Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 10th 2016 Contents A5
Tuesday, May 10, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
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While several Independent Senators
didn t attend yesterday s meeting with the
Attorney General on the Strategic Services
Agency (SSA) Bill, the Opposition UNC
has reluctantly agreed to meet with the
AG on the bill this morning.
This, as Senators prepared to debate the
controversial bill this afternoon where several
Independents are expected to air their views
In debate last Tuesday, Independent Sen-
ators Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir and Melissa
Ramkissoon rejected the bill. The Opposi-
tion, also panning the proposed law, cited
concerns about the SSA director being a
political appointee, called for amendments
to allow an independent oversight body to
supervise the SSA and urged deeper exam-
ination by a Parliament select committee.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi then
invited Opposition and Independent Sen-
ators to separate meetings with experts on
the bill ahead of today s debate.
The Independents were asked to meet
the AG at 4 pm yesterday. But the Oppo-
sition took issue with being relegated to a
meeting at 11.30 am today (two hours before
debate on the Bill). The Opposition had
threatened to "storm" yesterday s meeting
with the Independents at Tower D, Parlia-
Al-Rawi wrote both Independent and
Opposition benches on Sunday, noting that
the UNC Government had held in-camera
sessions with Independent members on
bills, claimed the PNM wasn t invited and
explaining why separate meetings were
T&T Guardian checks with Independent
Senators yesterday confirmed that Senators
Hugh Roach and Stephen Creese had been
scheduled to attend yesterday s 4 pm meet-
Creese said he wanted to hear what was
being proposed. He wondered if the issues
the AG wanted to address hinged on nation-
al security and couldn t be discussed in
today s public debate.
"Right now I m still neutral on the bill,"
Creese said prior to the meeting.
Prior to the meeting four of the nine
Independents told T&T Guardian they could
not attend for various reasons.
Independent Senator Sophia Chote said
she was not attending the AG s meeting
and had set out her reasons in an email to
Al-Rawi. She said it was not appropriate
to make those public but her thoughts would
be clear on the overall matter - bill included
- when she speaks in debate, likely today.
Independent Taurel Shrikissoon said he
had a prior engagement and emailed the
AG that he was unable to make it yesterday.
He said he would give his presentation in
the Senate today. Independent Jennifer Raf-
foul, also absent, is scheduled to speak in
today s debate.
Independent Senator David Small, speak-
ing to T&T Guardian en route to the airport,
said he was bound for an overseas meeting
and had missed last week s debate also due
to a Washington meeting. Small said while
he wasn t against anti-crime mechanisms,
he thought the bill was too wide and needed
"I am not greatly perturbed but there
are a couple issues we need to sharpen. It
needs a second look. Divergence of view is
healthy democracy. Perhaps in the meetings,
things will be explained. We have to try to
work out as many flaws as we can for T&T,"
he added, suggesting scrutiny by a special
committee. Independent Paul Richard was
At a media briefing, at the Parliament
yesterday, members of the Opposition
explained why they would attend today s
"While our senators are extremely dis-
pleased by your handling of this matter, we
are left with little or no choice but to accept
your invitation to attend a meeting... at
11.30 am (today)."
The Opposition s letter, detailing its dis-
pleasure at Al-Rawi s actions, called on
Government to delay debate for at least a
week for its members to caucus on matters
raised in the meeting.
UNC s Gerald Ramdeen said the AG s
meeting with the Independents flies in the
face of criticisms his (AG s) leader Keith
Rowley made in April 2013 when he com-
plained about the then People s Partner-
ship government holding meetings with
Independents on legislation.
Ramdeen said mistakes were made in
the past and the UNC intended to do the
right thing. "The PNM said we must work
together but this isn t working together,"
UNC s Wade Mark said the AG s brief
meeting with the Opposition today demon-
strated contempt for the Opposition.
Al-Rawi, during a break in the meeting
with those Independents who attended yes-
terday s meeting, said "several" came. He
declined to say who.
He said the meeting wasn t a lobby but
involved national security officials clarifying
issues. He said it was advisable to separate
the Independents and Opposition since the
former didn t operate under a "whip (leader)
but the Opposition did.
He said the UNC forgot the PP had held
meetings with Independents on bills. Al-
Rawi also said Rowley s April 2013 remarks
on "secret" meetings with Independents
was in the context of the then PNM Oppo-
sition not being invited those meetings.
On whether the Government was giving
the Opposition too short a time for today s
meeting, he said the Opposition had already
said it wouldn t support the bill. He said
the Opposition s amendments were being
Even though there
has been a noticeable
decrease in speeding
on the nation s high-
ways with the intro-
duction of speed
radar guns, a teenage
driver died yesterday
from injuries sus-
tained in a collision.
Sunil Maraj, 19, of
Temple Street, Warn-
er Village, Charlieville,
was seriously injured
after he collided with
a car along the Munroe Road flyover on Sunday.
He succumbed to his injuries around 2.30 am yes-
terday at the Eric Williams Medical Science Complex,
Speaking with the media at the Forensic Science
Centre, St James, yesterday, relatives of the dead
teen said drivers were still disregarding the law and
believed that led to the death of Maraj.
Relatives claimed he was heading east along the
flyover when another vehicle, a tow truck, gave him
a "bad drive" forcing Maraj to swerve and collide
with an oncoming car, driven by one of Maraj s
The truck, they said, never stopped.
"I would encourage young people to do defensive
driving (course)...all drivers, whether young or old.
Make it compulsory to do some defensive driving.
It does help," one of Maraj s uncle s said, adding
the speed guns does not make him feel any safer
on the road.
Maraj was heading home around 2 pm when the
accident happened. His relatives said the teen looked
up to his uncles and enjoyed fishing and bird-rearing.
AG's SSA meeting
...Opposition to attend
n n D n
y y See story
on Page A15.
PHOTO COURTESY THE
OFFICE OF THE PRIME
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