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PNM arrogance, UNC deceptiveness
In 2011 the PP government introduced the Anti-Gang Bill 2011 in Parliament. Because the Bill infringed rights, a constitutional majority was needed to enact it. The PNM Opposition supported the Bill and the Anti-Gang Act 2011 became law.
It was one of two controversial pieces of legislation brought by the PP, the other being the Bail (Amendment) Act 2011.
There was a view that both pieces of legislation were little more than thinly-veiled devices to invert the very notion of due process by, in effect, punishing alleged criminals before formal conviction after a trial.
Because of its draconian nature, the Anti-Gang Act 2011 was put into effect—by way of a sunset clause, a provision in a Bill that gives it an expiry date once it is passed into law—for five years, at which point consideration would be given whether to extend its operation.
When that time came around, in 2016, the PP was out of office and the PNM was in government.
The PNM tried to extend the Act for a further two years, but the PP Opposition refused to support the extension and the Act was dead by August 2016.
That refusal was either an acceptance by the PP that their Act was a failure or another example of their hypocrisy, or maybe both. In an attempt to deal with the crime epidemic ravaging our nation, the PNM decided to bring back an Anti-Gang law.
So it took the Anti-Gang Bill 2017 to Parliament, saying that in large part it was a repeat of the 2011 legislation.
The Attorney-General cited statistics to show that gang membership had dramatically increased and that the police had a bank of information identifying gangs, their members and operations.
The suggestion was that the new Anti-Gang law, unlike its predecessor, would make a huge dent in crime. So confident was the AG he said there was no need for a sunset clause—the new law would (and should) be permanent.
In Parliament, the PNM acceded to the Opposition’s request that there be a sunset clause, but wanted the period of four years, while the Opposition wanted two years.
When the Bill was at the Committee stage, the PNM through the Prime Minister said four years or nothing.
When it was put to the vote in Committee, the PNM said “aye” and the Opposition stayed silent. The trap was sprung.
When the Bill went to the vote in the House, the PNM said “aye,” the UNC “nay,” and the COP said—well nothing. No constitutional majority obtained, the Anti-Gang Bill 2017 failed.
Then the games began. The PM thundered that the Opposition did not vote against the four year sunset clause in Committee but were now deceitfully using that clause as the reason why they opposed the Bill.
He said that blood would be on their hands.
The Opposition, using their usual get-out card of the PM’s boorishness, said he would not yield in Committee so why worry to vote there?
If the PNM wouldn’t give in to their shorter sunset clause—his from the same lot that originally had a five year sunset clause in their 2011 Act—they could not support the Bill in the House.
To say that the behaviour on both sides was unbecoming and unreasonable is an understatement. If the UNC is convinced as they say that they will be Government in 2020, why did they not vote for the four years and simply repeal the Act when back in office in 2020? Especially since they will only need a simple majority as the repealing legislation will be restoring, not infringing, rights.
So once again PNM arrogance combined with the Opposition’s deceptiveness and hypocrisy have left the rest of the nation in the lurch.
How many more innocent people have to die before our leaders are willing to put country before self and party?