UNC calls on citizens to condemn Wealth Bill

The Unit­ed Na­tion­al Con­gress (UNC) is again call­ing on cit­i­zens to join to­geth­er to con­demn two pieces of leg­is­la­tion be­ing put for­ward by Gov­ern­ment.

Speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence at the Op­po­si­tion Leader's Of­fice in Port-of-Spain yes­ter­day, Op­po­si­tion Sen­a­tors Wade Mark and Ani­ta Haynes re­newed the par­ty's crit­i­cism of the Non-Prof­it Or­gan­i­sa­tions Bill and the Civ­il As­set Re­cov­ery and Man­age­ment and Un­ex­plained Wealth Bill.

"We are hop­ing that with the pres­sure of the peo­ple band­ing to­geth­er be­hind what is right and just for our so­ci­ety, that we would get the At­tor­ney Gen­er­al to pause on this leg­is­la­tion and aim to pro­pose the best leg­is­la­tion for the leg­isla­tive aims," Haynes said.

While Haynes and Mark stat­ed that the par­ty was not op­posed to leg­is­la­tion to com­bat mon­ey laun­der­ing and ter­ror­ist fi­nanc­ing, in prin­ci­ple, they said it is con­cerned over the lack of con­sul­ta­tion on both pieces of leg­is­la­tion.

Mark claimed that nei­ther was list­ed in the gov­ern­ment's leg­isla­tive agen­da, which was re­leased by At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al Rawi short­ly af­ter as­sum­ing of­fice.

"These were man­u­fac­tured and pro­duced by this gov­ern­ment on the huff and on the run as they be­come more un­pop­u­lar. They are cling­ing on to pow­er by any means nec­es­sary," Mark said.

He al­so ac­cused Al-Rawi of us­ing tac­tics to en­sure that the pieces of leg­is­la­tion on­ly re­quire a sim­ple ma­jor­i­ty to be passed in Par­lia­ment.

"As far as we are con­cerned a spe­cial con­sti­tu­tion­al ma­jor­i­ty of three-fifths is re­quired as these in­fringe on prop­er­ty and hu­man rights," Mark said.

In terms of the Non-Prof­it Or­gan­i­sa­tions Bill, Mark and Haynes ques­tioned the penal­ties be­ing in­tro­duced for those who fail to sub­mit their records for analy­sis by the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Unit (FIU) and Reg­is­trar Gen­er­al.

"This is to­tal­ly and ab­solute­ly un­nec­es­sary...It is a dag­ger in the heart of reg­u­lar peo­ple of T&T," he said.

Re­fer­ring to the oth­er bill which al­lows the State to seize sus­pi­cious prop­er­ty and call up­on its own­ers to prove the source of fund­ing, Mark de­scribed its as dra­con­ian and puni­tive.

While he ad­mit­ted that there were safe­guards with­in the leg­is­la­tion, Mark said they would in­suf­fi­cient to pre­vent ar­bi­trary and ma­li­cious ac­tions by po­lice. He al­so said that cit­i­zens would have to bear the costs and in­con­ve­nience in in­stances of seizures as they would have to hire at­tor­neys to chal­lenge it in court.

"This is not a com­mu­nist state where you can take peo­ple's prop­er­ty on mere sus­pi­cion. You are look­ing for ri­ots and rev­o­lu­tion," Mark said.

Claim­ing that sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion was deemed un­con­sti­tu­tion­al in Aus­tralia and oth­er coun­tries, Mark said the par­ty plans to chal­lenge it all the way to the Privy Coun­cil if it is even­tu­al­ly passed in its cur­rent for­mat.

- by Derek Achong

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