OPPOSITION Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial said a frightening move is taking place in the Parliament to pass laws without any parliamentary oversight by changing a special majority to a simple majority.
Lutchmedial said just as government was able to change and pass the procurement legislation with a simple majority, there was an intention to revoke the special-majority provision from the Evidence Amendment Bill.
The bill goes to Parliament today.
Saying the People’s National Movement (PNM) government passes laws which are ineffective, Lutchmedial charged, “The real problem is that they insist on passing laws without any parliamentary oversight.
“Any chance they get, they want to slip something past us, so they will make everything by Order and now in a most frightening move, they start taking out the special majority requirement just so.
“One day an act requires a special majority because it infringes on the fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution and next day, Faris (Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi) wave a magic wand and poof…all of a sudden it (does) not.
“That’s what they did with the procurement legislation, because they knew we would never have supported it.”
She warned, “They are coming again with the Evidence Bill because they want you to believe they are tough on crime. What they did was, they gut the Procurement Act to make way for corruption. So they not tough on crime, but they have to fool you into believing they are doing something.”
UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who also addressed the issue said, “I heard they want to do the same thing with the Bail Bill, remove the special majority so it is only them (government) alone will vote.
“The Parliament does not work like that. You can fool people today and remove the special-majority provision but you will get caught out in the Court,” she cautioned.
Lutchmedial affirmed, “We are not afraid to take these matters to court when they are proclaimed and people’s rights are being infringed.
“We did it before, and we succeeded. We are prepared to fight in the Parliament, on the pavement and in the courthouse. My leader has court clothes and so do I and many other members of our great party."
Lutchmedial said such "bravado" would attract more comments about “bottom feeders,” referring to comments by the PNM about attorneys, but said they were ready to make a stand.
Persad-Bissessar blasted Al-Rawi and National Security Minister Stuart Young, both lawyers, for having no shame and respect for themselves as lawyers in the face of the attack on the profession.
She said the Opposition would continue to isolate the government and give it no support unless it repealed offensive provision in the amendment to the Procurement Act. She said it was wrong of government to exempt legal services from procurement regulation oversight.
“Every time we file a question to ask about legal fees, they hide behind all kind of stories and exemptions. You can hear all about former AG Anand Ramlogan and legal fees, but this AG never discloses what his legal fees are. “
She questioned why medical services were exempted when the AG told the Parliament he has an interest in a medical service.
“They took out accounting matters,” she said ,recalling how many times Young has to recuse himself from banking issues.
“What they have done is to put in the hands of Cabinet the ability to grant to friends, families and financiers, contracts using taxpayers' money.”
She said influential people have responded to the UNC’s call to discuss the procurement legislation at a webinar to be held on January 20. After this a petition would be drafted against the "gutting and emasculation" of that law, which she said constitutes to “daylight robbery and thievery.
“They must not get away with that.”