The government received the support of two Independent Senators on Tuesday night thereby ensuring that the controversial Strategic Services Agency (Amendment) Bill was passed.
Independent Senators Hugh Roach and Justin Junkere, both attorneys, voted to ensure the Government received 17 votes as against six from the Opposition and six from the other Independent Senators. Independent Senator Sophia Chote SC was absent when the final vote was taken at 11.20 pm. Junkere was a temporary Senator, filling in for Senator David Small, whom it was said was out of the country.
The Bill was also passed in the House of Representatives in April.
The Bill now becomes law despite numerous objections from public interest groups.
The SSA would now be able to conduct intelligence not only on drug matters but on all “serious” matters which carry a sentence of five years and more.
Independent senators who voted against the bill were Dr. Dhanayshar Mahabir, Taurel Shrikissoon, Melissa Ramkissoon, Paul Richards, Jennifer Raffoul and Stephen Creese. The Independents had voiced strong concerns about the bill.
Only two Independent Senators had accepted an invitation from Attorney General Faris Al Wari to attend a meeting on Monday to know more from the experts from the SSA.
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.