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Anti-terrorism bill passed after heated debate in National Assembly

Anti-terrorism billGeorgetown: The Anti-Terrorism and Terrorists Related Activities Bill 2015 was passed recently in the National Assembly after a lengthy and heated debate. The Bill seeks to criminalise terrorism and related activities, to provide for the detection, prevention, prosecution, conviction and punishment of terrorism and terrorist related activities.

 After being put to a vote, 31 members of the government voted in favour of the bill’s passage while 29 members of the opposition voted against.

In his presentation prior to the passage of the bill, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams told the House that the Bill comes at a time when terrorism stalks the world. He added that it is imperative that the Government take the necessary actions to combat this act.

Minister Williams further explained that a regime of laws is important for a country like Guyana to protect itself and its people from acts of extremism, “therefore it is time for nations to stand up in the fight against terrorism.”

The Minister told the House that the government is determined to pass the Bill since it is a crucial and essential piece of legislation that is required by all countries in the global fight against terrorism.

“It is imperative that the nations, in comity, strive to implement measures, and to put measures in place to combat this new challenge.”

The Attorney General explained that the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist Related Activities Bill 2015 contained two clauses that were developed from the Vienna Convention, the International Convention for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism 1999 and the Palermo Convention, in keeping with Recommendation 35, which was handed down to Guyana by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

In the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force’s (CFATF’s) 2011 Mutual Evaluation Report on Guyana, this deficiency in the country’s Laws was highlighted, hence, since then, CFATF and FATF have been urging Guyana to implement Recommendation 35.

Although moving to pass the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Amendment Bill, the Government, through the Attorney General, was informed by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) that the passage of the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist Related Activities Bill was necessary to bring Guyana in total compliance with FATF requirements.

In supporting the bill in its current form, and with the amendments which provide the death penalty for anyone found guilty of an act of terrorism, Vice President and Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan said, “Draconian times call for draconian measures.”

Minister Ramjattan argued that the bill dissuades terrorists and others who aid and abet  such activities with the strong penalties proposed as it also prevents safe havens for terrorist activities in Guyana.

Minister Ramjattan further stated that the human rights issue would always come up when dealing with criminal offences, since even terrorists could demand justice.

“If, to secure the democracy and the human rights of the majority of the people of the country as against a few terrorists, we have to do this,” he urged.

The Minister added that the passage of the Bill in Guyana will send a message to the ‘ABC’ countries (America, Canada and Britain) that Guyana is “not a rogue state” and one that protects the liberal, constitutional and democratic order.

On December, 28, 2015 government held a public consultation at the Arthur Chung International Conference Centre. The activity was facilitated by the Attorney General and a high – level team from the Ministry of Legal Affairs.

Over 20 representatives from the Private Sector Commission (PSC), the Bankers Association including the Bank of Guyana, Office of the Commissioner of Police and the Guyana Police Force and individual citizens participated.