Prime Minister Dr Rowley – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale
THE Prime Minister has written to Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to try to start joint talks on solving the crime upsurge, according to a letter dated Saturday signed by Dr Rowley. This follows the PM’s promise to do so, at last Thursday’s post-Cabinet briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s.
He proposed that each side nominate a four-person team for talks on a pre-agreed agenda.
Rowley’s invitation was based on the two leaders’ desire to put the national interest first towards securing citizens.
“In keeping with our mutual desire to put our country’s national interest first, I invite you as Leader of the Opposition, to participate in the following exercise which is aimed at exploring the options available to us as parliamentarians to address the matter of the safety and security of the population of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
“I would like to receive from you, in writing, your proposal(s) which you believe are worthy of bipartisan discussions between the Government and the Opposition.”
He said the Government was ready to share its own “ideas, programmes and policies” for inclusion in these talks.
“It is envisaged that your proposal(s), like the Government’s, would include tools designed to lawfully confront the criminal elements that are increasingly emboldened as they operate in TT.”
Rowley proposed four-person teams each from Government and Opposition to discuss the initiatives proposed, as guided by a crafted agenda formed from the joint submissions which he anticipated would be in hand within a fortnight.
“I trust that my invitation will be received in the most positive way and that our teams could meet with the requisite spirit of collaboration and productivity that is required by the nature of this persistent problem which we have all been confronting for quite some time.
“I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest. Best wishes.”
Princes Town MP Barry Padarath on Sunday said NTA leader and former police commissioner Gary Griffith will be on the Opposition’s team to meet Government team for crime talks. At a briefing at the Opposition Leader’s office in Port of Spain, he said the Opposition was willing to bring real solutions to curb crime but questioned the Government’s general effectiveness.
He said the Opposition has always been committed to coming to the table with real, tangible solutions, not to complain.
Padarath said the Opposition has met the Government before, as said by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
“When we go to those meetings we have provided the Government with solutions, recommendations, of both long term and short term measures.”
These measures could be enacted tomorrow, if the Government had the political will, he added. He said, for example, a new ministry of homeland security could house the immigration division, to allow the Ministry of National Security to stay focused on fighting guns, gangs and human-trafficking.
He said Persad-Bissessar has said all must come together.
“It is not just a Government and Opposition approach. We have done that time and time again and we have seen no results.
“This Government has an implementation deficit. That is the greatest challenge the Government is facing.”
Padarath said the Government has previously consulted the population, business community and Opposition for ideas, but ended up with an implementation deficit in across the board in almost every ministry. “I want to say on behalf of the Opposition, to the Prime Minister this morning, ‘Humble yourself.'”
He said the Government had failed on crime fighting so now must let those with a proven track-record come to the table.
Padarath said, “It is no secret that one of the most vocal persons who has delivered to TT – real, tangible results in terms of bringing down serious crime and also the murder rate – is former commissioner (of police) and former minister of national security Gary Griffith.”
Apparently referring to the UNC-NTA accommodation in the recent local government elections, he said it was the UNC that had made the first move towards collaboration on crime, not Dr Rowley unlike reported in one newspaper’s recent front-page.
Padarath said it was Persad-Bissessar who in the most responsible way had called on the PM to meet.
He said the two sides had met last February. He endorsed Griffith’s call for an all hands on deck approach against crime.
Padarath advised against sole reliance on prayers against crime, saying, “God helps those who help themselves.”
Saying Griffith had proven himself as former police commissioner and former minister of national security, Padarath claimed Rowley had admitted his inability to bring any new talent to the table. He viewed Rowley and Hinds as symbols of bungling failure, even as the national security apparatus was allegedly collapsing.
“Therefore the Opposition’s view is that yes we will go to the table, but we will go to the table with persons who we believe can provide those real, tangible solutions, (and) that will work with us.”
He said previously the UNC had made recommendations to the Government but their lack of political had not brought about those solutions.
“So therefore Captain Gary Griffith will be joining us and will be part of the team that the UNC takes forward in terms of providing solutions on the national security issue. So Prime Minister, humble yourself!
“Put aside the hate and the acrimony that Mr (Patrick) Manning spoke about, because that hate and acrimony is transferring itself into the national security environment of this country.” He said TT needed all hands on deck. “But we need hands on deck, most importantly, that can bring about solutions.”
This story was originally published with the title “PM writes Opposition Leader on crime talks” and has been adjusted to include additional details. See original post below.