Opposition MP Dr Bhoe Tewarie has asked that a bill to amend five acts dealing with corruption, money laundering, the Financial Intelligence Unit and others be placed before a Joint Select Committee, as in its current state, it has the potential to violate an individual’s human rights.
At the time of his request, Tewarie was contributing to debate in the House of Representatives on the bill to amend the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, the Proceeds of Crime Act, the Financial Intelligence Unit of Trinidad and Tobago Act, the Customs Act and the Exchange Control Act.
The bill provides for hefty fines for money laundering, such as not more than $25 million in one instance, and not more than $50 million in the other instance.
Current issues in the bill, such as the deletion of a clause that deals with extradition, Tewarie said, has the potential for violation of an individual’s right, potential violation of privacy rights, giving powers to institutions which will allow for police interrogation and sub clauses that provide for self-incrimination. The request for a referral to a joint select committee, he said, was needed because some matters “are very controversial” and need clarification, specification and precision in the writing of the law.
He said the clauses are short and could be dealt with quickly.
Once that is done, the legislation will be brought back to Parliament and the Opposition will support it.
Because of its potential for human rights violation, Tewarie said, passage of the bill will require a three fifths majority.
Some of the laws being amended, he said, were taken to the Parliament by a former UNC government which saw the need to fight corruption and transnational issues that the country is facing.
Meanwhile, Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Stuart Young said that the bill was meant to deal with corruption and to fulfil international obligations.
On the Opposition’s “nervous suggestions” that it was going to violate an individual’s human rights, Young assured, “every law abiding citizen that this bill does not trample on anyone’s rights.”
It does not affect anyone’s private rights, he said, once they abide by the law and make their declarations when they are supposed to, do not hide money in anyone’s name and they are prepared to deal with laws that apply internationally.
“Trinidad and Tobago should be no different from other jurisdictions,” he said.