A row over whether the House of Representatives should debate a bill to regulate private security firms was settled by the non-arrival of printed copies of proposed amendments on Friday leading to a postponement of the debate and an early adjournment.
After the Opposition blocked two earlier Government motions on gaming and bail respectively, Government Whip Camille Robinson-Regis moved the House debate a joint select committee (JSC) report on the Private Security Industry Bill. The bill sets up a Private Security Services Authority with inspectors to ensure the licensing of security firms and their security officers/guards.
Opposition Whip David Lee complained at the sudden resurrection of this bill since debated in the last parliamentary year. "Again, the Opposition objects. None of our members was given proper notice to prepare for this debate today and we object strenuously."
Robinson-Regis retorted, "As I have said before and as I will repeat, proper notice is once the bill is on the order paper. Both sides have fielded speakers on this. It is nothing new and is something we have been proceeding with. So I am saying again, we are proceeding with the Private Security Bill 2019."
Lee hit back. "Can I ask through you, Madam Speaker, if the decorum of this House has just been eroded and the Opposition not be given any notice in the future? I just want to ask." Robinson-Regis replied, "Once there is an order paper, the Opposition has notice."
Starting off the debate, Al-Rawi hit Lee's complaint, saying the bill had been fully examined by both sides in JSC. He said the bill needs a three-fifths majority as it touches on the constitutional rights of liberty, enjoyment of property, and private and family life.
The AG said the bill's clauses 28, 36, 37, 41, 42, 49 and 59 each need a special majority, such as by requiring security guards to take a drug test and letting inspectors enter a security firm's premises. However, he said the bill can easily be converted to a simple majority bill, if rejected by the Opposition. "It seems the purpose and intent of the Opposition, on all legislation to better this country, (is) a simple obstruction and frustration of the advancement of the people of TT." Saying many security guards suffer low wages, poor uniforms and no representation, the AG said, "For the first time in this country's history, this Government brings legislation to better the lives of tens of thousands of people and the only thing standing in the way of that is the UNC."
Al-Rawi said, "On three-fifths majority law, an abstention is a 'no.'
"I've noticed there is a recent attempt to mask the killing of legislation to better this country by abstaining. An abstention in a three-fifths majority bill means you do not want to give support to pass the law."
"What is offensive in ensuring thousands of private security officers having the dignity of having their employers regulated? What could be offensive in allowing people the basic dignity of a fair salary?" He said the bill creates dignified jobs for covid19 front-line workers. with dignity. Doubting Opposition promises to create 50,000 jobs, he said the bill gives certainty and better terms and conditions to thousands in the security sector .
Fitzgerald Hinds, Minister in the AG's Office, said the Opposition was "childish and frivolous" in their "antics and wicked ways."
"I call upon my friends on the other side for the people of TT"s sake to soften their heart and do what is right."
Hinds moved for the House in committee to debate amendments to clauses 28, 36, 37, 41, 42, 49, 59.
However Al-Rawi lamenting copies were not printed, which all MPs should view before debating them. Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George postponed debate on the bill to May 29, with private members day next Friday.