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Bail Bill stalls after marathon Senate debate

Independents express serious concern over new legislation
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Independent Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan speaks during debate on the Miscellaneous Provisions (Defence and Police Complaints) Bill at the sitting of Senate on Wednesday 3 April, 2013. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR

Independent and Opposition senators voted with one voice to prevent Government from completing the committee stage of the Bail (Amendment) Bill this morning.


The bill seeks to prevent repeat offenders from getting bail for several offences, including rape, incest, manslaughter, kidnapping and larceny of vehicles.


During the 15-hour debate, many Independent senators, including Helen Drayton and Ramkhelawan, expressed serious concerns about the bill.



Shortly before 4.30am, after Attorney General Anand Ramlogan completed his wind-up and moved a motion for the Senate to proceed to the committee stage, where amendments can be made to the legislation, one senator then called for a vote to be taken to determine if senators were in favour.


But all six opposition and nine independent senators voted against it, while 15 government senators said "yes".



Senate Vice President James Lambert, who was presiding, did not use his casting vote.



Coordinator of the Independents, Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan, then asked the Government "to give a stay for the consideration of the committee".



He said it was not the "practice for the President (presiding officer) to vote on a matter like this and I wouldn't want to put you in that most uncomfortable position".



Ramkhelawan said the Independents and Opposition wanted the Government to delay deliberations in committee stage "not for anything but some time to study the extensive amendments that have been laid just one hour ago".



Ramkhelawan deliberated for a few minutes with leader of government business Ganga Singh and leader of opposition business Camille Robinson-Regis. Singh then made an announcement.


"We have agreed to convene the committee and have a quick report of the committee back to you and then to reconvene on this bill next Tuesday," he said.



The bill was then referred to committee stage where Clause One of the bill was approved. Singh then advised the House that progress was made in the committee stage and later moved that the sitting be adjourned to January 28.



The Senate was adjourned at 4.37 this morning.


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