Kamla: UNC ensured citizens were protected

p­po­si­tion Leader Kam­la Per­sad-Bisses­sar says the UNC on­ly agreed to sup­port the Civ­il As­set Re­cov­ery and Man­age­ment and Un­ex­plained Wealth Bill, 2019, af­ter it en­sured the fun­da­men­tal rights of cit­i­zens were not erod­ed and that the prop­er­ty of in­no­cent cit­i­zens would not be in jeop­ardy.

The bill was passed unan­i­mous­ly Mon­day night af­ter the Gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion agreed to sev­er­al changes to the ini­tial bill pro­posed by At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi dur­ing an al­most 12-hour­long ses­sion.

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said the UNC pi­lot­ed more than 60 amend­ments to en­sure that the prop­er­ty of law-abid­ing cit­i­zens could on­ly be sub­ject to the pro­vi­sions of the leg­is­la­tion where it was ac­quired and as­so­ci­at­ed with the com­mis­sion of spec­i­fied of­fences in the Pro­ceeds of Crime Act.

She said this was a sig­nif­i­cant change from the orig­i­nal bill where the Gov­ern­ment pro­posed that pro­ceed­ings could be com­menced for any of­fence, which would have placed the prop­er­ty of thou­sands of cit­i­zens at risk of be­ing tak­en by the State.

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said she al­so con­vinced the Gov­ern­ment to re­move the claus­es through­out the bill that al­lowed any po­lice of­fi­cer and any cus­toms of­fi­cer to com­mence pro­ceed­ings un­der the bill and to re­place this with the Comp­trol­ler of Cus­toms and Ex­cise and the Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice or any of­fi­cer above the rank of in­spec­tor.

"This en­sured that the fears of cit­i­zens that they will be tar­get­ed by low­er-rank­ing of­fi­cers who abuse the pow­ers con­ferred by the leg­is­la­tion was elim­i­nat­ed," Per­sad-Bisses­sar said.

"Cit­i­zens’ right to pri­va­cy was se­cured and pro­tect­ed as the Gov­ern­ment quick­ly ac­cept­ed the Op­po­si­tion’s sug­ges­tion that made it com­pul­so­ry that any doc­u­ments filed un­der the act be sealed by the court and not be for the eyes of every mem­ber of the pub­lic. This pro­tect­ed cit­i­zens’ pri­vate and con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion from falling in­to the wrong hands."

She added, “From the out­set the Op­po­si­tion main­tained its po­si­tion that while we sup­port any leg­is­la­tion that al­lows law en­force­ment to com­bat the crim­i­nal el­e­ment and go af­ter ill-got­ten gains, we will not sup­port leg­is­la­tion that com­pro­mis­es the rights of cit­i­zens, un­der­mines the rule of law and places in the hands of law en­force­ment the abil­i­ty to tar­get in­no­cent cit­i­zens and un­law­ful­ly take away their prop­er­ty.”

Per­sad-Bisses­sar re­it­er­at­ed her par­ty’s com­mit­ment to work­ing to pro­tect the rights of cit­i­zens and to hold the Gov­ern­ment ac­count­able and in check.

"The coun­try is bet­ter off with the pas­sage of this leg­is­la­tion, which now strikes the right bal­ance be­tween the cit­i­zen and the State due to the work of the Op­po­si­tion," she said.

 - by Rhondor Dowlat

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