OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said if amendments to the FOIA is passed by government, she will mount a legal challenge in the courts to appeal that decision.
She said legislation was brought to Parliament without any consultation and if passed, will erode civil society’s right to hold governments to account. She noted that to date, more than 30 civil society groups including the Law Association have objected to the proposal and asked for dialogue.
Persad-Bissessar gave the undertaking to take govt to court, at the UNC’s Monday Night Forum at Naparima College, San Fernando, hours after debate on the contentious piece of legislation failed to take place in the Lower House. That debate now takes place on Friday. Persad-Bissessar questioned the “hodgepodge” suite of legislation crammed in this bill, classified as a money bill, one which she claimed, masks a hefty pension and salary increases for parliamentarians and judges. She said the Constitution is clear on what a money bill can deal with and questioned how the FOIA qualified as a money bill.
“It is a golden parachute they are getting,” she said, explaining that government knows it won’t get a second term and wants to secure millions in pensions before the general election crash.
She said the Rowley administration’s true intent is to frustrate civil society in the FOIA process and stifle the ability of the public to get information on government actions.
“This amendment in my view has all the makings of a despotic behaviour, of a dictatorship government and of a desperate government, because they want to hide all information as we are in an election year,” Persad-Bissessar said. “Cover up everything. You getting nothing!”
Of Attorney General Al-Rawi’s assertion that the amendment is to save money, she suggested if he is serious about saving money, “cancel the contract for the $23 million for No 3 Alexandra Place!”