Whether Senate President Timothy Hamel-Smith will recuse himself from debate on the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2014—or altogether—is expected to be among issues discussed when acting Attorney General Roodal Moonilal and PP Senate leader Ganga Singh meet with him today. The meeting will address an e-mail Hamel-Smith was reported to have issued urging certain people and organisations to mount a lobby to have the bill referred to a special Parliamentary JSC team for more consultations.
The e-mail, which urged those people and groups to take their call to the media, was reported to have been issued after COP’s August 10 Council session which sought postponement of the bill in the Lower House. COP ranks in the Parliament were split on the vote—the former COP leader and an MP for it and the current leader and an MP against, while one colleague abstained.
There has been no denial or confirmation from Hamel-Smith, a COP member, that he sent the e-mail. He has, however, noted that he has voiced views on constitutional reform, questioned if people didn’t want him to have views and said those views were expressed before the bill arose. Several former presiding officers of the Senate have said they usually cut ties or disassociated themselves from their party, maintained an impartial approach and only dealt with matters of procedure of the House before them.
It was uncertain if Hamel-Smith would recuse himself from debate on the constitutional bill alone or others, including tomorrow’s senate session that deals with Financial Intelligence Unit legislation. Finance Minister Larry Howai said at last week’s cabinet media briefing the bill is necessary for T&T’s third and fourth round evaluations on the regulations. These are due by January.
Asked if T&T was in danger of being blacklisted for non-compliance, Howai said Government had a hectic legislative agenda and wanted to get as many bills passed in the period as possible, since the 2015 Budget and other matters are ahead and will occupy much of September. He also said T&T had a very proactive team which specialises in anti-money laundering and affiliated issues.