SEX BILL DELAYED
Several changes expected to be made in SenateSaturday, September 18, 2021
BY BALFORD HENRY
A number of changes are to be made to the Sexual Harassment Bill as it passes through the Senate after being approved by the House of Representatives in July.
Leader of Government Business Senator Kamina Johnson Smith informed the Upper House yesterday that it had been agreed that the amendments to be debated were not yet available for members or the press.
She said that they will be tabled when the Senate meets next Friday, and completion of the debate had been delayed by two weeks to accommodate the tabling of the amendments, which were mainly procedural, to be debated on Friday, October 1.
“We are looking at just one or two amendments, some not critical, and clause references here and there. But about two will require a little more thought and, in that context, we are intending to circulate a list of amendments next week so that both sides can review them in the context of this morning's opening presentation and, of course, allow us to take the Bill through all its completing stages on the first of October,” she said.
Johnson Smith, who is also the minster of foreign affairs and foreign trade, noted that the areas being reviewed covers “Procedure for Making Complaints, Investigations and Hearing by Tribunal”.
According to Section 27, where a complaint referred to in section 27 has been lodged before the tribunal, any person having any official duty or being employed in the administration of this Act shall not, unless the tribunal so permits, divulge or communicate any particulars of the complaint to any other person, until — (a) the tribunal has commenced a hearing in relation to the complaint; or (b) the tribunal decides not to hold the hearing or discontinues the hearing in accordance with this Act.
Section 28 states that, in term of complaints that have been lodged before the tribunal, any person having any official duty or being employed in the administration of the Act “shall not, unless the tribunal so permits, divulge or communicate any particulars of the complaint to any other person, until — (a) the tribunal has commenced a hearing in relation to the complaint; or (b) the tribunal decides not to hold the hearing or discontinues the hearing in accordance with this Act”.
Other issues being reviewed include: The right of the tribunal not to conduct hearings where the complainant doesn't wish to continue; and the need for separation of powers between the tribunal exercising its right to investigate and to adjudicate as well as the appointment of investigators.
The Bill also addresses the issue of confidentiality in Section 35, stating that: “In the interest of the administration of justice, public safety, public order or public morality, the tribunal conducting a hearing in the exercise of its jurisdiction under this Act may direct that: (a) the name, identity, and address of any person shall be protected in the manner specified by the tribunal.”
It also stated that, in relation to a witness called or appearing before the tribunal, the name, identity, and address of the witness and such other particulars concerning the witness, as in the opinion of the tribunal shall be kept confidential, shall not be published, or no particulars of a complaint shall be published without the prior written approval of the tribunal.
It added that a person shall not publish any information in contravention of a direction under subsection one.
“This is to reduce the focus on sensationalism of these issues, which are sensitive and emotional, and to allow the tribunal to make their rulings in an appropriate setting,” Senator Johnson Smith said.