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Debate on bill to precept soldiers- PM slams prophets of doom and gloom
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has lashed out at “naysayers who seem to care about human rights,” but don’t care about the human rights of the innocent who may fall victim to T&T’s crime problem. At yesterday’s third leg of parliamentary debate on legislation to precept soldiers for the anti-crime fight—and after 17 speakers on the bill—the PM joined proceedings to defend the legislation after the Opposition’s insistence on withdrawal of the bill.
The Prime Minister said there had been a lot of misinformation and distortion of the facts and of the law. She said the facts were that the State was footing an annual $1 billion bill for the Defence Force and there was a situation in T&T where people lived in fear. Condemning the “horror stories” she said were being put out about the move to precept soldiers, the PM added:
“People looking for a ghost behind every post! Doom and gloom from naysayers who seem to care about human rights but don’t care about the human rights of the innocent people also being killed in this situation! There can be no chance if we do not change the way we do things!”
Persad-Bissessar said in the last 12 days since the joint patrols have been in force, there has not been a single murder in Laventille, for example. She asked PNM MPs: “Do you want to deprive your constituents of the protection they can have? “You see mothers on television screaming in pain as they have to bury their children after carrying them in their belly for nine months...(So) you cannot continue with the same strategies!”
As far back as 2005, she said, army leaders had announced in the media that joint patrols were here to stay. She said joint army/police patrols were used frequently by the PNM and there had been no legislation in place when the PNM used the force of soldiers in the Rich Plain lockdown a few years ago.
Persad-Bissessar read from the legislations of neighbouring Caricom states, such as Jamaica, Antigua, Guyana and The Bahamas where soldiers are used to assist in the fight against crime. “T&T isn’t different to these places, the only difference with these countries is they don’t have the PNM,” she added. Persad-Bissessar said the PNM’s suggestion to hire people on contract hadn’t worked for the PNM.
She quoted statistics from 2003 under the PNM and with the Special Anti-Crime Unit in force, showing murders rose from 229 to 509 in 2009. It was 485 in 2010 when the PP entered office, 354 in 2011 (under the state of emergency) and 379 in 2012. Throughout the PM’s address, PP MPs tossed picong to the PNM side, saying, “Ramesh.”
Before yesterday’s debate, the Prime Minister met on Thursday with members of the Law Association and the Criminal Bar Association to discuss concerns raised by the associations on legislative proposals. Both groups were asked to submit proposals in writing. The Government expressed willingness to review the bills to take into account some of the concerns raised.
The PM indicated she has instructed the Attorney General to prepare a Green Paper on the issue of the Abolition of Jury trial for Blood Crimes on which there will be public consultation. The associations promised to submit their comments.
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