Senior Multimedia Reporter
Some of this country’s leading business chambers have welcomed the call by President Christine Kangaloo for parliamentarians to work together to tackle T&T’s crime scourge.
However, at the same time they said Police Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher needs to make herself available to hold discussions with the business community as they expressed concerns that efforts to meet with the top cop have been futile.
Kangaloo, who delivered her maiden address at the opening of the Fourth Session of the 12th Parliament, said, “The urgency is obvious. The pain and the suffering are unbearable. These alone should drive parliamentarians to put aside their party rivalries, join hands across the aisle, and collaborate on how to stem crime and criminal conduct.”
In response to the president’s comments Christian Rampersad, President of the Arima Business Association told Guardian Media that the call by Kangaloo was a step in the right direction.
Whether the Opposition Leader and the Prime Minister can collaborate is “left to be seen,” Rampersad added.
“The Government and also the Opposition are responsible for the citizenry and to help solve crime. If the Government is bringing legislation that the Opposition has objections to, I believe in the Opposition’s purview their duty is not just to oppose but to give recommendations on what they think is missing. The Opposition has a fiduciary duty and responsibility to the public to Trinidad and Tobago. They are paid a salary to be the Opposition but not just to oppose but to constructively oppose,” Rampersad said.
He added that “collaboration between Government and the Opposition has not happened for ages.”
Rampersad also reiterated his call for the Police Commissioner to engage the business chambers to help chart the way forward regarding crime fighting measures and other pertinent issues.
“The Police Commissioner is hands off to any one. We as the collective chambers have been trying to get a meeting with her ... She does not take our calls. We are placed on a waiting list sometimes and no answer comes through,” Rampersad added.
Kiran Singh, President of Greater San Fernando Area Chamber of Commerce (GSFCC) also agreed that greater collaboration was needed to combat crime.
“If all parliamentarians work together to find solutions to crime it would be for the betterment of the entire society, not just by constituency areas.
“We have several hotspots which would fall in different electoral districts and crime has affected every single person throughout the country ... the Police Service has made certain announcements which have not borne sufficient fruit,” Singh said.
He said if Parliamentarians “set the example and lead at the forefront” then other arms would also have to follow suit resulting in a holistic approach to fight crime.
“We believe that bail should be a little more restrictive for certain crimes and the only way that could be is enacted through Parliament where certain laws would have to be revisited without being impacting on persons’ rights but we also have to remember the victims have certain rights and those rights are not being addressed,” Singh added.
Head of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC), Baldath Maharaj said his chamber also welcomed any joint efforts by the Government and Opposition to reduce crime.
However, he noted that there have been similar calls over the years which have been futile.
“Let it not continue to be a talk shop whilst the businessmen and other citizens have to live in fear,” Maharaj added.