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Bail Bill debate deferred in Senate
Independent and Opposition senators voted with one voice to prevent the Government from completing further amendments of the Bail (Amendment) Bill 2013 in the wee hours of yesterday morning. Shortly before 4.30, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan completed his wind up and moved that the bill be referred to a committee of the Senate to make the necessary amendments but there was a call for a vote on that matter.
All six Opposition and nine Independents voted against referring the bill to committee stage and 15 government senators voted in favour. Senate vice-president James Lambert, who was presiding, did not use his casting vote. Co-ordinator of the Independent bench 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 to allow for “some time to study the extensive amendments that have been laid just one hour ago.”
There were subsequent deliberations among the leader of Government business, Environment and Water Resources Minister Ganga Singh, leader of Opposition business Camille Robinson-Regis and Ramkhelawan for a few minutes. Singh then told the sitting that an agreement was reached. “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 that progress was made in the committee stage and later moved that the sitting be adjourned to January 28. During the 15-hour debate, Independent senators, including Helen Drayton and Ramkhelawan expressed serious concerns about the bill, which seeks to prevent repeat offenders from obtaining bail for several offences, including rape, incest, manslaughter, kidnapping and larceny of vehicles.
Independent senator Dhanayshar Mahabir in his contribution yesterday morning said there had been concerns about “rogue elements” in the Police Service and suggested that an objective report of the service be done. He said he was not surprised that citizens have little confidence in reporting crimes. Mahabir said the police stations were not user-friendly. “It is one where you go to report a crime and you become the criminal,” he said. He suggested that good service was “absent in large measure in the Police Service.”
Mahabir said laws would not solve the problems unless it was addressed at the executive level. He also said there was a problem with implementation of laws, which only results in the exacerbation of the problem. Mahabir said there must be an investigation into the reasons for the low detection rate in the Police Service. “They simply are not doing the work that they are supposed to do,” he insisted, adding that he was not pleased with the level of efficiency in the Police Service.
“We do need to fix the Police Service as a matter of priority,” Mahabir told legislators, adding that “tampering with the legislation may have some effect but it certainly will not solve the problem.” The Senate was adjourned at 4.37 yesterday morning to next Tuesday at 1.30 pm.