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UNC blanked bill due to lack of sunset clause
The Opposition United National Congress (UNC) blanked Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s call for a conscience vote on the anti-gang bill because the UNC wanted the legislation for 18 months rather than four years which Government proposed, Opposition whip David Lee confirmed following failed debate early yesterday.
“Government was fixed on a four-year clause, but we won’t be bullied,” Lee added.
Twenty-one Government MPs voted for the bill and 12 UNC MPs against. Opposition COP MP Prakash Ramadhar abstained, although he said afterwards he supported blanking the bill.
Prior to the vote, Rowley had implored the UNC to support the legislation.
“Let’s come together to fight against crime,” Rowley said, telling the UNC MPs he didn’t want to think they’d be campaigning on crime.
“You have families, mothers, brothers, sisters ... we need four more votes - now is the hour.”
Post-debate, however, Lee said, “We proposed several changes, two of which Government didn’t agree to. They removed an aspect tying the bill to sedition law, but didn’t agree with wanting warrants for police search/arrest.
“The real sticking point was the length of time for a ‘sunset clause’, the period by which we felt the bill should end and be reviewed for the country to know how effective it was.
“Government wanted five years first, then said four years. We proposed two years and finally 18 months. I even asked the Attorney General (across the floor) for three years. He said, no. Although the Prime Minister ‘implored’ us to support it, he was adamant on their four-year sunset clause and wasn’t prepared to change.”
Lee added, “It’s an onerous bill, but we’d have supported it with a sunset clause. We said we were prepared to work with this but Government had to report to T&T on the bill after two years.”
Lee said the Opposition always felt the bill wouldn’t be effective as it hadn’t been in the last five years when his PP government presented it.