Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, speaking with reporters after the 90 minute discussions with Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar, said that a decision had been taken to appoint a Joint Select Committee as part of the new strategy in the fight against crime.
“We are saying now that Committee is the place where the fight against crime, where the opposition and the government to meet, not just on television talking about matters like day of policing, but literally meeting on what the country needs to do, what legislation needs to be addressed to be created, to be amended, where are the disagreements and do that behind closed doors before we come to the Parliament and that’s how we intend to proceed.
“Basically what we have done this morning is to lay out a pathway for execution at the Parliament,” Rowley said, adding that important pieces of legislation will now “make their way to and through the Parliament” as a result of the new collaboration.
Persad Bissessar later told a news conference that she was hoping for a “new page” as it relates top government-opposition collaboration, adding “I told the prime minister…let’s turn the page.
“So I don’t want to go backward in that regard, but if it is we use that parliamentary system we can get rid of some of that acrimony so when we bring suggestions…everything we say is not gospel and everything they say is not gospel truth , so there must be a meeting of the minds.
“I am very optimistic, I am very hopeful,” she said.
Prime Minister said the idea is that before the legislation is presented for debate “we are now talking about feeding it through the proper committee (for) analysis and collaboration before it comes to Parliament”.
He said the new cooperation would also extend to other strategies as had been outlined by National Security Minister Edmund Dillon.
“What we are committing to do is sharing more of that information with the opposition and the country so that this feeling that nothing is going on can really be addressed effectively,” Rowley said, adding that in the absence of that information “it is not surprising that we are being asked to do much of what we are already doing.
“The new arrangement of getting the opposition a little closer to the information and to what is happening could address this sense of well maybe it is not happening when in fact happening. So that collaboration …should be able bring the opposition more involved in knowing what the State is doing if their support is required in measures as we go forward.”
Rowley said that his administration has gone even further informing the opposition that “as we at the Cabinet operate the legislative review committee which prepares the legislation for the Cabinet, even at that stage, if we build the proper relationships with people in the opposition based on mutual respect and sharing of responsibility we can even alert the oppositio9n to what we are gestating at the level of the Cabinet”.
Rowley said that the government is prepared to give up the chairmanship of the Joint Select Committee “where opposition and government, chaired by an independent (legislator) …are focusing on getting the benefits of collaboration”.
But Rowley warned against having the meeting Friday be “ a sham” saying “it is only when we get to the Parliament and we affect the turning of the page as mentioned in the meeting today that we will know if today has borne any fruit.
“The government which I lead has committed itself to an opposition which was in government when the opposition which I led voted for a budget led by that government and that is the spirit in which we look forward in going to the Parliament.”
Rowley said the meeting identified the need for resources for the Parliament and the Opposition Leader’s office “to ensure that we can do what needs to be done in preparing legislation.
“So there is a lot of mention of agreement it is now for us to proceed to the Parliament and affect it and it is only then that we will know that the parliamentary composition and the parliamentary collaboration as promised by this meeting can bear the fruit and the promise can be realised,” he added.
Persad Bissessar told reporters that her opposition delegation went to the talks in “good faith” adding that “there were many who felt this was a political ramajay and we going there to score points.
“I don’t want to score points because I cannot live in this country and see children being gunned down on the streets,” she said, adding “but I think in terms of working together …we are at war with the criminals”.
Attorney General Faris Al Rawis said that the meeting also discussed a number of pieces of legislation that the Rowley administration met on assuming power nearly one year ago, including matters to deal with DNA, electronic monitoring and prison rules.
He said that the government gave the assurance that they were now in a “significant and advanced state of physical operation and which we intend to give further particulars of both in the Parliament and out of the Parliament.
“We were pleased to provide the opposition with a list of 16 items…that were a snippet of some of the matters which we have as very urgent priority matters,” he said, noting that they dealt with improvement to the justice system and “very importantly taking the profit out of crime.
‘We are convinced that many of the laws stand on the books of Trinidad and Tobago don’t have the kind of impact into crime and we feel that it is very critical for us as a country to go behind the money because it is money which floats crime,” Al Rawi added.
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