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Acting Attorney General Stuart Young yesterday questioned why Opposition Senator Gerald Ramdeen was delaying the possible passage of two packages of legislation that would help in the fight against crime and criminal elements.
Young raised the issue at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, saying that since August 4, 2017, he had sent Ramdeen two separate packages containing draft/proposed legislations to tackle the anti-gang legislation and zones of special operations and community development that exists in Jamaica. But to date, Young said he had not received a response from Ramdeen and wondered his reason for the delay.
Young said the packages were sent to Ramdeen following the July 18 meeting between Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Persad-Bissessar, where they held productive discussions.
Among the items that arose in those discussions between both leaders, Young said, was the promise that the Attorney General would share certain proposals and draft legislation with the Opposition “in the area of anti-gang legislation.” Rowley also promised to provide the Opposition with statistical data.
On August 4, Young said he wrote to Ramdeen informing him of the two packages, one which dealt with zones of special operations and community development similar to what exists in Jamaica.
“The Government in Jamaica only has a one-seat majority that allows the Prime Minister, on the advice of certain elements of the Jamaica defence force and police force, to declare certain zones …. zones where it would be akin to giving them unique powers to go in and cordon off those zones and do certain things.
“We have proposed this to the Opposition as a discussion piece and as a part of a hope that we could have a conversation with the Opposition, as another way or method for conversation as to how to deal with crime and criminal elements,” Young said.
He said they invited the Opposition to tell them what difficulty they were having with the anti-gang legislation, so they can work together to come to Parliament, hopefully with pieces of legislation that would be consensual.
“That took place at the beginning of August. We have asked Senator Ramdeen to provide us with a response, as to how they would want to meet or in writing the proposals by the beginning of this week.”
To date, Young said they have heard nothing from the Opposition.
“We have not even received a letter of acknowledgement.”
In light of the Opposition’s failure to respond, Young said Rowley wrote Persad-Bissessar yesterday, setting out a seven-page spread sheet of some of the anti-crime and non-legislative operational initiatives undertaken by the various ministries and Government agencies in the fight against crime in T&T that would pave the way for productive discussions for the benefit of citizens.
“I trust that the Attorney General and the Minster of Legal Affairs will hear from the Opposition shortly as to what proposal it has with respect to the pieces of legislation provided,” Rowley wrote in his letter.
However, in an immediate response Ramdeen shot back at Young, saying the packages he received contained several bills. He said while some of the legislation was “draconian, it does not mean we would not support it. What we want to ensure is that there is proper balance between security of the State and the rights of citizens before advancing suggestions to the Government as to whether the Opposition is prepared to support the pieces of legislation.”
Asked if the Opposition would meet the Government now, Ramdeen said that decision lies in the hands of Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
“We are actively considering all the draft pieces of legislation. And we are actively considering how these pieces of legislation will affect the criminal justice system. These things must take time. He (Young) forget the Parliament is on recess. The last time I check it is the Government that must propose legislation and pass it in Parliament and the Opposition will support it or not.”
Ramdeen said the passage of legislation would not solve the problem unless the fundamentals in the criminal justice system are addressed.
“Fundamental to that is weeding out the corrupt police officers, fixing the Forensic Science Centre and ensuring that matters can go through the courts in an efficient manner.”
Ramdeen also maintained the Government has never invited the Opposition to a meeting to discuss the issues at hand.
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