VILE ATTACK OVER ANTI GANG BILL
Not so, Kamla.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has accused Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar of orchestrating a “malicious character assassination” against him by misrepresenting events which occurred during recent debate on the defeated Anti-Gang Bill.
“I’ve never experienced the manner of objectionable and vile attack such as the one that I’m now being subjected to,” Rowley said in a statement to Parliament yesterday.
“I categorically reject any assertion or suggestion that I refused to negotiate or was uncooperative during deliberations on the Anti-Gang Bill. The bill which was first read was substantially amended to give effect to the many requests made by the Opposition.”
Rowley was responding on comments and statements concerning his participation in final stages of debate on the bill earlier this week.
The bill, which required Opposition support, was defeated after both sides failed to agree on a sunset clause period by which the legislation would end.
But yesterday, Rowley said, “During the consideration of the bill, several issues were discussed and compromises reached. In fact, the inclusion of a sunset clause as a proposed amendment was a result of my own initiative.
“It was included after I listened to the Opposition’s views, held discussions with the drafters and Government MPs - and more particularly, made a personal intervention with the Opposition Whip.
“After exhaustive discussions and exchange of ideas on the duration of the sunset clause, which I insisted should be inserted into the bill to give effect to the Opposition’s concerns, the question on the inclusion of a sunset clause for a period of four years was put. Absolutely no Opposition MP voted against that proposal as this specific clause was put.”
He said it’s been his experience and understanding that when an Opposition feels strongly about any particular issue during consideration of a bill in final (committee) stages, they’ll usually register disagreement when the question is put on the particular clause.
“This didn’t happen on this occasion,” he said.
Rowley said Parliament’s official report of debates - called the Hansard - will show the question for the inclusion of a new sunset clause was put to all members three times.
“On each occasion there was not one single dissenting voice. So it’s indeed shocking to hear the Opposition leader now seeking to defend her actions (not not supporting the bill) by claiming this position was motivated by my refusal to include a sunset clause,” he said.
Rowley said he felt “affronted and offended” because he’d “extended himself and made a very concerted effort” to ensure Government “reached across the aisle” to give serious consideration to Opposition concerns on the bill.
Since Parliament’s Hansard is the official record of what is said and done, he added, “I now leave it for the people of T&T to read the Hansard and view the footage of the debate to arrive at the true position.”