Senate suspends MOCA Bill debate pending review of court decision

Senior staff reporter

Saturday, March 17, 2018

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GOVERNMENT Senator Pearnel Charles Jr says his decision to request a suspension of the debate on the MOCA Bill was necessary to give the Senate time to absorb the implications of the Appeal Court's ruling on the jurisdiction of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).

Senator Charles, who has been piloting the Bill in the Senate, and is the minister of state in the Ministry of National Security told the Jamaica Observer yesterday, after the suspension, that the action was necessary.

“It was prudent to suspend the debate so that we could examine the ruling to see if there were any implications for the Bill, particularly because the MOCA Bill, like the INDECOM Act, gives the power of a constable to the director general of MOCA,” Charles explained.

“We need to look at the details to see if there are any implications, and it wouldn't be prudent to proceed without knowing if there are any,” he stated.

The debate was suspended after a break which was called by President of the Senate Thomas Tavares-Finson. However, it was initially felt the break was required because Government and Opposition senators were locked on the issue of whether it was necessary to state in the Bill that the director general would be appointed by the governor general on the recommendation of the prime minister based on the advice of the minister of national security.

Opposition member Senator K D Knight felt that the addition of those words was superfluous, as that was the normal process. But Senator Charles felt that it was necessary for clarity.

Another Opposition senator, Lambert Brown, wanted the wording to be kept, but stating that the director's retention would automatically be for five years, instead of the initial three years, which the Government also opposed.

There were calls for “divisions” in voting on whether to retain the words used in the Bill or to withdraw or change them, when Senator Tavares Finson called for a short break.

The break took much longer than anticipated, and eventually it was suggested by Charles that the debate, which was in the final or committee stage, be discontinued until next week.

The Appeal Court, in a 2-1 majority decision yesterday, ruled that INDECOM has no powers under the INDECOM Act to arrest and prosecute members of the security forces. However, the Appeal Court said officers of INDECOM could carry out private citizens' arrests under common law.

The MOCA Bill debate could resume next Friday in the Senate.




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