The Opposition United National Congress (UNC) is taking the controversial Strategic Services Agency (SSA) legislation to the High Court.
This was confirmed on Wednesday evening by attorney Gerald Ramdeen, who was appointed a temporary Opposition Senator to debate the SSA (Amendment) Bill.
The Bill was passed in the House of Representatives in April, and in the Senate on Tuesday night by a 17-12 vote.
Ramdeen said the Opposition and Independent Senators had real concerns about certain departs of the bill. “Instead of listening to what we were recommending, the Attorney General said ‘they’ were the Government and they know what they are doing. This is the same Attorney General who said no citizen has a right to privacy.”
Ramdeen said the Opposition plans to challenge the new legislation all the way to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.
But Attorney General Faris Al Wari, speaking on CNC3 newscast on Wednesday evening, said the Opposition was all grand charge. He said the UNC sat for five years in Government and did nothing to improve the legislation to make it more forceful.
Now that the Bill was passed in both Houses of Parliament, it will now be taken to President Anthony Carmona for assent. No one could say when the new Act will be forwarded to President’s House. But there are lobby groups who are planning to call on the President to think twice before agreeing to assent to the Act.
One legal observer pointed out that the President is not duty bound to agree to a new Act if in his opinion, it contravenes Sections 4 and 5 of the Constitution. There is precedent in the past when a sitting President refused to sign his name to a new law, therefore forcing that new law to lapse.
When the SSA Act was passed in 1995, it dealt with intelligence and surveillance on drug matters. From information received, the SSA has done little or nothing to find the drug lords. They played no role in the seizure of $700 million of cocaine on Monos Island in 2004.
They played no role in the discovery of cocaine found in orange juice tins in Norfolk, Virginia, in 2014. The drug trade flourished after the hanging of Dole Chadee and his gang in 1999. Chadee was considered the number one drug kingpin in this part of the world. Since his death, importation of cocaine and the subsequent transfer to the bigger countries flourished with no significant arrests.
The SSA now has an increased mandate, to tackle “serious”crime which carries a sentence of five or more years.
Serious crime is now defined as the following:
*Illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursor chemicals;
*Offences related to homicide;
*Chemical, biological and nuclear weapons;
*Weapons of Mass Destruction;
*Trafficking in children and persons;
*Firearms and ammunition;
*Offences which carry a penalty of not less than five years imprisonment including:
*Offences against the Persons Act
*Assault occasioning actual bodily harm
*Sexual offences Act
*Malicious Damage Act
*Section 8 (2) of the Computer Misuse Act
*Criminal Law Act, Section 9.