T&T AG: Soldiers needed to help fight crime

(Trinidad Express) If soldiers were present near the home of the pregnant teenager who was shot and killed in East Port of Spain earlier this month, there was a possibility she might have been alive today.
This is according to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, who said the recent spike in murders in the capital city and Laventille was proof that the assistance of soldiers was needed in fighting crime.
Ramlogan was speaking to reporters yesterday before going to assist with the painting of a home near Palmiste Park, Phillipine.
“The bandits do not seem to fear the police the way they fear the soldiers. The greatest objection to the ‘Soldier Police Bill’ was that soldiers are trained to kill and people are scared of them and that is why we should not give them police powers,” he said.
“I want to say today to the 16-year-old pregnant girl who was murdered in cold blood together with her unborn child, maybe if the soldiers were there she might be alive today and that child could have been a future (Prime Minister) Kamla Persad-Bissessar to rule this country.”
Rasheeda Gomez was shot on August 13 along with her cousin Nyam Antoine, 16, who suffered from sickle-cell anaemia. Police said a gang leader from Laventille was responsible for the killings.
“Society needs protection from the abuse by criminals first and foremost, everything else comes second. If a police abuse their power or a soldier, they could show the state, you know, and you get compensation, but someone murdering your 16-year-old child there is no prospect of the child coming back. We have to weigh sometimes and see which one is the lesser of the two evils.”
The possibility of the State granting arrest powers to soldiers was a matter which he will be raising continuously, the Attorney General said.
But he could not say whether the “Soldier Bill” will again be raised in Parliament.
On Thursday, another meeting between the Government and Opposition is expected to take place to discuss the fight against crime.
Ramlogan said he intended to raise discussions regarding the Anti-Gang Act, concerning reverse burden of proof.
“That means if someone has reasonable grounds to suspect someone of being a gang member or a gang leader, the police arrest and charge and the onus of the burden of proof shifts on to the accused person to prove to the court that they are not in fact a gang member.
“They will have to lead evidence as to why it is they find themselves in the situation that would lead the police to believe that they are in fact involved in illegal gang-related activity. “
Reverse burden of proof was evident in some anti-drug laws of the country, he said.
Ramlogan said he also intended to raise gang member identification because in Trinidad gang members could identify other members by the way they wore their pants and other “ innovative” methods.
He said he was hopeful the Government will gain the Opposition’s support regarding the Anti-Gang Act.
And he said he was pleased to see media reports of police officers under probe for the possible leakage of information with regards to police raids in Laventille.
Ramlogan said: “It is clear that someone is compromising the integrity of police operations when they are making these raids. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out.”


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