Renuka Singh

The National Security Council (NSC) has approved the use of pepper spray as a “device for safety”.

The turnaround on the use of pepper spray was announced by Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi at a People’s National Movement (PNM) meeting in Belmont last night and it comes after several rounds of discussions about the inherent dangers of the pepper spray.

On Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat was responding on behalf of National Security Minister Stuart Young on the matter and said then that the NSC was expected to discuss a report and make recommendations to Cabinet.

He said that in the wrong hands, pepper spray was more deadly than a firearm.

However, Al-Rawi confirmed that the NSC deliberated and gave the approval.

“You see, it is a double-edged sword, in the wrong hands it can be used against you but we deserve a fighting chance,” Al-Rawi said.

“I drafted the law already,” he said.

“Because of the direction of the Prime Minister after the Minister of National Security did the prudent thing to bring policy approved by experts for what should be done,” he said.

Al-Rawi said the Government was trying to deliver all the things the people called for on their protest placards but for the most part, was barred by the Opposition.

He said that the rules to regulate ‘PH’ taxis began back in 2016 with the Government changes to the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act.

He listed all the improvements the Government made to the existing legislation to help change the criminal justice system.

He pointed to all the accomplishments of his Ministry, including the establishment of the Children’s Court, the installation of cameras in the prisons to allow some 15,000 cases to be heard virtually and establishment of offices for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

“But does that make you feel better?” he asked.

“Is that what people are looking forward to for their leaders to talk about?” he asked.

He said that the Government wanted to introduce Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) regulations for PH taxis to allow passengers to scan the drivers’ information and criminal records.

“But Senator Saddam Hussein, the UNC voice, says no to that, that is an invasion of your privacy,” he said.

“There is no privacy, Senator Hussein on the public road,” he said.

Al-Rawi said that the country was looking to all its leaders, both in politics and business for direction on how to protect women and the vulnerable in society.

“They are looking for solutions to problems that have existed for a while,” he said.

Al-Rawi said that the problems have become “mundane” after tragedies and then there is a sense of resurgence for direction and analysis of the issues.

“I prayed for T&T to fall into the analysis of issues because then we can prosper,” he said.

AL-Rawi said that despite the Government’s long list of accomplishments in the criminal justice sector, “good news does not sell”.

He said that in reading the placards at demonstrations and listening to the people, he noticed they are more interested in changing the rules on bail, on evidence and sexual offences and murder.

Al-Rawi said that the job of politicians was to go to Parliament and pass laws to help citizens.

“Yes we must have compassion, yes we must join our brothers and sisters in empathy and I want to tell my brother Stuart Young that I heard him loud and clear rededicate himself to passion and understanding,” he said.

On the vein of changing the rules, Al-Rawi spoke about the Evidence (Amendment) Bill which comes up for debate Friday.

“We say to the nation, you cannot have a conviction, am acquittal, you cannot have a trial unless you have evidence. There’s no more fundamental an aspect to the criminal justice system than evidence,” he said.

He said that witnesses do not always turn up for trial because trial takes 20 years.

“And though we have improved that system and though it is working far better than it ever was before…the fact is that the witness protection is a critical aspect of safety for people,” he said.

Al-Rawi said that the Government, with support from the Independent bench, was able to pass the Evidence Bill, which sought to set confirmed parameters for suspect identification.

“So the identification does not become an issue and the man walks free or is convicted unfairly,” he said.

Al-Rawi said the Bill proposes use of one-way mirrors in identification parades and protection for vulnerable witnesses which include rape victims and their families.

Al-Rawi said he was not addressing the Opposition but was talking to the population.

“We want to change the rules of bail and the restrictions to bail just like the placards and just like the voices that have risen, we join them in the issue of restricting bail in the court,” he said.

The AG said that according to the Bill, sexual crimes get no bail for 120 days.

“One strike with aggravation and you’re out,” he said.

Days ago, a young woman, Tony Vincent lashed out at Al-Rawi saying that she was not crying “crocodile tears” for her lost sister and Al-Rawi has since said that the opposition sympathisers doctored a video of his contribution in Parliament to show him saying that about the protestors and people vigils.

Last night the AG said he spoke to Vincent and explained that the video was doctored and she apologised.

“To Tony Vincent, you have nothing to apologise for, you are the victim. You were abused,” he said.