Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Who is right? - Gov’t members provide conflicting information on status of National Security Council

Published:Wednesday | June 28, 2017 | 6:00 AM
Mark Golding
Marlene Malahoo Forte
Fitz Jackson in Parliament on Tuesday.
Delroy Chuck
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The proverbial jury is still out on whether the National Security Council ­ the body with which Prime Minister Andrew Holness will consult before declaring zones of special operations to tackle escalating crime in affected communities ­ has the backing of legislation.

Senator Mark Golding, opposition spokesman on justice and member of the joint select committee of Parliament reviewing the Zones of Special Operations Bill, yesterday questioned how the Government was proceeding with legislation to give power to the council, to extend the period of a zone, when that body is not supported by law.

Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte sought to allay Golding’s concern, saying that the “National Security Council, as a committee of Cabinet, has already been constituted. Under the Holness administration, it was one of the changes made recently”.

However, justice minister and chairman of the committee, Delroy Chuck, is of the view that the council has not yet been given the stamp of approval by Parliament. “To the best of my knowledge, the National Security Council will soon be formalised into a committee. The National Security Council, with a national security adviser who will be the secretary to the committee, will be fully formalised.”

Committee member Fitz Jackson was not convinced by the assurance given by Malahoo Forte and quizzed her further on the date it was constituted.

Not being able to give a specific date when the council became a creature of law, Jackson accused the attorney general of being evasive.

“Member, there is no evasion. I don’t have the date to my mind, and to say that it was done on the Thursday, the 15th, or Friday, the 10th,” said Malahoo Forte.

Chuck, however, said in terms of a formal parliamentary approval, “it may not have come here as yet”.

Peter Bunting, who is also a member of the committee, urged the chairman to submit in the report to Parliament, the date the council was constituted. Chuck promised to provide the information.

Golding had advised the committee that the National Security Council was set up as an advisory body and not a committee of Cabinet. He said the committee of Cabinet that deals with national security and related issues is the Public Order Committee.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com