Opposition MP Roodal Moonilal yesterday vented his feelings in the House of Representatives over Government’s decision to debate the Administration of Justice (Electronic Monitoring) Bill over the COVID-19 pandemic.
In delivering his contribution, Moonilal said when the bill was first brought to the House by the then People’s Partnership government in 2012, the then Opposition PNM has serious reservations about managing offenders.
He said for over four years the Government has been unable to implement the electronic monitoring system and brought it to the House at a time when the country was grappling with a national crisis.
“In a time when we are driven by this pandemic…where all things have changed. When we look around it is a dramatic reflection of a catastrophe that has befallen us… we are here to deal with electronic monitoring and not issues directly revolving the COVID-19 management.”
Instead of dealing with legislation to bring relief to people who became jobless and businesses that had to shut its doors as a result of the crisis, Moonilal said the irrelevant bill came up.
The bill was piloted by Minister of National Security Stuart Young who assured that they were ready to operationalise the legislation once it is passed.
Young said one benefit to be derived from the ankle bracelets was that “it can also be imposed in lieu of a sentence, especially for minor offences. This would reduce the number of persons being sent to our nation’s prisons.”
He said it would cost less to monitor a person using the bracelet than to incarcerate them.
But Moonilal asked Young how was the bill linked to COVID-19.
“Is it that the prisoners who are to be released will be outfitted with electronic monitoring devices?”
If there was no connection, Moonilal said the bill would be a waste of time.
“We ought to not be here if this does not have a direct link to COVID-19 strategies. When I was trying to make the link with COVID-19 and this legislation, what struck me, is that without electronic monitoring all of us are still in a period of lockdown.”
“I shudder to think that this Government called us out here today where we are bathing in Lysol and wearing masks…that we came today and this has nothing with COVID-19. This will get me angry, Madam Speaker,” Moonilal said.
The Oropouche East MP said the bill will not help the country to manage overcrowding and social distancing.
He said if it was not linked to the pandemic the Opposition should not have been “dragged her with masks and hand sanitiser and all the risks associated with congregations like these.”
Moonilal said there was a blind spot with the regulations.
He said the Government used iGovTT to procure a provider for the ankle bracelets.
“But we understand that a local provider has been selected but that local provider is in partnership with an Israeli-based company. They have been selected. We understand that the devices are ready to go…and just as they are ready to go amendments come which is a keep back.”
Moonilal said the contract for the bracelets from his understanding came at a price of $10.3 million.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi in his contribution said some of the 300 ankle bracelets will be used on perpetrators of domestic violence which has risen during the country’s crisis.
Al-Rawi said they will also allow the benefit of electronic monitoring for a child who is convicted of an offence.
As AG, Al-Rawi said they will look at the issue of children “who are charged with very serious matters. And therefore, this allows the court the discretion to treat with our children in a very unique case.”