(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – The controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill was in final stages heading for passage in the Senate late last night.
After the majority of the Opposition United National Congress Senators had spoken around 8.45 last night, UNC Senator Gerard Ramdeen indicated via text to the T&T Guardian that they would support the bill. Debate on the bill started at 2 pm yesterday after it was passed in the Lower House on Tuesday, following rocky final stages there.
Earlier, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi, in piloting the debate, said provisions in the bill would allow Government the opportunity to defend T&T nationals and to tell foreign states that they’re mischaracterising and wrongfully blacklisting citizens.
Al-Rawi said, “Many nationals have been mischaracterised; as a person of Iraqi origin I’ve had secondary and triple screening.”
He said the bill deals with how people are labelled foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs). Once a traveller to designated zones notifies authorities, the information allows Government to alert foreign entities along the way so people won’t be mischaracterised, he said. Travellers can also report “in” 30 days after return.
He denounced claims the bill was anti-Muslim.
“It only targets terrorists – stop bringing unto yourself something which is not! It has no reference to Islam.”
He said “Shane Crawford, Algernon and Glasgow”, who were arrested in the 2011 state of emergency, put T&T on the global map of terrorism and this was a risk to T&T’s economy.
“Crawford took the name ‘Sa’ad al Trinidadi’. ‘Sa’ad’ means ‘happiness’. So it was ‘happiness from Trinidad,” he added, noting foreign media flooded T&T when it was alleged 135 nationals became terrorist fighters.
“But the tens of thousands joining ISIS from the US, Europe and Asia weren’t discussed.”
Al-Rawi said 17 per cent of BP’s global production is in T&T and if a terrorist “decided to rock our energy platform” the world economy would be affected. He said T&T would be blacklisted by 190 countries if the bill wasn’t passed yesterday.
UNC Senator Saddam Hosein endorsed views that terrorists aren’t Muslims.
“It hurts my heart, hearing talk of terrorism in the name of Islam – Islam means ‘peace’. It shouldn’t be used for ‘rank’.”
Hosein said he was passionate on the issue since his name was “Saddam Hosein (name of the deceased Iraqi leader).
“But I’ll never be a terrorist!” Hosein declared.
He said T&T isn’t immune from terrorism, noting the 1990 failed coup attempt, 2005 Port-of-Spain bomb explosions and the recent Carnival threat.
Hosein added that extremism is a mental health issue which the Government needs to address via rehabilitation programmes for those with such tendencies and re-integration for those returning from conflict zones.
“People wanting to leave have loss of opportunity, no jobs – but ISIS offers money. We need to deal with root causes and prevent youths from becoming radicalised,” he said.
Independent Senator Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir fully supported the bill, which he said was the best that could be produced currently.
Independent Senator Melissa Ramkissoon called for future amendments after the bill is passed which would inform the public how many nationals who joined ISIS had returned to T&T and “are living among us.” She said she wanted to learn from authorities in her own country what the situation was, as opposed to hearing it from US sources.