Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is hoping to move on crime talks by the next fortnight
Rowley has proposed to Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that the Government and Opposition each have teams to discuss their respective anti-crime initiatives and work on an agenda based on their joint submissions, which he anticipated could be in hand within the coming fortnight.
Rowley indicated this in a September 16 letter to Persad- Bissessar on the Crime Caucus effort.
And Opposition MP Barry Padarath yesterday said National Transformation Alliance leader Gary Griffith will be part of the Opposition's team to provide national security solutions.
"So, Prime Minister, humble yourself - put aside the hate and acrimony Mr Manning spoke of... we need all hands on deck who can bring about solutions," Padarath added at UNC's media briefing at the Office of the Opposition Leader yesterday.
This was the latest on the expected talks between Government and Opposition, even as T&T's murder toll reached 420 yesterday
Following Persad-Bissessar's futile calls earlier this year to Government for meetings on the crime problem, President Christine Kangaloo had urged Parliamentarians for collaboration across the aisle on anti-crime measures and legislation during the the September 11 launch of the new Parliament term.
While Rowley initially was doubtful about Opposition response, Persad-Bissessar said her party was ready and willing to support Government on the anti-crime fight and also detail its own solutions.
After her statement, Rowley last Thursday said he intended writing her to ask her to supply or to receive "personnel from the Government on the issue of crime" and the Government will receive from her side on the issue, to see what common ground exists that the Parliament can deal with.
Persad-Bissessar subsequently said the door had always been open and she'd await his correspondence.
Rowley's letter, which was issued on the OPM's Facebook page, yesterday, stated: "In keeping with our mutual desire to put our country’s national interest first, I invite you, as Leader of the Opposition, to participate in the following exercise which is aimed at exploring the options available to us, as Parliamentarians, to address the matter of the safety and security of the population of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
"I would like to receive from you, in writing, your proposal(s) which you believe are worthy of bipartisan discussions between the Government and the Opposition. The Government is also prepared to share with you its own ideas, programmes and policies for inclusion in these discussions.
"It is envisaged that your proposal(s), like the Government’s, would include tools designed to lawfully confront the criminal elements that are increasingly emboldened, as they operate in Trinidad and Tobago. I propose that after receiving your proposal we establish teams comprising four members each, from both the Government and the Opposition, to discuss the initiatives proposed. These teams will be guided by a crafted agenda formed from our joint submissions which I anticipate we could have in hand within the coming fortnight.
"I trust that my invitation will be received in the most positive way and that our teams could meet with the requisite spirit of collaboration and productivity that is required by the nature of this persistent problem which we all have been confronting for quite some time.
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest. Best wishes."
Persad-Bissessar yesterday confirmed that she received the letter via her email.
"I'll consider and respond in due course," she said briefly.
Rowley left for New York yesterday to attend the United Nations General Assembly from September 19-26. (See page 16)
Meanwhile, Padarath said the party hadn't caucused on who would be their team members, but expected it would be discussed at caucus.
"But the political leader also has the prerogative to make those decisions. I'm almost certain Mrs Persad-Bissessar will engage with others in the party and in our accomodation in terms of who the team will be," he added.
"However, the Prime Minister must understand it's not only the Opposition. T&T's reached crisis stage where it's all hands on deck ....we've had these meetings between Government and Opposition and Government has an implementation deficit being unable to action any of what we've discussed and Mrs Bissessar is saying 'all hands must be on deck'.
"It's not just the Opposition and Government - all stakeholders must be involved. So, the Opposition's view is - yes we'll go to the table but with persons we believe that can produce tangible solutions that'll work."
Noting former police commissioner Griffith's NTA was part of UNC's Local Government Elections accomodation, Padarath said Government needs people with a proven track record.
Noting Griffith's work as CoP, he said, "One such person on the national landscape is Griffith - the UNC sees him as a pivotal crucial partner in crime reduction. Prime Minister, humble yourself, you've already failed in the crime fight. Let those with proven track record come to the table. You cannot use the excuse of personal animosity and acrimony to keep people who are solution-oriented out of efforts to reduce crime. You cannot depend on prayers to the Lord."
He added, "Griffith's demonstrated as national security minister and CoP that he can get the job done. The PM has pretty much admitted he can bring to the table no new talent, therefore, we can expect no different beyond the symbols of PNM failure we've seen - such as (Fitzgerald) Hinds. Griffith's seen by the public as someone who can get the job done. These issues will be raised in our caucus. I'm sure every person will want to see him as part of the effort."