THE House of Representatives unanimously passed the Anti-Terrorism Amendment Bill by a vote of 35 MPs (Government and Opposition) for the legislation, none opposed and no abstentions. The passage of the bill happened after Speaker of the House, Bridgid Annisette-George had to restore order as Government and Opposition MPs engaged in heated verbal exchanges during committee deliberations on the bill.
After responding to a complaint from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Annisette-George observed, “It almost seems that the process we are engaged in, is likened to what doctors call autoimmunity.” Autoimmunity is the system of immune responses of an organism against its own healthy cells and tissues. She reminded MPs, the bill went to a joint select committee (JSC), was unanimously approved by the JSC and the House adopted the JSC’s report on June 29.
Noting Persad-Bissessar’s statements about Parliament not being a rubber stamp for a JSC, Annisette-George said what was happening in the committee stage was, “ tantamount to abuse.” As Opposition MPs protested, Annisette-George made her position clear. “I am not speaking to any particular side.” Persad-Bissessar insisted the Opposition was not attempting to derail the bill. Reiterating the Opposition was trying to protect human rights, Persad-Bissessar said, “ One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. “ Speaking after the House’s adjournment, Persad-Bissessar told reporters the Opposition will bring a motion of no-confidence against Annisette-George when Parliament resumes in September
“I take strong objection to the Speaker saying what is happening today is an abuse.” Leader of Government Business Camille Robinson-Regis disagreed with Persad-Bissessar about Annisette-George’s conduct. She told reporters that the Speaker determines the conduct of the House , in conjunction with the Standing Orders.
“We know as a fact that what the Opposition attempted to do and what the Opposition did was in fact an abuse of what normally takes place.” Robinson-Regis explained that once a bill is sent to a JSC after its first reading, the JSC’s subsequent report and any amendments to the bill are accepted by the House. However Robinson-Regis said, “What they (Opposition) attempted to do was re-open the JSC.”