communities of John John, Beverly Hills and Picton.
Security officers, including police and soldiers, outnumbered the residents during the visit. Several residents, including children, were presented with commemorative cups bearing pictures of Persad-Bissessar, President George Maxwell Richards, and former prime ministers and presidents. While many residents openly expressed love and support for Persad-Bissessar, others complained of a lack of housing, employment and basic infrastructure.
During the visit, Persad-Bissessar said yesterday marked ten days without a murder or a gunshot being fired in the Laventille Hills. She was taken to a natural spring in Beverly Hills, where she threw a 25-cent coin in and said she wished for peace in Laventille and T&T.
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