Jan 01, 2016 News
By Abena Rockcliffe
The opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has condemned the severity of the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist Related Activities Bill which was passed in the National Assembly on Wednesday.
The opposition party is of the opinion that the mandatory death penalty is too extreme in dealing with terrorism.
As he introduced the Bill, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, told the House that the Bill seeks to help Guyana join the fight against an enemy of the world—terrorism. Williams said that the legislation comes at a time when terrorism stalks the world. He stressed upon the opposition that the National Assembly should provide a united front on the critical issue.
Williams explained that the Bill has two major clauses that speak to Recommendation 35 of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) rules.
Recommendation 35 requires the reduction of certain laws, in compliance with three international conventions. Those conventions are the International Convention For The Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols thereto, and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.
Williams said that the Bill makes it illegal for someone to commit a terrorist act, assist in a terrorist act, aid and abet a terrorist, or even attempt to commit an act of terrorism.
He added that the Bill criminalizes the recruitment of people to commit a terrorist act, it criminalizes the equipping and outfitting of people to commit an act of terrorism, as well as the raising of funds and deployment of property to assist persons to commit terrorist acts.
The Bill also makes provision for extradition in certain cases. It criminalizes dealings with biological, chemical, nuclear weapons and radioactive materials.
Williams did not fail to point out yet again that it is PPP who failed to put this legislation in place since 2011, even though it was asked to do so by CFATF and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
Former Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee told the House that the PPP/C is inclined to support any Bill that seeks to strike out terrorism. He noted that the PPP has an unblemished record in this regard and is obliged to be part of the journey towards making the world terrorist-free.
Rohee even lauded government’s efforts to move in this direction. However, he bemoaned the fact that “my colleagues on the other side” failed to address the challenges that the Guyana Police Force may face in dealing with certain provisions of the Bill.
Rohee cautioned, “In your zeal to pass this Bill, do not look over the human rights issues of the individuals that may be caught up in the matter”.
He reminded the gathering of the adage “more haste, less speed”. He said that more time should be allowed for consultation and “it is too serious an issue not to consult.”
Opposition Members Gail Teixeira and Anil Nandlall concurred with Rohee. They said that the PPP wants to support the Bill, but just not in its current form.
Teixeira said that the Bill, even though important, “is a wicked piece of legislation.” She said, too, that the language of the Bill contradicts the three international conventions, because it employs the death penalty.
“Why the death penalty? None of the consultations call for the death penalty.”
The politician warned that should the government use its majority and push ahead with the Bill despite the objections, it will simply be making a big mistake.
The death penalty is attached to 14 offences outlined in the Bill and is accompanied by a fine.
The inclusion of the death penalty has caused Teixeira to describe the Bill as “draconian.” She said that Jamaica has a similar piece of legislation which calls for life imprisonment, “…they have avoided the death penalty.
Teixeira’s colleagues in the opposition, in carrying on with the usual heckling, questioned the sense in putting a fine and a death penalty. “Which man gon pay a fine knowing he gon get hang anyhow?”
Declaring that “draconian times require draconian measures,” Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, justified the use of the death penalty where terrorists and extremists challenge democratic values and human rights.
Ramjattan, who represented the teen whose genitals had been burnt by police during a murder investigation, acknowledged that human rights and the death penalty were sometimes on a collision course, but in the end it is the need to protect the larger good of citizens that prevails.
Arguing in favour of the death penalty, he said that such a sentence would discourage terrorists from carrying out various acts.
“It does affect me personally-—the death penalty. I have always argued against it, but draconian measures are needed. It has a dissuasive effect, as I said, and that is important, because when people feel they could terrorize, and will not be hanged, it may not have that preventative, dissuasive effect.”
The Public Security Minister hoped that the new law would help prevent Guyana from becoming a safe haven, or training ground, or a place where their funds could be easily accessed for financing terrorist activities.
Backed by laws, Ramjattan said Guyana would be seeking international training assistance; build stronger prisons to house terrorists and purchase drones and boats to monitor Guyana’s vast borders through which guns are smuggled from neighbouring Brazil and Venezuela.
The Minister supported the provision in the anti-terrorism law that will allow Guyana to transfer terror suspects to other countries.
“Some people feel that we are now doing the wrong thing by going the great leap of rendering. I believe that sometimes it is necessary that when certain information comes from another country and a person is a suspect, and a known one, that the extradition process is an extraordinarily lengthy, and so you can do a transfer,” he said.
But PPP/C Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall chided government for not taking into consideration the international lobby against the death penalty and that even Guyana had amended its laws to allow for the death penalty only if certain persons such as law enforcement personnel are murdered during the course of their duties.
“If that is our position, then so be it, because we would be sending some very, very strange messages to our people in terms of our legislative agenda,” he said.
Nandlall appealed to government to send the “unvarnished” bill to a parliamentary select committee to facilitate proper consultations and arrive at a law with minimum acceptable standards.
He noted that a number of Caribbean countries, and even France and Britain, which have similar anti-terrorism laws, do not have the death penalty, even as the Bill in Guyana contains the death penalty for 14 terrorist and terrorist-related offences.
In the end, Government used its one-seat majority to pass the Bill while the opposition abstained from voting.
In the context of the Bill, a terrorist act means an act committed in or outside of Guyana, which is likely to cause loss of human life or serious bodily harm. It is an act that results in damage to property, a threat to national security or causes disruption of public safety, including disruption in the provision of emergency services or to any computer or electronic system or to the provision of services directly related to banking, communications, financial services, public utilities, transportation or other essential infrastructure.
Terrorism is also classified for this purpose as an act that is intended to compel a government or an international organization to do or refrain from doing any act, or intended to intimidate the public or a section of the public for the purpose of a political, ideological or a religious cause, or any act which constitutes an offence within the scope of and as defined in, any of three conventions earlier outlined.
The death penalty is attached to any terrorist activity that results in loss of human life.
In cases of serious bodily harm, a fine and imprisonment of not less than 15 years but not more than 20 years can be imposed.
Jun 18, 2021Kaieteur News – Veteran Guyanese cyclist, Raymond ‘Steely’ Newton, a member of We Stand United Cycle Club is set to compete at New York’s Premiere Professional/Amateur and Community...
Jun 18, 2021
Jun 18, 2021
Jun 18, 2021
Jun 18, 2021
Jun 17, 2021
Kaieteur News – Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has lost power in a confidence motion in which the voting... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]