Last update: 05-Dec-2013 8:03 am
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
You are here
AG wants bigger role for Defence Force
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan intends to raise the matter of soldiers joining the fight against crime when the Government holds its anti-crime talks with Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and his team on Thursday. “I am of the firm and clear belief and opinion that the Defence Force has to play a greater role in the fight against crime in this country, because the police have thus far proven to be less than effective and less than successful, as compared to the kind of money that we are pumping into the Police Service,” Ramlogan said. He was at the time speaking with reporters in Palmiste, San Fernando. The time has come for “drastic and hard measures” to deal with gang warfare, he said, and he hinted at a possible review of the controversial soldier/police bill.
He also said he intends to raise, at Thursday’s meeting, changes to burden of proof required under the anti-gang legislation. Ramlogan said in Dominica, legislators “reversed” the burden on proof in their anti-gang legislation and he wants to suggest the provision be made in T&T. “If the police have reasonable grounds to suspect a gang member or a gang leader, the police arrest and charge. The onus of burden of proof shifts onto the accused person to prove to the court that they are not a gang member,” he said. He added that he also wants to raise the question of the range of identification criteria for a gang member. He said locally, gang members might wear a particular brand of sneakers, wear a rag in their pocket of a particular colour or wear pants in a particular way with a particular mark in the pants which only fellow gang members would identify. “I am hopeful that the Opposition will give us their support in reviewing the Anti-Gang Act, but again no law will be of any use unless the police are ready and able to enforce the law,” he said.
Soldiers can make a dent in gang violence, Ramlogan said. “The bandits do not seem to fear the police the way they fear the soldiers,” he said. “The greatest objection to the soldier bill was the soldiers are trained to kill and people are scared of them and that is why we should not give them police powers.” Murdered 16-year-old Rashida Gomez, who was shot and killed at an apartment at lower Duncan Street, Port-of-Spain, last week, would have been alive today if soldiers were there in the area, the AG said. While the soldier (Defence Force Amendment) bill, which sought to give soldiers powers of arrest and immunity, failed in the last parliamentary session, he believes stronger measures are needed. “We have to take some hard measures and decide where we want the balance to fall,” Ramlogan said. “Is it that we want to take back the country from the criminals and that will result in incursions on the rights of the criminals so that the greater good of society can be served? Are we prepared to take those measures?” Ramlogan stopped short of confirming that the bill will be reintroduced in the new parliamentary session in a modified version. “It would depend on whether we get the support of the Opposition and the Independents,” he suggested.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.