PRESIDENT of the Couva/Point Lisas Chamber Ramchand Rajbal Maharaj said the Civil Asset Recovery and Management and Unexplained Wealth Bill now before parliament could result in innocent citizens paying a heavy price if it is passed.
Saying he is not in favour of the legislation, the chamber called on government to rethink its position before moving further.
In an interview with Newsday, Rajbal-Maharaj said the bill had the power to adversely affect citizens unless it is carefully thought out and considers wider and more objective views.
“If, for example someone has inherited possessions and has no documentary evidence to support ownership, that person could face dire consequences. I am not saying measures cannot be put in place, because we know there are unscrupulous people, but the nature of the bill could cause innocent citizens to pay a heavy price.”
In a joint statement, the executive of the Couva/Point Lisas, Tunapuna and Sangre Grande chambers all noted with some alarm the speed at which the government has brought the bill to Parliament.
It said the very invasive legislation seeks to investigate property owners, business people and others with accumulated wealth as to the means by which they were acquired. Part of the bill also includes the formation of yet another government agency, controlling civil asset and management recovery.
The joint chambers said while they acknowledge the present administration’s drive for transparency within the private economic forces that service the nation, “We would also hope our lawmakers and representatives are willing to be as open with their public and private dealings in the same fervent attitude.”
Questioning the impact on the rights of citizens, Rajbal-Maharaj recommended government halt the bill for proper consultations.
Head of the Sangre Grande Chamber Ricardo Mohammed is also recommending the bill go before a Joint Select Committee to ensure it serves its intended purpose. He said quite a number of bills taken before Parliament often appear to be rushed and mistakes are made, resulting in amendments in some cases.
Tunapuna Chamber president Surindra Maharaj noted the recent statement of Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon about the country being out of the recession.
“On the ground level, in the purses and wallets of the common citizen, the economy is still struggling, and the sneak attack of this bill will only feed the growing alarm and fear within the business community.”
The three chambers, as part of the Confederation of Regional Chambers of Commerce, representing hundreds of business operators, pledged unwavering support to ensure the economy is strong, vibrant and available to all.
The trio said the respective executive boards are also willing to meet with government to further clarify the extensive applications of this bill.