PPP believes State Asset Recovery Bill violates rights of citizens; holds public forum
The opposition, People’s Progressive Party/Civic last evening held another public forum, this time, the focus was on the State Asset Recovery Bill and several concerns regarding its creation.
Speaking at the forum, party Chief Whip Gail Teixeira said it lacks involvement of civil society bodies and public officials.
The most disturbing feature of the bill, Teixeira pointed out is the fact that the head of the State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) is not accountable to a higher authority and is only required to present an annual report to the National Assembly.
She noted that “furthermore, in the context of the political environment of increasing lack of trust and confidence in the present administration, this draft bill seems to add to the sense of uneasiness as the objectives behind the bill. The draft bill poses serious questions as to the objectives, purpose and the manner in which the bill will be implemented…whether this bill would be an instrument to go on witch hunting of opponents of the government.”
Speaking on behalf of the Private sector was attorney Sase Gunraj, who noted that the very name of the bill is misleading and the content is indicative of a civil forfeiture bill and when it passes through parliament, a Civil forfeiture act, which is found and abhorred in many jurisdictions.
He questioned the necessity of such a bill. Gunraj reasoned that the State Asset Recovery Bill threatens the confidence of title holders and providers of services, especially during financial transactions, “Section 17 (8) of the bill speaks to unlawful conduct and in that blanket provision, it basically provides a sweeper as to what unlawful conduct is. A simple failure or neglect to provide accurate information to any public authority as it is called can make one liable to suffer the effects as contained in this bill,” Gunraj said.
According to Gunraj, there is proof that the bill tramples on rights that have been set out in various pieces of legislation and the Constitution in relation to the protection that citizens enjoy.
Meanwhile, Attorney-at-Law and former Attorney general and Minister of Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall during his presentation said there is no doubt in his mind that the bill is authoritarian and is the product of “the authoritarian.”
According to Nandlall, more than 90% of the offenses created by the Bill are already in Guyana’s AML/CFT legislation and other related legislation.
He said it targets those who have held or are holding high public office in Government and argued that undoubtedly, the first targets are former Ministers, possibly former Presidents and former senior functionaries of the PPP government and other important independent functionaries of state, including, the judiciary, the magistracy, the DPP, the Auditor General, among others.
“After the authoritarian is finished, with that first feast, it will go hungry again, that is the nature of the authoritarian beast and it will come after the ordinary people and Guyanese ought not to be unaware of such experiences because those who hold office now and are giving directions and whose intentions are being manifested in these bills and in these organizations of which I am speaking, are the same architects of a brutal dictatorship that held this country ransom in a not too distant past,” he told the gathering.
He called on citizens to be vigilant and cognisant of these developments since they are all leading into a particular direction.
The draft State Assets Recovery Bill slated for the National Assembly in October will incorporate the State Assets Recovery Unit (SARU) into an agency and will make its operations more efficient.
It is a civil recovery and civil remedy bill which means it is non-conviction based. However, the bill makes provisions for the director of the SARA to initiate criminal proceedings, if, or when the need arises.