Dionne Rose and Edmond Campbell, Gleaner Reporters
Two far-reaching pieces of legislation are on the parliamentary agenda for debate and passage before Parliament prorogues in March, signaling an end to the legislative year.
The Charter of Rights Bill and the Proceeds of Crime Bill top the list of measures to be debated in early 2007.
After a lengthy process, involving intense debates and deliberation on a bill to amend the Constitution providing for a Charter of Rights, a joint select committee of Parliament completed its examination of the bill in July and presented a report, which was tabled in the House of Representatives in September.
Leader of Government Business in the House, Dr. Peter Phillips, told The Sunday Gleaner that he was confident that the Report of the Joint Select Committee of Parliament on the Charter of Rights Bill would be debated and passed early in the new year.
Dr. Phillips pointed out that although the committee signed off on its report, there were still areas on which the members failed to reach consensus.
"We still need to have discussion with the Opposition as to how we are going to dispose of it, and I am hopeful that we will be able to dispose of it successfully before the end of the legislative year," he said.
The Charter of Rights will, among other things, provide for protection of the rights and freedoms of Jamaicans. The protected rights and freedoms include:
Life, liberty and the security of the person;
Freedom of thought, conscience, belief and observance of religious and political doctrines;
Freedom of expression;
Freedom of peaceful assembly and association;
Freedom of movement;
Due process of law;
Equality before the law;
Freedom from discrimination on the grounds of race, social class, colour, religion, sex, place of origin or political preference.
Meanwhile, the Proceeds of Crime Bill 2006, which gives legislative power to the State to forfeit property and confiscate proceeds obtained through drug
trafficking and money laundering, should be passed in early 2007.
The joint select committee, which examined the Bill, completed its report and the document was laid on the table of the House earlier this month. Dr. Phillips, who chaired the committee, said that at the end of its deliberations, there was unanimity.
The committee first met on November 23, 2005, and after one year, made 27 significant amendments to the bill.
The Proceeds of Crime Act seeks to address certain limitations in the Drug Offences (Forfeiture of Proceeds) Act. Under this law, the State could not authorise the confiscation of assets and properties from persons who obtained wealth from a criminal lifestyle, except those persons were held criminally liable for offences linked to the possession of
Some 16 pieces of legislation were passed in the Houses of Parliament during the parliamentary year, which began in April. This is less than the 19 that were passed for the previous year.
Among the bills that were passed are:
ICC Cricket World Cup Act.
The Electoral Commission Interim Act.
The Income Tax Act.
Justices of the Peace Act.
An Act to Amend the Interception of Communications.
An Act to Amend the Petroleum Act.
The Public Gardens Regulation Act.
An Act to Amend the Incest (Punishment) Act.
An Act to Amend the Offences against the Person Act.
Legislation for debate next year
The Customs Act.
The Legal Aid Act.
An Act to Amend the Constabulary Force Act.
The Notice of Alibi Amendment Act.
The Constituencies (Constitutional Amendment) Act 2006.
Meanwhile, before the Senate are:
The Legal Profession Act.
The National Commission on Science and Technology Act.
The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) Act 2006.
The Jury Act.
Before the Joint Select Committees are:
An Act to Amend the Offences Against the Person Act.
An Act to Amend the Incest Punishment Act.
An Act to Amend the Corruption Prevention Act.
There are 34 Private Members' Motions in the House and five in the Senate.