Kamla: We remained steadfast in our position on Anti-Terrorism Bill and ensured passage of good law despite the attempts by the Prime Minister to railroad the debate with his deranged mutterings in and out of Parliament.
The UNC Opposition remained steadfast in its position on the Anti-Terrorism Amendment Bill and the need for critical amendments to ensure that in the fight against terrorism we kept the delicate balance between security and human rights.
We note that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter; Nelson Mandela and the ANC were once on a terrorist watch list.
The Opposition did not waiver from its position. We accepted and supported about 18 of the 45 clauses of the Bill recommended by the JSC and, we proposed amendments to about seven clauses. The Attorney General in the main accepted our amendments and we proceeded to vote in favour of the amended Bill. So, it was the Government who acceded to the Opposition’s amendments after the concerns of the Opposition were made clear.
The Opposition UNC has maintained its policy position that we will only participate in the passage of good law. The Government has consistently sought to expand Executive power and has shown a callous disregard for the separation of powers. This is not something we UNC will condone.
The Opposition held firm and demanded that the Government do the right thing. The Opposition was resolute that the powers of the Attorney General should not be expanded.
The work of the JSC and the bipartisan approach that was adopted early in the debate was almost railroaded by the Prime Minister’s deranged mutterings in and out of Parliament.
While the Opposition submitted amendments and filed submissions in the JSC the Prime Minister, showing no good faith, led a one-man campaign against good governance. It remains clear that the passage of this Bill was not a priority for Dr Rowley as he did not think it necessary to attend Parliament yesterday to cast his vote.
The work of the Opposition is evident in the amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Amendment Bill and our vote was reflective of our commitment to passing good law.
The Opposition amendments were, inter alia, as follows:
· Clause 5-
(i) to insert in the definition section the definition of “DPP and “Central Authority”; accepted by government
(ii) to remove the word “Taliban” from the definition of the 1988 Committee, to ensure consistency with the JSC’s deletion of other Arabic words to avoid any possible stigmatising of any group; accepted by government
· Clause 22-
(i) insert that where the Minister of National Security declares a geographical area it must be made subject to negative resolution of Parliament. This enhances the level of accountability and transparency which was lacking. The Orders can now be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny. accepted by government
(ii) inserting a provision that where a person travels to a declared geographical zone, with a child, but did not give prior required notice to the COP, that person would have an equal chance, as travelling adults, to provide such notification/reasons within 30 days of their return to T&T; accepted by government.
Clause 27 (d)
where a person is likely to be affected by a listing order or a freezing order, insert that as far as practicable that person shall be served with a copy of such orders. This is very important as a person against whom ex parte order/s are made would have a better opportunity to know about such orders and could move to court for a review of same; accepted by government
· Clauses 27, 28 and 34-
the AG proposed to give himself the power to refer a matter to the CoP and after the investigation, the CoP would be mandated to give to the AG the results of the police investigation. The Opposition indicated that these are extraordinary powers being given to the AG which will interfere with the constitutionality of the Bill in breach of the doctrine of Separation of Powers. The Leader of the Opposition proposed to give the AG two options: if he wants his power to apply to th4e court for a listing order to remain, either place it in the hands of the DPP or return to the law as it stands. The AG retreated and returned to the law as it stands, removing the provision that he will be obliged to have in his possession a police investigation. Accepted by government
· Clause 36-
the AG accepted the entire amendment by the Leader of the Opposition. The AG proposed to give himself the power to request from the FIU financial information of any citizen. The Leader of Opposition indicated that this power can be abused and proposed that the law as it previously stood should stand. That the AG can only have powers to request financial information on designated terrorist entities and individuals. accepted by government
· New Clause 46
the Opposition proposed that the Minister of National Security lay annually a report on the progress of the legislation indicating the number of prosecutions and persons listed as a terrorist under the Act and any Orders made re declaration of a geographical zone. This was accepted by government and inserted in a different clause of the Bill,