Latest update May 31st, 2023 3:04 PM
May 02, 2023 News
Kaieteur News – Veteran trade unionist and General Secretary of the Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) Lincoln Lewis on Monday called for there to be public hearings on the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) Bill.
“Labour calls on the Select Committee where this National Intelligence and Security Bill to facilitate public hearings. This request is made based on past experiences where there has been minimal agreement at the level of the Committee, and the PPP returns to the Parliament and rams the Bill through,” the trade unionist said while noting that the implications of the legislation are “grave”.
Lewis made this call during his Labour Day address at Critchlow Labour College, Woolford Avenue days after President Irfaan Ali instructed Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira and Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC to send the NISA Bill to a Special Select Committee “so that the views and ideas of all stakeholders can be examined.” In a post, via his official Facebook page, President Ali said “I am aware of the importance of this Bill, but equally, I am committed to ensuring the fulsome nature of the Bill is understood and that interested stakeholders be given the opportunity to contribute to it.” The Bill was tabled last Monday in the National Assembly by the Attorney General who in his presentation said that the Bill brings into statutory recognition an agency that has already existed for some 13 years.
He explained, “What this bill seeks to do is establish the agency by law to clearly set out what the agency’s powers are, who will constitute the agency, by what mechanism they will be appointed, and how the agency will be funded.” Highlighting that the agency is not a law enforcement body, Nandlall clarified that it will work in tandem with the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) in intelligence gathering.
The agency had been performing the very functions outlined in the bill, but there was no governance structure or statutory framework. Once the legislation is passed, the Agency will collect information ‘of national intelligence and security that will provide a basis for decision-making and preventive action and conducting analysis of the information’.
The functions also include providing intelligence and security advice to the president, cabinet members and other entities in the security sector. “This country requires an agency of this type on a firm legal footing. The direction in which we are going economically as a country, the growth of our economy, and the expansion of our fiscal sector, require an agency like this. As the economy grows, national security and the capability of the state to protect its citizens and assets within the state must proportionally improve,” the Attorney General said.
However, Lewis described the NISA Bill as a “burning and pressing” issue and posited that the “intent of this agency is to spy on citizens, primarily those who express alternative opinions to the government.” “Already we are experiencing persons dragged before the courts for expressing opinions, independent of government’s propaganda, of what is taking place in society. This proposed law is to give cover, and more so make legitimate the PPP’s atrocities. We must demand guardrails be placed in Bill to ensure our fundamental rights and freedoms are not violated, and more so hold the enforcers of the law accountable to the Constitution and international conventions.”
Further, Lewis said that, “we live in a society where public officers under the PPP are hardly held accountable. In this environment where almost everything has been reduced to partisan petty politics, there are reasons to fear vesting more authority in the government could lead to increased tyranny by operatives in government.”
He told workers who gathered in solidarity to listen to the GTUC General Secretary that politicians must be held accountable “to ensure they govern in the interest and manage the welfare of the state to the people’s benefit.” Progressive trade unionists believe politics is about people and people’s development, Lewis said while stating that the Irfaan Ali-led government is “investing time and our financial resources to erode rights and freedoms, to perpetuate acts that deny workers economic, social and political justice.”
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