Sandy to pilot spy bill in the House

Government Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday said members of the Opposition were presented with copies of the Bill to prepare them for Friday’s debate in the House of Representatives.

“I spoke with Opposition Chief Whip Marlene McDonald to inform her that Government will begin debate on the Bill,” Moonilal said yesterday

Moonilal, who is also the Housing and Environment Minister, said the speakers for the Government will include Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Minister of Legal Affairs Prakash Ramadhar, himself and possibly Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Last Friday, the Opposition indicated that it would support the bill which was tabled in Parliament after Persad-Bissessar revealed persons in public life, among them President George Maxwell Richards, and private citizens had been spied on by the Security Intelligence Agency (SIA) under the previous PNM administration.

However, yesterday in a statement, the Opposition said it would instead ask Government to establish a joint select committee (JSC) of Parliament on the matter. Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley had said last Friday and over the weekend, a JSC should be convened and Government alone should not determine how to proceed on the issue of wiretapping.

The Opposition, in its statement, confirmed Government had advised that it intends to debate the Bill “next Friday”, which is November 26. A statement from Moonilal however said the debate will take place this Friday, November 19.

The Opposition statement yesterday said, “In light of the disturbing revelations and disclaimers surrounding the information provided in the House at the last sitting of Parliament and the serious consequences related thereto, the Opposition intends to request of the Government that a motion be presented to the House for the immediate establishment of a Joint Select Committee of Parliament to sit ‘in camera’ and determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the operations and reporting relationships of the State security agencies as they exist, at this time.”

The Bill proposes to regulate wiretapping by introducing key safeguards which will see wiretapping authorised by the warrant of a judge, upon application by an authorised official of the Ministry of National Security.

The Bill also proposes to make it clear that the disclosure of communications obtained by wiretapping without a warrant is an offence, punishable by law with a penalty of five years imprisonment and a fine of $300,000.

The law is also designed to compel telecommunications service providers to comply with interception warrants. Failure to do so attracts a fine of $1 million on summary conviction, according to clause 13 (1) of the bill.

According to clause 7(1) a person who simply possesses any interception device without authorisation is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for five years and a fine of $250,000.


"Sandy to pilot spy bill in the House"

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