No Politics or ‘Pen Friends’ with Crime – Kamla

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By Prior Beharry

OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar is telling Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that she has no intention of playing politics or being “bureaucratic pen friends with the Government” regarding the issue of crime.

In a strongly worded letter on Saturday, Persad-Bissessar responded to the proposed crime talks between the Government and the Opposition.

She said, “I therefore make it clear to you and the citizenry, that I have no intention of playing politics with this important matter and being bureaucratic pen friends with the Government in any public relations promotion, while innocent citizens are being terrorised and brutally murdered by violent criminals.

“There is no advantage to be gained for the country by your moving of the goalposts regarding these important discussions and your unwillingness to include all stakeholders.

“This country belongs solely to neither the Government nor the Opposition, but to every law-abiding citizen. They must not be disrespected as silent onlookers, we must allow them to be contributors and participants in securing their future. We must listen and then lead.”

On Wednesday, Dr Rowley wrote to Persad-Bissessar saying that he proposed five ministers to be part of the Government’s team, namely – National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, Energy Minister Stuart Young, Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales, Minister of Tourism Randall Mitchell and Attorney General Reginald Armour.

He also propsed discussions on a number of legislative matters including bail, the Firearms Control Bill (2023), Interception of Communications, Anti-gang, Whistleblower Protection and the Cybercrime Bill.

Persad-Bissessar asked for clarity regarding his letter on Wednesday. She said his attendance in the proposed discussions appeared ambiguous.

She said, “It is reported that you will not be present to steer your team at the proposed talks. For the record, the terrifying crime crisis is a national emergency that requires you to demonstrate and take leadership of this initiative if the Government is serious about having genuine and meaningful discussions.

“This is not the time for the Prime Minister to take a back seat and make this initiative nothing more than a talk shop that can be perceived as designed to save face and do political damage control. I therefore urge you to lead the Government’s delegation at these critical talks.

“Please clarify and confirm whether you will be attending and leading the Government’s team, given your crucial position as Head of Government and Chairman of the National Security Council.”

Persad-Bissessar also asked whether Dr Rowley rescinded his statement in the September 16 letter where he proposed teams of four members each from the Government and Opposition.

She said, “Your letter dated 16 September 2023 (first letter) proposed that the teams consist of Government and Opposition ‘members.’ In your letter dated 12 October 2023 (third letter), you changed that suggestion to specifically ‘parliamentarians.’ Please clarify and confirm if this change was an error in drafting or whether it is a certified change in your proposal. Please specify the reason for this unilateral change if it is not an error.”

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Persad-Bissessar quoted his letter when he said, “‘The government proposes that the team will have the option (on a majority vote) to co-opt the input of citizens by way of memoranda and/or consultation.’”

She said, “If the change in government team number from four (4) to five (5) is not a drafting error, you have now effectively co-opted the majority vote and created a built-in government veto over the choice of stakeholders for collaboration. The possibility of stakeholder exclusion based on the Government’s biases and/or emotional responses to criticisms is highly probable.”

Persad-Bissessar said, “Please clarify your basis for excluding stakeholder contributions from these initial discussions and your desire for veto power over selecting contributors, experts, and stakeholders.

“Respectfully, I disagree with this approach. I suggest that any and all stakeholders/ citizens be invited to contribute.”

She asked Dr Rowley if he made any approaches to stakeholders to include in the discussions as was stated in his September 16 letter.

Persad-Bissessar said, “However, in your latest letter of 12th October 2023 (third letter), your proposed subject list contains only legislative matters comprising a rehash of some legislation and legislation that was already laid in Parliament but never passed. You have presented no new idea, program, or policy as promised, only legislation present in the public domain for years.

“While you say the list is not exhaustive, please clarify and confirm if you have any ideas, programmes, operational plans, and policies apart from legislation, as your subject list lacks critical areas that need to be examined. These include community development, education, unemployment, and social ills, inter alia, contributing to crime.”

She said legislation alone has not proven to be successful in the fight against crime.

Persad-Bissessar said, “I appreciate your clarification of the matters raised in this letter. I look forward and remain strongly committed to engaging in meaningful discussions with you regarding the critical violent crime crisis in Trinidad and Tobago.”


One thought on “No Politics or ‘Pen Friends’ with Crime – Kamla

  1. If legislation is what we need to bring and end to our crime situation, then let’s talk legislation.

    If as said that you are not playing politics with the intended crime talks, then why write such a long response to a first, second and third letter?

    Get to the point. If you are truly interested in meeting to arrest our crime situation, why such lengthily response. All you have to do is list all of your proposals in the Public so everyone knows exactly what are your contribution. No, but you rather give the impression upfront, that you are already not in favor of seeing some improvements in the situation. What I read is already a highly politically statement.

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