(Trinidad Express) Government is attempting to hide information and secure fat pensions for themselves before the 2020 general election claims Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
And she has vowed that court action will be taken with respect to The Miscellaneous Provisions (Tax Amnesty, Pensions, Freedom of Information, National Insurance, Central Bank and Non-Profit Organisations) Bill, 2019.
A UNC supporter at the Monday night meeting. Source UNC
The Bill contains provisions which includes tripling to 180 days the time frame to obtain information under the Freedom of Information Act from the present 30 day period.
The Bill also proposes pension increases for judges and Parliamentarians.
“This amendment in my view has all the makings as I said of despotic behaviour, of a dictatorship Government and of a desperate Government because they want to hide all information as we are in an election year,” said Persad-Bissessar at a United National Congress meeting at Naparima College on Monday night.
The meeting is in the San Fernando West constituency of Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi whom Persad-Bissessar trained her guns on and criticised.
She said what’s more dangerous about the Bill is the AG is now making himself the authority to determine whether information is to be provided under the Freedom of Information Act.
“This move is dictatorial, it is despotic and it is a desperate action by this Rowleyled Government to prevent citizens from getting information,” said Persad-Bissessar.
She said her United National Congress (UNC) well repeal this law if passed by the People’s National Movement (PNM) simple majority.
Debate on the Bill began Monday night and will continue on Friday.
She said if a person wants to find out information on the Prime Minister’s recent energy trip under the FOIA there is a 30 day deadline period and now the Government wants to change it to 180 days. “If you file an application to find out what is the status of the gun toting children of a high public official, there are so many things, if you file a question to find out how much money the Faris clan making apart from the $23 million in 3 Alexandra, the hundreds of millions in 1 Alexandra, the other millions in Agra street, the other millions in St Vincent street (Rental properties) first you have to wait 90 days,” she said adding that the application is then sent to the AG himself who has either 90 days to determine if they information should be provided.
She said it’s 180 days before you get an answer to the question and by then the PNM is out of office.
Persad-Bissessar noted that the increase in the time for information to be provided will affect applications to obtain information on millions spent by the Government including for the purchase of boats and planes.
Persad-Bissessar said if the AG wants to save money be should cancel the multi million dollar properties rental contracts he and his family are receiving.
She said further that she reviewed the laws of 125 countries with FOIA’s and found that not a single one of them – not a single one has a time frame of 90 days for reply.
She said nowhere else in the world has a 180 timeline and has the AG in a position of authority with respect to this law.
Persad-Bissessar listed a number of countries including such as Cayman Islands, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts/Nevis and Australia where there is a 30 day time frame to provide information.
“Nowhere in the world is anybody given 90 days and then an additional 90 days. And nowhere in the world is the AG the person to make the final decision,” she said.
“Should they pass this…we will challenge them in the court houses and when we form the next Government with your votes and your help we will repeal every line, every word, every sentence…they gave put in here to stifle the Freedom of Information Act,” she said.
Persad said there is another issue with respect to pension hikes also contained in the Bill.
She said the Government is looking after themselves as she noted that the proposed index will ensure that Parliamentarians including Shamfa Cudjoe and Darryl Smith get fat pensions.
“Before they go into rigormortis they making sure and put the pension package in gear. It is a golden parachute…it means when the plane crashing you jump in the parachute but the parachute you get is a golden parachute given the millions of dollars you are going to be giving yourself in pensions when you crash,” she said.