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Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, moves the second reading of the Anti-Gang Bill, 2021 during the sitting of the Parliament, yesterday.

Systems to pay fines electronically to the court for non-wearing of masks and other issues moved a step closer to launching after the Senate passed law for this yesterday.

The bill to amend legislation for electronic payments into and out of court will now be debated in the House of Representatives today.

It was passed in the Senate yesterday by Government and Independent senators – but minus Opposition senators, who were absent.

The Opposition “blanked” the Senate as their colleagues had boycotted last Friday’s House of Representatives sitting. The latter move was to highlight their concern on COVID protection after the Prime Minister tested positive for the virus last week.

As a result of UNC Senators’ absence yesterday, no urgent questions on national issues were posed to the Government and Opposition questions on the agenda weren’t posed, although Government stated it was prepared to answer them.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, piloting the bill, said there was an air of calm and peace in the Senate which he hadn’t seen in his 11 years in Parliament.

He said it was refreshing to see as the holy month of Ramadan starts.

Al-Rawi said the bill will remove the need for people’s presence and having to line up at courts to pay fines for non-mask-wearing, maintenance or other matters, including traffic tickets. The latter constitutes a majority of court caseload.

Al-Rawi said the COVID pandemic had brought the need to examine congregating.

He said the bill unlocked opportunities for people to pay fines online with credit or debit cards without leaving their homes and at any time.

On queries, Al-Rawi explained that the payer will have to bear a three per cent fee plus the full fine/payment amount. He said it has worked in the Family Court and other places.

Transactions to move money between accounts are permitted in the system. Special cards issued by the judiciary will assist “unbanked” people who lack credit cards. For some who paid maintenance and had problems since court records were lost, an app in the new system will allow the payer and receiver to see when money is paid.

Al-Rawi said his ministry’s Legal Affairs division did “beta testing” of this “alpha product.” He said there will soon be no need to go to the Companies Division to pay for filing documents.

His ministry is the Caribbean’s first to have the new system.

The Public Administration ministry will soon also facilitate systems for “bedside filing.”

Al-Rawi added, “This Government pledges to work for the benefit of peace, order and good governance of society: we will turn up every single time. We will do our jobs.

“We’ll continue to persevere under the unjustified criticism brought by a now lost Opposition – we’re determined to carry T&T into better days.”

AG has COVID fatigue

Speaking on a subsequent motion regarding maritime quarantine aspects, Al-Rawi admitted to feeling “COVID fatigue.”

He said he’d successfully defended litigation brought against the state regarding COVID-19, winning all – especially massive amounts of Opposition litigation.

“We continue to say sunlight doesn’t cure COVID, a dome won’t protect T&T and the vaccination roll–out is something still to be measured.

“I can attest to COVID fatigue – how people feel under this pandemic, how tired we are of living in the situation we’re in. It’s not easy to be on diligent watch 24 hours daily – something we’re reminded to do every now and then. We are all human. Nobody’s perfect, We need to make sure we do our very best.”