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Govt, PNM at odds over bill to precept soldiers
After 16 speakers in the parliamentary debate on the Defence (Amendment) Bill so far, the Opposition PNM continued to call for the bill to be withdrawn up to around 10.50 pm on Wednesday night.
Debate on the bill to precept soldiers in the anti-crime fight continues in the House of Representatives today, Parliament officials said. Wednesday’s debate on the bill concluded just before 11 pm that night.
PNM’s Marlene McDonald, who was speaking at the time, called the bill a “hoax, not well crafted, a knee-jerk response to the crime situation and deceptive.” She reiterated the PNM’s position that it should be withdrawn immediately.
McDonald said the bill was unconstitutional and a subversion of the Constitution was taking place. She warned the Government that if it started with the wrong premise, “Anything that flows from this will be illegal.” The Opposition PNM is withholding support from the bill, which requires a three-fifths majority for passage.
The Prime Minister has signalled the Government is not “retreating” on the bill. But after expressions of public opinion and Tuesday’s meeting with the Police Second Division Association, the Government made several concessions.
The Government is amending it to have a “sunset clause” allowing for it to be reviewed or halted after 24 months. The Government said this might even be 20 or 22 months, since soldiers have to be trained for part of that time. The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) will have oversight on complaints about soldiers, arising from their anti-crime activity.
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